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New on UXmatters

By Laura Keller

Published: April 21, 2014

“Designing great experiences for people should enable IT to earn a more strategic role within their company.”

A few months ago, I gave a presentation to some information technology (IT) leaders, and my topic was how designing great experiences for people should enable IT to earn a more strategic role within their company. I created this presentation after years of observing the interactions between IT groups and their business counterparts within a company, as well as the subsequent involvement of external IT firms, including mine.

The common flow of interactions that occur between business and IT follows this general structure: the business believes there’s a need among their users for something, so they identify some high-level requirements and solicit IT’s help. A series of budgeting, scheduling, and scope-definition activities ensue, until everyone agrees on what they’ll develop, when, and how. Cue an external partner’s involvement through an RFP (Request for Proposal) process, whereby IT seeks proposals for the work they’ve been discussing. External IT partners begin a long proposal-submission process—listing their questions about the RFP, filling out response templates, creating implementation and resource plans, and outlining rates and budgets. This process proceeds until IT selects an external partner and the work commences. Read moreRead More>

By Lis Hubert and Donna Lichaw

Published: April 21, 2014

“The narrative story map that we created with our client helped us to see things that would otherwise have been difficult, time consuming, and perhaps even impossible to discover by conducting a traditional content audit.”

In Part 2 of our series on using narrative storymapping to create a high-level content strategy, we told you about our narrative approach and how we extracted storymapping from it. This let us get our work finished in a short amount of time, using few resources—just like MacGyver. We also described in detail how our storymapping process works. Now, in Part 3—the final part of this series—we’ll tell you about the results we got from using our narrative storymapping approach. We’ll explain what worked, what did’t, and what this means for those of you wanting to try the same or a similar approach, and let you know how we’ve moved forward. So let’s jump right in!

What Worked

The narrative story map that we created with our client helped us to see things that would otherwise have been difficult, time consuming, and perhaps even impossible to discover by conducting a traditional content audit. Visually mapping content on a wall, along a giant narrative arc, let us quickly and clearly identify what we now recognize were glaring gaps in the EASE program content. For example, we had only one piece of content that led users into the EASE story: a video that introduced the program. This would have to change. Our narrative story map showed us that we needed some additional content—for example, a short description of the program and photographs of educators and students using the program in the classroom—to fill out the beginning and develop a full exposition of our story. Read moreRead More>

By Rebecca Baker

Published: April 21, 2014

“In the world of user experience, usability testing may be one of the hardest things to sell, while simultaneously being one of the most critical elements of ensuring an application’s usability.”

In the world of user experience, usability testing may be one of the hardest things to sell, while simultaneously being one of the most critical elements of ensuring an application’s usability. Because usability testing is relatively expensive and time consuming, executives and development leads who have never observed a test session often dismiss testing as unnecessary and devalue the data that comes out of usability studies. In many sectors, the perception is that usability testing requires a dedicated lab with one-way glass, video cameras, and expensive microphones—all to observe users who a company has flown in at great expense and trouble to perform a couple of tasks and complain about their user experience.

However, with advances in technology over the last ten years, the ability to do usability testing with remote users has increased significantly, both reducing the investment in time and money and expanding the reach of researchers. Remote usability testing lets us get access to users from across the globe, ensuring a more representative set of results. This is vital in our hyper-connected reality. And we can now accomplish this without traveling or having a dedicated lab. Remote usability testing is a welcome addition to any researcher’s arsenal—particularly as we try to fit data collection into agile sprints and work within the constraints of an increasingly lean bottom line. Read moreRead More>

By Janet M. Six

Published: April 21, 2014

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

In this edition of Ask UXmatters, our experts discuss how to discern good UX designers from the rest.

Every month in 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 Matthew Magain and Luke Chambers

Published: April 21, 2014

“Reflect on why you want to begin a career in UX.”

This is a sample chapter from Matthew Magain and Luke Chambers’s new book, Get Started in UX: The Complete Guide to Launching a Career in User Experience Design. 2014 UX Mastery.

Self-assessment

OK, now you know where you’re going … but where are you coming from?

Why Are You Here?

Your head may be spinning, either because you’re overwhelmed—or excited—by the prospect of what lies ahead.

Before we continue any further, it’s worth taking a few moments to reflect on why you want to begin a career in UX. As you’ll soon come to understand, the sheer amount of information that you’ll need to absorb is potentially overwhelming—although I’ll give you some strategies for dealing with this later. And there’s no shortcut in gaining project experience—that comes with time. This is a journey you’ll want to be embarking upon for the right reasons. Read moreRead More>

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>