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August 07, 2017 Edition

Principles for Mobile Design

Mobile Matters

Designing for every screen

A column by Steven Hoober
August 7, 2017

I am a principled designer. I also like to think I am a principled man, but today, I’m going to talk not about my moral guideposts, but about the principles I use in mobile design.

We all have many tips and tricks, styles, favorite research learnings, lists of heuristics to keep in mind, examples we try to follow, and favorite apps and Web sites. These are all tactical approaches to design. Using design principles means adding a layer of structure and meaning to your design tactics to help you to make better design decisions. Read More

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The Profession of UX Won’t Disappear, but Adapt

Selling UX

A unique perspective on service UX

A column by Baruch Sachs
August 7, 2017

There have been a lot of articles recently that discuss the idea of whether User Experience has staying power as a profession. I’ve read about ten of these—most of them discussing how automation, artificial intelligence, and robotics will decimate the need for almost all professions as we know them today. Even the articles that were positive and upbeat about the future of User Experience made seemingly dire predictions about the need for all UX professionals to adapt to new technologies to survive. That actually sounds very reasonable to me. In fact, it’s what UX professionals have always done.

Before User experience, there was Human Factors. In some ways, that might be a better term to describe what UX professionals do. Now, it’s not a hip or edgy term, but it does encapsulate the fact that as long as there is a human factor in anything that people create, our profession has its place. We still live in a human world. Our job will still be to create products, services, and things that people interact with. Whether a user interface is on a screen or is a mechanical manifestation of our human selves, someone still has to ensure that people can work with it efficiently. I don’t really see that fundamental changing—certainly, not as much as the types of interactions people may have with products. UX professionals absolutely must adapt and learn—and that’s a really good thing. Read More


UX for the Industrial Environment, Part 1

August 7, 2017

Do a Web search for UX best practices, and you’ll find well-written articles and blog posts about designing Web sites and mobile applications. They’ll be chock full of helpful examples and screenshots depicting ecommerce Web sites, social-media applications, and slick interaction paradigms. But you’ll be hard pressed to find any examples from industrial automation—especially near the top of the search results—because industrial-automation software is not consumer facing and sits well outside the consciousness of modern software users and designers alike. Those who are familiar with industrial-automation software commonly view this as a domain of control systems, processes, computers, and machines—things that aren’t human.

But industrial-automation software is more human facing than you might think. Think about the sheets you slept on last night. The soap you used in the shower this morning. The car you drove to work. The beer you plan to nurse on the front porch tonight. The diaper you’ll wrestle onto your toddler before putting her to bed. The roller coaster that will make you scream at the top of your lungs this weekend. People design the software that runs the machines and processes that mass produce these human-facing products for people. People are still a big part of the processes for manufacturing these goods. Read More


User Research: An Interview with Sarah Doody

August 7, 2017

The field of user experience is growing. More companies than ever now understand the importance of UX design. However, UX designers still sometimes struggle because they’re working in a vacuum and building products that have features users neither want nor need. Solid user research is vital for UX designers to understand what users really want and need, as well as to ensure companies build products that satisfy the needs of users and shareholders alike.

I recently had a conversation with Sarah Doody about why user research is so important, how to approach it, and how to integrate research results into product designs. Sarah, who appears in Figure 1, is a UX designer and entrepreneur who is enthusiastic about helping other people learn to think like designers. She is the publisher of the popular weekly newsletter The UX Notebook—which has nearly 10,000 subscribers—and has created free UX resources, videos, and online courses on user research and building a UX portfolio, which are available from her Web site. Read More


Jump Start Responsive Web Design

August 7, 2017

This is a sample chapter from the Second Edition of Chris Ward’s book Jump Start Responsive Web Design. 2017 SitePoint.

Chapter 4: Responsive Text

Jump Start Responsive Web Design CoverIf Web pages are to be truly responsive, then the content of pages should also flow and change to suit the dimensions of the device a user is viewing it on. While Web pages are becoming more image and media heavy, text is still a crucial component, and there are numerous techniques to help make it as readable as possible, no matter the current device.

To understand better the ways you can represent text on a Web page, it’s best to take a trip into the long history of text. Read More

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


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