January 23, 2017 Edition

The Differences Between Enterprise and Consumer UX Design

Ask UXmatters

Get expert answers

A column by Janet M. Six
January 23, 2017

In this edition of Ask UXmatters, our expert panel discusses the key differences between UX design for enterprise applications and consumer applications. Among these differences is the fact that most enterprise users have their applications chosen for them, while consumers have freedom of choice and buy their own applications. While actual users may have the opportunity to define requirements for and evaluate enterprise applications, personas represent the target users of consumer applications, and the people who test them merely resemble those target users.

Enterprise applications typically have much greater scope and are much more complex than consumer applications, so enterprise solutions are often tailored for people working in specific roles. Plus, enterprise applications are designed for a specific business domain rather than a specific task, as many consumer applications are. Administrators usually configure enterprise applications, while consumers configure their own applications. Employees routinely use enterprise applications in their work, while the use of most consumer applications is less predictable. Enterprise applications often must connect with legacy systems. Read More

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Doorbells, Danger, and Dead Batteries: User Research War Stories

January 23, 2017

This is a sample chapter from Steve Portigal’s new book Doorbells, Danger, and Dead Batteries: User Research War Stories. 2016 Rosenfeld Media.

Chapter 11: The Myth of Objectivity

Doorbells, Danger, and Dead Batteries

In our culture in general, we place a high premium on the notion of objectivity. We hold high the values of fairness and neutrality. Journalists frequently face the criticism of bias. But the endeavors of law, news, science, and user research are led by humans. Unlike Vulcans, humans are not wholly led by logic. The field of behavioral economics, increasingly totemic for business people of all stripes, seeks to understand the ways in which people’s behaviors and decisions are influenced by irrational factors.

The field of science has long understood this about people, establishing the practice of blind experiments in the 1700s. In blind experiments, the subjects who received different conditions didn’t know what those conditions were. Starting in 1907 and fully established by the 1950s, the double-blind experiment goes even further. In a double-blind experiment, neither the subjects nor the experimenters know what the conditions are. Read More

Product Review: Whatusersdo

Innovating UX Practice

Inspirations from software engineering

A column by Peter Hornsby
January 23, 2017

Someone recently asked me to provide recollections of my earliest experiences with usability testing. This took me back to around 1997, when as part of a research project, I analyzed the use of a then new Web-based library catalogue system, conducted user interviews, and redesigned the system according to the resulting findings. While this sounds straightforward now, with Google Analytics and today’s online survey tools, back then it necessitated writing raw HTML and Perl to capture data and C code to parse and analyze log-file and survey data, then mocking up alternative designs in HTML. Today, 20 years on, our expectations of software have changed radically. Fortunately, so have the tools at our disposal for designing and testing software.

For me, being able to conduct usability testing remotely is one of the biggest developments of the last 20 years. Add the gig economy, fast networks, and screen recording, and we’ve set the stage for being able to get low-cost, high-volume feedback on our software, in a way that complements our ability to rapidly prototype and do iterative, agile development. Read More

Social User Assistance

January 23, 2017

Users expect today’s advanced user-assistance platforms to deliver the most relevant information from multiple sources—and want to get that information quickly. Thus, we’re seeing the rapid adoption of social user assistance. Through user forums and online communities and social-media platforms such as Twitter, LinkedIn, and YouTube, user-assistance platforms can provide relevant information to a diverse audience with differing needs.

This article defines the capabilities of social user assistance, describes the evolution of user assistance and shows how social user assistance has become an integral part of technical communication and the overall user experience, outlines some available sources of social user assistance, and describes the benefits of social user assistance. Read More

Using Card Sorting to Create Stronger Information Architectures

January 23, 2017

Card sorting is an information-architecture technique that enables a group of subject-matter experts or users to either

  • provide input to the definition of a new information architecture for a Web site or application
  • evaluate and provide feedback on a Web site’s or application’s existing information architecture

During a typical card-sorting exercise, participants organize a set of cards comprising navigation items for a particular context into categories or groups that seem logical to them. Participants can name these groups and, thus, create a folksonomy, or user-defined taxonomy. Read More

January 09, 2017 Edition

Avoiding Hard-to-Answer Questions in User Interviews

Practical Usability

Moving toward a more usable world

A column by Jim Ross
January 9, 2017

A funny thing happens when you interview people—they answer your questions even if they don’t really know the answer. That’s why it’s so important to know what types of questions people can and cannot answer correctly.

There’s a good reason why UX research focuses more on observing people’s behavior in their natural context than on interviews, surveys, and focus groups. Although all of these techniques can be useful, what people say doesn’t always match what they actually do. Observing and interviewing people in the context of their tasks gives you a much more accurate understanding of their characteristics, their tasks, the tools they use, and their environment.

Of course, talking with people is helpful because observation alone often isn’t enough. So almost every user-research method includes some kind of interview or discussion. While observing user-research participants shows you what they do, it also raises questions. Unless you interview participants, too, you’ll have to make assumptions to understand the motivations behind their actions. Talking with people is essential for you to understand their behavior. Read More

Courage and the Corner Office

January 9, 2017

Not so long ago, sales reps promoted software products and customers evaluated them based solely on their features. A system could be ugly and clumsy, as long as it performed a lot of functions. Designers in corporations had limited career options because their employer treated their work as an afterthought—just a skin for the functions.

But, as technology has made better user interfaces possible, users from the executive suite to the service truck have begun to understand, appreciate, and demand the benefits of good design. Apps and devices are now integral to productivity, and the Internet of Things (IoT), machine learning, and artificial intelligence are on the rise. As technology increasingly becomes enmeshed in our daily activities, well-rounded designers need to understand more than the making part of their work.

Successful designers serve as the bridge between design, technology, and business, and their ability to connect different areas of an organization is opening up new career potential for those who want to move into broader leadership roles. Read More

A Manifesto for Maturing the Making of Meaningful Work, Part 1

January 9, 2017

On the projects we’ve worked on, it’s easy to get caught up in meeting deliverables—and the speed at which we need to deliver them—and the constant, internal meetings that are driven by people’s egos. With all of that, it’s sometimes all too easy to forget about the people we design for and the meaning of our work, if any, on a project.

This article describes our manifesto for making meaningful work, which comprises an integrated framework and core elements that can help you make your work meaningful. We’ll outline what you should consider to move from being stuck—what we call sleepwalking—to flow, or sparkle, in your project work. We’ll describe what you need to do to stage your project work and give it a better chance of being meaningful and successful for the people who are involved. Read More

Build a Mobile-Device Lab!

Mobile Matters

Designing for every screen

A column by Steven Hoober
January 9, 2017

People—whether clients, conference attendees, or just friends and coworkers—often ask me what my favorite phone is. I have always told everyone that, professionally, I have no opinion. I have a lot of devices and switch between them regularly—not because I am indecisive or must always have the newest and best thing, but so I can stay familiar with the variations between devices and operating systems. I need to understand how real people use digital products and services.

I don’t want to be unique in this. I think this is something every digital designer should do. It’s a crucial part of being aware of design trends and having a bit of empathy for all your users.

Not One Device or the Other, But All Devices

I’ve been making sure I keep up with mobile-device trends for a long time. I share this knowledge publicly, pulling out my phones to demonstrate points when I speak or showing my collection—an ad hoc shared lab—to local Meetup groups. I travel with a half dozen devices, and make a point of having a good representation of the current market. Nevertheless, in conversations with other speakers at a recent overseas conference, everyone was baffled about why I carried so many devices. Read More

Advice to Candidates on Successful UX Interview Loops

January 9, 2017

There are many great articles with advice to UX designers and researchers for creating effective portfolios and resumes. In our experience, however, there is far less advice for UX professionals who are going through an interview process—an incredibly important part of any UX professional’s career. After all, that interview—and your work—will ultimately determine whether you get the job. UX interview loops are highly specialized and, as a candidate, it can be difficult to know what’s expected of you. This article is an attempt to illuminate what candidates should keep in mind when preparing for and undertaking a UX interview loop—whether you’re a recent college graduate or a new or an experienced UX professional.

As UX leaders, we’ve reviewed thousands of UX designer and researcher resumes and portfolios and conducted hundreds of interview loops. We’ve seen what tends to work and not work during UX professionals’ interviews, and we’ve seen similar processes for UX interviews at companies large and small. With this in mind, we want to share some advice to help UX candidates land the job they deserve. Read More