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Jaime Levy Insantity

2014: The Year of Quiet Insanity Writing a UX Book

By | Jaime Levy Insantity | No Comments

First off, thank you 2014. It has been a kooky year so I thought a blog post would be a good place to reflect on what went down. In a nutshell, I spent the bulk of my time writing a book called “UX Strategy: How to Devise Innovative Products that People Want“ for O’Reilly Media (June, 2015). This week I completed the first draft of the entire darn manuscript.

It was for sure the hardest thing that I have ever done. It was sometimes brutal, isolating, and terrifying. Brutal because I had to learn how to write a book while I was writing a book. Isolating because for the most part, I had very little contact with the outside world. I was not dealing with clients or co-workers talking about ongoing UX projects. Instead I was sitting alone quietly for thousands of hours systematically knocking out paragraphs. And it was terrifying because of the ongoing risk.

All year I have constantly questioned my own sanity and whether I would be able to finish the manuscript on deadline. How dare I sit in the library for months going into debt while I have a child to support? How dare I think that I have something new and worthy to say that wasn’t covered in the thousands of other user experience and pop business books out there in the marketplace? It turns out that writing a book is just like starting a start-up. You have to be totally okay with uncertainty.

the magic writingchairI Initially tried to write from home, but I couldn’t stay focused. Next I tried writing at various public libraries. I soon discovered that most libraries (in LA & NYC) are overrun by homeless people who have no other safe place to go. Some libraries kept their bathrooms locked; others hired security guards. What I wanted was to be surrounded by other writers and researchers who looked like they were doing something hard. That was how I ended up in this chair (photo on left) at Caltech in Pasadena. I sat in their gorgeous library amongst doctoral students all silently stewing in algorithms and white papers.  Thank you Caltech for providing me with a free, tranquil and stimulating environment.

Hence, I’m so ready for 2015. I can start consulting again and bringing home the bacon. I also have two months to fine-tune the chapters based on feedback from editors, subject matter experts and ANYBODY who bought or buys the pre-released eBook in its current “raw and unedited” state (you get the final eBook when it’s done, of course).

Now I can drink the Kool-Aid of Lean publishing (releasing product early and often) while ironically finalizing a book mashing up the practices of Lean Startup and the User Experience Discovery Phase. So if you have any strategy-centric insights or subject matter expertise, please loop back at me with your feedback @JaimeRLevy.

Finally, I  want to mention a few things I’m doing in the upcoming months:

  1. On January 15th, I start teaching a new course  called “User Experience Design and Strategy” at the University of Southern California.  It is being offered by Viterbi’s Graduate School of Engineering, but is open to all USC students.
  2. On February 4th, I’m doing an O’reilly Webcast where I will explain “What the Hell is UX Strategy?!”.Please sign up and join in the conversation. It’s free.
  3. On March 16th, I will be in Brussels, Belgium to do a reading during the opening celebration of an art exhibition at IMAL focused on the era of early electronic publishing. My floppy disk magazines (made in HyperCard and Director) will be playing and accessible along with hundreds of other works made in the early 90s by digital artists worldwide. Stay tuned here, especially if you are based in Europe and can come see the show.

It’s now that time for us to take one big brave leap forward together. I wish you a happy, prosperous, and mostly sane New Year! Here’s to 2015!

– Jaime Levy / JLR Interactive

Speeding Toward UX Concepts for Google Glass Apps

By | Jaime Levy Insantity, Workshops | No Comments

by Jaime Levy I love teaching UX design, but sometimes it can be a challenge, especially when you’re coordinating a workshop for a yet-to-be released consumer digital device for designers dying for a chance to experiment with it. It’s even more challenging when you’ve got a mild hangover from slamming a martini down the night before after an intense 2-hour lecture at UCLA Extension on “Value Innovation for Digital Products.” Then add the fact that Fox 11 News was promised an exclusive look at the “cool new tech” at the event and you’ve created a massive stress monster. So when I woke up on October 30th I already wanted the day to be over before it started. But I sucked it up and called my Glass workshop co-instructor, Cecilia Abadie, to make sure things were on track for our “UX Design for Google Glass” workshop at Cross Campus that evening. Things were not. The night before, Cecilia was pulled over by the police for speeding. When the cop realized she was wearing her Google Glass (even though it wasn’t on), he wrote her up for a second violation—wearing a TV screen while driving. Cecilia went home. She posted the first ever “Google Glass Ticket” to her Google Plus profile, tweeted it to #googleglass and fell sleep. By 7am, Android News already had called for an interview. I guess a lot of people thought the ticket was cool.

Well, not everyone. The first comment on the article said, “I hope [Cecilia] gets the book thrown at her. Stupid woman trying to circumvent the law for the sake of some stupid new piece of crappy technology.” By 2pm, the story was picked up by CNN Online. At 5:30pm I was standing in front of Cross Campus in Santa Monica surrounded by news media trucks from every station. So much for that Fox 11 exclusive. At 6:15pm, Cecilia (whom I now lovingly call “Speedy Gonzales”) had arrived and was attacked by reporters who wanted to see her “Glass Ticket!”

Despite all the craziness, Fox still aired the piece at 10pm on the actual Glass workshop – not just the traffic ticket. It featured Cecilia, me and all of our awesome mentors—Kai Gradert, Crystal Erhlich, and Alan Shen. Special thanks to the local Fox 11 news crew Sandra Endo and Kevin Scalir for being epic reporters and “traditional media” producers! Also thanks to Cross Campus for not letting me cancel the event weeks before when I could not find enough Glass device owners to mentor! So the question remains – is Google Glass worth all this hype? Well, Cecilia could have been just as distracted fiddling with her stereo. Even if wearing a Google Glass while driving becomes illegal in California will it stop people from driving with it? Look around you when you’re on the freeway. It seems like every other driver is staring at their phone. Would I pay for a Google Glass if the price was $500? No way! They look lame and don’t really do much… yet. Plus, I already wear glasses and severely hate the constant disruption from my iPhone. But that’s not really the point. We as user experience/digital product designers are pioneers.We get to discover and create new experiences by having an open mindset towards experimentation. We get to try out new devices at the risk of looking like tech dorks. With that in mind, please check out our final Glass workshop presentations where strangers worked in groups on new concepts that explored innovative user experiences using the unique capabilities of Google Glass.