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August 2007 Issue

By Jonathan Follett

Published: August 20, 2007

“As our evolving information economy continues to encourage greater and greater specialization of job roles, there is an increased need for customized applications.”

As creators of digital user experiences, we must transform complex workflows and tasks into useful applications. Experts have written much about the UX design process as it applies to broad audiences, industry-specific vertical markets, and large corporate user groups. However, as our evolving information economy continues to encourage greater and greater specialization of job roles, there is an increased need for customized applications—digital systems that only a select few people will ever use.

It’s now not only possible, but also economically feasible to produce customized digital products for smaller audiences. There are many UX practitioners—especially those within IT departments at small companies and government entities—who build applications for very small teams—even for audiences of one. And though the UX design process for the micro team or single user has many similarities to designing for larger user groups, it also has its own unique challenges. There might be a specific person or team your user interface must satisfy rather than a persona or user profile. So, no longer is your audience an abstraction, but a real person or team you must get to know and understand so well you can create a usable, elegant digital experience just for that audience of one. Read moreRead More>

By Joi L. Roberts

Published: August 20, 2007

Organization 4 stars
Content 3 stars
Presenters 4 stars
Proceedings 3 stars
Venue 4 stars
Hospitality 5 stars
Community 5 stars

The Usability Professionals’ Association (UPA) held its UPA 2007 conference at the Hilton Hotel in Austin, Texas, on June 11–15, 2007. This conference has a lot to offer, with a blend of

  • the inspirational—keynotes and other invited speakers
  • the didactic—tutorials, presentations, and peer-reviewed papers
  • the participatory—workshops, idea markets, and special interest groups (SIGs)
  • the social—cocktail receptions, networking breaks, lunches, and evening fun

This year’s theme focused on Patterns and how they serve as “blueprints for usability.” Conference co-chair, Carol Smith (shown in Figure 1), articulated the pertinence of this theme. “As usability professionals, our ability to observe users and to discover their patterns of interaction is integral to our work. By defining these patterns, we can then leverage that knowledge to create usable interfaces that are familiar and useful to our users.” Read moreRead More>

By Joi L. Roberts

Published: August 20, 2007

Wednesday: Designing Designing Interfaces: How Not To Write A Pattern Catalog

Presenter: Jenifer Tidwell

“As a repository for design wisdom, pattern catalogs are important, because they can serve as job aids and teaching or learning tools for both novices and experienced designers.”—Jenifer Tidwell

Jenifer Tidwell, author of Designing Interfaces: Patterns for Effective Interaction Design, shared her motivations and the lessons she learned as she wrote her book.

One of the few conference sessions that actually related to patterns, this session promised to be interesting. Given everyone’s varying definitions and usage of patterns, I think it would have been helpful if Jenifer had started off this session with a clear definition of what a pattern is and how designers can use a pattern catalog. Afterward, when I spoke with attendees, I found not everyone was on quite the same page with the speaker when her talk began. Well into the session, Jenifer finally did define what she means by a pattern. Read moreRead More>

By Colleen Jones

Published: August 6, 2007

“If businesses aren’t careful, what they’re trying to say—and what their customers are trying to say—can get lost in the complexity.”

Blogs, wikis, emails, Web sites, virtual worlds, text messages—oh, my. Today we have more ways of communicating than ever. The challenge? If businesses aren’t careful, what they’re trying to say—and what their customers are trying to say—can get lost in the complexity. Think about your experiences as a customer. How many times have you received an email message that was meaningless to you, because its images didn’t download—or perhaps because it offered a message that wasn’t relevant to your life? How often have you come across a customer service page on a beautiful Web site, only to find its information unhelpful—or even contradictory to what the company’s brochure says? Have you ever called an interactive voice response system, or IVR system—aka those darn phone menus—that wasn’t at least a little irritating? All the technology in the world can’t replace the nitty-gritty job of communication.

UX professionals can help people rediscover real communication. It’s not just writing for the Web—though that’s critical. The intention of my new column is to aid this rediscovery, starting with a look at what communication is. I’ll be focusing on business and relationship marketing contexts, but many of these ideas apply in other contexts, too. Read moreRead More>

By Daniel Szuc

Published: August 6, 2007

“Ideally, a home page should reflect and balance business objectives and user needs.”

It is time to review a company home page design. There are a number of stakeholders involved in home page design, and each of them wants a piece of the home page real estate. Are there questions you can ask before approaching home page design that can move it beyond the influence of specific stakeholders in the company toward a common vision? Are there tips to consider when designing a home page? This article will help you better understand how to approach home page design.

The Front Door Value

What is the value of the front door of a business? For some businesses, it’s their face to the world. Looking at the front door shown in Figure 1:

  • What is your impression when you see this?
  • What type of business do you think this is?
  • What do you think you can do when you go through the gates?

Your home page should provide self-service access to information, so users need not rely on other information channels to answer their basic questions. In my experience, home pages often provide customers with no other choice but to call a company directly to get the answers they need. Read moreRead More>