January 2016 Issue

By Janet M. Six

Published: January 25, 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 discusses the purpose of site maps. Web site design has come a long way since designers slapped a Site Map link at the bottom of every Web page to help users who were perplexed by a Web site’s organization—or has it? Sometimes yes, sometimes no. Our experts cover exactly what constitutes a site map and how site maps differ from other UX design deliverables. They also consider the evolution of the term site map over the years, how site maps apply to increasingly responsive Web designs, and how agile development has impacted the use of site maps.

Every month in Ask UXmatters, our panel of UX experts answers our readers’ questions about a broad range of user experience matters. To get answers to your own questions about UX strategy, design, user research, or any other topic of interest to UX professionals in an upcoming edition of Ask UXmatters, please send your questions to: [email protected]. Read moreRead More>

By Bobby Emamian

Published: January 25, 2016

“While most Web-site creators have mastered the art of effective hyperlinking, the mobile community has yet to catch on fully. Sure, many apps feature hyperlinks—but they’re not deep links.”

Hyperlinks exist everywhere on the Web—in articles, email messages, social-media posts, you name it. In theory, they should provide one-click access for those who seek additional information. But every now and then, users encounter a link that leads only to a Web site’s landing page, an app’s home screen, or completely unrelated content—basically, nowhere useful.

While most Web-site creators have mastered the art of effective hyperlinking, the mobile community has yet to catch on fully. Sure, many apps feature hyperlinks—but they’re not deep links.

Deep links provide direct access to specific content. While generic links might go to a Web site’s homepage—for example, http://www.website.com—deep links send users straight to a particular page or section within that site—for example, http://www.website.com/page/section/. Read moreRead More>

By Jeremy Wilt

Published: January 25, 2016

“We should consider whether our meetings provide value. … When you leave a meeting with a sense of accomplishment and shared understanding, it was a worthwhile meeting.”

The first step to overcoming any addiction is admitting there’s a problem. The business world is addicted to meetings. We demonstrate what we value by what we put our time and energy into. In most companies, people spend the majority of their time either in meetings or working on ideas or activities that began in meetings. From the Board of Directors and the executive leadership team on down throughout entire organizations, most companies have a growing dependence on meetings.

We’re now so used to meeting just for the sake of meeting that many of us walk like zombies from meeting to meeting and find ourselves staring at bullet-point presentations, shared screens, and video-conference systems for hours at a time. It’s no wonder that many meetings leave us feeling demotivated, disillusioned, and exhausted. Yet, with all the time we spend in meetings, we rarely stop to question why we meet. Read moreRead More>

By Jaime Levy

Published: January 25, 2016

This is Part 2 of a sample chapter from the book UX Strategy: How to Devise Innovative Digital Products That People Want, by Jaime Levy, which O’Reilly Media published in May 2015. UXmatters is republishing this chapter with Jaime Levy’s permission. Copyright © 2015 Jaime Levy. All rights reserved.

Chapter 2: The Four Tenets of UX Strategy, Part 2

Editor’s Note—We published Part 1 of “Chapter 2: The Four Tenets of UX Strategy,” from UX Strategy: How to Devise Innovative Digital Products That People Want, in the January 2016 edition of UXmatters. If you missed it, give it a read now.

Tenet 2: Value Innovation

“It is value innovation that disrupts or creates new mental models for people.”

As digital product inventors, we must be hyperaware of all the changing digital market dynamics. We must understand how and why people use their digital devices and what defines a successful and failed UX. This is because a user’s first contact with the interface generally determines success or failure. It provides the user with their first impression of your value innovation, and it is value innovation that disrupts or creates new mental models for people. We definitely want to do that. Read moreRead More>

By Meg Barbic

Published: January 25, 2016

“Experience designers [are] unafraid of remaining in uncertainty and ambiguity when others around them are rushing to cling to the comfort of a ready solution.”

Recently, I have been noticing experience designers’ unique balance of soft skills such as communication, creativity, and empathy—in addition to the hard skills they’ve attained in an industry that requires a high level of understanding of new and emerging technologies. At the UX STRAT 2015 conference in Athens, Georgia, I attended some insightful talks and workshops and met a crowd full of people who had all of these things in common.

I’ve also noticed that experience designers are inquisitive and have a natural tendency to ask Why?—every time. It is this non-negotiable level of inquisitiveness that gives experience designers a fierceness that makes them unafraid of remaining in uncertainty and ambiguity when others around them are rushing to cling to the comfort of a ready solution. They trust their own design process, which enables them to lead teams to a solution that is driven by the user’s experience. Experience designers are also brave enough to try new things, and they seem to evolve and learn constantly. Read moreRead More>

By Jim Ross

Published: January 4, 2016

“Choosing the right company to work for is more important than ever.”

Lately, it seems like there are more jobs in User Experience than ever before. It still isn’t exactly easy to get a UX job, but there’s definitely been a huge growth in UX positions, as well as in the number of companies struggling to fill them. In fact, user experience designer ranked number 16 in CNN Money’s list of top 100 careers for 2015.

Deciding whether to accept a particular position is always an important decision, but in a hot job market like this, with so many opportunities, choosing the right company to work for is more important than ever. As with any other job opportunity, there are typical criteria to consider such as salary, benefits, company culture, and the commute. But, in this column, I’ll focus on the special considerations when you’re contemplating a new UX job. Read moreRead More>

By Steven Hoober

Published: January 4, 2016

“If you want people’s business, empathy has to start with respecting your users and believing in their value as customers.”

It’s time to admit that most UX designers are designing and building products for a tiny, tiny segment of the world population. But there are billions of other people out there, who are using millions of devices, in not quite the same ways we use them and in environments that are entirely different from those to which we’re accustomed.

Almost all of the products I help design for giant, global companies get launched in North America. Often only in the US, but if we’re lucky, Canada, too. English Canada that is—not Quebec, because that would mean adding a language. Check the availability of the next cool startup’s product that you use. Does it work outside the US? Does it even work outside your home town?

As UX professionals, we often talk publicly about our being user centric or empathetic. But, among ourselves, we also talk about how we can improve the lives of the poor, the disenfranchised, or those in distant lands just by bringing our technology to them. Read moreRead More>

By John Ferrara

Published: January 4, 2016

“One of the most visible emblems of the growth of Philadelphia’s UX community is Forge, a UX and design conference.”

It’s been a thrill to see the Philadelphia region’s UX community expand and mature over the last 15 years. What was once a sparse coalition of Web geeks, catching dinner after work, has grown into a robust and widely influential network. One of the most visible emblems of the growth of Philadelphia’s UX community is Forge, a UX and design conference. In 2015, the second annual event took place on October 9th, at the University of Pennsylvania Museum of Archaeology & Anthropology, in Philadelphia.

Overview of the Conference

Billed as “a place for makers,” Forge differentiates itself by inviting speakers who are UX professionals who design experiences that real people use every day rather than speaker-circuit mainstays. You might not know their names, but you know the things they make. Not all are polished presenters, but all offered the sort of talks that revitalize your perspective on your own work. Organizer Keith Scandone has created a speaker-selection process that favors people who can bring big insights, while remaining personally approachable. The conference reflects these priorities. Read moreRead More>

By Janet M. Six and Ritch Macefield

Published: January 4, 2016

“UX researchers and other project stakeholders often fervently debate the number of participants that are necessary for usability studies.”

UX researchers and other project stakeholders often fervently debate the number of participants that are necessary for usability studies. At the core of this debate is often the tension between the usability professional’s desire for the best possible study and the business team's desire to reduce time and expense.

In 2009, Ritch wrote an article for the Journal of Usability Studies titled “How to Specify the Participant Group Size for Usability Studies: A Practitioner’s Guide” to address this issue. He based his article on a wide survey of the literature then available, and his intent was to help usability professionals make clear recommendations for the size of participant groups in particular contexts, as well as to understand the basis for those recommendations and their associated risks. Read moreRead More>

By Sarah Chambers

Published: January 4, 2016

“The goal of self-service sites is to help users find answers themselves, forestalling the need to contact a real person.”

Most of us have experienced the struggle of seeking help on a Web site, only to end up in a link-clicking loop that leaves us more confused than we were to begin with.

The goal of self-service sites is to help users find answers themselves, forestalling the need to contact a real person. Take a look at WebMD for a good example of such a site, as described on the Kayako Blog, in “How WebMD Moms Are Shaping the Future of Support.” When such a site is done right, it leads you straight from symptoms to diagnosis to cure. However, if self-service sites are done poorly, they’re hard to navigate and offer no effective way to find the information you need or to learn about next steps. The only thing that’s left to do is to call a customer-service agent, who hopefully will have the information the user needs.

Great UX design can solve this problem. In 2013, the UK Government Digital Services (GDS) team won Design of the Year for its self-service Web site GOV.UK, beating contenders in fashion, architecture, and product development. One of the judges even remarked, “It creates a benchmark … all international government Web sites can be judged on.” Read moreRead More>