Code: Debugging the Gender Gap

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The title of the movie Code: Debugging the Gender Gap with lines of programming code in the background

Code: Debugging the Gender Gap Screening

On January 31st, Slover Library, RevolutionVA, and Grow presented a screening of the award-winning documentary Code. The screening was open to the public. Slover’s Girls Who Code group was in attendance.  The overall focus of the film is the scarcity of women and minorities in software engineering. The film also explores the reasons behind the gender gap. The film makers provide an insightful, multi-disciplinary perspective on the gender gap across STEM fields. Code highlights many aspects of women in tech, including the history of women in computer science, gender bias, and inclusivity in the workplace, and universal design. Alex Proaps shares some thoughts about the film.


Megan Smith, White House Chief Technology Officer, describes concerns with women’s accomplishments being written out of history. The film traces the history of women in computer science – like Ada Lovelace, Grace Hopper, and the many women who pioneered the computer programming industry during and after WWII. As Gloria Steinem noted, “Women have always been an equal part of the past. We just haven’t been a part of history.”

Gender bias

The film highlights the diverse range of industries that rely on software engineering – such as Pixar animation studios, as well as many successful women working in those industries. A series of experts provided statistics about the lack of diversity in STEM fields and discussed problems of gender bias. I appreciated how much time the film makers spent interviewing neuroscientists and social psychologists. They provided evidence to debunk and clarify myths about women and STEM. The screening of the film happened to take place just a few days before a study, published in Science, shed light on some of the earliest shifts in gender perceptions among children.

Inclusive workplaces

Women’s participation in STEM fields peaked in the 1980s, but has steadily declined. In 2014, only 18% of computer science majors were women. Harvard Business Review estimates that 41% of women working in tech eventually end up leaving the field (compared to just 17% of men). Women in the film discuss how we can create a more inclusive tech culture – by changing the culture in the classroom and in the workplace. It is critical that we all reflect on how we can increase diversity in our own workplaces and hiring practices. I am also a strong advocate for bringing women into computer science through various paths. There are many entry points into computer science that don’t necessarily require a traditional model or pipeline. For example, my field (Human Factors Psychology) bridges multiple disciplines – like psychology, sociology, physics, biology, and engineering.

Universal design

Universal design is good design. Non-inclusive design is an unfortunate extension or consequence of the lack of diversity in tech. The film makers summarize two examples of how crucial it is to design for all. First, designers ignored women’s feedback when developing Clippy. Clippy was perceived as “leering” and masculine and was not well-received. But non-inclusive design can have more tragic repercussions. Airbags were designed using test dummies with male dimensions for many years, which made airbags unsafe (and lethal) for women.

Check it out

Learn more about the film at and check it out on Netflix.

You can also learn more about She’s Coding – It is an open-source project that provides education, resources and actionable guidelines for anyone who wants to learn to code or help bridge the gender gap in the field of computer science.


HRDevFest and World Usability Day

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Hampton Roads DevFest, an annual regional technology conference, kicked off in November. Speakers offered excellent presentations covering a variety of topics across a variety of technology platforms. The event was hosted by IssueTrak and organized by the local nonprofit organization, RevolutionVA. During HRDevFest, UXPA Norfolk also hosted a poster session to celebrate World Usability Day.

Hampton Roads DevFest logo teal circle

Developing for Connection

A highlight of the day was Sarah Bray‘s presentation – Developing for Connection: Building software that people love, buy, & share. She described some challenges leaders may face in inspiring their teams to fall in love with the products they are building. “People are committed to what they help create.”

Power point presentation with quote by Adam Brault "Tiny leaders build on other tiny leaders to make tiny powerful fearless societies.

It’s not about making us look awesome; it’s about showing how awesome other people are.

“Empathy is not a soft skill; it’s a software skill.” – Sarah Bray

She went on to describe the importance of empathy and human-centered approaches to building  products that connect users to their goals, each other, and their best selves.

World Usability Day

World Usability Day Logo

World Usability Day is a single day of events occurring around the world that brings together communities who share a common objective: to ensure that the services and products important to life are easier to access and simpler to use. It is about celebration and education – celebrating the strides we have made in creating usable products and educating the masses about how usability impacts our daily lives.It is about making our world work better.

“Good design is sustainable. Great design is responsible.”

This year’s theme was Sustainable UX. Sustainable UX focuses on environmentally responsible design at every stage of a product’s lifecycle.It is about reusing, reducing, and recycling. It is about developing ways to refine and redesign products and services to be more effective, efficient, and reusable while enhancing people’s lives. It is about ensuring products are more ethically disposable. It is about making the world a better place today and for future generations.

We look forward to celebrating World Usability Day again next year. The next RevolutionVA conference, RevolutionConf will take place summer 2017. Be the first to receive event updates and the call for submissions by signing up for our newsletter!

Summer event highlights

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We have had a busy summer. We hosted a social event and co-hosted a viewing of Design Disruptors. Chally Meeker shares some highlights from those events below.

UX Speed Networking Recap


On July 21st at Coelacanth [see-lu-kanth] in Norfolk, VA over 20 local practitioners met for a night of networking, food and drinks. Folks talked about perfecting portfolios to current projects they’re working at their jobs. There were UX Designers, Graphic Artists and Students among the group. Networking events are always fun and a good way to meet other people in the industry.

Design Disruptors Pre-Screening Recap


UXPA Norfolk, AIGA Hampton Roads and Grow offered an awesome viewing of InVision’s documentary, Design Disruptors, on July 27th at the Slover Library in Norfolk, VA. Around 40 people attended. There was ample popcorn for everyone thanks to the sponsors.

After the showing, the general consensus was that the documentary was truly inspiring. It was refreshing to see industry leaders put design at the forefront of major companies that are changing our daily lives (e.g. Lyft). The title of the documentary was perfectly fitting.  What seemed to be very gimmicky at first, since “Discrupt” seems to be used everywhere these days, turned out to be the perfect word to describe the film. The companies highlighted in the documentary (Lyft, Facebook, Uber, etc.) were exactly that…disruptors.  Everyone has their own design process and style, but this documentary showed that the ones that were willing to take risks, challenge the status quo, and disrupt the industry were the ones who would create solutions that change the way we live our lives.

2016 UXPA International Conference Highlights

UXPA opening.JPG

UXPA International hosted their annual meeting in Seattle this year. Around 800 professionals and students from all over the world gathered to share knowledge, learn from one another, discuss the state of the field, and challenge one another to push the field forward. This year, Alex Proaps presented a poster about Visual Perception and Product Design and was among a dozen volunteers who assisted attendees, and recorded and chaired sessions and workshops. Alex shares some of the highlights of the conference below.

Overall Takeaways:

Kelly Goto, digital UX expert, owner of gotoresearch and gotomedia, and author of Web Redesign 2.0 and Emotional UX, presented the opening keynote. There seemed to be three overarching themes that she introduced in her keynote that carried across many of the UXPA 2016 sessions – whether presented as concrete, data-driven recommendations, or as inspirational calls to action for the field as a whole.

First, as scientist-practitioners, we must remember that people don’t evolve as quickly as technology. It’s important that we slow down to improve our understanding of the problem space. “Move fast” works for some engineering problems, but human problems require many small studies in which we can gather ongoing feedback and meaningful stories. This idea of slowing down and diving below the surface to understand what people really need and are feeling: Kansei. We no longer slow down to allow ourselves to have those small meaningful moments. Kansei or sensory engineering focuses on improving or developing products and services through this deeper human understanding. Through Yoyu, the Japanese concept of the “space between things”, we can create that space between. Allow yourself to create the space for extra abundance.

Second, to understand people, we have to be willing and able to see the world as they would see it. We can better discover the why through ethnographic methodologies to understand how people are truly living, so we can understand their needs and emotions. We need deep research insights to inform meaningful UX strategies. Researchers also need to know how to effectively draw stories out of individuals, analyze, and synthesize the data to inform design. Along that same vein, by understanding people, we can understand their pain points and what they actually need with design solutions. Empathy isn’t about putting ourselves in their shoes or framing a solution to a problem based on what we would do; it’s about understanding someone else’s experience. Along that same vein, by understanding people, we can understand their pain points and what they really need.

So, the last core theme this year: It is time to start tackling the hard problems. It is time to start tackling problems that impact overlooked groups of people, such as young, aging and differently-abled populations. We can create experiences that are situationally appropriate and environmentally aware. It is time to bring about a new era of adaptive experiences.

Learn more about the conference:

In his keynote, Nick Finck, Product Design Manager at Facebook, discussed his newest project, UX For Change, for connecting mentors and young professionals on meaningful projects:

Session slides are available through the online program:

You can also browse all the amazing photos from Tom Tullis. Check out Day 4:

The call for proposals is now open for the 2017 UXPA International conference in Toronto, Canada.

Stay in touch

We post all of our events on social media, so don’t forget to follow us on Facebook and Twitter and to join our LinkedIn group.

You can also subscribe to our monthly newsletter.

UX Workshops: What Works and What Doesn’t

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by Janice Pang – Designer – Grow

A reflection on leading UX workshops at ODU

So far this year, UXPA Norfolk has focused most of their efforts on student outreach in the form of UX workshops for students enrolled in Old Dominion University’s Design program.

When we first met in January, Kyle and I bonded over a mutual discontentment with our undergraduate Design programs. While we attended universities on opposite sides of the country – Kyle at Old Dominion University (ODU) in Norfolk, VA; me at UC Davis in Davis, CA – our experiences were similar: We graduated with inoperative understandings of User Experience (UX), a component of design that now permeates all aspects of our careers as digital designers.

Having kept in touch with former professors and current students, Kyle noted that not much had changed with ODU’s Design program in the three years since he had graduated. We wanted to change that. By February, following discussions with ODU Design professor Ivanete Blanco, Kyle and I developed an actionable plan:

Beginning in March, we would co-lead UX workshops for Junior and Senior Design students at ODU. Our goal would be to familiarize students with the principles of UX design, and to equip them with the vocabulary and the tools to practice it. From March 3 to April 26, we hosted five workshops covering: 1) An Introduction to User Experience; 2) Information Architecture; 3) User Interface & Visual Design; 4) Prototyping; and 5) Analytics & Feedback.

Over the course of our workshops, Kyle and I continually reflected on what was working, what wasn’t, and what we should change the next time around. I’ll summarize the highlights:

What works

  1. Providing students with the resources & enabling them to do the rest. In the first workshop, Kyle and I introduced the students to Slack and discussed how we used it both in our professional and personal lives. In the following workshop, one student announced that a group of students had created a Slack team for the department, and that they were using it as a platform to share their work with one another for feedback. The students invited me and Kyle to their Slack team, and we were encouraged by how quickly they made the platform their own – creating channels for specific courses, organizing social outings, sharing photos of their classmates falling asleep in class, etc.
  2. Providing multiple environments for learning. Each week, Kyle and I designated a local spot for a post-workshop hangout. These smaller group outings provided a more casual environment for us to chat with our students and learn more about their interests both in and outside of design.
  3. Setting an overarching goal to measure learning. As I mentioned earlier, our goal in leading these workshops was to familiarize students with what UX is, and how they could apply it to their own design. By the end of the workshop, we achieved this goal! To illustrate: During our first session, one student had a difficult time discerning between “user experience” and “user interface”; in our last session, however, the same student was able to fluently discuss how design decisions in an e-commerce interface affected the user experience.

What doesn’t work

  1. Giving solutions rather than asking questions. When we presented the students with the DMV website and asked, “How could we simplify this navigation?”, we began to give them our own solutions rather than allowing the students to think through the problem. Bothered by the silence that followed our questions, we didn’t consider that the problem could have been with the questions themselves, rather than the students’ inabilities to answer. In the case of simplifying the navigation on the DMV website, we could have broken down the question into more manageable questions: “How is the navigation currently organized?”, “How does this navigation affect usability?”, “What could we do to simplify the way it’s currently organized?”, etc.
  2. Doing one-off activities. Throughout the workshops, we talked about the importance of documenting process. Yet, each week we would follow the lesson with a one-off activity that didn’t encourage the students to be iterative in their designs; really, there was no process to document! Ideally, we would have one cohesive project through which each lesson could be iteratively applied.
  3. Basing all lessons off of one survey. In the first workshop, we asked the students to take a survey; this provided us basic information on students’ grade-level and past experience with UI/UX. Rather than spending time formulating metrics (qualitative or quantitative) to measure students’ week-to-week learning, we used the interests and shortcomings stated on the initial surveys to determine any changes to our lesson plans. As teachers, we should be more intentional with our students’ progress – identifying each student’s personal goals, as well as group goals that should be regularly reinforced throughout the workshops.

What to change

Support the workshops with a continuous project. For example, a web-design workshop should be a time & space where students can take their pixel-perfect designs, and get their hands dirty building it with HTML / CSS / Javascript. In doing so, students would apply the design concepts of hierarchy, typography, and color theory to create a fully functional and responsive site on web. An actionable scope for these workshops would be to familiarize students with the Document Object Model (DOM); to create a visual representation of their website using the DOM; and, ultimately, to translate their visual representations to create the backbone of the website with HTML, style them with CSS, and make them interactive with Javascript.

What’s next

Co-leading these workshops has been an incredibly positive experience — one that I would recommend to any designer. For me, teaching has always been the best way to build confidence as a designer: to test whether I truly understand a concept in my ability to convey it to others; to develop new ways of communicating that information. I look forward to the next opportunity to teach, and to learn.

Special thanks to UXPA Norfolk, Ivanete Blanco, Noel Miciano, Brand Journey, and Grow for their support.

Prototyping for Innovation

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World Usability Day Logo

A good user experience doesn’t get delivered just like that. It is the result of the countless hours of efforts spent in the product development process, from conceptualization to the final delivery. It involves designing and redesigning your product or app based on a series of exhaustive user testing sessions, and let’s face it, you cannot perform a user testing session with static assets like wireframes or mockups. There has to be some sort of interactivity, otherwise your users won’t get a taste of how the product/app actually works. This is where prototyping come in.  – UX Mag

World Usability Day

World Usability Day is single day of events occurring around the world that brings together communities of professional, industrial, educational, citizen, and government groups for our common objective: to ensure that the services and products important to life are easier to access and simpler to use. It is about celebration and education – celebrating the strides we have made in creating usable products and educating the masses about how usability impacts our daily lives. It is about making our world work better. It is about reaching out to the common citizen and spreading the message: We don’t have to put up with products and services that don’t work well and that human error is a misnomer. For more information, view the World Usability Day website.

2015: The Year of Innovation

Innovation can mean different things to different people but most can agree it includes inventions and changes in products and services that improve a situation or solve a problem in a new way. Innovation in User Experience means that people can do what they need and want to with technology, products and services that enhance their experience. Prototyping is an essential tool in the process of innovation. On November 14th, UXPA Norfolk hosted a series of prototyping workshops to help attendees build or boost their prototyping skills.


Noel Miciano, UX Designer at Brand Journey, hosted a workshop focusing on paper prototyping in the creative process. Noel gave a brief overview of prototyping before discussing how he includes it in his own creative process and gave examples of different prototyping methods from paper to digital means. In the second part of the workshop, attendees were able to improve a specific interaction on a favorite website or app through paper prototyping.

Bianca Chesimard, UX Product Manager at Ferguson, conducted a design studio with rapid paper prototyping. She discussed personas and how important it is to really dive into customer needs to solve the true problem at hand. Attendees worked together to develop iterative prototypes for a shoe of the month website, learned to critique and provide useful feedback to one another, and then presented their final work to the group.

Felix Portnoy, UX Designer/Researcher at IBM, provided an overview of Axure. He discussed how to translate design ideas into visually interactive wireframes that can be easily communicated with stakeholders. He fielded questions from the group to demonstrate specific applications of Axure. Attendees were able to take their first paper prototype and convert it into an interactive wireframe using Axure.

Takeaways and favorite moments

Our attendees shared some thoughts about the event.

It was great to actively participate in the prototyping workshops rather than listen to guest speakers talk about their experience. Being able to experience the process ourselves allowed me to better understand the process. I learned about new products that I would be able to use in my own work going forward!


Thank you to our generous sponsors for helping make this event a success: Grow, Rosenfeld Media, A Book Apart, Tidewater Human Factors and Ergonomics Society (HFES), and Old Dominion University’s HFES student chapter.

A Midsummer’s Night with Deb Gelman

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Childrens Museum ceiling (via Alex Proaps)
Virginia Children’s Museum

A Midsummer’s Night with Deb Gelman

By Chris Horton

It was the quintessential night of a Virginia summer: hot, humid and ominously suggesting of rain. The ride to Portsmouth atop the Elizabeth River Ferry was all of these things. I journeyed across the river to attend Debra Gelman’s Interactive Design for Kids and Adults. The event was thoughtfully hosted by the Virginia Children’s Museum in historic Olde Towne Portsmouth.

I arrived to a room full of bright-eyed professionals, delicious snacks and tasty adult beverages. After a day in the grind of the “adult” world, I was a delighted to join such a youthful scene.

Full disclosure, I did not know a lot about Deb. After the meetup, I can safely say she is my new UX hero.

Connecting with our Inner Child

The event kicked off with an instantly engaged group. Gelman, a leading voice in the field of interactive media and author of Design for Kids, had us dancing like fools in no less than five minutes. Literally. She played theme songs from a children’s shows, like Pop See Koo from Koo Koo Kangaroo, providing instructions on how to dance to said songs. After the coaching, we demonstrated these moves to reinforce what we just learned. We were participating in a real life application of the UX design patterns Deb recommends for children.

“Here’s how we do it!”

“Now you try!”

“That’s great, now lets add this new move to what we just learned.”

“Great, you are a natural at this!”

Breaking it down:

  1. Show user how to perform an action

  2. Engage user to demonstrate the action is learned

  3. Praise when correct, Repeat instruction when wrong

  4. Repeat steps (1-3), building additional variations

For you gamers out there, this format may seem familiar. Popular titles like Skyrim, Bioshock and South Park: Stick of Truth all utilize these teaching concepts. The next time your significant other gives you grief for hogging the television, kindly inform that you are hard at work studying UX. Deb says it works everytime!

Dancing to Pop See Koo
Dancing to Pop See Koo (via Alex Proaps)

Five Principles of Designing for Kids

A few snippets from Deb’s presentation as translated from my chicken scratch.


Kids love conflict and micro problems. They love to solve puzzles. Overcoming small obstacles is fun. Incorporate a little friction to make the action more rewarding. For adults, avoid friction in banking or financial services.


Cause and effect. Give children immediate feedback after an interaction. Provide real-time response. For adults, Response is helpful for completing short forms.


Purpose, Reward or Gift. Kids expect a reward for investing time in your app or website. For adults, freemium games like Candy Crush and Clash of Clans exploit the pattern of Investment to get users addicted.


Kids are drawn into experience by moving things. Provide contextual help for browsing and discovery. For adults, be sure to avoid Action for routine tasks to avoiding slowing them down.


Give kids freedom with boundaries. Allow progress within the experience. For adults, weight tracking apps use flow very effectively with goal setting.

The cool thing about Deb Gelman’s design patterns for children is they are also effective for adults. There are obviously some differences, but we can learn a lot from the basic structure. We are truly kids at heart.

For more, be sure to order her book and follow her on Twitter!

Sketch Notes about Design for Kids
Sketch Notes by Bianca Chesimard

We are Lucky

A big thank you to Deb for making the trip down from New York to see us. We at UXPA Norfolk are very lucky she was able to come see us. Hope to see you again!


Special thanks to Erin Walsh for organizing and sponsoring the event and to the Children’s Museum for hosting us.

Nir Eyal on Building Habit Forming Products

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Nir Eyal is a writer for TechCrunch, Forbes, and Psychology Today, writing about how to “help companies create behaviours that benefit their users, while educating people on how to build healthful habits in their own lives.” He is also the author of the book, “Hooked: How to Build Habit-Forming Products.”  In our last meetup, members of UXPA Norfolk gathered to learn from his lecture on “Building Habit Forming Products” featured on The Next Web’s YouTube channel. At the end of the lecture, we had the opportunity for a Q&A session with Nir through video chat.

Nir is no stranger to the science of habit in technology, and he believes we can use it to help people live happier and more connected lives. After studying companies such as Google, Facebook, Pinterest, and Apple, he’s gained much insight on how these companies have shaped user behavior by creating new habits. The definition of a habit is behaviour done with little to no conscious thought. He discussed in-depth how these companies have integrated what’s called the “HOOK,” which is comprised of four basic phases he sees in all habit-forming products:

  1. Triggers. Triggers tell us what to do next, and there can be external and internal triggers. External triggers can be buttons on a website or a friend telling you about a new app.  Internal triggers are processed in the user’s mind when we experience a particular emotion, which dictates what we do next or what technology we turn to out of habit.  For instance, when we’re feeling lonely, one technology people may turn to is Facebook.  Nir believes in building for the psychological requirements in an effort to help negative emotions, such as loneliness or boredom, in a good way.
  2. Action. The action is the simplest behavior done in an anticipation of a reward; for instance, pushing the play button on a video or scrolling on Pinterest. He shared how you can predict the likelihood of an intended behavior by judging whether or not there was sufficient motivation, ability, and triggers.
  3. Reward. The reward is when the user gets what they came for, and Nir discussed how the nucleus accumbens is the most active part of our brain when anticipating a reward. One example of when the nucleus accumbens is stimulated is in the variable nature of social media, when users are looking to scratch the itch of discovering the next notification in products such as Instagram.
  4. Investment. Investments are about future rewards, such as money and emotional commitment, and not immediate gratification. Investments increase the likelihood of the next pass through the HOOK by loading the next trigger and becoming more valuable through use. An example of loading the next trigger could be the recommended videos that display after watching a YouTube video. Also, the implementation of reputation on a site like eBay is a form of storing value. Users that have built up a higher reputation are less likely to lose to other competitors on eBay.

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Nir concluded that the HOOK is the “experience designed to connect the user’s problem to your solution.” After watching the video lecture, we held a Q&A with Nir. For 45 minutes, Nir shared his thoughts and advice about developing and deigning products that people love. Here are a few questions that were asked:

  1.  Can you share your thoughts on designing for children? Nir brought up how he believes in replacing a habit with tools that are good for you. With children, you are competing with TV. He likes the way Netflix was designed, because you can choose what your children watch and when to watch it.
  2. Why do you think Google Glass failed? Nir responded that it depends on what you define as failed, because he believed it was simply a product that was ahead of its time and that he definitely foresees a future with wearable head technology. However, he did share a story about someone he knew that wore Google Glass regularly, and how it was always an immediate distraction whenever he would talk to someone.
  3. Can you give examples of websites that use good habit-forming design? Nir discussed how Instagram, Facebook, Twitter, and Pinterest can all be habit-forming, and how they are all products that offer rewards by helping to seek connections.

Nir closed the Q&A with a few words of wisdom about the dangers of Evil Design. Instead of building habit-forming products that don’t solve a real problem, we can harness human motivation to make a true impact in the world. We can design habit-forming products that improve human well being. He highlighted a local company that helps people every day, 7 Cups of Tea.

If you’re interested in hearing more from Nir on the topic of Building Habit Forming Products, visit his blog


Post by Aimeelyn Dineros. Photos by Alex Proaps.

Thank you to Grow for their sponsorship and to ODU’s Strome Entrpreneurial Center for hosting the event.