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March 06, 2017 Edition

Design for Fingers, Touch, and People, Part 1

Mobile Matters

Designing for every screen

A column by Steven Hoober
March 6, 2017

People have now read and referred to my 2013 column How Do Users Really Hold Mobile Devices? almost too much for my comfort. Why? Because, since I wrote that column, I have continued to do research, put my findings into practice for real products, written additional articles, and presented on that topic. In the years since then, I’ve learned a lot more about how people hold and touch their phones and tablets—a lot of which I did’t expect. And that’s the problem with my old columns. I made some assumptions that were based on observations of the usage of desktop PCs, standards for older types of interactions, and anecdotes or misrepresented data. However, through my later research and better analysis, I’ve been able to discard all of those erroneous assumptions and reveal the truth.

All too often, I see people referring to my oldest, least-accurate columns on this topic. Sometimes readers combine my obsolete data with other out-of-date information, then draw their own incorrect conclusions. I hope put a stop to that now with this updated overview of everything I know about how people interact with touchscreen devices and how you can use that information to design better digital products. Read More

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Experience Design: Beyond a Simple ROI

March 6, 2017

Executives want to know the return on investment (ROI) for the products and solutions their company creates. They typically want to know the ROI for user-experience efforts, too. However, while many UX leaders would love to be able to create a reliable ROI model to justify their team’s resource needs and communicate its value, a product’s user experience is so pervasive that trying to determine isolated UX metrics is futile. It’s always difficult to come up with atomic ROI assessments, but this is especially true for the user experience, which, in fact, represents the entire product.

For example, even if a call-center application’s user experience were outstanding and saved five minutes per call, it would not be possible to isolate the direct impact of the UX team that designed the application. Engineering and Product Management have also contributed to the application’s excellence, so what percentage of that savings would it be logical to attribute to User Experience? Conversely, if the intended user experience of that application had instead degraded during development, making calls take longer, to what team should you assign the additional cost of calls? Read More

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Conducting Qualitative, Comparative Usability Testing

Practical Usability

Moving toward a more usable world

A column by Jim Ross
March 6, 2017

Although UX designers usually consider various different design directions early during projects, they typically choose one design to develop further—long before conducting the first usability test. However, testing multiple designs early in a project can provide much more useful information than testing just a single design solution. When participants can experience two or more designs during testing, they can provide better feedback. As a result, you can gain greater insight into the elements of each design that work well and those that cause problems.

What Is Qualitative, Comparative Usability Testing?

When you read the term comparative usability testing, you might think it refers only to benchmarking the usability of an existing user interface against that of its competitors. In this type of comparative usability testing, you’d compare existing user interfaces with each other, using quantitative metrics such as task-completion and error rates and time on task. Therefore, participants perform test tasks without interruption and do not think aloud. You might also compare participants’ responses to a questionnaire. Read More


Conference Review: O’Reilly Design Conference 2016

March 6, 2017

The inaugural O’Reilly Design Conference took place at Fort Mason in San Francisco, January 20–22, 2016. O’Reilly Media formed its conference division in 1997 and currently hosts nine different conferences for software-development professionals, in various locations around the world. O’Reilly has extensive experience organizing professional conferences and a stable of 55 authors who have written O’Reilly books on user-experience topics, so this was bound to be a very good conference.

In this review, I’ll provide an overview of the conference, including its

  • organization
  • content and presenters
  • proceedings
  • venue
  • hospitality
  • community Read More


Value, Quality, Respect: Getting the Most Out of Technical Writers

March 6, 2017

In over 25 years as a technical writer, I’ve experienced both good and bad clients. The good ones know what they’re doing, treat writers with respect, value quality beyond paper metrics, and appreciate the value of technical communication. The bad ones end up wasting everyone’s time and shooting themselves in the foot.

In this article, I’ll discuss how you can get the most out of your technical writers by creating a healthy business environment, in which value, quality, and respect reinforce one another, as I show in Figure 1. Read More

February 20, 2017 Edition

Books That Have Influenced Our UX Careers, Part 1: Design

Ask UXmatters

Get expert answers

A column by Janet M. Six
February 20, 2017

This is the 100th edition of Ask UXmatters! I’d like to thank you for the opportunity to discuss many interesting topics—ranging from my inaugural column “Choosing the Language for a User Interface,” in November 2008, to “Fundamental Principles of Great UX Design,” to “Making the World a Better Place Through User Experience.” It is an honor to work with our esteemed expert panelists and bring this column to you. We look forward to collaborating on many more great columns!

For this centennial edition of Ask UXmatters, I asked our expert panel to tell me about some books that have influenced their career—whether UX books or inspiring books on other topics. Our experts have shared 65 different influential books and stories about how they affected their evolving career. Since they shared so many books, I have decided to break this column into three parts. In Part 1, we’ll cover design books, then in Part 2, we’ll discuss books on UX research—including both user research and usability testing. Finally, in Part 3, we’ll look at books that, while not about UX topics, have had great influence on our experts.

AnnouncementUXmatters will soon launch a new Books section on our Web site, providing a helpful information resource to our readers about the best books on User Experience and other topics of interest to UX professionals. We’ll continually add more books—both new books and classics. Plus, because UXmatters is now an Amazon Associate, you can support UXmatters by starting your shopping trips to Amazon from our site. In fact, you can start supporting UXmatters now by clicking a book link in this column and buying the book on Amazon! Just by purchasing books and other products on Amazon, you can—at no additional cost to you—help us cover the magazine’s operating expenses and fund our ongoing Web-development efforts—including the high cost of completely rebuilding our site to implement our responsive design, which launched in mid-2016. Please support UXmatters and help us to continue delivering great, free content to you—our readers. Thank you! Read More


Designing Conversational Chatbot User Interfaces

February 20, 2017

A chatbot is an application that can simulate having a conversation with a human being. There are two types of chatbots:

  1. Rule-based chatbots—These chatbots are only as smart as their developers have programmed them to be, their capabilities are limited, and using them can be frustrating.
  2. Chatbots that use artificial intelligence (AI)—These chatbots actually understand human language—not just commands—and they continually become smarter as they learn from the people who interact with them.

At the Fast Co. Festival in November 2016, chatbots reigned supreme. Chatbots and virtual assistants are becoming standard features of mobile user interfaces. Google released its smart, instant-messaging app Allo in September 2016. This mobile app both supports dictation and functions as a virtual assistant. Apple introduced the iOS feature Siri way back in October 2011 and have since improved it. Siri dictation has been an integral part of iOS since May 2012. According to recent rumors, Samsung’s Bibby—their AI virtual assistant—may debut in their imminent release of the Galaxy 8. Read More


8 Best Practices for Mobile Form Design

February 20, 2017

Designers have now been building mobile forms for a decade. But, as technology continues to go through metamorphoses and our understanding of users’ needs becomes more refined, good mobile form design is constantly evolving. In this article, I’ll provide eight best practices for mobile form design circa 2017.

Mobile form design presents specific challenges that have, historically, made it difficult for user-interface designers to keep general design best practices top of mind. Challenging factors that pose potential obstacles to creating usable mobile forms include the following:

  • the constrained screen real estate on a mobile device
  • data-input fatigue for users
  • unreliable connectivity
  • back-end storage problems
  • unpredictable contexts of use
  • high costs of interactions Read More


How Snackable Is Your Content?

February 20, 2017

When people visit your Web site, there’s a good chance they’ll give you only 15 seconds of their time. They want what they want, when they want it, with as little effort as possible. Getting their sustained attention is a victory. Mobile readers especially have come to expect casual flirtations with online content that delivers instant gratification. Don’t burden these experts in multitasking by making them tap or click your content. If your content requires too much effort to consume, people won’t read it. They’re easily distracted, and their attention spans are shorter than ever.

This is the reality that purveyors of Web sites and mobile apps confront. It’s a little disheartening, isn’t it? Regardless of your industry, you’re competing for the attention of people whose senses are dulled—impatient people with unwieldy expectations. Today, people don’t want to have to consume a full-course meal to get value out of your content. They want that value now. People want snackable content. Read More


Improving User Satisfaction Through Design

February 20, 2017

There’s no question that users will abandon any Web site or mobile app they don’t enjoy using. User experience is a key determinant of success or failure. Yet 73 percent of industry executives see user experience as one of the toughest challenges they face. Even well-funded sites and apps can fail to gain adoption without a good, user-focused design.

Some aspects of creating a quality user experience are obvious. For example, if users can’t figure out how to use your site, chances are high they’ll abandon your offering and look elsewhere. Likewise, the best product teams employ fleshed-out user personas to help them address each user’s specific needs.

But if you stopped there, you would be leaving out one of the most important—and hardest to define—components of a compelling user experience: user satisfaction. Read More