She gets me

Here’s the thing, though. I never noticed this until I was on the wrong side of it.

In Spain, I often feel exhausted just running small errands because I’m always expected to move around each person in the street. Also, I have to sidestep dog poo in every other step, so walking down my street feels like a really long game of hopscotch.

Eventually, I made a rule that only old people, young kiddos, or people with prams or other mobility issues get me to move. But that doesn’t feel better, to be honest. It feels hard.

I don’t want to be hard, but I don’t want to be a sucker either.

Did I ever notice who was moving around me in the UK? Or for whom I moved while walking? I must have moved on occasions and not moved on other occasions based on some feelings or notions I never bothered to unpack. I regret if there were people flowing around me and every other person I never noticed.

The only consolation I have is that I must be guilty of that same behaviour.

There is something very true about interruptions often being about power dynamics.

There is a person who signals to you that their time is somehow precious, while yours is worthless.

The client that doesn’t answer your email for weeks, but wants results 12 hours after they reply.

The startup that has a codetest, requires an essay, and that requires you to shoot a series of videos answering questions, edit and compress them before the form accepts them, but won’t answer your email.

The last time I worked for free, the final straw was actually setting up emails. There was a girl for whom I had reset the password and sent instructions to change it to one more memorable. Of course, I got no reply for weeks. Her time was far too precious. Then, the day before she needed to send a campaign, I got floods of messages demanding I drop my paid work and reset her password again because the original had expired.

Since we’re both from the UK, I saw the underlying attitude quite clearly. Here was a person with 14 years experience in building web experiences and consulting on web workflows being treated like BT remote support by someone who maybe had a shot at getting hired as an unpaid intern.

In my old office job, marketers emailed me for how to do the same steps over and over. So I documented those steps and sent them the links. They would reply that they didn’t have time to read the link. But it was the same instructions. To some extent, it made sense that there might be anxiety over how long the text might be and if it was an epic scrollable tome I had sent them, but not everyone replied this way.

A specific type of person would baulk at my sending the link. Over time, I realised they were upset that my time was too important to copy and paste replies to them because this signalled that their mental hierarchy was broken; I wasn’t beneath them.

This is one reason I am so adamant that work should be asynchronous. Some people get interrupted more than others as power displays, and when they try and mitigate that, get told they have an attitude. When they don’t, they get told they’re not delivering enough or managing their time well enough.

Biases are ingrained, but work habits are easy enough to change.

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UX: design, sharing and collaboration apps, and specification tools

I’m still feeling my way through working in UX. My repeat client is a team of developers of SAS web applications. They code and my job is to make their mighty, very powerful and feature rich web apps pretty and simple looking. I work in graphic design software, share the jpegs, get feedback, make changes, then hand over the PSD source files for the devs to pick apart, which adobe makes really nice and easy with their online tools.

Only, Photoshop is really a very big, slow behemoth for UX design. While nothing can touch it for editing images, photos and logos to perfection, it isn’t fast to work with. I used to design websites direct in the browser, only using photoshop for wireframes and creating assets like backgrounds and headers, so I didn’t ‘get’ why many in the community bemoaned the death of fireworks. Let’s just say, I get it now.

Enter Sketch. I downloaded it reluctantly, initially distrusting anything that seemed to get so many mentions online. It felt like the hipster mustache of the design world and I was sure I would hate it. On the other hand, it has a one off price, as opposed to adobe’s subscription model (which essentially pays for a new shrink box version of photoshop each and every year), and people kept saying it was ‘lightening fast’. Since I’m freelancing, anything that speeds up my turn around time translates into me earning more, and that was worth investigating. I got a copy, and a short but extreemly helpful course on Udemy which got me running in it in no time, and started using it for projects right away.

The verdict? YES, sketch is better for UX. This isn’t a debate or even an opinion anymore. It’s just a fact, like the legality of gay marriage, or the reality of global warming. Our feelings, nostalgia, or idealogoy don’t factor into it.

It is annoying that it’s mac only, but that’s the way the web design community rolls now. All the cool toys are for mac. I used to be a PC girl, but you gotta move with the times.

So, as far as tools go. It’s sketch. I will try and kill my photoshop subscription if possible within the next year. The money saved on that alone can buy me a mac mini (not that I’d want one to work one..) or new thermomix within a year (or at least save in case either laptop or thermomix die suddenly), so it’s not just me being “anti- the man” here. It’s actually quite a lot of money I spend for this product, for not a lot of return on investment, since I’m not a photographer nor working in a photo rich industry.

Review and feedback
I use Skype for discussing the project and it’s scope, and for online group meetings, and have used skype’s screensharing for reviewing files while still inside the design application, but I so much prefer to use InVision for feedback now.  I like that I can sync it up to upload screens straight from sketch (or PSD) file layers so I don’t need to export and upload anything, and I add interactive hotspots to the next screens to help me and client better visualise how the finished app will work, and any interactions that need considering.

It also saves all versions of the file and works as a image SVN tool (do you remember layer vault?) allowing me to download and go back to a previous design iteration. Really, I can’t say enough good things about InVision. It’s simple to use, I can see every change I make to the file online within seconds (on a fibre optic conection, at least) and my client sees all the screens I’m working on, linked together or in a slideshow, as I prefer,  and can place comments on specific parts of the design so we don’t misunderstand each other when he talks about “the dropdown”. I can also add the developers to the project so they can download all the assets, such as fonts, source files, and backgrounds, but I’ll discuss that a bit later.

I’ve also used UXPin for demoing designs and showing UX interactivity, but it’s just slower and is designed for building interactivity demos, rather than design collaboration. It needs exporting from the design app and is just slower for my day to day work. It’s a very powerful application which lets you design from lowi-fi mock ups to high fedelity apps in the browser, but I don’t see myself using it enough to pay for it right now. I have upgraded my InVision account, however.

Handover and collaboration
I’ve said before that the devs pick apart the final files for building. Unfortunatly, the only layered file I can export (other than a .sketch one) from Sketch is SVG. And SVG files are basically the 5th circle of hell. Groups of layers (e.g. for menus, navigations buttons, drop down layers) all get ripped apart. Names are discarded and replaced with numbers. NO, I am NOT handing over that nightmare to developers.

Sketch does allow you to copy and paste CSS from groups and from individual layers, and I will take time compile a css document of styles and tidy it up and make it into something a human can understand (automatic code is always slightly incomprehensable and ‘dumb’, even at the best of times) without assuming too much about how they should mark up the page. I’ll comment things like “navigation text” and “navigation buttons”, for example, rather than “li” or “nav container”. Maybe I should make more assumptions and stick with bootstrap terms. I also export the assets, which sketch makes easy to do for different formats in one shot.

Invision allows me to add co-workers to a project and then they can access all the assets associated with the folder, but I don’t want my clients to see me making changes to new screens as they are being designed, so I’d rather use dropbox for handover of raw files and assets for now and keep using InVision for review and feedback.

I’m also really loving Zeplin for making the styleguides right now. Unlike my manual approach, zeplin allows me to add features and screens without needing to go back and re-edit my style sheet. It basically acts like adobe’s online asset sharing page, where each screen has all elements measurable, and all fonts and colors are visible for picking apart, and all styles copyable. I think it perfectly meets what the devs want to be able to do, with how I like to work and I can see myself upgrading from the free account.

So, that’s my current toolset for work right now. I also started to use diigo screencapturing for UX research and for storing design patterns, but those screens are saved as ‘private’ by default. I do prefer saving my screenshots online and tagged for reference rather than cluttering up my harddrive with a million screenshots in folders (I know I can tag my files on mac, but I rarely do while saving them), so I think that’s here to stay.

Any suggestions or comments? I’ll come back and re-write this a little bit later when I have a moment, but if I don’t post today, the chances are this draft will languish forever unpublished while I attend to the endless list of “important things”.

“Perfection is the enemy of done”, right?