thumbnails
February 1986 - Now
ABOUT SAAR BYRNE
T.C.O.B.

I work hard. I'm a pre-post post-modernist absorber of pop culture and multimedia man. If you want a proper overview I'm on linkedIn, or if you want the private after hours directors cut email me at byrne.saar@gmail.com - if even just for a chat.

Main interests

Psychology, Behavioural Science, Design.

Questions I ask & try to answer

  1. What is this person doing?
  2. How is this person doing what they are doing?
  3. Why is this person doing what they are doing?
  4. What things are blocking this person from doing those things better?
  5. In what way could we possibly make it easier for them to do those things?

---------------------

Design Process

In short, I like to understand the issue, challenge the problem, sketch solutions and test what I’ve designed before I produce a full version.

'DONT MAKE ME THINK!', 'People don't read online they scan'. I wouldn't disagree but, I love detail. And there's a lot of detail below, and I can actually talk and write about process for weeks, but I think detail is important. So read on if you will.

My design process changes depending on the situation and the overall goals of the project. In general I enjoy interacting and challenging all aspects of my process with a willingness to try new methods.

Defining a Problem

I like to begin by understanding the problem, and making sure that the identified problem is actually the fundamental issue. In doing so I am trying to look at whatever issue has been put before me from as many different perspectives as possible, understanding, or at least attempting to understand, as many variables at play. I do this because it is easy to reduce an issue, or create a simplistic conceptual model, to a basic cause and effect, in doing so making it easier to understand, but often generating a reductive and narrow view of the issue. If this narrow way of looking at a problem is formed, more than often, it will result in a failed solution. So, as a first step, I try to look at any given issue from as many different perspectives as possible, understand the variables and define the problem.

Understanding

When analysing an issue, essentially I’m looking for decision making steps, motivations, pain points, patterns of behaviour, context, social dynamics, power structures, and information. I sometimes take a phenomenological stance, throwing into the mix my own views, political, religious, ethical, moral, using these topics, along with historical, geographical and culture perspectives, as a prism for understanding.

Thus, understanding the issue or issues via these perspectives I am attempting to get as holistic an understanding as possible. It’s that depth of knowledge and understanding which constantly guides and breathes life into the ideation and concept generation. Essentially I am looking for evidence to build a theory and propose a product which solves an issue, to some extent - in practise a perfect solution is very hard to achieve for a number of different reasons.

Sketching, as Design, as Understanding, as Exploration

Concurrently, whilst looking at defining the problem, I will be working on solutions. I find that many people, as I have in the past, try to compartmentalise each step of the design process, distinctly separating understanding the problem and finding the solution. I find mixing both an analytical approach, researching the issue in the way described above, with working instinctively, meaning I’m reacting and designing solutions as I go, is much more beneficial and can lead to a richer design experience and engagement with the topic, it also leads to a greater quantity of diverse solutions.

I spend time simply sketching concepts as a method for understanding the details. I don’t give my self a rigid timeframe of how I approach designing, it’s important that when ideating early on I’m not focused on results and solutions, instead approaching the issue with an exploratory aim. Sketching, however rubbish I am at it, gives me a better understanding of what’s involved and what could and couldn’t work as drawing each aspect makes me think about the details and also sparks my imagination.

Design Divergence

It’s important to say that I have spent a lot of time researching how people conceive of ideas and how best to work, it’s something I find fascinating, where ideas come from. And creating an environment which is open and detail orientated is of most importance. When coming up with ideas and looking to for solutions I find brainstorming sessions with multiple people lead to poor designs due to social dynamics. Working alone for a short period can lead to a wider variety of designs and it was the way I was thought to design. Sometimes, though, getting into a room and quickly designing is the only way.

---------------------

Qualitative User Research


I would see myself as a social scientist to some extent, as I see every designer being. Due to the nature of design, essentially you are making something for someone, it's helpful to know and understand as much as possible anout them. I spend a large portion of my time interviewing users, on calls or in their spaces, running workshops, doing card sorting excercises and conducting usability studies. I feel very comfortable running semi-structured interviews and I do think it's one of my better abilities.

Secondary Research

Secondary research is another major aspect of my overall research approach. Looking at best practices, in relation to software and web, Norman Neilson and UX Matters are great resources, other resources include academic research, which I dip into now and again, if I need a thorough understanding of a complex issue I’ll happily read for hours.

Quantitative User Research

Another way of understanding behaviour, on a mass scale, is to simply be able to use data to describe it. This is what user data is good for. It can easily answer questions, give direction and quell misconceptions. Surveys, for example, are great for understanding Top Tasks or terminology. We can send them out and get mass response. This reduces risk, reduces ambiguity, reduces time and allows us to ship.

Google Analytics

Google analytics is a tool I utilise and use all the time. I can look at behaviour from many different perspectives and gain insights from them. I like to have regular simple reports set up that allow me to see a breakdown system usage through out the day. I use a behaviour flows to report odd and expected behaviour flows. I also like to have a number of KPI’s to use as an aim. This is key, the tool shouldn’t drive the the finding but rather the questions you want to answer, or I find it’s easy to go round in circles.

I have talked abstractly about my process, if you’d like to see how I have applied my process to some projects have a look at the projects.

Recommended

  1. ‘Where Good Ideas Come From’ by Steven Johnson
  2. ‘Thinking, Fast and Slow’ by Daniel Kahneman (standard)?
  3. ‘How the mind Works’ by Steven Pinker
  4. ‘Inside the Nudge Unit’ by David Halpern
  5. ‘Predictably Irrational’ by Dan Ariely
  6. ‘Intro to Psychology’, Coursera, Paul Bloom
SAAR BYRNE UX / UI DESIGNER & RESEARCHER