Share the Love (UX Design) w/Jeff Pettiross

Notes from Tableau Senior Software Engineer David Dunham on #TCC11. Also see notes from the session shared by Rich Tatum (@RichTatum) at Evernote.

Jeff Pettiross (@pettiross), a user interface designer at Tableau, talked on how to "Share the Love" with user experience design. He had 5 basic tips:

  1. Put on your user's hat. What are they trying to get out of your viz? Sometimes the Herb Farm (ultra-gourmet dining) experience is appropriate, but sometimes Dick’s Drive-In (a Seattle favorite) is what’s needed. Neither is better, there’s a time and place for both.

    Specifically to add some love to a viz: give things friendly names, and call out items of interest with annotations.

  2. Set and meet expectations. (The glass door at the Tableau HQ has handles on both sides — but only opens in one direction, a classic misdirection.) Color choices can match your data to the audience, for example CBS Sports used bold colors for a football graphic. You can set expectations with good labelling. Add verbs in more places (e.g. Choose, Click, Point to). And include context by using customized labels that include field values. The question you should ask yourself: “If I were looking at this for the first time, how would I understand it?”
  3. Interface should recede from focus. In other words, put your attention on the data. “The interface recedes by following natural reading order.” Jeff showed this with a simple redesign of data from the Kiva µ-loan organization.
  4. Design flows, not views. Jeff showed how the Swype data entry system was great until it broke your flow. A more physical example was Alaska Airline’s redesign of airport terminal flow, which won them not only free press coverage in the Wall Street Journal, but also a patent!
  5. Tableau lets you not only construct flow within a page, but across pages. Create an action that goes across sheets. Or add a URL action as part of drilling down on interesting data points.

  6. Be beautiful. The iPhone was an example of how this can succeed. “When something’s beautiful, it engages not just the brain but the heart.” Jeff liked the various hurricane tracking vizes, as well as the “where to play blackjack” prepared for the conference.

There was time for Q&A. Jeff recommended Few and Tufte, as well as Donald Norman’s Design of Every Day Things.

What should someone look for when hiring someone to put all this in practice? Unfortunately there isn’t specific college prep, but a design background is good. Look for passion for paying attention to detail and caring how you come across. This is an area where a generalist would do well.

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