Published: March 20, 2006
What happens when a site has to appeal to a wide range of people? How do you sort out their different usability requirements? Will they conflict, and if so, how do you prioritize them?
Working on a new Web site to provide information about admission to The Open University (OU) in the UK, Ian Roddis, who is in charge of the OU Web strategy, issued a challenge: How can we make sure that the site will provide the right information in a format that will be useful and usable?
Earlier user research and usability tests that Caroline Jarrett and I had done had shown that users were having trouble learning about the OU’s special form of distance education on the existing site. To solve this problem, we wanted to make recommendations for the style and format of the information as part of our design.
One complicating factor is the diversity of this audience. It ranges from teens just leaving secondary school, adults considering updating their professional qualifications, people with some university experience trying to complete their degrees, to older adults—often pursuing a personal interest in a subject. It also includes people speaking English as a second language, as well as people with a wide range of disabilities who are attracted by the flexibility of study at the Open University.
Would we be able to create one site for all enquirers, or would we have to create specialized sites to meet the needs of different user groups? Read more
Published: March 20, 2006
For some UX professionals, selling consulting services is as difficult as opening a magic door without a secret password. There is no simple password that can magically open prospective customers’ minds so they can see what you can do for them. However, there are a few strategies you can use when opening a dialogue with new customers that will lead to your sales success.
Open Customers’ Ears by Opening Their Minds
How many times have you called a prospect and introduced yourself by saying something like, “I’m a user experience designer—or interaction designer, user experience strategist, or whatever other job title you use—with XYZ Company”? Do you actually believe most people understand what any of these titles mean or, more importantly, what someone with such a title does? When you call a prospect, you must quickly create rapport. If you introduce yourself using industry jargon, you quickly create confusion instead of rapport.
Joshua Seiden, President of 36 Partners, always tries to avoid talking about his services in the abstract. He told us, “I never tell a customer, ‘I’m an interaction designer,’ or ‘I’m a user experience professional,’ until we’ve had a chance to work together for awhile. Instead, I talk about the project and talk specifically about what I’ll do to solve the problem.” Read more
Published: March 6, 2006
In this era of global competition and rapid software development, more than ever, companies must ship high-quality software products to succeed in the marketplace. A good—even great—user experience is an essential component of a quality software product and provides a sustainable strategic advantage that differentiates a product from those of a company’s competitors. Thus, user experience is a core competency within today’s software companies, and an expert in UX strategy and design is an indispensable part of a software product team—just as the product manager and software architect are—particularly if a team is working on a new product.
In my article “Sharing Ownership of UX,” in the May/June 2005 issue of Interactions, I wrote, “To deliver great, innovative products, it’s essential that there be visionaries behind them who are responsible for all design decisions, …ensuring that the product vision remains coherent and the user experience consistent. … From the perspective of users, the user experience is the product. Therefore, to understand the true value of UX, executives must look at their products’ brand equity, which contributes to a company’s bottom line and ensures its long-term survival.”
However, in Dirk Knemeyer’s February column for UXmatters, “The Role and Evolution of Design in Software Products,” seemingly playing devil’s advocate, he said, “…Dedicated design is simply not necessary for young products. After all, if an engineer can build a product that lots of people will buy and use, that makes a company money, and can create and update it in reasonably controlled periods of time, what impetus is there for good design? In fact …, in these cases, there is often no compelling business reason for immediately addressing design on such a product. Initially, getting to market—the right market—and differentiating a product through technology are essential.”
The track records of many software companies seem to contradict this viewpoint. Read more