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July 24, 2017 Edition

Complementing Your UX Skillset with Business Analysis

Innovating UX Practice

Inspirations from software engineering

A column by Peter Hornsby
July 24, 2017

The idea of a UX unicorn has always been something of a puzzle to me. User Experience is already such a broad field, encompassing digital design, graphic design, interaction design, user research, usability testing, prototyping, and other specialties. Saying that there is something unique or special about a person who is competent in some part of User Experience and also another discipline such as coding feels like a failure to acknowledge the unique breadth of User Experience. But, for the sake of this column, let’s roll with this definition:

A UX unicorn is someone who can deliver broadly on the UX skillset, plus something else that most would consider rare—though perhaps not mythical, as the term unicorn might imply! Read More

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Book Review: Creative Change

Leadership Matters

Leading UX teams

July 24, 2017

Book Cover: Creative ChangeIf you, like most UX professionals, have worked within organizations that seem to respond to User Experience in much the same way that the human body responds to a virus and want to understand why that happens, you should read Creative Change: Why We Resist It… How We Can Embrace It, by Jennifer Mueller, PhD. If you want to understand why organizations struggle with innovation, you should read this book.

Creative Change is a great book about creativity within organizations that is grounded in solid research. Mueller has been studying creativity for almost twenty years, and her research has revealed that, even though many business leaders lament a lack of creativity and innovation within their organizations, they commonly reject creative, innovative ideas. They tend to be biased against and fail to recognize the value of creative leadership as well, believing that creative leaders lack business acumen. This does not bode well for UX leaders.

Occasionally, among the many books I read, I discover a book whose ideas are so transformative that I feel impelled to share them with UXmatters readers. This is one of those rare books. Read More


What to Do When You’re the Only UX Designer on a Project?

Ask UXmatters

Get expert answers

A column by Janet M. Six
July 24, 2017

In this edition of Ask UXmatters, our expert panel considers whether UX designers should use the same methods a UX team would use when they’re the lone UX designer on a project. The panel also explores whether a designer can save time and money working alone.

In discussing this topic, panelists also examine the benefits of using the same techniques regardless of whether a UX designer is part of a team. The panel also considers how UX methods fit into company environments that applaud agile, Lean, or creative approaches. Our expert panel reminds UX designers always to keep the user at the center of the design process—despite the temptation of lone designers’ feeling they’re finally getting to design their own way without much interference. Plus, the panelists discuss how to obtain feedback from other designers outside their team or even their entire organization. Finally, the panel addresses the importance of understanding why you’re the only UX designer on a project. Read More


Media Use Habits: What, Why, When, and How People Read Online

July 24, 2017

A number of myths surround media use: Some claim that people no longer read, while others argue that there is no substitute for reading the news, especially for commuters. Others claim that readers have switched over to social networks, so publishers should now forget about media Web sites and focus instead on posting to news feeds. Still others believe that the readers of Web publications continue to open the main page, then thoughtfully and consistently read through new articles.

Certain editorial metrics—such as scrolls, engagement, and conversions from visitors to readers—offer some insights into how people use and communicate with online media. Statistics make us aware of what topics and content engage readers and what layout patterns actually work. We know how specific types of users respond to particular articles. But, still, all of this data gives us little insight into the role online media play in readers’ lives. Read More


Designing Agentive Technology: AI That Works for People

July 24, 2017

This is a sample chapter from Chris Noessel’s new book Designing Agentive Technology: AI That Works for People. 2017 Rosenfeld Media.

Chapter 3: Agentive Tech Can Change the World

Cover of Designing Agentive TechnologyIn the first chapter, we walked through the details of one particular example of an agentive technology and deconstructed it bit by bit in the second chapter to better understand what makes this type of tech different. Let’s now look at lots of examples to see what makes them really, really cool.

They Move Us from Moments to Interests

The design of tools focuses very much on the moment of use, as it pertains to some task or goal. That means design attention is given to things like the affordances of the interface, mapping of well-designed controls, and meaningful feedback across many layers of interaction. It’s the see-think-do loop that is the irreducible atom of interaction design.

Much of the benefit of using an agent is that it can persistently look for things the user didn’t even know specifically existed, like a nice shirt, a mention on the Web, or a new recording by a favorite artist. For these reasons, setting up a search with an agent isn’t about setting up filters for what’s out there now, but more about what could be out there in the future. It’s about telling the agent what interests you. Read More

July 10, 2017 Edition

Design for Fingers, Touch and People, Part 3

Mobile Matters

Designing for every screen

A column by Steven Hoober
July 10, 2017

In Part 1 of this series on how to design for mobile touchscreens, I told you all about the history of touchscreens, how capacitive touch works today, and the research I have been conducting to find out how people really interact with their touchscreen phones and tablets.

In Part 2, I discussed the first five of my ten heuristics for designing for touch in the real world, on any device:

1. Device diversity is human diversity.

  • Design for every user and every type and size of phone.
  • Design for the variable ways in which people work with their devices, not just one way.
  • Set aside your biases. Don’t assume everyone has your phone or uses it the same way you do. Read More


UX Design for Big-Data Applications

July 10, 2017

Today, we’re experiencing a growing torrent of big data. Data for our retail purchases, Internet searches, social-media posts, and even our commutes to work reside somewhere. Not only do we cast a shadow on the ground when we walk in the sunlight, we all have data doppelgängers that show both our current state and the history of our lives. Our own data interacts with the data of other people—such as those who buy the same books on Amazon that we do or our friends on social media. All of this data interacts with the companies with whose products and services we engage.

Through machine learning and artificial intelligence, organizations can use big data to predict our next actions—sometimes even better than we can predict them ourselves. The implications of big data are enormous—enabling us to view suggested products while on a retailer’s Web site, receive recommendations to connect with people who we might know on social-media sites, and benefit from smart IoT devices that gather data from us and those who are similar to us, then act accordingly. Organizations in the healthcare and financial arenas use big-data systems to spot potential adverse events, while also pinpointing scenarios that can bring increased profits and positive outcomes. Read More


Five Degrees of User Assistance

Practical Usability

Moving toward a more usable world

A column by Jim Ross
July 10, 2017

In the ideal interaction between humans and computers, technology handles the routine, mundane tasks at which it excels, allowing people to focus on higher-level, more important aspects of achieving their goals. Nevertheless, until recently, technology’s role in providing user assistance has been limited to providing traditional online Help and on screen instructions. However, as technology becomes ever more powerful, it increasingly has the ability to offer more proactive user assistance and even perform certain tasks automatically, easing the cognitive load on the user.

At its best, proactive user assistance can be very helpful. At its worst, it can be distracting, even annoying to users who receive either unwanted assistance or incorrect information. Remember Clippy, shown in Figure 1, the animated-paperclip assistant in Windows 95 that irritated legions of computer users? There’s nothing more annoying than a system’s automatically taking unwanted actions or constantly offering undesired suggestions. Read More


Applied UX Strategy, Part 5.2: Outcome-Driven Design

July 10, 2017

In Part 5.1 of this two-parter within my larger series on applied UX strategy, I covered the benefits of using a shared language between business and design, then began my discussion of a three-stage model for solving business problems through design that progresses through the following three stages:

  • Stage 1: Helping product teams identify and solve user problems—which I covered in Part 5.1
  • Stage 2: Evaluating maximal outcomes for problem solutions
  • Stage 3: Moving from problem solving to innovation

When product designers keep in mind why a company chooses to solve particular user problems and how their solutions will impact the business—at every stage in this model—the focus of their work shifts from creating design deliverables to defining product strategy. Design becomes a strategic role whose goals are to increase key business metrics and drive innovation.

Now, in Part 5.2, I’ll delve further into this transformation of the product designer’s role, covering Stages 2 and 3 in depth. Read More


Designing UX: Prototyping

July 10, 2017

This is a sample chapter from Ben Coleman and Dan Goodwin’s new book Designing UX: Prototyping. 2017 SitePoint.

Chapter 7: Building HTML Prototypes

Cover of Designing UX: PrototypingWhen we say HTML prototypes, we mean a Web site comprising HTML markup, CSS for presentation, and JavaScript for additional interactivity. It may be a simple HTML Web site, or a Web site that runs on a framework or content management system (CMS).

This chapter is not a detailed step-by-step guide, nor will it teach you how to use HTML, CSS, JavaScript, or frameworks. It aims to help you understand all the options for creating HTML prototypes and their benefits. You’ll find out what’s needed to get started, and gain some guidance on how to approach creating an HTML prototype. We’ll also include some real-life prototyping case studies from some of the projects we’ve worked on at fffunction.

After reading this chapter, you should be able to make an informed decision as to what approach will suit you and your project. Read More