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April 2008 Issue

By Jim Nieters

Published: April 22, 2008

“A great leader can direct a team to produce the best work of their careers and tune their teams to perform at their peak—and this is important. But it’s not more important than having great designers who can produce market-changing ideas.”

This is my first column on the management of UX. In my column, I’ll articulate what I’ve learned from my experience as a senior leader and several years in intensive senior leadership development programs.

Have you ever known a manager you felt shouldn’t manage people? Maybe you’ve worked for one. Most of us have at one point or another. On the other hand, most of us have also had great managers. What sets great managers apart from bad ones? That’s one of the questions I’ll explore in this article.

Almost weekly, I talk with a UX designer or researcher who wants to become a manager of a UX team. For some people, this is a good choice. Both they and their teams thrive. But for many, it’s honestly not the right goal, and the end result is that neither they nor their teams are happy. The book Now, Discover Your Strengths [1] suggests that we tend to be good at the things we love doing, and we love activities at which we excel. I find that we do our best work when we’re in a playground. (I’ll explore this idea more in my next column.) Isn’t life too short to pursue a path we don’t enjoy? Read moreRead More>

By Jonathan Follett

Published: April 22, 2008, Earth Day

“For most UX professionals, sustainability—unlike usability, technical feasibility, aesthetic appeal, and even business viability—is not yet a baseline factor that we take into account when designing a product or service.”

Whether we’re designing the user experience for a digital product or a physical one, as UX professionals, we are uniquely positioned to influence the behavior of other people, for good or ill. Our employers or clients charge us with responsibility for not only defining a design problem from multiple perspectives, but also finding solutions that are better than the ones that came before.

Increased energy consumption, materials waste, and the resulting climate change are the chief difficulties our generation of designers and thinkers must address—or ignore at our own peril. But for most UX professionals, sustainability—unlike usability, technical feasibility, aesthetic appeal, and even business viability—is not yet a baseline factor that we take into account when designing a product or service.

In honor of Earth Day—which occurs this year on April 22, 2008—let’s explore some different ways we can think about, influence, and change the design of digital products in ways that will alter both our own behavior and that of others and foster respect for our planet and its resources. Read moreRead More>

By Colleen Jones

Published: April 12, 2008

“Character may almost be called the most effective means of persuasion.”—Aristotle, Rhetoric

“Elements of persuasion are important to creating winning content.”

When you think of persuasion, what comes to mind? Tricks such as the name repetition and personality mirroring touted by Dunder Mifflin sales representatives? Devious emotional pleas like those Bart Simpson wields on his dad? The constantly shifting rhetoric of unctuous politicians? Deceptively “free” software that actually is spyware?

Such funny and frightening examples are not really persuasion at all. They are forms of manipulation, and they give persuasion a bad name. As I discussed in my previous column, elements of persuasion are important to creating winning content. To help safeguard content from becoming manipulation, we need to understand its distinction from persuasion. As a step toward that understanding, this article

  • provides basic definitions of persuasion and manipulation
  • explores the key differences between them
  • describes some consequences for UX content

Read moreRead More>

By Joe Lamantia

Published: April 12, 2008

“Design must find effective ways of managing conflict, encourage the creation of ethical experiences, and avoid ethically unsatisfactory compromises.”

In the first installment of this series on ethics, I examined the way ethical dilemmas can impact the design of user experiences, describing how one scenario played out in the unfortunate experiences of some social networking service users in 2007. With that cautionary tale as reference, I explored how unresolved conflicts between stakeholders’ values or perspectives frequently manifest themselves as ethical challenges for designers. Looking ahead at the future of UX design, I described fundamental shifts that are occurring in our culture and technology around permeability and centralization. In the future, designers will lead the creation of increasingly multilateral, multidimensional, and co-created experiences. Such integrated experiences could introduce substantial, new potential sources of conflict—thanks to their greater interconnectedness and complexity. Therefore, I suggested this clear imperative in response to this potentially conflicted future: Design must find effective ways of managing conflict, encourage the creation of ethical experiences, and avoid ethically unsatisfactory compromises. Finally, I offered three goals designers must work toward:

  • Create ethical experiences. Ensure the user experiences we create are ethical in every aspect.
  • Focus on design, not mediation. Remove design from the uncomfortable position of acting as an ad-hoc mediator, resolving conflicts between various perspectives and stakeholders—conflicts that get passed down to design for resolution.
  • Make design compromises to solve design problems. Eliminate or at least reduce the practice of making design compromises to resolve external conflicts. Design compromises should resolve design problems, not ethical dilemmas or conflicts between stakeholders.

Read moreRead More>

By Dirk Knemeyer

Published: April 12, 2008

“The idea of experience as a focused professional area of endeavor is alive, well, and growing rapidly.”

The word experience has gained significant traction over the past 15 years. Beginning with the mainstreaming of the term user experience in the software industry and, later, extended to the work of marketing professionals who began thinking about marketing as being experiential, the idea of experience as a focused professional area of endeavor is alive, well, and growing rapidly. However, the more our space grows, the more confused and chaotic is our collective understanding of the meaning of these terms. To try to help clarify this murkiness, I want to share my definitional model for the fields of experience and provide guidelines for the use of various terms.

Who am I to be providing these definitions? I believe my background uniquely suits me to presenting a holistic solution. During my career, I’ve spent at least a few years in each of the following professions: advertising executive, management consultant, product designer, and entrepreneur. I’ve thought in depth about the concept of experience and been professionally engaged in creating experiences from the product, marketing, and business viewpoints. I’ve worked on and written about things impacting experience as diverse as the restructuring of companies, the design of complex 3D environments, and the development of various forms of creation—ranging from software to marketing collateral. More, I’ve been actively involved in the thought leadership of these fields. Read moreRead More>

By Greg Nudelman

Published: April 12, 2008

“The term users limits us to old ways of thinking about the world we live in and the products we develop.”

Today, the design industry is at the threshold of a new epoch—a point of theoretically limitlessness potential for expansion. We must decide just how, going forward, we will relate to the people who use our designs—as people who are “busy and eager to get on with it” yet “alert and caring” or, much less constructively, as people who are merely “simple-minded and stupid.” Therefore, I want to propose the concept of experience partners as a whole new way of thinking about our customers as partners in holistic product experiences. We need new terminology to describe this concept, because the term users limits us to old ways of thinking about the world we live in and the products we develop. The term experience partners reflects an emerging paradigm shift from a focus on product features to instead conceptualizing holistic product experiences and embodies our best understanding of how to design products that create delight and become integral, harmonious parts of people’s lives.

“We can’t accept things as they are, as long as we think that things should be different. Tell us how not to believe what we think, and then maybe we’ll be able to hear.”—Stephen Mitchell Read moreRead More>