VMworld Women of Purpose

Are you coming to VMworld?  The annual VMworld Women of Purpose event still has some seats left.  The theme this year is “Building Your Personal Brand”.  If you want one of those few remaining seats, register quickly!

See you there!

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more community stories of VMware and Apple OS X in production

My colleague William Lam of Virtually Ghetto has been busily talking to more system administrators who have virtualized OS X in a production environment.  The most recent two are:

This has been an awesome series of blog posts.  I’ve learned a lot!  Want to share your story of using VMware and OS X in production?  Contact William.

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“Integrating women into the Apple community”

Brianna Wu, head of development at Giant Spacekat (who have just released their first iOS game, Revolution 60) wrote a great piece titled “Eve wasn’t invited: Integrating women into the Apple community” for Macworld.  The conclusion is fantastic:

When I was a teenager in the 90s, I had few female role models to look up to in computer science; it’s simply not acceptable for this to still be the case in 2014. Next year at WWDC, I want to see at least one woman in a public speaking role during the WWDC keynote. There are many bright, smart, well-spoken female Apple engineers; let’s put them on stage and be role models for their peers and our daughters. Or Apple’s Angela Ahrendts, who may not be a developer, but her business savvy and presentation skills seem like they would be well-utilized at next year’s keynote. And I want to see more women and minorities at WWDC next year. We’re a small crowd, but we do exist, and having more of us at the conference will emphasize this.

Go check out the whole article!

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“Community stories of VMware & Apple OS X in Production”

My colleague William Lam at Virtually Ghetto has been collecting community stories of VMware and OS X in production.  So far, he’s published two stories:

If you’re running vSphere or ESXi in a production environment and want to share details, reach out to William.

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Q&A: UX interviews

During an intern recruiting event, I was asked what I look for in UX interviews.

Your UX skills are necessary, but not sufficient.  If you are a designer, I want to see examples of designs that consider what your user wants to accomplish.  If you are a researcher, I want to see examples of research that illuminate what users want and need, and how you translate that into actionable results.

I look for communication skills.  In UX, our primary job is communication.  We have to share our designs and our research with others, who may or may not understand UX at all.    We have to take feedback about our work, make decisions about that feedback, and communicate the results back to those who gave us the feedback.

I look for negotiation skills.  We might not have the time or resources for the perfect design, or to address all of the issues that were uncovered during user research.  How did you work with the rest of the team to prioritize what would be done, both short-term and long-term?  What compromises did you make?

I look for follow-up skills.  Creating an awesome design or conducting awesome research and not doing anything else is not creating a good UX.  The best design and research impacts the product that is delivered.  If you create a beautiful design that goes nowhere, that is not creating a good UX.  You have to work with the rest of your product team to ensure that your design or research is acted upon, and you have to follow it throughout the product development lifecycle.  If changes are made to your design or to the product that you researched, you should be a part of that conversation so that the team can make informed decisions about the changes to be made and the impact to the UX that changes will have.

All of this scales to where you are in your career.  If you are coming out of college, you likely have had less of an opportunity to follow a whole product design through to release.  You will have examples of communication and negotiation, especially if you have done any group projects or an internship.  The longer that you have been in UX, the more important your communication, negotiation, and follow-up skills are.

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“Know Thy User: The Role of Research in Great Interactive Design”

I stumbled across a slideshow from David Sherwin of frog design, giving an excellent introduction to user research and how to incorporate it into the design process.  In the presentation, he answers the following questions:

  1. What is user research?
  2. Why should I include user research on projects?
  3. When should user research be part of projects?
  4. Who do we include in user research?
  5. Where should I conduct user research?
  6. How do I get started doing user research?

There’s so much great material in here.  Check it out.

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“ESXi support for Apple Mac Pro 6,1″

Just a quick post to boost the signal for William Lam’s post “Quick Update - ESXi support for Apple Mac Pro 6,1″:

I know many of you have been asking about ESXi support for the latest Mac Pro 6,1 that was released from Apple late last year and I just wanted to give a quick update. VMware Engineering has been hard at work on getting this new platform certified and supported with ESXi, however, there were some unforeseen challenges that is currently preventing the current version of ESXi to run on the new Mac Pro.

VMware is working closely with Apple’s hardware team to resolve these issues and we expect to have a Mac Pro 6,1 supported with ESXi 5.5 in the future. In the meantime, if you wish to evaluate ESXi on the new Mac Pro (though not officially supported), you can sign up for the new vSphere Beta and run a Beta version of ESXi on the new Mac Pro.



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our feature name, your goal

I’m working on user research for vCloud Automation Center1.  As we’ve been discussing the research, I’ve observed a common misunderstanding of how we talk to our users.

As I’ve been creating the discussion guide, I have been careful in my wording.  The wording that I use in the discussion guide matches, as closely as I can manage, the real-world goal of the user.  The application team has asked me why I’m not using the feature name.  After all, they say, their users already know the feature name, so why not use it?  One member of the team said that if we were studying bank accounts, we would expect that our users understood the basic concepts of bank accounts.

This is a great example of the difference between our feature name and your goal.  If I were conducting research about online banking, I would not ask a user to check their balance. Instead, I would ask them how much money that they have available2.  “Balance” is the bank’s term, and comes from accounting; the user might or might not think of the contents of their bank account in that way.

Likewise, I would not ask someone to use online bill pay. Instead, I would hand them an electricity bill and ask them how they would handle it. Framing the task as a real-world scenario allows us to gather much richer data. For example, if the user says that they would write a cheque, then we can learn why they would choose to write a cheque. Thus, we could identify blockers to or concerns about using online bill pay. Once the user tells us that they would write a cheque, I would ask why they would choose that method, and then ask the user if they could accomplish the task in another way, and repeat this until they get to online bill pay (or, if necessary, explicitly point them to online bill pay). We both gather data that is specific to the workflow of paying a bill online as well as data about user thoughts, concerns, and preferences about the concept of online bill pay.

In considering your goals instead of just focusing on our features, we learn more about what you want to accomplish and how you think about it.  If we focus solely on our features, we will probably make improvements to our features.  We won’t get the benefit of the deeper insight that could lead to an even better design.

Edited 7/9 22:11 to correct a typo (thanks, @jackbrewster!).

  1. Are you a current vCAC user and want to participate?  Fill out this survey to indicate your interest and tell us a bit about how you use vCAC.
  2. Interestingly, the online-only bank Simple uses the term “safe to spend” in addition to “balance”.
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“VMware Fusion Tech Preview 2 can now connect to ESXi & vCenter Server!”

The Fusion team is hard at work on the next version.  Their newest Tech Preview has a great new feature: Fusion can now connect to ESXi and vCenter Server.  William Lam has a blog post with plenty of details!

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in retrospect

I gave a talk at AltConf a few weeks ago entitled “user research for awesome products”.  In it, I used quotes from the launch of the iPhone to illustrate the central tenets of user research and how it contributes to making a fantastic product.  During the talk, I reminded my audience that the most popular phone in 2007 was the Motorola Razr flip phone.  I discussed some of the shortcomings of flip phones of the era, such as texting and taking pictures.  I also talked about how we didn’t didn’t perceive them as shortcomings because they were as good as or better than any alternative we had.  I discussed other ways the iPhone understood our needs and used the technology to support the goals of real live people.

When I read a recent Gizmodo piece about someone who gave up their iPhone for a month in exchange for a Razr, it all felt quite familiar.  In retrospect, the Razr feels weird and clunky and useless.  At the time, the Razr was awesome.  Smartphones have changed how we communicate with others, navigate our world, and spend our spare time.  Her article is a great companion piece to my talk, full of examples of how much our expectations have changed as a result of the iPhone.

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