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November 2009 Issue

By Pabini Gabriel-Petit

Published: November 16, 2009

In my column, On Good Behavior, I’ll explore the essentials of good interaction design. This first column provides a brief introduction to interaction design—defining the scope this column will cover—then explores some key design principles. What is interaction design? Here’s the definition I wrote for the UXmatters Glossary:

“Good interaction design facilitates people’s tasks and ensures that digital products are both learnable and usable….”

“Interaction design defines workflows that support users’ goals and tasks, the affordances through which digital products and services communicate their functionality and interactivity to users, the ways in which users can interact with those affordances, products’ behaviors in response to user interactions, and the methods by which products indicate state changes. Good interaction design facilitates people’s tasks and ensures that digital products are both learnable and usable by reducing complexity as much as possible, preventing user error, adhering to standards when appropriate, and through consistency across an entire product or product line. Typical interaction design deliverables include specifications, wireframes, usage scenarios, and prototypes.”

As you can see, interaction design is a complex design discipline that must take many different factors into account to solve a wide range of design problems. So, how do interaction designers get their heads around wicked design problems? Read moreRead More>

By Pabini Gabriel-Petit, Publisher & Editor in Chief

Published: November 16, 2009

The 2009 UXmatters Reader Survey has closed, but you can view the results.

To all UXmatters readers who have already participated in our fourth annual UXmatters Reader Survey, thank you! We really appreciate your sharing your thoughts with us. So far, 79 people have participated in the survey.

We’d really like to hear from more of you, so our editorial staff can better understand and serve your needs. Please take this opportunity to participate in the 2009 UXmatters Reader Survey while you still have the chance. Let us know what kinds of content interest you, help shape the future direction of UXmatters, and give us an opportunity to learn more about you. Completing the survey takes just few minutes, and you can answer or skip questions as you choose. This survey will close on December 2, 2009. Once the survey closes, we’ll publish the results on the UXmatters Web site.

In this second installment of our fourth anniversary issue of UXmatters, we’re pleased to introduce my new column on interaction design, On Good Behavior. I hope you enjoy reading it. Thanks again for your participation in our survey! Read moreRead More>

By Traci Lepore

Published: November 16, 2009

“Working together in a group to produce a creative outcome is difficult—don’t let anyone tell you it’s not.”

Working together in a group to produce a creative outcome is difficult—don’t let anyone tell you it’s not. Let me share a memory with you—from my Performance Theatre and Community class. There I was with one other person, trying to get our group improvisational piece started—a performance that would serve as our final for the class. It was not going well. We were standing there, looking at each other a little dumbstricken—despite the fact we had previously, as a class, talked about what we intended to do with this final. With the adrenaline rush of improvisation, it’s always a little scary getting started. The agonizing few seconds at the beginning felt like hours as we stood there, not knowing what to do. Then another person jumped in, grabbing my leg and yelling something I can’t quite remember—though the words themselves don’t matter for this memory—jolting me into action. We were off and running, because somebody else jumped in with a potential solution to a problem the two of us who were already up there couldn’t solve. This is how good brainstorming should always work—brainstorming is always a negotiation.

A time or two, I’ve had that same feeling of being dumbstricken when participating in various forms of UX design brainstorming sessions. I’ve also seen clients who are expected to participate in such sessions looking like the proverbial deer in the headlights as they grapple with the often unfamiliar experience of brainstorming. Read moreRead More>

By Mike Hughes

Published: November 16, 2009

“Many of us are more comfortable communicating in words than in pictures.”

Many of us are more comfortable communicating in words than in pictures. For example, user assistance writers are by nature and training writers, so they understand words and are adept at using word processing and publishing tools. Writers use lexicentric tools not only for creating and delivering content, but also as cognitive tools—that is, tools that help them think more clearly and efficiently. Thus, a user assistance writer might create a user-task matrix or take advantage of a word processor’s outline view when creating or evaluating a document’s structure.

However, we could also use a number of visual techniques and tools—not only for generating content, but also as cognitive and analysis tools. Unfortunately, these visual methods and their respective tools do not get much attention, and many writers don’t use them with the same comfort level they do tools that let them manipulate words. As Figure 1 shows, some writers hold onto their lexicentric world view, sometimes to their detriment. Read moreRead More>

By Janet M. Six

Published: November 16, 2009

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

In this Ask UXmatters column—which is the second in a three-part series of columns focusing on usability—our experts discuss how to conduct usability testing with limited funding. To read Part I of this series, see “Usability Testing Versus Expert Reviews.” Next month’s column will cover what usability techniques you should use when time is tight and how to best conduct remote usability testing.

For answers to your questions about user experience matters, Ask UXmatters! To see our experts’ responses to your question in an upcoming edition of Ask UXmatters, please send your question to: ask.uxmatters@uxmatters.com.

Q: Given a shortage of funds, what types of usability testing should we perform? Can you recommend any low-cost usability approaches?—from a UXmatters reader Read moreRead More>

By Joe Lamantia

Published: November 2, 2009

“We rely on our identity to make sense of almost all the experiences we have in life—digital and otherwise. And yet, experience designers rarely consider personal identity—either as an aspect of design or a factor affecting design.”

Our identity—our sense of who we are, in all the various contexts we negotiate, from personal to professional, from public to private, from individual to collective—is one of the most fundamental elements of our experience and awareness. We rely on our identity to make sense of almost all the experiences we have in life—digital and otherwise. And yet, experience designers rarely consider personal identity—either as an aspect of design or a factor affecting design.

The nature and meaning of identity is traditionally a question for disciplines like philosophy, religion, psychology, and the social sciences. At the same time, governments and large organizations, with legal and administrative concerns like taxation and security typically address the practical aspects of identity we experience on a daily basis—issuing IDs and credentials and deciding the mechanisms for their verification. This division of responsibilities for defining and executing the construct of personal identity is nearly as old as the mind/body schism at the heart of Western culture. Read moreRead More>

By Pabini Gabriel-Petit, Publisher & Editor in Chief

Published: November 2, 2009

The 2009 UXmatters Reader Survey has closed, but you can view the results.

This month, we’re celebrating the fourth anniversary of UXmatters, which launched in November 2005. UXmatters is thriving. Since our launch we’ve published 290 articles on a great diversity of topics. Our community of readers is growing. Over the last year, almost 260,000 UX professionals have read UXmatters.

Because our goal at UXmatters is to produce a Web magazine that fulfills the information needs of UX professionals worldwide, we want to hear from you! Therefore, we are now conducting our fourth annual reader survey to give you an opportunity to tell us how we’re doing, what your future content wants and needs are, and a little something about yourself. Please participate in the 2009 UXmatters Reader Survey to let us know what kinds of articles you’d like to see on UXmatters and help shape the future of UXmatters. What we learn from all of you will help UXmatters to better serve the needs of the UX community.

Completing the survey takes only about 10 minutes. The survey will close on December 2, 2009. Once the survey closes, we’ll publish the results on our Web site.

Thanks, in advance, for participating in our survey! Read moreRead More>

By Greg Nudelman and Frank Guo

Published: November 2, 2009

“Understand what makes a good ad.”

In this installment of Search Matters, we’ll continue our discussion of ads in search results. If you missed it, read Part 1, which covered these best practices:

  • Integrate your ads’ appearance with the rest of your site.
  • Make sure customers can easily distinguish ads from content.
  • Keep ads relevant and appropriate.
  • Understand how your customers interact with ads.

In Part 2, we’ll discuss the following best practices:

  • Understand what makes a good ad.
  • Limit cannibalization.
  • Provide ads for internal merchandise instead of third-party advertising.
  • Pay special attention to ads on pages that appear if there are no search results.

Let’s dig in! Read moreRead More>

By Kevin Silver

Published: November 2, 2009

“As an interaction designer, I had to wonder, Do I really want to create production-ready code?

For the last 6 months, I have been using Microsoft Expression Blend as my primary design tool. Blend, shown in Figure 1, is quickly becoming a powerful product. Its new Sketchflow module had me at hello. Like any new tool, Blend requires some ramp up time. Plus, I had to consider how to use Blend within the design and development process where I work, because Blend is much more than a simple prototyping tool. Blend is a GUI development tool that can easily produce deployable code for the Windows Presentation Foundation (WPF) and Silverlight platforms. As an interaction designer, I had to wonder, Do I really want to create production-ready code? There is no simple or correct answer to this question. It depends on your specific situation, the skills you possess, and ultimately, how you view your own role as an interaction designer within your organization.

The Sketchflow module adds two panels to Blend, Sketchflow Map and Sketchflow Animation, as shown in Figure 2. Sketchflow Map lets you create and link screens and reusable components. Sketchflow Animation lets you create animations in a storyboard fashion. It is a simplification of functionality that is already in Blend. There are a couple of other slight differences. I’m not sure why it’s even a separate module. Read moreRead More>

By Michael Hawley

Published: November 2, 2009

“An intranet has the potential to unify a corporate culture, emphasize core company values, and develop a sense of community among employees.”

An intranet has the potential to unify a corporate culture, emphasize core company values, and develop a sense of community among employees, in addition to its basic function of providing access to documents and procedural information. Unfortunately, some intranets have simply grown organically, as collections of disjointed Web sites for different departments or document repositories for particular workgroups.

The key to intranet success is to provide value to employees and give them a reason to visit the site repeatedly. One of the primary ways to achieve this is to connect employees with the people and groups with whom they need to collaborate. Workgroups, or communities of practice, provide the basis for a living, growing, vibrant space in which people can access the information they need, share best practices, and contribute to a shared knowledge base. This article discusses the role of communities of practice within organizations and provides a framework for planning research and design activities to maximize their effectiveness..

What Is a Community of Practice?

“Communities of practice are groups of people who share a concern or a passion for something they do and learn how to do it better as they interact regularly.”—Etienne Wenger Read moreRead More>