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New on UXmatters

By Peter Hornsby

Published: April 7, 2014

“The way many designers talk and write about user experience leads to a perception that design is largely subjective and does not have the same level of rigor as other disciplines.”

I’ve recently found myself becoming increasingly frustrated by some of the language that the UX community uses in talking about design and in writing articles about design. As a community, UX designers are working hard to raise the profile of User Experience. Look around any UX site and you’ll see a stack of articles about how User Experience can do better, achieve more, and have greater influence within organizations. But the way many designers talk and write about user experience leads to a perception that design is largely subjective and does not have the same level of rigor as other disciplines. In turn, this leads to a reduction in the status of User Experience within organizations, making it harder to deliver good design in support of broader organizational goals.

Intuitive Isn’t

To my mind, the greatest offender is the use of the i-word: intuitive. This term often crops up in debates about Mac versus PC. Many Mac proponents use the i-word: “It’s so much more intuitive! It just works.” In reality, when debating Mac versus PC, my experience has been that the most “intuitive” system is the one a user is already familiar with. So, if you’re a PC user, you can be more productive on a PC because you already have a depth of knowledge about it. Similarly, if you’ve worked on a Mac for years, a Mac will be your tool of choice to get work done. Read moreRead More>

By Shean Malik

Published: April 7, 2014

“Journey mapping helps us to create a mental model of an experience that the user goes through to achieve a goal.”

A user journey, or journey map, visualizes a path or flow through a Web site, application, or service experience—from a starting point to an end objective—based on the user’s motivations and experiences. Journey mapping helps us to create a mental model of an experience that the user goes through to achieve a goal. This valuable information lets us document and visualize existing paths that the user takes and, in turn, analyze and improve upon them. This sounds wonderful does’t it? Well, it is. But we often encounter problems when we start trying to communicate these journeys in a language that presents well and adds value.

A common approach that UX architects have taken in visualizing journey maps has been to use the symbols of flowcharts and process charts—that is, generic shapes like boxes and arrows—in representing these paths. But we’ve lacked any meaningful way of representing the actual experience, and this is at least as important to understand and use as the basis for our work as the process flow itself. The conventional approach to journey mapping, shown in Figure 1, is uninspiring. Read moreRead More>

By Donna Tedesco and Fiona Tranquada

Published: April 7, 2014

This is a sample chapter from Donna Tedesco and Fiona Tranquada’s new book, The Moderator’s Survival Guide: Handling Common, Tricky, and Sticky Situations in User Research. 2014 Morgan Kaufmann.

Chapter 2: In the Trenches: Six Steps for Handling Situations

“Once a session begins, you can follow six simple steps to figure out the best course of action when something unexpected, tricky, or sticky happens.”

Once you’ve understood your role as the moderator and the different styles of moderating, you can start thinking about how to handle the different kinds of situations that may arise during the session. Some of these situations will challenge your interpersonal skills; others will push the limits of your troubleshooting and crisis-handling capabilities. Although there are common circumstances you’re almost guaranteed to encounter, we can’t predict what else might happen. Even after our years in user research, we’re still surprised—and sometimes delighted, shocked, or horrified—by what happens when we’re one-on-one with a participant. This chapter provides a set of guidelines (as shown in Table 2.1) to help you decide exactly what to do when something unexpected, sticky, or tricky happens during your session. Read moreRead More>

By Igor Geyfman

Published: April 7, 2014

“There’s another job that … often gets overlooked or neglected: effectively communicating all of the hard work that you’ve put into the design to the cross-functional team on which you rely to bring these interactions into reality.”

You know that wonderful feeling when you’ve created the perfect prototype. You’ve done everything by the book. Personas, check. Customer-journey map, check. Task-flow analysis, check. Usability studies, check. You’ve dotted every user experience i and crossed every customer delight t. Now, it’s the moment of truth, you’re presenting your uber-prototype to your cross-functional team and expect that they will all bask in your user experience brilliance—except they don’t. In fact, if you didn’t know better, you might think that they all hated it—probably because they’re all stupid and just don’t get it. The truth is: They’re probably not stupid. Most likely you’re right that they don’t get it—but that’s your fault.

I’m going to share two oft-heard statements with you. If at least one of them sounds familiar, you should read on.

Statement 1: “Yeah, I understand what you’re saying, but we really need to focus on conversions. I just don’t like it.”

Statement 2: “There’s no way that we can code this. This is too hard, and it’s going to take too long. It’s impossible.” Read moreRead More>

By Janet M. Six

Published: March 25, 2014

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

In this edition of Ask UXmatters, our experts discuss why companies have so much difficulty finding good—let alone great—UX people; what makes a UX professional good or great; and what it takes for a company to deserve a good UX professional.

In my monthly column Ask UXmatters, our UX experts provide 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: ask.uxmatters@uxmatters.com. Read moreRead More>

By Lis Hubert and Donna Lichaw

Published: March 25, 2014

“We’ll take a deeper dive into the research behind the narrative, storymapping approach, provide further insights into why we chose this approach, and provide details about how we used this approach with our client.”

In Part I of this series on using a storymapping approach to content strategy, we told you about how a local nonprofit, Urban Arts Partnership, brought us a frequent client problem: their need to better understand, organize, and maintain the content for their EASE Program. We explained that, even though there are tried-and-true methods that we could have used to solve this problem—specifically, conducting stakeholder and user interviews during a typical discovery phase, leading to the creation of personas and a content inventory—they wouldn’t have worked for this project. We had realized that, given the short amount of time they had allotted for the project and the small budget that was available for our time, we needed to figure out a new way to help our clients get their heads around their content. So, we introduced our idea of adapting an old approach, storymapping, to solve Urban Arts’ problem on time and on budget.

Now, in Part 2 of our series, we’ll take a deeper dive into the research behind the narrative, storymapping approach, provide further insights into why we chose this approach, and provide details about how we used this approach with our client. Read moreRead More>

By Traci Lepore

Published: March 25, 2014

“How do you take user experience to the next level? … Stop tweaking those wireframes, editing those annotations, and pushing those pixels, because, if you don’t, you’ll never figure out how to move beyond the details and see the bigger picture.”

How do you take user experience to the next level? Simple. Forget about the design! Stop tweaking those wireframes, editing those annotations, and pushing those pixels, because, if you don’t, you’ll never figure out how to move beyond the details and see the bigger picture.

Five years ago, I couldn’t have imagined saying that my role included facilitating and storytelling. And if you’d asked me what my role was, I’d likely have said that the core of my work was creating wireframes and documentation.

These days, the core of my role as a UX professional is much different. Today, my role is to be the design storyteller and the vision facilitator—not just the wireframe maker. And it’s my foundation in theatre that gives me the confidence that this move was the right one. Read moreRead More>

By Bartosz Olchówka

Published: March 25, 2014

“According to an interesting psychological concept called the paradox of choice, the more choices we have, the less happy we are with the choices that we make. If we were to apply this concept to an application user experience, it just might be that the more options a product offers, the less satisfied users will be.”

Many popular applications from the 90s are not available on the market anymore. New Internet users will never hear about RealPlayer or ICQ—products that millions were using just ten years ago. One reason they’re gone is that a plethora of new features turned those simple, usable applications into hulking space stations, resulting in a bad user experience.

The Paradox of Choice

According to an interesting psychological concept called the paradox of choice, the more choices we have, the less happy we are with the choices that we make. If we were to apply this concept to an application user experience, it just might be that the more options a product offers, the less satisfied users will be. Some companies have never understood this. Read moreRead More>

By Baruch Sachs

Published: March 25, 2014

“Most people have heard of user experience, everyone has experienced good and bad user experiences, and you’ll find more people who actually know someone who has a job in user experience. However, in general, people’s depth of knowledge about user experience is still pretty low.”

When you work in user experience or one of its many subsets, you tend to hear questions about what you do a lot. UX professionals often get this inquiry from parents, prospects, neighbors, friends, or casual acquaintances. Inevitably, the topic of conversation goes to what your job is. When I get asked this question, I usually say that I am involved in the design of software. People are suitably impressed. But when I say “user experience,” I get asked, “What is it that you do exactly?” By now, in 2014, most people have heard of user experience, everyone has experienced good and bad user experiences, and you’ll find more people who actually know someone who has a job in user experience. However, in general, people’s depth of knowledge about user experience is still pretty low.

I subscribe to Google Alerts on a variety of topics as one of the ways that I keep abreast of the goings on in various industries. Not surprisingly, one of my keywords is user experience. But what is surprising is the number of articles that use that term in their title. It seems that the concept of user experience is everywhere these days, and people want to apply that idea to everything. If you just followed the Google Alerts on this keyword, you might tend to believe that companies are improving the user experience of everything from traditional technology products to the Easy Bake Oven every day. Furthermore, more companies seem to be opening User Experience Centers of Excellence as McDonald’s has done. This development would seem to alleviate the need for this inquiry that people always make of UX professionals and perhaps might do away with it completely. Read moreRead More>

By Pabini Gabriel-Petit

Published: March 10, 2014

“Over the last few years, I’ve been noticing a disturbing trend in UX design: changes in the design of successful software user interfaces that actually degrade rather than enhance the user experience.”

Over the last few years, I’ve been noticing a disturbing trend in UX design: changes in the design of successful software user interfaces that actually degrade rather than enhance the user experience. This seems to happen for a variety of reasons—for example, because of

  • designers conforming slavishly to current design trends such as minimalism or flat design rather than focusing on meeting users’ needs
  • companies’ leaders wanting their UX designers to create “cool” rather than usable user interfaces
  • UX teams not doing usability testing or other user research that would validate a new design approach rather than being committed to doing user-centered design
  • designers disregarding the power of users’ kinesthetic memory when rethinking application layouts rather than giving it the respect that it warrants
  • designers succumbing to the egotistical desire to put their personal stamp on the design of software user interfaces rather than recognizing and preserving the value that products have long provided to users
  • designers making changes for the sake of change alone rather than strategically driving change to deliver greater value to users
  • companies engaging in feature wars with their competitors—causing their software user interfaces to become bloated with unnecessary features—rather than striving to differentiate their offerings in the marketplace
  • companies crafting user experiences that selfishly further their business goals rather than deriving business value by meeting users’ needs better
  • companies releasing software whose quality is not up to snuff because they’ve rushed it to market without adequate testing and debugging

Read moreRead More>