What Packing for a Safari can Teach us about UX

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I’ve never been on safari before, and I’m not planning a trip to go on safari either.  That said, I came across this article that discusses what men and women should pack when they’re about to go on safari.  The article gives two brief lists, and more or less, gets the ball rolling on packing ideas for a wild adventure.  Before I go on vacation even for the weekend, I generally make a list of items I need.  If it’s for a day or two I don’t always write it down, but if I’m going for longer than a week I always write down my full packing list.

I’m a list maker. 

Safari packing is not something “normal”, so it’s important to make a list to sort out all the elements of the trip and plan for different situations.  User experience design is incredibly similar in this regard.  As designers, we can’t expect to be the normal user or to design for products, pages, or applications that we personally use or would even want to use.  Instead, we must design for others.  This requires us to gather information and then consider what elements are important.Image

Since every project requires a different set of elements, it stands to reason that listing the elements is a great way to start a new project. For a safari it’s important to consider weather and transportation conditions, while for a UX project it may be important to consider the location of the user and their internet connections.  The user’s location (whether internationally or physically when they use the system being designed) and their respective internet conditions may be far from my personal conditions, just as the African savannah is far from my personal conditions.  This requires extra care in the planning stage, and one of the best planning devices is list making.

Here is one of the sample packing lists for a woman from the article:

  • 2 pairs of hiking pants
  • 2 short sleeve T-shirts
  • 2 long-sleeved shirts
  • 1 fleece
  • bicycle arm warmers (for cold mornings)
  • 3 pairs of socks
  • 4 pairs of underwear
  • 1 cashmere sweater
  • 1 pair of black yoga pants
  • 1 pair of rain pants (during wet season)
  • 1 waterproof windbreaker (during wet season)

I’m not a woman, so considering things like cashmere sweaters and yoga pants don’t rank high on my personal list.  However, for my girlfriend they might be critical.  We can see that the author of the article used two different personas to create her list.  This helped make her article interesting for both men and women and it also improved the accuracy of her article.  Making a list and then showing it to stakeholders can help to improve accuracy of design.  Additionally, this list includes conditional elements.  “During wet season” and “for cold mornings” explains which elements might be necessary in some situations and irrelevant in other situations.  A similar question in user interface and information architecture design might be — “When do we need an error message?”  “When do we need a back/home button?”  These are both conditional elements.  A back button, for example, might not be needed on a home page in an iPhone application.  It’s conditional and relevant to interior pages.

List making is rarely considered as an immutable aspect of the user experience design process, but as a bridge between research and beginning to design, list making can be of the utmost importance.  Just like being on safari, you never fully know what to expect, so planning for every possibility is a good idea!

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I wanted to take a moment to say THANK YOU to all of my readers.

It’s been great to see so many people coming to read my blog day after day.

I’d love to hear from you and get some feedback! 

Please don’t hesitate to write comments or to e-mail me direct: israelihoosier [AT] gmail dot com

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