Do you create products or organize events for UX professionals or manage a UX team that’s hiring? Sponsor UXmatters and see your ad or logo here! Learn moreLearn More

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

March 2010 Issue

By Caroline Jarrett

Published: March 21, 2010

This is my first Good Questions column for UXmatters. In this column, I’ll be writing about questions. When communicating with users in one direction, we typically ask them questions—often through forms or surveys. When communication goes in the other direction, we try to respond to users’ questions—both through the design of our Web applications and other products and, sometimes, in assemblies of what we hope will be their Frequently Asked Questions.

“Hint text is rarely effective as a way of helping users, but instead becomes a default input.”

In January 2010, Janet Six’s column, Ask Matters, “Label Alignment in Long Forms,” included extensive discussion of one of the most frequently asked questions about forms design: where to put labels in relation to their fields.

Don’t worry. I’m not going to discuss labels further in this column. But thinking about labels reminded me of another question we hear from time to time: Should we put a hint inside a text box?

The short version of my advice: Don’t do it! Hint text is rarely effective as a way of helping users, but instead becomes a default input. Read moreRead More>

By Jim Ross

Published: March 21, 2010

The title of my new column, Practical Usability, reflects my intention to explore practical and useful aspects of usability that are relevant to UX designers and user researchers, as opposed to focusing on an academic or narrowly defined vision of usability. In this column, I’ll use a broad definition of usability, encompassing all user research activities that contribute to a better user experience.

“In-person research is much better than remote research. But … now, more than ever, it’s important to determine when it’s feasible to save money and the environment by conducting more user research remotely.”

Traditionally, user research involves directly observing and talking with people in the context of their work or play. Either researchers travel to observe participants in their natural environments or participants travel to a usability lab or focus-group facility. How better to understand how people use a product or technology than to observe them using it firsthand?

Although lack of time and money for travel have always been barriers to conducting in-person user research, the current recession and concerns about global warming and wasted resources have pressured businesses to cut back on business travel and conduct more business remotely. Should user research be any different? Read moreRead More>

By Janet M. Six

Published: March 21, 2010

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 first in a two-part series focusing on Web form design and evaluation—our experts discuss:

Every month, our Ask UXmatters experts answer our readers’ questions about user experience matters. To read their answers to your question in an upcoming edition of Ask UXmatters, just send your question to us at: ask.uxmatters@uxmatters.com. Read moreRead More>

By Mike Hughes

Published: March 21, 2010

“At the heart of the tension between them is the fact that most UI Developers consider themselves—and sometimes rightfully so—to be UI Designers.”

One of the more interesting tensions I have observed—since getting into user experience design about five years ago—is the almost sibling-rivalry tension between UX Designers and User Interface (UI) Developers. At the heart of the tension between them is the fact that most UI Developers consider themselves—and sometimes rightfully so—to be UI Designers. The coding part is like Picasso’s having to understand how to mix paint. It’s not the value they add, just the mechanics of delivering the creative concepts.

When I worked on the Body of Knowledge Task Force for the Society for Technical Communication, the interesting question we wrestled with was: What value does a technical communicator add above what an engineer who writes well offers?UX Designers or UX Architects have the same problem to solve: What value do we add that differentiates us from a UI developer who is user focused? This question strikes to the very heart of what differentiates us, as UX professionals, from UI Developers. If we don’t provide a compelling answer, the only one left is that they code and we don’t. Hmm…, not the kind of value proposition I’d be comfortable with in this economy. Read moreRead More>

By Greg Nudelman

Published: March 8, 2010

“Designing a mobile finding experience requires thinking in terms of turning limitations into opportunities.”

Thinking of porting your Web finding experience to iPhone, Android, or Windows Mobile? Just forget about the fact that these devices are basically full-featured computers with tiny screens. Having gone through this design exercise a few times, I have realized that designing a great mobile finding experience requires a way of thinking that is quite different from our typical approach to designing search for Web or desktop applications. To put it simply, designing a mobile finding experience requires thinking in terms of turning limitations into opportunities. In this column, I’ll discuss some of the limitations of mobile platforms, as well as the opportunities they afford, and share a few design ideas that might come in handy for your own projects.

Understanding Mobile Platforms

One of the challenges of mobile application design is understanding both the capabilities and limitations of each platform. Let’s use the iPhone finding experience as an example. On the plus side, the iPhone has a high-resolution screen, Multi-Touch controls, accelerometer, persistent data storage, cool video transitions, push content delivery, GPS, and a device ID. The benefits of these features have been pretty much beaten to death in advertisements, so I will not discuss them here. On the other hand, the problem constraints and limitations of mobile devices are much more interesting. I have found few sources that discuss these in detail, so in this column, I’ll attempt to describe the most important challenges of designing for the new generation of smartphones—at least as they pertain to finding. Read moreRead More>

By Demetrius Madrigal and Bryan McClain

Published: March 8, 2010

“Usability testing is one of the least glamorous, but most important aspects of user experience research.”

Usability testing is one of the least glamorous, but most important aspects of user experience research. Over the years, it has also been one of the forms of user research we have performed most frequently. In doing so, we’ve learned quite a few best practices and encountered some potential pitfalls. We think it’s important that we share what we’ve learned with the many stakeholders, designers, and engineers who might find this information helpful.

DO: Get involved and observe usability test sessions.

Both designers and stakeholders can get a lot out observing usability test sessions. Witnessing participants’ reactions to a product and its user interface can help you understand product and usability issues that might be extremely difficult for researchers to communicate through reports, meetings, or presentations. If you have the opportunity to observe a few test sessions, you should definitely take advantage of it. Read moreRead More>

By Joe Lamantia

Published: March 8, 2010

“Technical barriers to delivering augmented reality (AR) experiences on a broad scale are falling rapidly.”

As the recent launches of Google Goggles (see Figure 1), Bing Maps (see Figure 2), Junaio, and the Unifeye SDK have demonstrated, technical barriers to delivering augmented reality (AR) experiences on a broad scale are falling rapidly. Separate advances in technologies for practical and commercial-scale, cloud-based speech and language processing; real-time search; computer vision; accurate geolocation and device awareness; AR commerce and development platforms; as well as high-bandwidth, sensor-enhanced mobile devices are coming together to form a first-generation infrastructure for augmented reality.

With the exotic, mixed realities that futurists and science-fiction writers have envisioned seemingly just around the corner, it is time to move beyond questions of technical feasibility to consider the value and impact of turning the realities of everyday social settings and experiences inside out. As with all new technologies as they move from the stage of technical probe to social probe, this AR transformation will happen case by case and context by context, involving many factors beyond the direct reach of UX design. However, as a result of the inherently social nature of augmented reality, we can be sure the value and impact of many augmented experiences depends in large part on how effectively they integrate the social dimensions of real-world settings, in real time. Read moreRead More>

By Daniel Szuc and Josephine Wong

Published: March 8, 2010

“The theme for this conference was ‘Design in Asia,’ a hot topic as China looks to shift thinking from ‘made in China’ to ‘created in China’.”

In November 2009, the UX community of China gathered in Shanghai for User Friendly 2009, the sixth User Friendly event. The theme for this conference was “Design in Asia,” a hot topic as China looks to shift thinking from “made in China” to “created in China.”

We were very lucky to have such a quality group of both local and international speakers, including our invited keynotes:

  • Jared Spool of UIE—who spoke about “The Dawning of the Age of Experience”
  • Bill Moggridge of IDEO—whose topic was “What’s Next for Design in Asia?”
  • Marc Rettig of Fit and Associates—who presented “Design for Life”

The keynotes were complimented nicely by speeches from UPA President Silvia Zimmerman and UPA China President Jason Huang. Read moreRead More>