Elaine Heinzman

Content Strategist and Information Architect

User Experience in the Face of Trauma

I’m a very lucky person. I haven’t experienced anything that would qualify as a major traumatic event, and my life isn’t generally a series of inconveniences. Plenty of other people don’t have that kind of good fortune. And since I’m in the business of user experience (UX), I want to use this blog post to explore something I learned about at a recent UXCamp event that I attended: the less frequently considered usability strategy called trauma-informed UX.

Trauma-informed UX most immediately affects people during or after a traumatic experience, but also during a relapse. These are users who come to an organization because they need help dealing with trauma, including:

  • Survivors.
  • Patients living with a serious disease or injury.
  • The loved ones of survivors and patients.

The main secondary audiences include:

  • The greater communities that these survivors and patients will return to.
  • Medical, law-enforcement, legal and social-services workers serving survivor and patient and populations.
  • Donors and financial entities that provide support to these workers.

Trauma-informed UX also should consider those who’ve previously experienced a traumatic encounter with an organization that was supposed to help them. A straightforward example would be a crime survivor who’s had a negative interaction with their local police department or emergency room. A less-obvious example that The Marshall Project recently wrote about: juveniles once held in California detention facilities.

In an online survey, California’s state and community corrections board asked formerly incarcerated children and their families how the state could improve juvenile detention. In addition to “the childishly predictable [comments] — I didn’t get the bunk I wanted; they punished us all as a group,” survey respondents provided thoughtful and detailed recommendations including “more vegetables, more dental care…, [and] an easier system for sending academic transcripts from school to jail and back.”

I love that corrections officials asked for feedback from their users so the state could better serve these families and their communities. Individual interviews are my preferred UX research tool, though in this case, it would have been too expensive and time-consuming to do interviews.

Regardless of the tool you use to get user feedback, with a trauma-informed UX process, there are additional and more delicate considerations that you must address:

  • Are you dealing with a user population that needs to worry about physical or digital surveillance?
  • Can you streamline the experience to give traumatized users more control of the time they spend dealing with your organization?
  • Is a website, an app, or an SMS-based experience the best way to serve users who are concerned about surveillance and time?
  • What legal requirements must your organization meet? This can include patient confidentiality or client anonymity.

While you’re doing user research for a project that will serve users affected by trauma, or getting user feedback after the project launch, focus on speaking to those who already have healed they’ll be more open to sharing their experiences because they’re not currently living the through the trauma.

What other nuanced usability considerations have you come across?

Katie Holmes

First Impressions Officer

Chocolate Paleo Cake for a REAL Snack O’Clock

I started this job a few months ago, and everyone kept talking about this blog, ”Snack O’Clock.” I thought to myself, “I LOVE SNACKS, this is perfect!” I was a little disappointed so see so few posts on actual snacks. I mean, it is called Snack O’Clock. Then JP approached me to write a blog post about one of my cakes. And I thought, “this is awesome”!

I’ve been thinking a lot about blogging, technology, baking and how they all fit together in my new role as First Impressions Officer here at Matrix Group. As a proud Millennial, I’ve blogged for most of my opinionated adolescence, (Shout out to all the Live Journal users out there!) so I’ll keep the angst to a minimum here. I have also become an avid baker/pastry chef in the past few years. I love trying new things in the kitchen, and, above all else, I am a huge fan of eating. Not in a gluttonous, frenzied way, but in a savoring experience of flavors, textures, and ideas. Food is nourishment for the body, and for the mind.

Last week, we put together an office party to celebrate those who had birthdays in January. I was tasked with the party planning. I asked those with birthdays what kind of cakes they wanted as part of the celebration. There was a request for a banal red velvet cake, then a more adventurous chocolate and mint flavored grasshopper cake. And then something amazing happened. Elaine asked for a dessert either gluten-free or under the Paleo diet umbrella.

“WHAT? No gluten? No flour? No sugar? No dairy??? How does that even work?! I must find out!”

I accepted the challenge, dusted off my trusty Google search engine, and went to task. I learned that the followers of the Paleo lifestyle diet focus more on fruits, vegetables, nuts, and lean proteins. More of what our Paleolithic ancestors would have eaten. The focus is on nutrient rich eating, real food, and natural foods.

Now the real question, “How does one make a cake without dairy, wheat, or cane sugar?”

I found the answer in the most feminine and beautiful niche blogs. The Urban Poser is a delightful baking blog with amazing recipes which all fall under this Paleo umbrella. Her “Cherry Chocolate Naked Cake” was so striking that I absolutely needed to make it. Immediately.

After gathering the ingredients from three different stores, I was ready to commit to this nontraditional lifestyle cake. (Have you tried Ghee (clarified butter)? No? Well you should. Put it in everything. You can thank me later.)

The basics of this cake were some kind of fat (palm shortening or ghee), the coconut flour, a binding natural starch flour like arrowroot or potato, cocoa powder, coconut milk, eggs, and honey. I was SO SURPRISED to find that when the cakes were finished baking they looked, smelled, and tasted like cake! Not some weird crumbly mess I’ve made of vegan variety, but honest to goodness cake. This was like having a decadent piece of chocolate cake without that saccharine punch in the teeth. I did, however, have issue with the recommended whipped coconut cream frosting. Once I added the recommended amount of cocoa powder, the cream seized up making it look a little less than appealing. The next instructions detailed how to cover the cake in halved ripe cherries saving the cake from some kind of aesthetic failure.

This cake was what we call in my house slammin’ jammin’. This cake was a hit in the office, and a hit with the resident Paleo follower. It’s easy to reject new things because they take you out of your comfort zone. It’s even easier to buy cakes ready made from the supermarket. However, it is most important to live fully. Or with a full belly.

To see the full recipe and fall in love, visit the Urban Poser’s blog. You really need to try this cake for yourself!

What new challenges have you taken on in 2017? 

Alan Gunn

Programmer

Search Results Pagination Look Odd? Try Pagination with Sortable Headers

I recently came across some client reports that, when initially run with search criteria, looked correct and displayed properly. However, that all changed once a user selected pagination. book turning pages

The search results soon began to look like nothing I’d searched for, and after a few clicks of Next and Back I could produce errors. When I drilled into the code, I found that the results were ordered by date, but the pagination used the ID of the record. Using the record ID would have been fine if we were only displaying a dump of the data and ordering it by ID, but to have a functioning useful report, this did not work.

I needed a way to order by any report column header, and for the pagination to keep intact the ordered by results as a user moved between the pages. After some quick research I came across the SQL Server function ROW_NUMBER(), used in conjunction with OVER(). This was exactly what was needed to accomplish the report column sorting and the pagination honoring the order throughout the pages.

The result: Users were now able to paginate results, as well as sort by column heading, making for a logical display.

Have you found any tips or tricks for search results?

Elaine Heinzman

Content Strategist and Information Architect

World Usability Day 2016 is All About Sustainability

World Usability Day logo

www.worldusabilityday.org

The intersection of sustainability and user experience (UX) is where you’ll find the theme for 2016’s World Usability Day: Sustainable, or green, UX. Green UX involves creating the best experience for people in ways that make the most efficient, environmentally friendly use of products, services, and processes.

The WUD 2016 sustainability theme dovetails with the public and private sectors’ work on 17 United Nations Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs). Established last year, those SDGs include benchmarks to be met by the year 2030 “to end poverty, protect the planet, and ensure prosperity for all.”

Regardless of scale, any kind of UX work has to be rooted in user-centered design. This means getting into your users’ environment, daily routines, and thought processes in order to provide practical, viable solutions to their problems. Effective green UX should make eco-friendly behavior easier and more affordable to incorporate into your life. It’s better living through recycling, reuse, and redesign.

So how do we unite these UX principles with these green/sustainable ideals? It’s a complex question, but here are a few thoughts:

  1. Make it easy for the disadvantaged to get a seat at the table of policy decisions, especially when outsiders are tempted to prescribe their own remedies. Those living in the communities of need know what they need best and have a greater understanding of their communities’ habits, knowledge, and biases. This insider knowledge about problems on the ground lets these populations determine what solutions and ideas are possible – and sustainable.
  2. Make it easy for those affected to be informed. This could mean mobile campaigns that engage the Opera-only users in Central Africa, for instance, or campaigns based on SMS technology or messaging apps. Focusing on available and commonly used technology makes it easier to educate communities about the policy decisions that affect them. What about ways for those users to speak up? They need to know about public meetings and online surveys, as well as ballot measures and pilot programs, that give them a voice.
  3. See how far you can push ideas and technology in a green or sustainable direction that, in turn, doesn’t make it harder for people to use what you create. This is crucial among populations that, say, rely on fossil fuels or mining for their livelihoods and to provide energy to their communities.

These three points only scratch the surface, and that’s what WUD2016 is about – discovering the meaning of sustainable UX and learning how stakeholders and makers can work together on real-world applications of sustainable UX practices.

Check out this database for global World Usability Day events and other info about how to get involved in bringing usability practices into your work.

Have any ideas of how the user experience can go green? Share here or mention us on Twitter (@matrixgroup) and be sure to use #wud2016.

No-Cost Tools for the UX Pro (Who Wants to Save a Buck)

Man with headphones on using computer inside at standing deskOur user experience (UX) team has weekly meetings, and each of us takes a turn sharing something useful. Since I came from a freelancing background, and because some of our clients like to get more involved in their websites, I thought I’d share some free resources that are hanging around on the internet.

Typography

Don’t know how to choose fonts? Do all those fonts start looking the same after while? Finding the right font can be a hassle. Why scroll through a long list of fonts when you can use any of these three sites to help find the right font for you?

  • Wordmark takes the fonts on your device and displays them all in a word of your choosing, allowing you to preview fonts quickly and easily.
  • Finding one font is hard enough; with Typegenius, you can find the right accompaniment to your current font in just seconds.
  • Don’t know jack about typographic hierarchy? Use Type Scale to make you look the part without missing a beat.

Mockups

Maybe you have a client or a stakeholder (hi, Board of Directors!) who need to see how the website will look on their giant monitor or their phone but the site isn’t fully built. Use these professional-grade photos to make your site comp pop. With more than 100 free mockups (smartmockups), you can’t go wrong.

Image editing

  • These are for the light Photoshop user who doesn’t want to pay a subscription to crop some photos or edit some vector graphics every now and then. These apps will cover most of what you need.
  • Have you tried your hand at using the pen tool in Photoshop or Illustrator and made a mess? Learn how to use the pen tool like a pro while having fun! With the Bezier Game, feel the hours melt away as you master the pen tool in this thrill ride of a game.

Sounds

Is dead silence driving you bonkers? Is your playlist distracting you from achieving an optimal productivity level? Use Noisili to get you in the zone.

Images

Many times stock photos look like a bunch of actors smiling at something off camera, here’s a list of free, high quality photos to avoid that.

What are some free or low-cost tools you use? If we haven’t heard of it before, we’d love to give it a shot!