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January 2008 Issue

By Mike Hughes

Published: January 22, 2008

“Since more code equates to more features, which in turn drive greater revenues, companies are more willing to increase development budgets. On the other hand, adding writers increases costs, which in turn reduces margins.”

Many technical communication departments are experiencing flat budgets, meaning they’re getting only small or no increases in headcounts, capital expenses, or training dollars. Worse yet, many departments are facing reductions in these resources. These reductions cause production pressures that are often confounded by increases in development headcount, here or offshore. Since more code equates to more features, which in turn drive greater revenues, companies are more willing to increase development budgets. On the other hand, adding writers increases costs, which in turn reduces margins.

How does this relate to hockey sticks?

First off, someone will inevitably tell you, “This year you have to do more with less.” When that happens, hit them with a hockey stick. What you do with less will be, well..., less! The point of this column is: If you are going to do less, you must make sure you are focusing on those things that add the most value. And that brings the hockey stick curve into play.

The Hockey Stick Curve

One of the repeating patterns in the universe is the law of diminishing returns, and its graphic representation looks like a hockey stick. For a given change in an independent variable—in the case at hand, effort expended—there is initially a sharp increase in the dependent variable—results output. Then, all of a sudden, the curve flattens out. Essentially, you reach a point where additional effort does not give proportionately greater results. The point at which the curve flattens out is the knee. Read moreRead More>

By Afshan Kirmani

Published: January 22, 2008

“Whether you are an individual contributor, manager, or the CEO of a company, you need to know what is happening in the larger world of UX.”

The usability and user experience communities of practice are experiencing great growth and have emerged in countries throughout the world. These developing practices have brought about a huge economic boom in the UX market as both customers and clients are beginning to understand the business benefits they bring. In India, we have undoubtedly seen the growth of these practices. Indian UX companies are delivering designs that satisfy users’ needs to their clients.

This article shares some experts’ thoughts on the Indian UX market. Through interviewing several international UX experts, I have gained deeper insights into the growth of user experience in India and its future development path from here. These insights have changed my perspective, my beliefs, and the way I think.

Whether you are an individual contributor, manager, or the CEO of a company, you need to know what is happening in the larger world of UX. If you want to learn about the culture and the growth of user experience in India, this article is for you.

The Birth of User Experience in India

As most companies became aware of the emerging UX market in India, in 1999, several companies like Cognizant, Honeywell, Oracle, Phillips, Siemens, and so on, had already begun establishing their operations in India. With the potential these multinational companies offered, Indian software companies like Infosys and MindTree Consulting Ltd. took the opportunity to globally integrate their offerings as well. Read moreRead More>

By Colleen Jones

Published: January 7, 2008

“These days, the idea of customer engagement is almost as hot as Web 2.0—and almost as controversial.”

These days, the idea of customer engagement is almost as hot as Web 2.0—and almost as controversial. As busy UX professionals, should we invest our time and energy in caring about engagement, or is it just another buzzword? I think we do need to understand customer engagement, so that, at a minimum, we can respond intelligently to questions about it from marketers or executives. We might even glean some useful insights from thinking about engagement. This column aims to cut through the hype and reveal the potential value of engagement.

Defining Engagement

Part of the controversy about engagement is that different people define and think about it in different ways. I’ll explain engagement from two perspectives, and you may encounter others.

As far as official definitions go, here is the Advertising Research Foundation’s working definition of engagement:

Engagement is turning on a prospect to a brand idea enhanced by the surrounding context.” Read moreRead More>

By Joe Sokohl

Published: January 7, 2008

“Signals and information about status, situation, and progress are so important and need to be readily and easily discernible.”

As a UX designer, understanding what contributes to a great user experience, how to define who users are, what their mental models consist of, and what kinds of interactions encourage them to succeed—all of these things make me happy. But the thing that makes me the happiest is spending time riding my Moto Guzzi Breva 1100—a rare, handmade Italian motorcycle. For me, it’s the ultimate user experience.

Riding my motorcycle lets me experience the world through many senses: the fecund smell of Virginia farmland in June; the ripply heat of the Arkansas Delta region in the middle of a heat wave; the sound of a thunderstorm as I race to beat it, heading for shelter from the storm; and the feel of the road, the bike, and the wind as I ride wherever it is I’m going.

The ride is the thing about the experience, though. Yes, there’s also the hair-in-the-wind, live-to-ride, ride-to-live thing. However, one key element of motorcycling is its inherent dangerousness.

That’s why signals and information about status, situation, and progress are so important and need to be readily and easily discernible. Indeed, motorcyclists must perform so many actions and be aware of so many stimuli, they need to be able to think less and act more readily. As Melissa Holbrook Pierson writes, “People tell me I think too much, but I don’t see how such a thing is possible, unless of course it is either in the middle of sex or at the apex of a high-speed turn.” Read moreRead More>