Bookmark Beat: EP 5
Damn, diagrams really do help!
My birthday is tomorrow, so this one is going out a bit early. It's a bit shorter too… but the beat goes on 🥁
This week, I'm sharing a bit about my experience with accessible video games, prioritizing research and what I've learned - so far - from Abby Covert's new book!
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An intro: Legible HUDs make me 😍
Last month, I beat Ratchet and Clank: A Rift Apart. Despite having a PS5 for a while, it took me a while to pick up this fantastic showcase of its “next generation” features. From the nuanced haptics and sound effects within the controller to the gorgeous reflections on in-game surfaces, I was impressed with how immersive this game felt - despite its cartoony shell. The other thing that impressed me was its accessibility features!
As someone who is partially blind, I often turn up the contrast, enlarge the font sizes and otherwise play around with accessibility settings in the games I play. I like being able to enjoy the game without having to squint or tire out my one good eye. I think my favorite feature was being able to map accessibility toggles to the D-pad so they could quickly be turned on and off. Compared to my day-to-day operating systems (Mac/Windows) which usually require me to press some esoteric claw of a key stroke, a single tap on a button was a much-appreciated method to adjust the game to my current vision clarity (or lack thereof).
I'm really looking forward to the next big game on my wish list, God of War Ragnarok, since it seems like game studios (or, as least, the big first-party ones from Sony) are finally starting to care about making their products accessible.
Let's talk about UX Research again
Last week, I shared some links to help answer the question, “What's the point of a UX Research Team?” After reading this, one of this newsletter's subscribers shared an amazing post with me that I knew I had to share this week…
In Building a framework for prioritizing user research, Jeanette Fuccella highlights the research tools and mindsets that should be applied to different levels of “Risk” and “Problem Clarity”. It's easy to get into a habit of just “doing what works” and mindlessly following the same research plans that have already gotten buy-in from stakeholders and/or will likely garner “good enough” results. But, instead, if we take a step back to evaluate the current state of a research question before choosing a methodology, we'll likely find a better fit to answer the question.
I've used a similar framework during portfolio presentations to describe how designers can make conducting research more effective by aligning the artifacts they produce to the questions they're trying to answer. I like how this article takes this thinking one step further by including “Problem Clarity” in its evaluation framework.
What I love most about this article is its use of diagrams to communicate and frame the discussion…
And diagrams really do help!
Over the last two weeks, I've been reading Abby Covert's book, Stuck? Diagrams help. Readers of this newsletter might recognize Abby's name from her amazing work on Practicing Information Architecture. In her most recent book, she defines a diagram as “a visual representation that helps someone” (and that “someone” can be you).
I've been feeling the pressure, working in a totally new domain with a lot of terms that I have never heard before, to try to grasp a lot of concepts (and their relationships) all at once. What I love about this book is that it describes the emotional journey of the endeavor that is “making a diagram” and makes me feel like I'm not alone.
I now realize that the diagrams I put together will help me better understand the space and, if I take a step back to consider an audience outside myself, can help others who are working with me better understand, as well.
While I'm here recommending diagrams, I'll also share a couple more resources from my Knowledge Dump - covering some of my favorite diagram tools:
- Practical by Design
- A visual vocabulary for describing information architecture and interaction design
Coda: Same meal, different plate… and a lot of work!
Over the weekend, I read a fascinating article about how the creator of the popular game Papers, Please (Lucas Pope, also known for creating Return of the Obra Dinn) ported his game to mobile devices. From code examples to empathy-rendering prose, this article makes me feel like I'm in good company as a designer of digital things:
…but I knew this port would require some blood. After testing my first basic carousel implementation, the arterial spray I expected from losing document management turned out to be more of a minor abrasion.
The amount of thought and care that goes into the tiniest of details reminds me of how so many designers think about their work (including myself). Even if you don't know a lot about programming, games or pixel art, it's well worth the read!
Now it's time for the…
Tweet of the week
A lot of new people working in tech are fixated on getting to work on consumer projects, but often times, the most interesting problems to solve are b2b tools that make people’s jobs/lives easier.
Ain't that the truth, Joie!