March 2015 Issue

By Baruch Sachs

Published: March 23, 2015

“I’ve been seeing lots of instances where customers and users are telling UX designers in specific detail what it is they want out of their experience with software—and … designers … creating experiences around what they say.”

Perhaps it’s the fresh-faced optimism of the new-ish year, but lately, I’ve been seeing lots of instances where customers and users are telling UX designers in specific detail what it is they want out of their experience with software—and we, as UX designers, believing them. Not only do we believe them, but we are also creating experiences around what they say. I see designers brimming with confidence, strutting around with a self-assured smile on their face, only to have the dream dashed when users see a design that incorporates exactly what they told them to do and say, “I don’t like it.”

Now, I’m perhaps being a little dramatic to make a point, but I’m not too far off. This is an age-old design conundrum. On one hand, we want people to tell us what they want, right? As UX professionals, we continually call for time with users, to get at the heart of their wants and needs, so we can translate this information into delightful interaction design. Read moreRead More>

By Janet M. Six

Published: March 23, 2015

Send your questions to Ask UXmatters and get answers from some of the top professionals in UX.

In this edition of Ask UXmatters, our panel of UX experts provides a wide variety of responses that UX professionals might make to a client who declares that the rest of the product team need not observe usability testing.

You have the go-ahead from your client to conduct usability testing, but he tells you that other members of the product team don’t need to observe the test sessions. What should you do? Fire the client? Make the business case? Explain the consequences of the team’s not observing test sessions? Or maybe your client has a point. Do only certain team members need to observe usability testing? Would you make sure that the right people on the team view the right sessions? How often should people observe sessions? What are some other alternatives? Read moreRead More>

By Traci Lepore

Published: March 23, 2015

“The key to successful transitions across media or channels is to consider how to use each individual medium or channel to best communicate the story.”

When I heard that a movie version of Into the Woods was coming out, I was so excited! I loved the musical and figured the story was strong enough that it couldn’t be a bad movie. And, honestly, it didn’t matter, because I am enough of a fan that I was going to see it—no matter what. Plus, with Meryl Streep as the witch, how could they go wrong?

Of course, I saw the movie on its opening day—and I was pleasantly surprised. More than that, actually—I thought it was a fantastic translation from stage to big screen. What made the movie so enjoyable had to do with more than just the great story, the sensational acting, or even the humor and witty dialogue. The production took full advantage of the benefits that the medium of film offers—in combination with the core, strong story lines—to realize the greatest potential of Into the Woods. Read moreRead More>

By David Mierke

Published: March 23, 2015

“Jack of all trades, master of none.”

“Taking a design-driven, vertically agnostic approach to business can be a powerful way of bringing perspective and understanding to projects, companies, and even entire industries.”

This common saying typically refers to someone who has a wide range of interests, but minimal knowledge of each of them. While some might think that referring to a person in this way could be a compliment—a nod to a Renaissance man like Da Vinci or Michelangelo, what about a business? Would it be beneficial for a company to apply its expertise to several different business verticals or simply stick with what they know? While both diversification and specialization have their pros and cons, taking a design-driven, vertically agnostic approach to business can be a powerful way of bringing perspective and understanding to projects, companies, and even entire industries.

Realizing that creating a successful product does not require that your UX expert also be an industry expert expands the possible solutions and potential innovation opportunities for any vertical. Read moreRead More>

By Laura Keller

Published: March 23, 2015

“While parents now have more education options than ever before, the result is a complicated education system that causes anxiety and confusion.”

I have lived in Jersey City, New Jersey, for almost ten years. My now-husband and I moved here primarily for easy access to Manhattan and Brooklyn, which are a quick train ride away. But we also saw much potential in this second-largest city in New Jersey. While the neighboring metropolis dwarfs Jersey City, our city has its own respectable share of restaurants and bars; plus we appreciated its arts and culture. We’ve created roots and friendships here and, in 2009, plunged into home ownership, making a commitment to stay in Jersey City for a while.

Now, in 2015, Jersey City has a new mayor who is making the city even more of a destination, in an attempt to encourage residents of New York City to consider a move here. Jersey City was previously reputed to be unfriendly to new businesses and developers, but has revamped its processes and offered financial benefits to encourage investment. A new condominium or business building seems to open every six months, and the City exhibits an energy that was lacking when we first moved here. Read moreRead More>

By Steven Hoober

Published: March 9, 2015

“I create a diagram that describes the entire scope of the system from the point of view of the user—considering all touchpoints, all actors, and all storage and delays.”

Recently, a client asked me to do a heuristic evaluation. They had hired another vendor to design an iOS app for one of their divisions, and it was my job to see how well they had done. And I almost failed. It was way, way too hard to evaluate the design, because it was all pages. There was no overall view of the system, no task flow, and only occasionally had they even really defined an interaction.

This is, sadly, typical of our industry today—and one way or another—this is something that I encounter regularly. While mobile UX designers may like to pretend that no design before the iPhone matters, we stick to many of the principles of 1970s graphic design in practice. Just look up almost any UX design pattern library, and you’ll find nothing but screenshots. Read moreRead More>

By Liam Friedland

Published: March 9, 2015

“Normally, we do not so much look at things as overlook them.”—Alan W. Watts

Making a Business Case for User Experience

“You should utilize analytical frameworks to understand and describe the business value of the contributions that User Experience brings to the table. You should be able to present a complete business case for user experience to your corporate management.”

Building modern software products is expensive. The design and implementation of a product user experience typically requires 40% of the overall software development cost. Therefore, on a $2 million software development project, building the user experience will require roughly $800,000 of the project budget. This is a non-trivial amount of money. Of course, just designing and building the product is not the end of it. There are the costs of marketing, advertising, and selling the product, as well as the cost of supporting it after its release. The total expense of creating a software product can easily run into millions of dollars. Read moreRead More>

By Jim Ross

Published: March 9, 2015

“As UX professionals, we represent users. We’re on their side and strive to improve their interactions with technology. This is a noble cause, so we’re justified in feeling like we’re the good guys—and often, people do see us that way.”

As UX professionals, we represent users. We’re on their side and strive to improve their interactions with technology. This is a noble cause, so we’re justified in feeling like we’re the good guys—and often, people do see us that way. They understand the benefits that we provide in making technology easier for them to use. For example, people who are using very cumbersome applications at work may see us as saviors who will deliver them from the drudgery of using terrible systems.

But what happens when your user research participants don’t exactly see it that way? What if they’re distrustful of your motives and suspect your true goals? In such situations, how can you reassure them and win them over? Read moreRead More>

By Pabini Gabriel-Petit

Published: March 9, 2015

As more and more UX professionals, consultants, agencies, and other businesses embrace the future that is UX strategy, it was inevitable that there would be more conferences focusing on UX strategy, including some from companies whose primary business is organizing conferences. One such conference is the UX Strategies Summit, which is presented by the Global Strategic Management Institute (GSMI). Their goal is to provide conferences and workshops “covering topics that today’s leaders find most challenging and inspiring.” The inaugural UX Strategies Summit took place in San Francisco, California, at the Marines’ Memorial Club & Hotel, spanning three days—June 10–12, 2014—including one day of workshops and two days for the “General Summit.”

Organization

“Overall, this was a well-organized conference.”

Overall, this was a well-organized conference. Since GSMI are professional conference organizers, they did a excellent job on planning, hosting, and running the conference. Following a full day of workshops, the main conference comprised three tracks. Read moreRead More>

By Andrew Hinton

Published: March 9, 2015

This is a sample chapter from Andrew Hinton’s new book, Understanding Context: Environment, Language, and Information Architecture, in which he explores the principles and processes that shape and change context for users. Chapter 21, “Narratives and Situations,” is one of the chapters from the book’s final segment on “Composing Context.”

Chapter 21: Narratives and Situations

The Universe is made of stories, not of atoms.—Muriel Rukeyser

People Make Sense Through Stories

“How do we understand the current state if it won’t sit still? The key is in studying the experience from the points of view of the agents involved and how they think and behave. Those points of view provide the dynamic landscape … that puts everything else into perspective.”

Before composing something new we should understand what is already there. But we’ve already established that there is no stable, persistent “context” to begin with—that it emerges through action. So, how do we understand the current state if it won’t sit still? The key is in studying the experience from the points of view of the agents involved and how they think and behave. Those points of view provide the dynamic landscape—and the principles we derive from it—that puts everything else into perspective. These agents can be individual users, groups of them, organizations, and even digital actors. Let’s begin with how humans work—and how they understand their experience as narrative. Recall our working definition: context is an agent’s understanding of the relationships between the elements of the agent’s environment. Read moreRead More>