January 09, 2017 Edition

Avoiding Hard-to-Answer Questions in User Interviews

Practical Usability

Moving toward a more usable world

A column by Jim Ross
January 9, 2017

A funny thing happens when you interview people—they answer your questions even if they don’t really know the answer. That’s why it’s so important to know what types of questions people can and cannot answer correctly.

There’s a good reason why UX research focuses more on observing people’s behavior in their natural context than on interviews, surveys, and focus groups. Although all of these techniques can be useful, what people say doesn’t always match what they actually do. Observing and interviewing people in the context of their tasks gives you a much more accurate understanding of their characteristics, their tasks, the tools they use, and their environment.

Of course, talking with people is helpful because observation alone often isn’t enough. So almost every user-research method includes some kind of interview or discussion. While observing user-research participants shows you what they do, it also raises questions. Unless you interview participants, too, you’ll have to make assumptions to understand the motivations behind their actions. Talking with people is essential for you to understand their behavior. Read More

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Courage and the Corner Office

January 9, 2017

Not so long ago, sales reps promoted software products and customers evaluated them based solely on their features. A system could be ugly and clumsy, as long as it performed a lot of functions. Designers in corporations had limited career options because their employer treated their work as an afterthought—just a skin for the functions.

But, as technology has made better user interfaces possible, users from the executive suite to the service truck have begun to understand, appreciate, and demand the benefits of good design. Apps and devices are now integral to productivity, and the Internet of Things (IoT), machine learning, and artificial intelligence are on the rise. As technology increasingly becomes enmeshed in our daily activities, well-rounded designers need to understand more than the making part of their work.

Successful designers serve as the bridge between design, technology, and business, and their ability to connect different areas of an organization is opening up new career potential for those who want to move into broader leadership roles. Read More

A Manifesto for Maturing the Making of Meaningful Work, Part 1

January 9, 2017

On the projects we’ve worked on, it’s easy to get caught up in meeting deliverables—and the speed at which we need to deliver them—and the constant, internal meetings that are driven by people’s egos. With all of that, it’s sometimes all too easy to forget about the people we design for and the meaning of our work, if any, on a project.

This article describes our manifesto for making meaningful work, which comprises an integrated framework and core elements that can help you make your work meaningful. We’ll outline what you should consider to move from being stuck—what we call sleepwalking—to flow, or sparkle, in your project work. We’ll describe what you need to do to stage your project work and give it a better chance of being meaningful and successful for the people who are involved. Read More

Build a Mobile-Device Lab!

Mobile Matters

Designing for every screen

A column by Steven Hoober
January 9, 2017

People—whether clients, conference attendees, or just friends and coworkers—often ask me what my favorite phone is. I have always told everyone that, professionally, I have no opinion. I have a lot of devices and switch between them regularly—not because I am indecisive or must always have the newest and best thing, but so I can stay familiar with the variations between devices and operating systems. I need to understand how real people use digital products and services.

I don’t want to be unique in this. I think this is something every digital designer should do. It’s a crucial part of being aware of design trends and having a bit of empathy for all your users.

Not One Device or the Other, But All Devices

I’ve been making sure I keep up with mobile-device trends for a long time. I share this knowledge publicly, pulling out my phones to demonstrate points when I speak or showing my collection—an ad hoc shared lab—to local Meetup groups. I travel with a half dozen devices, and make a point of having a good representation of the current market. Nevertheless, in conversations with other speakers at a recent overseas conference, everyone was baffled about why I carried so many devices. Read More

Advice to Candidates on Successful UX Interview Loops

January 9, 2017

There are many great articles with advice to UX designers and researchers for creating effective portfolios and resumes. In our experience, however, there is far less advice for UX professionals who are going through an interview process—an incredibly important part of any UX professional’s career. After all, that interview—and your work—will ultimately determine whether you get the job. UX interview loops are highly specialized and, as a candidate, it can be difficult to know what’s expected of you. This article is an attempt to illuminate what candidates should keep in mind when preparing for and undertaking a UX interview loop—whether you’re a recent college graduate or a new or an experienced UX professional.

As UX leaders, we’ve reviewed thousands of UX designer and researcher resumes and portfolios and conducted hundreds of interview loops. We’ve seen what tends to work and not work during UX professionals’ interviews, and we’ve seen similar processes for UX interviews at companies large and small. With this in mind, we want to share some advice to help UX candidates land the job they deserve. Read More

December 19, 2016 Edition

Discovering and Applying UX Best Practices

Ask UXmatters

Get expert answers

A column by Janet M. Six
December 19, 2016
Send your questions to Ask UXmatters and get answers from some of the top professionals in UX.

In this edition of Ask UXmatters, our expert panel talks about how to discover and apply UX best practices. They’ve shared some of their favorite Web resources and articles for design inspiration, but also encourage you to implement, then evaluate new designs before applying them broadly.

Our experts also remind everyone that simply having some knowledge about UX design is not enough to make you a good UX designer. As we discussed in the Ask UXmatters column “Inspiration for UX Design from the Arts and Sciences,” inspirations for user experiences come from many different domains, and creating extraordinary designs also requires a solid understanding of business. Plus, our experts challenge you to consider whether a search for best practices is even something UX designers should pursue. Could it result in a futile journey, searching for a nonexistent holy grail?

Each month in Ask UXmatters, our experts answer our readers’ questions about user experience matters. To read their answers to your question in an upcoming edition of Ask UXmatters, just send your question to: [email protected]. Read More

How to Create an Enterprise UX Strategy

December 19, 2016

Something is happening in the world of enterprise software development: design and user experience are becoming integral to business success. Over the last three years, IBM has hired over 1,000 designers globally and plans to hire 500 more by 2017. Venerable heritage brands such as Sotheby’s and Christie’s have plowed money into digital acquisitions and overhauls. From the very beginning at Amazon, Jeff Bezos has invested 100 times more cash in user experience than in advertising.

The reasons for this shift toward user centricity across the business spectrum are self-evident: businesses that invest in user experience see significant increases in market share and customer retention and decreases in customer-acquisition, support, and training costs. As numerous studies have revealed, investing a dollar in user experience returns between $2 and $100. In the 1970s, IBM’s second president Thomas Watson stated, “Good design is good business.”

However, for good design to transform business outcomes, good strategy must underpin it. According to a 2015 MIT Sloan report (PDF), digital strategy drives digital maturity, and UX strategy constitutes a significant part of that maturation process. Some business trends that have contributed to the importance of UX strategy today: the gap between consumer and enterprise software is getting smaller, and businesses have become omnichannel players. Implementing a UX strategy gives businesses the chance to reimagine themselves for a new era. Read More

Designing Interface Animation

December 19, 2016

This is a sample chapter from Val Head’s new book Designing Interface Animation: Meaningful Motion for User Experience. 2016 Rosenfeld Media.

Chapter 3: Modern Principles of Interactive Animation

Designing Interface AnimationThe classic principles of animation teach us so much about creating natural and pleasing animation, but they fall short in guiding us in one particular area: interactive animations. It’s not their fault, of course, because they were written for a different era of animation when interaction wasn’t a thing to consider.

Designing interactive animation—which interface animations often are—requires approaching animation just a little differently and working with a different set of rules for behavior. The way your animations behave during an interaction affects how your users perceive them just as much as how they look. The core of what the 12 principles cover still applies to your work, but you also have to consider the interactive context of your work. Your work won’t just be watched in the classic definition of animation—like feature films and cartoons—it will be interacted with, too. And that means you have to consider factors beyond the classic principles—or any other motion graphics techniques—when designing quality interface animations.

This chapter covers the principles of interactive animation: the factors that ensure that animations work with the expectations that come with interaction, not against them. Read More

Prototyping User Interfaces: Finding the Tool You Need

December 19, 2016

Design is constantly evolving and becoming more complex. User interface design is no longer limited to wireframing and designing icons. Today, designers work with a broad array of useful tools that range from the simple to the sophisticated, including graphics software and prototyping tools. Whether you’re creating Web applications or mobile apps, prototyping requires preparation and specialized software. However, with the number of prototyping tools growing every year, you must make a difficult choice: Which tool would enable you to work most efficiently and effectively and create the most useful prototype. In this article, we’ll consider the pros and cons of some of the most popular prototyping tools.

We once asked the designers on our company’s UX team about their favorite prototyping tool and got several different answers. The creator of each tool focuses on certain attributes—such as fidelity, an easy-to-use user interface, or time-saving functionality—that help their solution stand out and stay competitive in the marketplace.

How can you choose the best prototyping tool for you? When choosing a tool, keep the particular requirements of your project in mind, first and foremost. When defining these requirements, make them as precise and exhaustive as possible to ensure you can create a prototype that provides a thorough representation of how a future product would look and behave. Don’t omit what may seem like minor technical details; they can affect the whole project. Read More

Life Experience: The Greatest Teacher Ever!

December 19, 2016

We learn the most from the first-hand lessons life gives us. When things go wrong, we have the opportunity to learn from our mistakes. Such situations force us to think about what we could have done better. Sometimes, our experiences at work pull us outside our comfort zone, compelling us to confront harsh realities or challenging situations that we never imagined we’d have to deal with. Some of these situations might even make us question our beliefs or our understanding of other people. In this article, I’ll share a few personal life lessons that have left an indelible mark on me. I hope you’ll find them thought provoking. Read More