We're starting to build the case/need for a UX designer internally; however, I need to provide a list of anticipated software/hardware requirements. Might anyone have any insight as to what items might be basic for a new UX designer? Mac or PC?
Hardware - Mac or PC should suffice, though you'll likely find that most creative types like to work on Mac. I usually outfit my team with a Macbook Pro (15") with 8GB RAM, an external monitor (20" or bigger), HDMI and VGA adaptors (so they can connect to their monitor and projectors when presenting), an external mac keyboard and a magic mouse.
Software - the tools vary. Most can get by with Omnigraffle for wireframing; Adobe CS suite if they have to do visual design; MS Office (for writing docs or doing presentations) or Apple's iWork Suite (which does much the same). Depending on your tech environment you may also need to have Windows on Bootcamp or something like Fusion to run Windows (but doubt this should be needed).
I've pretty much got the exact setup mentioned by benry - with the additional of a small tablet in preference to a magic mouse. External monitor is definitely a necessity, from an efficiency perspective. Some of our team use an iMac, but I prefer the mobility of the Macbook Pro (especially for offsite client visits).
Software depends on your workflow - we use an Adobe workflow as our team spans UX and Visual Design, so we use the Creative Suite, but we also have Omnigraffle for earlier rapid idea generation. We've tried Balsamiq and Axure, but those tools just were not for us (again depends on the type of work you do).
I'd say I've rarely felt the need to be in Windows (despite our entire dev team being on PC/Windows), and have used it so little in the last few years that I've recently removed Parallels from my computer. Of course, there's always a once off when you need to run something that only runs on a PC (such as a PC only demo) but we've set up a shared PC for use in those rare cases. Office 11 for Mac also looks promising.
Aside from Software/Hardware, a UX designer will also need lots of butchers paper and/or whiteboard space, wall space, lots of markers and of course we all love the good old POST IT. :)
regarding diagram software I wrote lately an article - comparison and brief overview
If your UxD will be mostly screen based (not mobile or physical controls) than I recommend Silverback for quick testing.
I use MacBook Pro, Adobe Suite, Omnigraffle, Office 11, Silverback and lots of whiteboards space, sketch pads, and post its. And personally I'd recommend a 24+ monitor.
Regarding SW, I found very useful twit post by @IATV 25 great free UX tools, http://bit.ly/eGWWJu (uxforthemasses.com)
For HW, I'm using a casual HD video camera (Flip, Kodak) for field work but it has low sound recording quality. I still prefer to use 6mm digital camcorder. Managing SD cards is annoying job at fields. In lab situation, it will be fine with digital HDD recording.
probably a very dumb question (humor me), but why is it that "designers prefer Macs"? Is this just a thing that's become popular- "I'm a designer, therefore I use a Mac, of course"? I haven't used Mac for 15+ years - none of the companies I work for use them. But I need to buy a new computer now and am wondering: what are the REAL benefits of Mac over PC as a designer? I mean concrete- more than just cool, catchy everyone wants to be a mac user these days? I'm serious- I really don't know why designers advocate using macs. thanks!!
There's something to be said for working in
an environment (in this case, the OS) that embodies the values that we
want to incorporate into our designs. If you take lack of frustration as
a given, you will (hopefully) design things that live up to the same
high standards that you are used to.
Conversely, if you are faced with such OS- or software-induced
frustrations on a daily basis, you may come to think that "that's just
the way things are" and be more tolerant of such things in your own
Savvy, there are many design decisions on the Mac OS that have a direct impact on usability and user's productivity.
One notable example is how the menu bar is placed on the top of the display, instead of being inside of an application window. Because of Fitt's law, that makes access to commands at least five times faster.
Since its inception, the Macintosh benefits came usually from its interface design rather than under-the-hood engineering. It's no wonder designers perceive it and become Mac advocates. But perhaps only interaction designers are able to explain why.
Santiago BusteloIxDA Buenos Aireswww.ixda.com.ar
Savvy, I don't know if there is a good answer to your question. I am a designer, primarily web. Historically, I've usually used a PC, but right now I'm using a Mac at work. Honestly, there are benefits and drawbacks to each operating system . It just depends upon what I'm doing. It's funny, one of the things I do not like about Macs is one of the points Santiago used as a benefit. I don't like the menu bar at the top of the screen. I'd rather have the menu handy right where I'm working. I use dual monitors, and having to 'reach' over and grab something from the menu on the other screen if I can't use a shortcut is not a good user experience for me. (But, that's my opinion and preference. I'm sure that if you asked 10 people, you'd probably get much differing opinions.)
I do suspect your supposition regarding why designers prefer Macs because they're designers is correct. Way back when, the Mac was touted as the OS to use if you were artistic. In my experience, design departments at colleges had Macs, therefore their students went out and used them.
My suggestion to you is to borrow or rent a Mac for a bit and see how you like it. As I mentioned, I am bi-platform and can see the benefits and drawbacks for each. Are you used to fixing your pc if something goes wrong? Personally, I like the fact that if my fan goes out, I can just go out, buy a new one, and replace it myself. If that would happen on my Mac, I'd have to take it in to get fixed. But, I like how well things like external devices play together on the Mac. Sometimes I get frustrated because my PC doesn't recognize when I've plugged in my card reader for my camera.
Another thing to consider is the software you will be using. Is there a program that is only available on one platform? You could always run a dual boot. I have parallels running at work because there is a program I use that is only available on the pc.
Either way, you will find people that are extremely passionate about the OS they use. I am proud to be bi-platform. :o)
Thanks everyone for the great feedback. I think between all of the commments, I have a pretty good understanding of the hardware and software components.
Thank you and have a great weekend!