Friday, February 21, 2014

Multitask! Multitask! Multitask!

I used to think I could multitask. Back in the 6th grade or so, I remember "simultaneously"drawing, watching TV, and doing homework. Of course, I really wasn't doing all that at once, but I was certainly trying. All the work got done in the end, so I figured I could keep on "multitasking." I usually kept it down to just watching tv and doing homework, but I did it all through high school.
Recently, I've gotten about half way to kicking the habit. Now that all my work has to happen on the computer (save the sketching parts), my workstation is the same as a huge source of entertainment. The Internet, Netflix, and tons of articles are just one 3-finger swipe and two clicks away. It's so easy to get distracted by a thought and end up on browsing the internet. Sometimes I'll even run a Netflix show I know well, like Bob's Burgers or Archer in the background and just listen to the show as I work. I say that I need the "background noise" to work, but that's not really the case. When I work in the Campus Life Office, I often work in silence, or just with music, and that's when I'm at my most productive.
Of course, these are terrible habits that I need to break. One of the books recommended to me: 99u's "Manage Your Day-to-Day," has a whole section on focus and breaking what psychologist Christian Jarrett calls the "multitasking myth." His article is about the way we lose our flow when we lose our focus and multitask, since we aren't really doing two things at once, but bouncing quickly back and forth between two things. Any time we turn our attention away from the task at hand, we fall down a "rabbit hole" of distraction.
The biggest issue for me lies in the fact that I need to use a computer to do a good portion of my work. "Even if you have cast iron willpower," Jarrett writes, "the mere fact that the internet is lying in wait on your computer takes a toll on your work performance." We have to do our work on machines that are the gateway to distractions, it's likely we'll end up there at some point.
So what am I doing to fix this? Well, for starters, I've taken to shutting off the wifi on my computer when I have to get work done. This doesn't alway work, since I do need the internet for some of my work, but it does help me to focus. I've also begun weaning myself off of Netflix with music and podcasts (particularly This American Life, an NPR podcast). Since there are no visuals, I'm not nearly as tempted to change my focus to it fully, I can just half-listen to it as I work. I'm a work in progress, but I'm definitely improving.

Friday, February 7, 2014

Logo - First Drafts

We have a winner!
I've decided to advance my little marching marker man (holy alliteration, batman!) for my personal logo. Some of the considerations came from this helpful article. It's very dynamic and versatile; he can go into different poses for different uses. I can probably work a few different styles with him, too. Most importantly (to me), it's simple for me to sketch, so I can quickly plop it into the corner of my work, if need be. Kinda like a signature.

So I took him to the whiteboard for a little work:

excuse the camera quality; it's an old iPod I'm using... gotta get a camera

Wednesday, February 5, 2014

Errands Usability Report

It was a lot easier to get people to do an app walkthrough than I had thought. Originally, I thought I was going to walk into the radio station (my go-to place for finding people, since I'm the General Manager and I command some respect there :P), ask for some people to run through the app for me, get a few blank stares and lame excuses, and then have to try somewhere else.
Instead, I got three willing participants almost immediately. I couldn't have gotten a better mix if I had chosen people specifically, either. There were two who use to-do lists, one who doesn't; mac and pc users, and tech users of different levels.
Honestly, the hardest part of the process was keeping up with my users. They tore through the app, for the most part, and I didn't want to ask them to slow down (that would muddy the results a bit, in my opinion). Getting them to explain outloud to me what they were doing definitely helped, but I'm sure I missed some data. Next time, I need a video!

Personas Revised

After some feedback on my initial personas, I found out I had a lot of work ahead of me. I went back to the research board (is that a thing?), and dug up a few more articles about the creation of personas, specifically what they were supposed to entail. This site gave me some good insights, especially in the humanization department. The biggest issue for me was that I hadn't fleshed out my persona enough... she was just a collection of vague user stats in the shape of a hypothetical girl named Wendy. Sure, she had a background, but I hadn't deemed it necessary to delve too far into her life. She was just an acquaintance. So I decided to use a technique I learned from a writing book back when I was so keen on writing fiction in high school.
I took her out to dinner, and we hit it off. She told me a lot about her life: growing up the youngest of three, the car accident that wrecked her leg in Sophomore year, her resolve to become a nurse after her time in the hospital. She was very open about her time in college, and how she partied so hard her first year that she nearly flunked out. She managed to turn her grades around after, but at the expense of her social life.
I liked her, but in the end,  it didn't work out; she had too much to do between her work and education (and so do I, I suppose), and it turned out she was older than I thought (her age went up by three years since the last time I checked) but I had learned everything I needed. I reworked her, and this is the result: