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March 2009 Issue

By Keith LaFerriere

Published: March 23, 2009

“Getting your hands and mind around the myriad facets of running a UX agency—and the processes that ensure you consistently deliver high-end results that reflect your talent—is a rewarding, but difficult task.”

Your talent is one factor that contributes to your being able to start or build a successful UX agency—and achieving the freedom that brings—but talent is not enough, especially not in the current economic environment. Getting your hands and mind around the myriad facets of running a UX agency—and the processes that ensure you consistently deliver high-end results that reflect your talent—is a rewarding, but difficult task. How, then, can you manage, learn, grow, and profit—all while keeping your talent in high regard?

In this introductory column, I’ll discuss time management and some ways in which you can use quick-reference sheets and project-management tools to help you maintain some semblance of sanity in your busy life. Read moreRead More>

By Paul J. Sherman

Published: March 23, 2009

“I’ll provide a technology selection framework that can help enterprises better assess the usability and appropriateness of enterprise applications they’re considering purchasing.”

In my previous column, “The User Experience of Enterprise Software Matters,” I argued that organizations making enterprise-level technology selections often do an incomplete job of assessing the real-world effects of the new applications they impose on their staffs’ workflows and processes, saying:

“The technology selection process typically neglects methods of evaluating the goodness of fit between the enterprise users’ processes, workflow, and needs, and the vendors’ solutions. Organizations could avoid many a rollout disaster simply by testing the usability of vendors’ solutions with employees during a trial phase.”

I also encouraged enterprises to demand more usable software that meets their organizations’ needs.

In this column, I’ll provide a technology selection framework that can help enterprises better assess the usability and appropriateness of enterprise applications they’re considering purchasing, with the goal of ensuring their IT (Information Technology) investments deliver fully on their value propositions. Read moreRead More>

By Mike Hughes

Published: March 23, 2009

“User assistance can add value to a product or Web service’s business model by influencing how deeply users adopt new features or services.”

User assistance can add value to a product or Web service’s business model by influencing how deeply users adopt new features or services. As more products employ pay-as-you-go models like that of SaaS (Software as a Service), the contribution user assistance makes becomes increasingly more important.

Users of technology products—from mobile phones to ecommerce Web sites—often stop learning and adopting features long before they’ve mastered those products’ full capabilities. A learning plateau usually occurs once a user has learned the features that meet his minimum product-adoption criteria, when the benefit of adopting more features doesn’t seem worth the extra effort or risk.

A bank’s online bill-paying service provides an example: It is common to find many users paying bills manually online rather than using more advanced features that would let them receive bills electronically or make automatic payments online. Read moreRead More>

By Afshan Kirmani

Published: March 23, 2009

Published: March 23, 2009

“Motivation is an important factor in any kind of online interaction or transaction.”

Motivation is an important factor in any kind of online interaction or transaction. People need a little encouragement when they’re not really convinced they should take any action or are uncertain about what action to take next. As users perform tasks online, they need to understand what’s happening and expect you to help them move forward. This article discusses the responsibility of a user interface to provide recommendations along a user’s path of interaction.

You can provide recommendations in any context. Applied effectively, this design approach can help users greatly. In contexts as diverse as desktop and Web applications, ecommerce sites, and other Web sites, providing recommendations

  • motivates users to take the next step and complete their tasks successfully
  • helps customers make purchasing decisions
  • increases users’ comfort levels
  • builds customer loyalty and brand recognition

Read moreRead More>

By Greg Nudelman

Published: March 9, 2009

“Page layout forms the foundation in presenting search results.”

Page layout forms the foundation in presenting search results. Your layout decisions for search results pages will have tremendous impact on the user experience for your entire site. Choosing the right width for search results is important, and the optimal width for search results may be a great deal narrower than some people using big monitors would believe.

To see for yourself the narrow divide between great and barely usable search results layouts, take a look at Figure 1, which shows the primary gateway to the Starbucks shopping area. When it comes to page layout, this Starbucks search results page shows very poor design choices. At a screen resolution of 800 x 600 pixels, most of what you see is the left margin of the layout and a large logo. Read moreRead More>

By Janet M. Six

Published: March 9, 2009

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

This edition of Ask UXmatters discusses how to communicate and sell the UX message across all levels of an organization. Our experts share what strategies and tactics for evangelizing UX have worked for them.

Ask UXmatters is here to answer your questions about user experience matters. If you want to read our experts’ responses to your questions in an upcoming edition of Ask UXmatters, please send your questions to: ask.uxmatters@uxmatters.com.

Q: Executive buy-in is important, but communicating and selling the UX message across the organization, at all levels, is just as important. I would be most interested in learning more about the corporate cultures that embrace UX or customer-centered thinking and understanding more about why they have and what makes them ripe. What worked in the organizations you’ve worked for? What caused frustrations? It seems when everyone is trying to improve the user experience, it can help empower a usability / UX / design team to work on more strategic initiatives instead of facing roadblocks along the way.—from a UXmatters reader Read moreRead More>

By Traci Lepore

Published: March 9, 2009

“Whether they establish a production’s overall tone or elucidate particular actions of characters, stage directions help tell the complete story that is in the playwright’s mind.”

When it comes to modern theater, stage directions—the descriptive text that appears within brackets in a script—are an important piece of the puzzle. They speak for the playwright when he is not there. They provide details about how the playwright has imagined the environment and atmosphere. They describe critical physical aspects of the characters and settings. Stage directions can also be critical in dictating the intended tempo and rhythm of the piece. Whether they establish a production’s overall tone or elucidate particular actions of characters, stage directions help tell the complete story that is in the playwright’s mind. Stage directions accomplish all of this, using a simple convention that structurally separates them from the actual story.

Tennessee Williams, the playwright of A Streetcar Named Desire, strives to give a play “the spirit of life” through his stage directions. Read the following snippet from the opening of Scene 1, and you’ll find it’s hard to argue that he doesn’t achieve that goal. Read moreRead More>

By Joe Lamantia

Published: March 9, 2009

“Let’s look forward from the present day, using stories by well-known science fiction authors as the source for vision or concept scenarios that describe some possible experiences of living and working with everyware.”

In “First Fictions and the Parable of the Palace,” I provided an overview of everyware’s roots in early depictions of ubiquitous computing by Mark Weiser and others. I also considered the critical role of user experience in the coming world of everyware and described some of the challenges we face in designing everyware / lifeware user experiences.

In this and the next installment of my column, let’s look forward from the present day, using stories by well-known science fiction authors as the source for vision or concept scenarios that describe some possible experiences of living and working with everyware. While these concepts are clearly speculative, they help define the boundaries of the potential scope of everyware—in both the near-term and distant future. Though these stories may lack the metaphoric and literary significance of Borge’s “Parable of the Palace,” their visions shed light on everyware’s likely implications for design within more concrete contexts. I’ll review only the elements of the stories that are most relevant to designing everyware. (For the curious, I recommend reading the stories in full.) Read moreRead More>