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November 21, 2016 Edition

Common Problems UX Leaders Encounter

Ask UXmatters

Get expert answers

A column by Janet M. Six
November 21, 2016

In this edition of Ask UXmatters, our expert panel discusses common problems that UX leaders face within organizations and offer some ways to overcome them. These organizational issues include the following:

  • failing to understand the unique, strategic value—the business value—of User Experience
  • not investing adequately in User Experience
  • lacking an understanding of User Experience and its vocabulary
  • failing to create a business context in which User Experience can succeed—whether because of an organization’s less than optimal structure, misunderstandings or a lack of respect between people in different functions, resistance to change, or a lack of appreciation for the unique value UX professionals provide
  • considering User Experience too late in the development process
  • placing pressure on UX professionals to skip essential steps in the design process

Every month, our Ask UXmatters experts answer our readers’ questions about user experience matters. To read their answers to your question in an upcoming edition of Ask UXmatters, just send your question to us at: [email protected]. Read More

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Agile Development Is No Excuse for Shoddy UX Research

November 21, 2016

Agile development and UX design are like a couple in an arranged marriage—a relationship between two strangers who are expected to coexist, develop trust and respect, and eventually, love each other. Throw UX research into the mix and you have the makings of an even more awkward alliance, as you can see in this typical conversation between a UX designer and a product owner, somewhere in the middle of Sprint 0:

Product owner: “Hey Jen, when can we see some wireframes?”

UX designer: “Well, we’re wrapping up our user interviews and putting together some personas—basically trying to get more clarity around our target users. We’ve already started on some sketches, but I expect we’ll need to make some tweaks based on what we learn.”

Product owner: “That’s all very good. But we can’t afford the luxury of spending too much time on research. Sprint 0 ends next week. We can’t keep the developers waiting! Let’s speed things up. I’d really appreciate if you could get those wireframes going quickly?” Read More


Where Do Killer Ideas Come From? Value Loops and UX Design Strategy

November 21, 2016

In UX and CX design, we’re all looking for the next killer idea—a project that could catapult our company and our career into the spotlight and, potentially, enable us to make a difference to a massive body of users. For many in UX design, such ideas seem almost mythical. How can you find your killer idea? How can you choose which projects to work on?

The anatomy of a great idea is actually quite simple. In this article, I’ll describe what makes a great idea and how they work. Read More


The Conundrum of Humdrum Innovation

November 21, 2016

Imagine how user interfaces and interactions might look and feel in a future when we all have e-ink wallpaper, short-throw projectors that are mounted all around us, augmented-reality devices; and ubiquitous, cloud-based artificial intelligence (AI).

My company was asked to do just that—to develop a new user-interface aesthetic for a venerable consumer electronics brand to roll out in 2020. Needless to say, we were thrilled. This is exactly the sort of design challenge for which my students at Art Center are in training and, I assume, hope to work on in the real world. But, for most working interaction designers, this sort of open-ended brief is rare and, accordingly, highly coveted.

Today, when a designer receives a brief like this, it is quite different from the past, when designers were asked to imagine the future. Then, designers had to stretch their imagination and free themselves of assumptions about what was and wasn’t feasible to conceive of something new. But, today, the gap between the fantastical world of imagined movie interfaces and what we have in our homes, can fit in our pockets, or strap on our wrists seems to be shrinking by the minute. Recently, when Mark Zuckerberg casually posted about his project to build an AI for his home “like Jarvis in Iron Man,” that sounded completely normal. Read More


Build Better Products

November 21, 2016

This is a sample chapter from Laura Klein’s new book Build Better Products: A Modern Approach to Building Successful User-Centered Products. 2016 Rosenfeld Media.

Chapter 11: Measure Better

Build Better Products CoverTeams get rewarded based on whether they’ve shipped features on time and on budget for a very good reason—it’s easy to measure. It’s trivial to track things like how many new features are in the latest release or whether version 2.0 was shipped when it was promised.

Sometimes companies make a small effort to tie reviews to real performance. They’ll do it by giving everybody a bonus if the company makes its third-quarter revenue targets or if their division meets a certain large goal for releasing a new product.

Unfortunately, both of these tactics are useless for understanding whether or not a team’s work has made a product better for users. Read More

November 07, 2016 Edition

Testing Your Own Designs

Practical Usability

Moving toward a more usable world

A column by Jim Ross
November 7, 2016

There’s an old saying in the field of UX design that you shouldn’t conduct usability testing on your own designs. While this sounds like a good ideal to strive for, is it really practical? In reality, UX designers test their own designs all the time. Often, it’s because they’re the only UX professional available to test the designs. If they don’t do it, it won’t get tested at all. Is it really a big mistake to test your own designs, or is some testing better than no testing at all?

Many have written articles about this topic—including a great column by Paul Sherman on UXmatters from 2009. But, as someone who has experienced all sides of this issue, I think I have a unique perspective to add to this discussion. Through testing my own designs, having other people test my designs, and testing other people’s designs, I have experienced the advantages and disadvantages of each of these situations. In this column, I’ll discuss whether it’s possible to test your own designs effectively and provide tips for UX designers who are either testing their own designs or having other UX professionals test their designs. Read More


The Name of the Practice Is Information Architecture

Finding Our Way

Navigating the practice of Information Architecture

A column by Nathaniel Davis
November 7, 2016

Today, information architecture (IA) is a recognized term in many technology, product, and Web-design organizations. However, in many other organizations, information architecture is still “the pain with no name.” [1] If you ask senior practitioners of information architecture, they’ll tell you that information architecture is central to the creation of human-computer interfaces. But the fact of the matter is that the popular view of information architecture represents just a very small subset of its total value.

In this column, I’ll first summarize the popular conception of the practice of information architecture, then I’ll highlight the broader scope of the practice that still remains to be realized. Read More


Succeeding with Field Usability Testing and Lean Ethnography

Mobile Matters

Designing for every screen

A column by Steven Hoober
November 7, 2016

Increasingly, product teams want speedy UX design processes. Even though launching minimum viable products (MVPs) has led to some very public product-design failures, they are becoming an accepted norm—or even something to celebrate—within some organizations. However, when such failures occur in the marketplace, they can alienate a product’s users and damage business results.

While usability testing and ethnographic user research can prevent such failures, many product teams believe they take too much time. But it’s easy to conduct usability testing and user research rapidly within the context a Lean or agile software-development process, enabling you improve your UX designs and avoid wasted investment and embarrassment. Read More


The Biggest Problem Facing UX Design

November 7, 2016

Many UX design leaders around the world have been watching and are now benefiting from the rapid rise that design has recently enjoyed. With the ascent of companies like Airbnb—who give credit to their designers for the role design has played in their success—more and more companies have been jumping on board the design train. While some of these companies do not fully understand how to utilize their UX designers, fear of missing out (FoMO) is a powerful thing.

As with many trends that have seen a rapid rise, there is a strong likelihood that there may be an equally strong decline in UX design. It is fear of this risk that is prompting many UX designers to call for their fellows to prove their value. It stands to reason that, if designers can prove their worth and, thus, convince their employers that design is providing a strong return on investment (ROI) to them, they’ll have no choice but to keep championing designers.

Now, if that were easy, nobody would have a worry, but it’s not. How can design—something that companies have traditionally assessed according to the taste of a few important people—prove to a company that it’s providing real, measurable value? How can UX designers show that they are actually valuable, strategic assets who can impact all areas of a business? Read More

November 06, 2016 Edition

Conference Review: Digital Design & Web Innovation Summit 2015, Part 2: Highlights from Day 2

November 6, 2016

The inaugural Digital Design & Web Innovation Summit took place at the Westin Bonaventure Hotel & Suites in Los Angeles, in September 2015. For an overview of the conference and my reviews of the sessions that I attended on Day 1, read “Part 1: Overview and Day 1.” Now, in Part 2 of my review, I’ll cover the sessions from Day 2 of the conference’s Digital Design & Web track, which took place on September 11, 2015. Read More