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Column: Practical Usability

UXmatters has published 47 editions of the column Practical Usability.

Top 3 Trending Practical Usability Columns

  1. Communicating User Research Findings

    Practical Usability

    Moving toward a more usable world

    A column by Jim Ross
    February 6, 2012

    “No one reads reports!”
    “PowerPoint must die!”

    We’ve all read monotonous reports and struggled to remain awake during boring presentations, but must all deliverables be interminably dull? Conveying user research findings so people can understand them, believe them, and know how to act on your recommendations can be challenging. And providing enough detail without boring your audience is a difficult balance. But there are some best practices in communicating user research findings that can make them more effective—and even entertaining. Read More

  2. 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

  3. Why Are Contextual Inquiries So Difficult?

    Practical Usability

    Moving toward a more usable world

    A column by Jim Ross
    June 4, 2012

    Of all the user research techniques, I think contextual inquiry is the most difficult to perform effectively. Despite what you may have learned about doing contextual inquiries in school, from books, or from articles on the Web, they’re not as easy as they seem. When you first try to conduct a contextual inquiry yourself, you’ll soon discover all kinds of unanticipated problems.

    Contextual inquiries require a difficult balance between traditional interviewing and ethnographic observation. The name contextual inquiry is foreign to most people outside the field of user experience, and people don’t understand what this approach involves, leading to a lot of misconceptions. In this article, I’ll discuss the most common problems you’ll face when conducting contextual inquiries and how to solve them. Read More

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