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UX designers like us could use inspiration to design revolutionary things for people. I scanned some pages of book that describes how Steve Jobs thinks. It served as an inspiration for me. I wonder how else we could be inspired.

What are the best sources of UX design inspirations? Think outside the box. Don't be limited by the example (reading a book) I mentioned.

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8 Answers 8

Non-savvy people are my inspiration. Especially my mother :) She interacts with technology in her own special way, which when observed correctly can lead to simplified UI solutions.

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Couldn't agree more ... Observation of others is incredibly insightful (whether as part of a formal usability test or just as Konstantinos says, watching your friends, family or colleagues - it is amazing how different users interact, especially depending upon how tech 'savvy' they are) –  Tom Sep 13 '10 at 9:39

Looking around at the world. Spotting problems. Figuring out what to make they go away :-)

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I like looking at the classic design disciplines, industrial designers for example. If you look at how they redesign everyday objects, you can learn a lot about ux. How to improve something that has been done a hundred times before, like maybe a chair?

Look at the context and specialize your chair to serve one environment really well. Look at materials and use something never used for chairs before. Look at production processes and make your chair very cheap. Make it simple but universially useful or make it stand out from the crowd.

I really like taking those lenses and looking at the software I work with.

Also, what adrianh said. I think no UX person can look at everyday situations without improving little details in their head or thinking about new gadgets that would make life easier.

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Door handles. Ever since I read The Design of Everyday Things by Don Norman many years ago, I've never been able to "interact" with a door without thinking of how it could be improved. Same goes for taps (faucets), light switches and window handles.

I also love the UX Errors group on Flickr: http://www.flickr.com/groups/uxerrors/

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Brilliant. I love weird signs ! flickr.com/photos/jmspool/2753736726/in/pool-uxerrors –  PhillipW Sep 14 '10 at 22:23

For me the TED Talks website is a great source of inspiration. The videos are not about UX but sometimes it's a good thing to step back a little to think about something else.

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I agree with Antony, but would take it a step further.

I try to be mindful with how I interact with the world around me. If I'm frustrated by something I stop and ask myself why. It can be a surprise sometimes when you see how a simple change could make all the difference.

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Every innovation has been built on the work and experience of others. Even if you think you pulled inspiration out of your hat, you didn’t. Your ideas are the product of your experience, both direct and vicarious. The way to have inspiration is to cultivate experience: study what goes on around you the way a scientist studies nature.

In the case of user interface design, take a user-centered perspective. Study what users do. What do they do right and wrong? Where are their points of pain? Why? There’s an opportunity to learn every time a user curses a piece of technology. Sometimes the problems are more subtle than an emotional outburst, so you can also be inspired through systematic research, like a scientist. Do task analyses, counting the number of steps, the information to be memorized, and the calculations or conversions that must be performed. What have you discovered? What can be eliminated? Where are errors? How is language used? Inspirational ideas rarely come directly from the user, but a comment one gives or a statistic on the page can trigger inspiration in yourself. European designers evidently have techniques for deriving inspiration from the study of users.

Equally important to studying users is to study user interfaces. Look at the latest ideas for inspiration but also look at what users currently use –not just for what is wrong, but for what is right. Look at user interfaces of old technology for ideas, maybe even really old tech, not necessarily to make a metaphorical software equivalent, but for what was specifically good about it that you can re-create in digital form. Look at the UIs for unrelated products for what might transfer to your product.

The image of the brilliant designer summoning inspiration from pure intuition is an exaggeration. Certainly, some conscious or unconscious internal processing necessary, but if you’re looking for inspiration, first look outward, read, watch, ask, listen. Newton couldn’t think of squat until he saw the apple fall to the ground.

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Old non-computerized gadgets. How did the controls for an oven or a microwave look before it got digitized? Was it better (pretty much always a sad yes) and if so, why?

+1 For the door handles answer, it's going to bug me forever that most public doors are so ill-designed when there're such easy solutions to make them intuitive.

One often-used doorway design at our train station has a double door with a clearly visible air-gap between them, signaling swing hinges that works both ways. The doors are mostly see-through glass and you can see the large identical and curved pull-handles on both sides. Fascinating enough though, they only open one way. Atleast the handles are placed on the opposite side of the hinges and not in the center of the doors.

Designing an intuitive microwave control panel while still being computerized is now one of my ultimate goals and this spills over when dealing with UX for computer software in general.

Users aren't stupid, is also a notion I like to repeat every day. Even I generally feel stupid when I get to a new environment that has poor signs or hints on where to go, how to do stuff and in which order. Public places in general is awesome to study when you've never been there before, like airports, train stations, local offices - even a new restaurant or a pub can lead to insight into why it isn't clear what to do or where to stand.

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