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New on UXmatters

By Jim Ross

Published: May 16, 2016

Mistakes are preventable, while problems are often beyond your control,—for example, experiencing technical difficulties in the middle of a test session.”

Usability testing can seem deceptively easy. You ask people to perform tasks using a user interface, observe what they do, and ask them questions. Sounds simple, right? In comparison to field studies and other, more advanced user-research methods, usability testing might seem like the simplest technique to learn and perform. Perhaps it’s the repetition of observing multiple participants, performing the same tasks and answering the same questions, that makes usability testing begin to seem routine—like something you could do in your sleep.

However, although usability testing may seem simple and routine, anyone who has conducted a lot of testing can testify about the many problems that can occur. In this column, I’ll discuss some of the biggest mistakes you can make in doing usability testing and how to prevent them. But, first, I’d like to make a distinction between mistakes and problems. Mistakes are preventable, while problems are often beyond your control,—for example, experiencing technical difficulties in the middle of a test session. Everyone makes mistakes—even experienced usability professionals. But reviewing these common mistakes will help you to avoid them. Read moreRead More>

By Alexey Ivanov

Published: May 16, 2016

“The role of the UX designer is shifting from merely imagining and executing on solutions to fostering collective creativity and engaging all sorts of professionals in a co-creation process.”

Should UX designers be able to facilitate teamwork and engage in organizational design? A few years ago, the most likely answer would have been: No. We have process consultants, Human Resources (HR) consultants, and all sorts of coaches to help organizations organize their people and processes. But today’s businesses are confronting some significant changes that impact the role of User Experience, as follows:

  1. Design challenges have become more complex. Some prominent. independent design firms have decided to join bigger collectives to address such issues. Recently, IDEO joined the kyu collective, Adaptive Path was acquired by CapitalOne, and there have been many other instances of this trend.
  2. The role of the UX designer is shifting from merely imagining and executing on solutions to fostering collective creativity and engaging all sorts of professionals in a co-creation process.
  3. Just as the impact of the design discipline has gradually expanded from products to services, over the last few decades, it continues to expand to process and organizational design. Branding agencies like Wolff Olins and transformation consultancies like SYPartners are leveraging the power of design to help companies re-imagine the way they work and organize themselves.

Read moreRead More>

By Dmitri Khanine

Published: May 16, 2016

“Many UX professionals have awesome, hidden powers among their UX skills….”

Knowing what you know about interaction design, how would you use your skills to improve a procurement process, achieve better realization of benefits, or ensure a project runs more smoothly—even when the solution has no UI component?

While it might not be obvious to everyone, many UX professionals have awesome, hidden powers among their UX skills, which enable them to do all of these things and much more. Let’s look at an example: The F-16, one of the most successful military aircraft ever designed, was not built to spec. Its designers recall that the original speed requirement was for Mach 2.5, yet the plane never achieved that speed. Back in the day, that speed was next to impossible, so the designers reached out to stakeholders and conducted interviews, trying to figure out why that speed was important. Read moreRead More>

By Nathaniel Davis

Published: May 16, 2016

In my previous book review, I summarized two books on information architecture. Originally, my goal for this installment was to review two more books. However, thisĀ­ turned out to be no easy matter because this book review is about one of the industry’s most admired books: Information Architecture for the Web and Beyond.

For their fourth edition, Peter Morville and Lou Rosenfeld have teamed up with Jorge Arango to revive the classic text on information architecture, which had not been revised in a decade—since 2006 to be exact. This was a period before the iPhone’s introduction, when the world was not yet knee deep in a mobile-computing revolution. As you’ll see in this review, even though Information Architecture for the Web and Beyond confronts a much more complex digital environment, the book describes practices and methods that are just as relevant today as they were ten years ago. Read moreRead More>

By Alipta Ballav

Published: May 16, 2016

“A mental model is a person’s intuitive understanding of how something functions based on his or her past encounters, exposure to information, and sound judgment.”

Mental models derive from human perceptions. Kenneth Craik hypothesized about mental models in the mid-40s. His goal was a general clarification of human thought, taking into account the way people relate to the world through mental models. Basically, a mental model is a person’s intuitive understanding of how something functions based on his or her past encounters, exposure to information, and sound judgment.

What people perceive is completely subjective and depends on the way things appear to them. For example, imagine that someone tells a kid a frightening story about swimming. The child will hold that image in his mind for a long time and, thus, think of swimming as a perilous thing—until external forces contradict that idea and he learns to see things differently. Similarly, for some, investing in stocks is a risky affair. A person’s mental model that investing in the stock market is risky guides that person’s decision not to invest in stocks. Read moreRead More>

By Steven Hoober

Published: April 25, 2016

“My fitness tracker is largely a map, but … it hadn’t synced or saved a map while it still had coverage, so when I needed the app, it just complained about there being no coverage at that time.”

This week, while traveling, I noticed my smartwatch wasn’t working right. So I launched the app to get it to reconnect, but it insisted on checking for updates. At a restaurant in the middle of nowhere, there wasn’t a strong enough Internet connection, so I got stuck without its working for a few hours. I couldn’t read news while I was waiting for the bill because my favorite news app doesn’t load stories until I launch it.

Later, I went for a trail run at a little park. The main screen of my fitness tracker is largely a map, but in this case. it was totally blank. It hadn’t synced or saved a map while it still had coverage, so when I needed the app, it just complained about there being no coverage at that time. Read moreRead More>

By Allie Brock

Published: April 25, 2016

“An organization is unlikely to achieve a successful agile transformation simply by rigidly following a defined set of agile strictures. Instead, an agile transformation requires a complete cultural shift across entire teams, structures, and processes.”

In today’s fast-moving digital landscape, organizations in all sectors and of all sizes are increasingly turning to agile ways of working, with the goal of gaining the speed, flexibility, and responsiveness they need to remain competitive. In fact, Version One’s most recent State of Agile survey found that 95% of software organizations now practice agile development and, in 43% of organizations, the majority of development teams are agile. However, an organization is unlikely to achieve a successful agile transformation simply by rigidly following a defined set of agile strictures. Instead, an agile transformation requires a complete cultural shift across entire teams, structures, and processes.

In this article, I’ll look at some of the most common reasons behind the failure of agile transformations. My hope is that this information will help your organization to avoid its agile initiatives’ falling foul of the same mistakes and ensure that you’re able to reap all of the rewards the approach has to offer. Read moreRead More>

By Janet M. Six

Published: April 25, 2016

Send your questions to Ask UXmatters and get answers from some of the top professionals in UX.

In this edition of Ask UXmatters, our expert panel discusses how to merge User Experience into a large company that usually approaches projects from a systems-engineering point of view, with the goal of ensuring that the efforts of both disciplines support one another. The panel also discuss how and when to involve team members and stakeholders.

Each month in Ask UXmatters, our panel of UX experts answers our readers’ questions about a broad range of user experience matters. To get answers to your own questions about UX strategy, design, user research, or any other topic of interest to UX professionals in an upcoming edition of Ask UXmatters, please send your questions to: [email protected]. Read moreRead More>

By Jonathan Evans

Published: April 25, 2016

“Why can’t filling out government forms be more like using TurboTax?!”

If you’ve ever purchased a home, the most painful part of the experience was probably filling out those seemingly endless forms—that and paying for the home, of course. Why can’t filling out government forms be more like using TurboTax?!

Have you ever wondered what goes on behind the scenes in pulling those government forms together? There is a whole enterprise-software industry focusing on data entry and processing for the forms that the government and banking industry require. That industry is just one of many that need to find a better way to process the multitude of government forms. In this article, let’s take a look at the UX challenges this industry faces—for example, a lack of context, or situational awareness—and discuss the different opportunities organizations have in addressing them. Read moreRead More>

By Peter Hornsby

Published: April 25, 2016

Once upon a midnight dreary, while I pondered, eyesight bleary,
Over many a quaint and curious volume of UX lore—
While I nodded, merely stalling, suddenly there came a calling,
Like a baby loudly bawling, a sound I’d heard too much before.
“’Tis some client,” I muttered, “calling for some tiresome chore—
Only this and nothing more.”

Ah, distinctly I remember it was in the bleak December;
And each hopeless sketch found its place upon the floor.
Eagerly I wished the morrow; vainly I had sought to borrow
From my books surcease of sorrow—sorrow I could not ignore—
For the rare and radiant design that the clients all adore—
Besought here for evermore. Read moreRead More>