Month: November 2014

Fifty Quick Ideas To Improve Your User Stories by Gojko Adzic & David Evans

Fifty Quick Ideas To Improve Your User Stories

This is probably the most useful book I’ve read in the last year. Anyone that works on an agile software team and has to deal with user stories in any way needs this book. Whether you’re on the owner side, the management side, or on the development team there’s a tremendous amount of detail in here.

One of the great things about this tiny manual is that it goes through each of the common pitfalls of writing user stories and connects appropriate solutions. It goes through the consequences of the various solutions because, unlike many books out there, this is written from a very “been there, done that” point of view.

The last thing I’d point out is that this is not a book for developers, managers, or CEO’s. It’s for all of them. I mean that the writers have taken the time to point out what every stake holder needs from user stories in order for the project to succeed. For instance, Adzic and Evans go through why owners love scope creep but then explain why and how it’s a healthy part of the cycle. While a lot of these books are about blame, this one is way more about reality and getting across the finish line without falling into common traps.

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The Laws of Simplicity by John Maeda

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John Maeda is a designer and teacher with a long career in both areas. Like me, he’s come to the “less is more” strategy when it comes to building application interfaces. Unlike me, he’s managed to break down this approach into some basic “laws” that someone can apply to design, teaching, life, and more. The book is a very short and easy read with some poignant talking points for getting project owners to focus on fewer features with higher impact rather than stacking countless features into a confusing experience.

There’s an accompanying website at http://lawsofsimplicity.com to supplement the 2010 publication.

Clariture Health Sketchnotes

Sketchnoting has become a regular part of my discovery and ideation phases. The act of physically writing onto paper stimulates both sides of the brain which helps burn in the ideas being tossed around. They are part brainstorming, part note taking, and a lot of collaboration with stake holders who I encourage to jump in and start sketching themselves.

One use of these is to get key concepts down as a reference while I’m pushing pixels. As I’m listening to the brief or doing research I’ll doodle when coming across something important. Nothing too specific needs to be on the note. Just key words or visual representations of thoughts. The second and possibly most beneficial aspect of sketch noting is that it seems to get the creative juices flowing without being committed to a single idea. I’m far more likely to explore a left field idea on paper than I am to spend the time in Sketch making it “look real”. It’s faster and cheaper to use a pen and paper in the beginning.

The following are real world notes made during my most recent project at Clariture Health.

Hooked, How To Build Habit Forming Products by Nir Eyal & Ryan Hoover

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“…one-third of Americans say they would rather give up sex than lose their cell phones.” – Nir Eyal

It’s not very often that I’ll write about a book before I’ve read it. In fact, this will be the first time. That just goes to show how excited I am to finally get my copy of Hooked. Three months ago I had the luck and privilege to spend a few hours with Nir Eyal at the New Relic office in San Francisco. He was giving a presentation based on the research he’s done at Stanford. It’s this research that Hooked is based on and he rocked it. Being a huge fan of Chris Nodder (Evil By Design), the findings in Hooked resonated with me instantly. What made me a fan was how Eyal managed to boil down his findings into a simple yet precise set of recognizable and repeatable patterns. In this way Eyal has taken Nodder’s work a step further. Check it out!