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January 2009 Issue

By Colleen Jones

Published: January 26, 2009

“The ideal experience lets customers carry on their conversation with a company whenever and wherever the customer desires, by whatever means is most appropriate.”

Whether you call it cross-channel experience or multichannel experience, the reality is that customers interact with companies through more than one channel, so it’s important for us to understand cross-channel customer behavior. [1] Throughout their relationship with a company, customers of all ages might do any combination of researching and purchasing products online, chatting with a live agent, using an interactive voice response (IVR) system, corresponding via email messages, sending SMS text messages, and visiting a bricks-and-mortar store.

Cross-channel customer relationships are here to stay. In my opinion, the ideal experience lets customers carry on their conversation with a company whenever and wherever the customer desires, by whatever means is most appropriate. The conversation is the experience. The resulting challenge for businesses is conversing effectively with customers no matter what channel they choose. Do not underestimate the difficulty of this challenge! I find the challenge of cross-channel conversation particularly daunting. Successfully conversing across channels requires most companies to overhaul their traditional approaches to doing business. Although the challenge is formidable, I am confident it is surmountable. This column offers insights and some practical steps toward meeting the challenge. Read moreRead More>

By Eric Schaffer

Published: January 26, 2009

“The next wave in Web site design is persuasive design, designing for persuasion, emotion, and trust. While usability is still a fundamental requirement for effective Web site design, it is no longer enough.”

The next wave in Web site design is persuasive design, designing for persuasion, emotion, and trust. While usability is still a fundamental requirement for effective Web site design, it is no longer enough to design sites that are simply easy to navigate and understand so users can complete transactions. As business mandates for Web site design have grown more strategic, complex, and demanding of accountability, good usability has become the price of competitive entry. So, while usability is important, it is no longer the key differentiator it once was.

The future of great Web design is about creating customer engagement and commitment in a way that clearly impacts business results and measurable goals. Whether a Web site is e-commerce, informational, or transactional, it must motivate people to make decisions online that lead to conversion of one sort or another.

The interactive online environment offers far more opportunities to influence customers’ decision-making than traditional advertising or marketing channels do. By leveraging the science of persuasion in new and insightful ways and designing specifically to optimize the elements of persuasion, emotion, and trust, we can systematically influence customers’ online behavior. Read moreRead More>

By Peter Hornsby

Published: January 26, 2009

“When moving an organization toward good user experience practice, providing a documented—possibly extreme—example of bad practice as an antipattern can help raise awareness of what can go wrong and why we must avoid such bad practice.”

Tools for developing user interfaces have become increasingly sophisticated and available in recent years, ranging from object-oriented application development tools such as Java Swing to WYSIWYG HTML editors such as Dreamweaver. Such tools promise more rapid development—including quicker iteration—and potentially greater reliability. While we should welcome these benefits, increasing the ease of user interface development at a technical level can—perhaps ironically—make it more difficult for UX teams to operate effectively. We must bridge the gap between the technical skills we need to implement user interfaces and the skills that let us understand users and design maximally effective user interfaces for them.

Using patterns has become a well-known design practice and is also considered best practice in the software development community. While UX teams can and should constantly promote best practice, we can also approach tackling poor design practice from the other side: antipatterns. Antipatterns are approaches to common problems that might appear obvious, but are less than optimal in practice. Read moreRead More>

By Michael Hawley

Published: January 22, 2009

“Customer interactions … include all of the social and emotional consequences of a customer’s interaction with an organization or brand, including trust, motivation, relationships, and value.”

There is a trend among some in the UX community to take the U out of UX and refer to our discipline simply as experience design. One reason for this change in terminology is that it lets us talk about a specific target audience in terms that resonate with business stakeholders more than the generic term user—for example, customer experience, patient experience, or member experience. The other reason for using the term experience design rather than user experience design is that it recognizes the fact that most customer interactions are multifaceted and complex and include all aspects of a customer’s interaction with a company or other organizational entity, including its people, services, and products. Customer interactions encompass much more than the usability of a particular user interface. They include all of the social and emotional consequences of a customer’s interaction with an organization or brand, including trust, motivation, relationships, and value.

But if the name of the discipline is evolving and the focus of design is expanding, does that mean the design methods are different? Are traditional usability and user-centered design activities useful for gaining insight into the broader implications of the emotional impacts of a design? Or do we need different approaches? To explore these questions, it is helpful to look at the strengths and weaknesses of two existing alternative design approaches:

  • user-centered design
  • genius design

Read moreRead More>

By Jonathan Follett

Published: January 22, 2009

“While we focus our attention on the users of digital products, we can sometimes be remiss in our treatment of another important audience—the stakeholders and clients with whom we collaborate to complete our assignments and projects.”

“To design is to communicate clearly by whatever means you can control or master.”—Milton Glaser

User experience and its associated fields of expertise—such as usability, information architecture, interaction design, and user interface design—have expanded rapidly over the past decade to accommodate what seems like insatiable demand, as the world moves toward an increasingly digital existence.

As UX professionals, we often take technology for granted, accepting the massive complexity and rapid change in our field as the norm—and perhaps even something to embrace and enjoy. With this outlook and because we’re steeped in our daily professional activities, it becomes all too easy for us to forget that ours is not the usual point of view, and the technological change we expect, the expert jargon we speak, and the processes we use are foreign and confusing to other people. So, while we focus our attention on the users of digital products, we can sometimes be remiss in our treatment of another important audience—the stakeholders and clients with whom we collaborate to complete our assignments and projects. Read moreRead More>

By Mike Hughes

Published: January 22, 2009

“Business models must meet higher standards of viability and sustainability, and the services we bundle in those models must add value more directly than ever before.”

One theme looms as a result of the global economic meltdown of 2008: The world will never be the same. We find ourselves living in a brave, new—and uncertain—world. Business models must meet higher standards of viability and sustainability, and the services we bundle in those models must add value more directly than ever before. The economic survival of everyone who develops user assistance is clearly on the line. Quite frankly, some of us are going to make it and some of us aren’t.

Early in my technical communication management career—more than twenty years ago—I made this observation: “I can produce a manual that users won’t read for $50,000, or I can produce a manual that users won’t read for $5,000.” My point was that, until we started writing manuals users actually read, the $5,000 option was the better business strategy. But now, to heck with producing manuals users won’t read, Tony Self of HyperWrite has recently thrown down the gauntlet more forcefully with his article “What if readers can’t read? Read moreRead More>

By Tobias Komischke

Published: January 22, 2009

“Much of the information user interfaces present is textual. Therefore, we should not underestimate how the right text treatment can measurably improve user productivity and increase user satisfaction.”

Before graphic user interfaces, text was the primary means of both input and output defining human-computer interactions. Even today, much of the information user interfaces present is textual. Therefore, we should not underestimate how the right text treatment can measurably improve user productivity and increase user satisfaction. As new technologies become available—for example, larger monitors with higher resolutions—a good foundation of knowledge about effective text treatment can help designers create usable user interfaces for them more quickly.

Font Type

Content developers have hundreds of serif and sans serif fonts at their disposal. Serifs are small lines at the ends of the main strokes of characters. Serif fonts improve readability in continuous text, because the serifs help readers to structure and discriminate characters [1]. Times New Roman, for example, is a serif font, as Figure 1 shows. Typically, newspapers, magazines, and books use serif fonts. Read moreRead More>

By Janet M. Six

Published: January 22, 2009

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

In this installment of Ask UXmatters, our experts discuss three different topics:

Have a pressing question at work for which you need an answer? Want to read our experts’ responses to your queries in an upcoming installment of Ask UXmatters? Please send your questions to: ask.uxmatters@uxmatters.com. Read moreRead More>