June 14, 2016 Edition

Algorithms as the New Material of Design

Data-Informed Design

Understanding data to achieve great user experiences

A column by Pamela Pavliscak
June 14, 2016

Algorithms drive the stock market, write articles—but not this one—approve loans, and even drive cars. Algorithms are shaping your experience every day. Your Facebook feed, your Spotify playlists, your Amazon recommendations, and more are creating a personalized window into a world that is driven by algorithms. Algorithms and machine learning help Google Maps determine the best route for you. When you ask Siri or Cortana a question, algorithms help shape what you ask and the information you receive as a response.

As experience designers, we rely more on algorithms with every iteration of a Web site or application. As design becomes less about screens and more about augmenting humans with extended capabilities, new ideas, and even, potentially, more emotional awareness, we need algorithms. If we think of experience designers as the creators of the interface between people and technology, it makes sense that we should become more savvy about algorithms. Read More

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Understanding Us: A New Frontier for User Experience

June 14, 2016

It’s a good time to be a seasoned UX professional. Software, the epicenter of User Experience practice, continues to expand into every nook and cranny of business. Salaries for senior UX people are competitive with those of our business colleagues, and most of the roles within the galaxy of User Experience are intellectually challenging and—in the right organization—are generally rewarding and contribute to a fine quality of life.

However, this comfortable state of affairs is going to change more quickly than we realize. Already, training programs such as General Assembly and Treehouse are flooding the job market with newly minted practitioners of User Experience. This influx of low-priced, albeit inexperienced, talent that is eager to take an entry-level position and get their career started, slows and even reverses wage growth for senior talent, while making jobs increasingly harder to come by. Read More

Expand Your Influence: 6 Communication Techniques Designers Can Use to Earn Trust

June 14, 2016

While more companies than ever before have a desire to be more customer centric, many UX professionals still struggle in trying to gain a high degree of influence over their organization’s overall strategy and direction. At the end of the day, instead of leveraging their design-thinking, user-research, and empathy skills to guide the highest levels of decision making, many design teams still find themselves focused on creating UI designs under the direction of others. When I attend professional meetups and discussions on design management, much of the discussion often centers around tactics for establishing User Experience as the go-to resource for strategic direction. A common sentiment: “We need to be invited to meetings earlier in the process, so we can apply our way of thinking.”

In their UXmatters article “In Search of Strategic Relevance for UX Teams,” Jim Nieters and Laurie Pattison do an excellent job of describing several organizational tactics that serve to elevate the stature of design groups. One of the most important practices they point to is establishing a level of trust with key sponsors and stakeholders. It’s best to have executive sponsorship to advocate for design, prioritize investment in design, and defend a customer-centric design approach during planning and resourcing initiatives. Sounds great, right? The challenge is that you can’t simply find these sponsors and champions in your organization. You have to earn them. Read More

A No-Compromises User Interface Rarely Gets Built

Selling UX

A unique perspective on service UX

A column by Baruch Sachs
June 14, 2016

Some argue that a UI designer should simply be able to design without having to worry about whether there are technical or business limitations that a design solution should accommodate. The argument, so it goes, is that this is the only way it’s possible to innovate.

Purely from a design sensibility, I am not unsympathetic to this notion. Nevertheless, I do see this purist mentality actually hurting designers’ ability to deliver, especially in the enterprise world. Simply put, when we design without giving any thought to how we’ll actually make something real, we may indeed innovate. However, an innovative concept does not automatically translate into an actual product or application. Read More

Lean UX for Wearables: An Interview with Greg Nudelman, Part 1

June 14, 2016

Wearables are becoming increasingly pervasive devices with a growing array of apps available—yet, somehow, the user experience on many of these devices is lacking. What is the best way to design for this new class of devices? In this interview, I’ll have a conversation with Greg Nudelman—a mobile and tablet experience strategist and a leader in the emerging wearables design arena—about a better approach to design for wearables. Greg is a Fortune-500 advisor, author, speaker, CEO of Design Caffeine, Inc., and has also authored four UX books:

  1. The $1 Prototype: A Modern Approach to Mobile UX Design and Rapid Innovation—See my review for more information about this approach.
  2. Android Design Patterns: Interaction Design Solutions for Developers
  3. Smashing Mobile Book, with co-authors
  4. Designing Search: UX Strategies for eCommerce Success, a UXmatters book, with Contributing Editor Pabini Gabriel-Petit

Read More

May 31, 2016 Edition

The Role of Constraints in Design Innovation

On Good Behavior

The essentials of interaction design

May 31, 2016

In differentiating an organization’s products from those of its competitors, design innovation is just as important as technology innovation. Both are vital to the continued success of an organization’s products in the marketplace. Successful innovation requires more than just generating a lot of creative ideas. It’s about execution—actually bringing products to market that embody innovative design solutions and deliver business impact.

What is the role of constraints in design innovation? In this article, I’ll discuss three types of constraints: technical constraints, business constraints, and design constraints. According to Charles Eames:

“Design depends largely on constraints. … Here is one of the few effective keys to the design problem—the ability of the designer to recognize as many of the constraints as possible—his willingness and enthusiasm for working within these constraints….” Read More

Make Your Work Meaningful and Go from Sleepwalking to Sparkle

May 31, 2016

The good energies a team brings to a new project can quickly get derailed if people do not feel they have a clear understanding of why they’re working on something. Opinion wars escalate when there is no customer involvement that would let us better understand their needs—both now and over time. Teams often create additional features to support their own egos and opinions, without grounding their justification in evidence of what customers actually need.

Sometimes, during a project, people create conflicts that serve only to get in the way of making meaningful things together. In other words, unnecessary and petty battles take the fun out of work and prevent it from being productive. But why would people create such conflict? Read More

Traditional User Experience Is at a Crossroads, Part 1

Leadership Matters

Leading User Experience teams

A column by Jim Nieters
May 31, 2016

We know that experience-led companies outperform their competitors financially by over 200%. Great design, which results in experiences users love, increases profit margins and a company’s competitive advantage. At the same time, people’s mass exposure to elegant mobile apps has produced an expectation for simplicity and elegance in design across all products, whether for consumers or the enterprise. Users in every demographic want simple, elegant, even edgy apps.

The challenge is that many UX teams still deliver dreary, overly complex user experiences—even those that have budgets in the tens of millions of dollars. Put yourself in an executive’s position: Why would you pay a premium for commoditized designs? Read More

Death by Micro: Feedback Loops and Knowledge Management in User Experience

May 31, 2016

In the evolving world of knowledge-driven organizations, we are both blessed and cursed by the vast amounts of data that can help influence our opinions and shape our actions. The blessing is our ability to more openly and immediately access data that can help us in many ways. On the flip side, the curse is the subjective manner in which people sometimes use data as proof to warrant an action that might be problematic. I’ve personally had many professional and personal experiences that speak to this reality.

Micro Research

A common theme in my experience as a UX Designer is that measuring an interaction or a particular experience in a vacuum can be misleading. Even if you measure an experience using the proper methods, the perfect sample size, and all the right tools, you still might find that you’ve done yourself and your product a huge disservice. The world is chaotic and, when we make the mistake of sinking down into the abyss of overly minute investigations into micro interactions, we lose sight of how the way users got there and where they’re going next affects the overall experience. We lose the context. In the knowledge era, this type of knowledge management has become vital to organizations. Read More

Advice for New UX Designers

May 31, 2016

Since I’ve worked as a UX designer for 25 years—mostly within technology companies—I thought it would be helpful to designers who are new to the profession if I shared some of my thoughts about UX design. So, in this article, I’ll offer some advice about working in User Experience to UX designers who are just beginning their careers.

Cultivate Empathy

The most important piece of advice I can give you is to cultivate empathy. As UX designers, our job is to create the best possible experiences for our users or customers. So get out of your own head. Realize that people come to the application or Web site you’ve designed to solve a problem. They don’t come to admire an application’s or Web site’s great usability and design. So, please, put your ego aside. You must deeply understand, respect, and have compassion for your users or customers. Read More