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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

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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

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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

February 06, 2017 Edition

Information Architecture: The Structure Behind Your User Interface

Finding Our Way

Navigating the practice of Information Architecture

A column by Nathaniel Davis
February 6, 2017

When information architecture (IA) arrived on the scene in the late 1990s, it brought attention to an aspect of user-interface design that was then only marginally understood: structure. The need to focus on structure is still a significant concern—especially in environments of large scale and complexity.

Digital product and services organizations and large institutions regularly fall short of their desired goals because their user interfaces lack sufficient structure. With today’s complex landscape of human-digital experiences, it is necessary to be mindful of the importance of structure—and its relationship to the practice of information architecture. Read More


The Paradox of Control Versus Collaboration

February 6, 2017

UX designers tend to be perfectionists—purpose-driven idealists, who are intent on creating experiences that users love. Many designers believe that Business and Engineering don’t care about the user experience at the same level they do. Sometimes, this is the reality. As a result, UX experts often take the full burden of creating great experiences on their own shoulders. After all, shouldn’t the user experience be left to the professionals? While a UX designer’s first instinct might be to command sole ownership over the user experience, the problem is that no isolated UX team can create a product without collaborating with other disciplines—particularly Product Management and Engineering.

The truth is that the best products result from product teams participating in integrative thinking—working together to solve problems than none could solve as well alone. As Roger Martin points out, “Integrative thinkers consider the problem as a whole rather than breaking it down and farming out the parts.” UX professionals must realize that we actually need the help of our Business and Engineering partners to create the best experiences.

In this article, I’ll consider the paradox of control. What are the implications when UX professionals seek control of the user experience? And, alternatively, what happens if User Experience relinquishes control? Read More


How IBM Is Embracing the Future Through Design

February 6, 2017

Shifting trends are forcing technology companies to reimagine their value proposition. IBM has chosen to create disruption through design. In embracing the future, the company is essentially invoking its past. Back in 1956, IBM was the first large company to establish a corporate-wide design program. But this time, the company’s goals are more ambitious.

Recently, we interviewed Karel Vredenburg, Director of IBM Design’s worldwide client program and head of IBM Studios in Canada, who told us, “We’ve put everything into this transformation.” The company is investing more than $100 million in becoming design centered. Read More


Are You Giving Users What They Ask For?

Selling UX

A unique perspective on service UX

A column by Baruch Sachs
February 6, 2017

If you give users what they ask for, they’ll continue to ask for more. As I sat reading the children’s book If You Give a Mouse a Cookie to my son one evening, I started thinking about its applicability to our consulting for clients. If you do not know Laura Numeroff’s story, it is what some might describe as a circular tale. The plot centers around a little boy and a mouse. The mouse asks for various items and, when the little boy gives the mouse what he wants, the mouse asks for something else. If you give a mouse a cookie, it will want a glass of milk to go with it. If you give it some milk, it will eventually want something else—until you get to the very end of the story, when the mouse wants just one more cookie. So, the tale could conceivably go on forever.

My children love this book. They think it is very funny and ask me to read it again and again. It was during one of these countless readings that I realized this story holds some great messages about how I find myself interacting with clients every day. How many times have we gone through multiple iterations of designs, only to come back to our original design? How many times have we given the users what they want, only to find out the solution tests poorly and user adoption is low? Sometimes, during an engagement with a client, I feel as though the biggest impact of a request I’ve granted is simply that it begets yet another request. Read More


A Manifesto for Maturing the Making of Meaningful Work, Part 2

February 6, 2017

In Part 1 of this two-part series, we established the need for a manifesto for maturing the making of meaningful work, explained what you need to do to fulfill your intention of achieving this goal, and described the value of defining an integrated practice framework. Now, in Part 2, we’ll define the eight best practices that this integrated practice framework comprises, as well as four roles that foster the making of meaningful experiences—for your team and your customers alike.

A Manifesto: 8 Best Practices

Our Manifesto for Making Meaningful Work consists of eight best practices that help us frame and answer the question of how to make meaningful work. We keep these practices in mind throughout our day-to-day project work. They help us and the people with whom we work to choose a healthier approach to work and achieve sparkle by gaining clarity on our projects’ intent. Read More