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New on UXmatters

By Peter Hornsby

Published: April 6, 2015

“Easy reading is damn hard writing.”—Nathaniel Hawthorne

“Writing isn’t about making money, getting famous, getting dates, getting laid, or making friends. In the end, it’s about enriching the lives of those who will read your work, and enriching your own life, as well. It’s about getting up, getting well, and getting over. Getting happy, okay? Getting happy.”—Stephen King, On Writing: A Memoir of the Craft

The year is 2015. There’s a good chance you have a smartphone in your pocket—a marvelous device with which you can access, if not the sum total of all human knowledge, at least enough of it to do pretty well in a pub quiz. (For readers in the USA, that’s a bar quiz.) You can order your groceries online, buy books and movies from Amazon, and search the Web with Google and Bing. So it’s fair to say that you’re at least reasonably familiar with the Web. Read moreRead More>

By Will Hacker

Published: April 6, 2015

“We’ve probably all had the experience of opening an HTML email message on a smartphone only to find that it hasn’t been optimized for mobile. The text is too small to read easily, and it’s difficult to interact with calls to action because of their size and spacing.”

We’ve probably all had the experience of opening an HTML email message on a smartphone only to find that it hasn’t been optimized for mobile. The text is too small to read easily, and it’s difficult to interact with calls to action because of their size and spacing. However, there are ways in which email creators can solve these problems, including using responsive design techniques and taking a mobile-first approach to designing HTML email messages.

The example shown in Figure 1 is a TechCrunch daily-update email message, which is not optimized for smartphone users. The first problem is that the headline text is too small to read easily without zooming in, so it requires horizontal scrolling. Some headlines have additional text beneath them, but that text is even smaller. And the read more call to action feels almost microscopic. To be fair, the headlines also link to the articles, but people may not know that at first, because there is a separate, more explicit call to action. Read moreRead More>

By Pabini Gabriel-Petit

Published: April 6, 2015

“For Day 2 of the conference, the audience was happily united in a single track.”

The Global Strategic Management Institute (GSMI) launched the first UX Strategies Summit on June 10–12, 2014, which took place in San Francisco, California, at the Marines’ Memorial Club & Hotel. In Part 1 of my two-part review, I covered the organization of the conference, the “Adaptable Product Roadmaps” workshop that I attended, and Day 1 of the “General Summit.” Now, in Part 2 of my review, I’ll cover Day 2 of UX Strategies Summit 2014 and complete my overview of the conference, reviewing its proceedings, venue, hospitality, and community. Read moreRead More>

By Indi Young

Published: April 6, 2015

This is a sample chapter from Indi Young’s new book Practical Empathy. 2015 Rosenfeld Media.

Chapter 2: Empathy Brings Balance

Going deeper than assumptions and opinions in your understanding of people is powerful. If your organization is captivated by metrics, empathy will balance out the numbers. Being honest about what you don’t know, being interested in the simpler underlying philosophies that make people tick—these characteristics are what can catalyze your creativity and your collaboration.

Empathy Is Not What You Might Think

At first, most people seem to think that empathy is about showing warmth and kindness, or at least tolerance, toward another person. People think empathy is “to walk in someone else’s shoes,” to put themselves in that person’s place and embrace or excuse his behavior. This is not what empathy is about. Not exactly. Read moreRead More>

By Hang Guo

Published: April 6, 2015

“It is widely accepted that creative design is not a matter of first fixing the problem and then searching for a satisfactory solution concept; instead it seems more to be a matter of developing and refining together both the formulation of the problem and ideas for its solution, with constant iteration of analysis, synthesis, and evaluation processes between the two “spaces”—problem and solution.”—Nigel Cross and Kees Dorst, in “Co-evolution of Problem and Solution Spaces in Creative Design,” 1999.

“Constant changes in both the problem and solution spaces are the fundamental forces underlying the UX design process.”

If my work in UX design holds any truth, it is that everything could change. On every project, we search for two qualities in parallel: a deeper understanding of the problem at hand and better solutions for it. Constant changes in both the problem and solution spaces are the fundamental forces underlying the UX design process. Read moreRead More>

By Baruch Sachs

Published: March 23, 2015

“I’ve been seeing lots of instances where customers and users are telling UX designers in specific detail what it is they want out of their experience with software—and … designers … creating experiences around what they say.”

Perhaps it’s the fresh-faced optimism of the new-ish year, but lately, I’ve been seeing lots of instances where customers and users are telling UX designers in specific detail what it is they want out of their experience with software—and we, as UX designers, believing them. Not only do we believe them, but we are also creating experiences around what they say. I see designers brimming with confidence, strutting around with a self-assured smile on their face, only to have the dream dashed when users see a design that incorporates exactly what they told them to do and say, “I don’t like it.”

Now, I’m perhaps being a little dramatic to make a point, but I’m not too far off. This is an age-old design conundrum. On one hand, we want people to tell us what they want, right? As UX professionals, we continually call for time with users, to get at the heart of their wants and needs, so we can translate this information into delightful interaction design. Read moreRead More>

By Janet M. Six

Published: March 23, 2015

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

In this edition of Ask UXmatters, our panel of UX experts provides a wide variety of responses that UX professionals might make to a client who declares that the rest of the product team need not observe usability testing.

You have the go-ahead from your client to conduct usability testing, but he tells you that other members of the product team don’t need to observe the test sessions. What should you do? Fire the client? Make the business case? Explain the consequences of the team’s not observing test sessions? Or maybe your client has a point. Do only certain team members need to observe usability testing? Would you make sure that the right people on the team view the right sessions? How often should people observe sessions? What are some other alternatives? Read moreRead More>

By Traci Lepore

Published: March 23, 2015

“The key to successful transitions across media or channels is to consider how to use each individual medium or channel to best communicate the story.”

When I heard that a movie version of Into the Woods was coming out, I was so excited! I loved the musical and figured the story was strong enough that it couldn’t be a bad movie. And, honestly, it didn’t matter, because I am enough of a fan that I was going to see it—no matter what. Plus, with Meryl Streep as the witch, how could they go wrong?

Of course, I saw the movie on its opening day—and I was pleasantly surprised. More than that, actually—I thought it was a fantastic translation from stage to big screen. What made the movie so enjoyable had to do with more than just the great story, the sensational acting, or even the humor and witty dialogue. The production took full advantage of the benefits that the medium of film offers—in combination with the core, strong story lines—to realize the greatest potential of Into the Woods. Read moreRead More>

By David Mierke

Published: March 23, 2015

“Jack of all trades, master of none.”

“Taking a design-driven, vertically agnostic approach to business can be a powerful way of bringing perspective and understanding to projects, companies, and even entire industries.”

This common saying typically refers to someone who has a wide range of interests, but minimal knowledge of each of them. While some might think that referring to a person in this way could be a compliment—a nod to a Renaissance man like Da Vinci or Michelangelo, what about a business? Would it be beneficial for a company to apply its expertise to several different business verticals or simply stick with what they know? While both diversification and specialization have their pros and cons, taking a design-driven, vertically agnostic approach to business can be a powerful way of bringing perspective and understanding to projects, companies, and even entire industries.

Realizing that creating a successful product does not require that your UX expert also be an industry expert expands the possible solutions and potential innovation opportunities for any vertical. Read moreRead More>

By Laura Keller

Published: March 23, 2015

“While parents now have more education options than ever before, the result is a complicated education system that causes anxiety and confusion.”

I have lived in Jersey City, New Jersey, for almost ten years. My now-husband and I moved here primarily for easy access to Manhattan and Brooklyn, which are a quick train ride away. But we also saw much potential in this second-largest city in New Jersey. While the neighboring metropolis dwarfs Jersey City, our city has its own respectable share of restaurants and bars; plus we appreciated its arts and culture. We’ve created roots and friendships here and, in 2009, plunged into home ownership, making a commitment to stay in Jersey City for a while.

Now, in 2015, Jersey City has a new mayor who is making the city even more of a destination, in an attempt to encourage residents of New York City to consider a move here. Jersey City was previously reputed to be unfriendly to new businesses and developers, but has revamped its processes and offered financial benefits to encourage investment. A new condominium or business building seems to open every six months, and the City exhibits an energy that was lacking when we first moved here. Read moreRead More>