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

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

August 2010 Issue

By Traci Lepore

Published: August 23, 2010

Who has been frustrated or had issues with trying to use personas effectively? … Personas are often emotionless, easily forgotten or dropped altogether, and difficult to share with others in a way that got them engaged.”

I started off a recent presentation by asking how many people in the room had used personas. About 85% of around 50 people raised their hands. Almost every one of these people also raised their hands to the question Who has been frustrated or had issues with trying to use personas effectively? When I asked what was causing these issues, people responded that personas are often emotionless, easily forgotten or dropped altogether, and difficult to share with others in a way that got them engaged. Not surprising really. These are the same issues I’ve been tackling when it comes personas, too. I have felt their pain.

In my column “What’s My Persona? Developing a Deep and Dimensioned Character,” I talked about developing believable characters for personas that are emotionally engaging to help overcome these issues and make personas more effective. To solve some of the pitfalls of developing and using personas, I proposed activities as simple as doing a dramatic reading of the personas, as well as more complicated character-development activities that have their basis in theatrical training.

If we are going to begin to address these issues, we need to get at the root of the problem—our empathetic understanding of our users. Having empathy for users and understanding their needs doesn’t come from reading words on a page. It doesn’t come from statistical analysis of demographics either. It comes from truly embodying and experiencing the character of a persona, so it becomes ingrained emotionally and physically in our memories. Actors understand this. From the time Stanislavski began teaching Method Acting—a process of transformation in which actors begin to take on the true nature of a character—actors have referred to this moment when they realize a character’s emotional memory and have truly become the character as the moment of embodiment. I’ve recently had the opportunity to explore these ideas in a real and practical setting and want to share my experience and the feedback I received with you. Read moreRead More>

By Keith LaFerriere

Published: August 23, 2010

“As the entrepreneurial bug bites more and more of the talent pool, it’s getting harder to find full-time help to fill roles on a project roster or company team.”

Meet Jim. He’s an information architect who has worked on award-winning designs and knows a thing or two about how to correctly identify the subtle nuances that make a purchase-path decision a no-brainer.

Meet Jane. She’s an information architect who has worked on award-winning designs and knows a thing or two about how to correctly identify the subtle nuances that make a purchase-path decision a no-brainer.

Which one is the freelancer?

Exactly.

Hiring freelance help is one of the many benefits—and sometimes one of the many pitfalls—we encounter in our industry. From copywriters to creatives, from user experience to usability testing professionals, we have myriad options when it comes to getting talent in the door on a specific project. And, as the entrepreneurial bug bites more and more of the talent pool, it’s getting harder to find full-time help to fill roles on a project roster or company team.

So, how can we evaluate the pros and cons of using freelancers based on more than just perfect pricing? Can you find a pattern that helps your company to grow organically without breaking the bank? What if a freelancer isn’t getting the job done? How about the intangible benefits you receive when hiring freelance help? How can you make hiring freelancers work for you? Read moreRead More>

By Mike Hughes

Published: August 23, 2010

“While user assistance does have a positive impact on product acceptance and user satisfaction, it does not usually play a major role in influencing someone’s decision to buy a product.”

Technical writers and product managers alike would love it if the quality of a product’s user assistance—that is, its manuals and online Help—were a major factor in customers’ deciding whether to purchase the product. But, while user assistance does have a positive impact on product acceptance and user satisfaction, it does not usually play a major role in influencing someone’s decision to buy a product. Typically, lack of usability and bad documentation are aftermarket issues. By the time users encounter difficulties using a product or its documentation, it is too late—they have already bought the product.

But there is one dramatic exception to this general rule: when you provide a demo version of an application as part of your sales and promotion strategy, its documentation can influence customers’ decision to purchase the product.

Demo software changes the rules. Customers purchase your product only after it has proven its usefulness. Usability barriers in demos often cause customers to decide not to purchase—after all, their commitment to your product is minimal at that point. Plus, product reviewers often use demos to evaluate products. They rate your product based on how well the demo performs for them. A poor review can discourage many potential customers from even trying your demo, let alone purchasing your product. In both of these scenarios, your product’s user assistance can affect how successful a user or reviewer is in getting your product to work for them, in the critical window during which they’re making their judgment about your product. Read moreRead More>

By Janet M. Six

Published: August 23, 2010

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

In this edition of Ask UXmatters, our experts discuss how to use visuals in presentations for a technical audience.

Ask UXmatters is a monthly column, in which our panel of experts answers our readers’ questions about user experience matters. To get answers to your own questions about UX strategy, design, user research, or any other topic of interest to UX professionals in an upcoming edition of Ask UXmatters, please send your questions to us at: ask.uxmatters@uxmatters.com. Read moreRead More>

By Demetrius Madrigal and Bryan McClain

Published: August 9, 2010

“There are a number of ways you can use unmoderated user research tools that can provide a great deal of value.”

Over the past year or two, unmoderated usability testing has become a popular option to help guide product design. It is especially popular for Web sites, providing startups the opportunity to get relatively quick-and-easy user feedback on design iterations. From a user research perspective, the improper use of unmoderated research services presents a certain amount of danger. However, there are a number of ways you can use unmoderated user research tools that can provide a great deal of value. This month, we’ll discuss some of the more interesting ways in which you can derive value from unmoderated research tools.

One caution—When considering doing unmoderated user research, it’s important to keep in mind that unmoderated user research is never as good as moderated user research. You should always avoid attempting to replace necessary moderated user research with unmoderated user research. Read moreRead More>

By Jeff Johnson

Published: August 9, 2010

“This article focuses on cognition and cognitive / perceptual speed.”

This is the second of my two articles for UXmatters, summarizing some of what researchers have discovered about human perception and cognition over the past thirty years. These articles are not meant to be comprehensive; they are just an overview of what I learned while preparing to write my new book: Designing with the Mind in Mind. The first article in this series focused on visual perception, while this article focuses on cognition and cognitive / perceptual speed.

Reading Is Not Natural and Is Easily Disrupted by Poor Design

The odds are that you are a fairly good reader. You learned to read as a child, you’ve read a great deal over your lifetime, and reading is a big part of your life. For you, reading feels automatic and natural. But reading text is no more natural to human beings than playing the violin, riding a bicycle, playing chess, or memorizing and reciting the lines of a play. Like those activities, reading is a skill—a cognitive one—that you must be taught and practice. Read moreRead More>

By Caroline Jarrett

Published: August 9, 2010

“People make mistakes and computers do unexpected things. We try to design out the errors as much as possible, but inevitably, we end up dealing with error messages.”

Put a person and a computer together, and you have the possibility of an error. Put two computers together: more possibilities for error. People make mistakes and computers do unexpected things. We try to design out the errors as much as possible, but inevitably, we end up dealing with error messages. It’s easy to find plenty of recommendations about creating error messages. For example, Rhonda Bracey gave this succinct advice in her UXmatters article “Reviewing User Interfaces”:

“Good error messages tell users what went wrong—and possibly why—provide one or more solutions for fixing the error, and offer a set of buttons that relate directly to the next action a user should take.”—Rhonda Bracey Read moreRead More>

By Jen Hocko

Published: August 9, 2010

“This article attempts to capture the most important concepts organizations migrating their corporate intranets to SharePoint—and their usability professionals in particular—should understand.”

Before 2008, SharePoint was a tool I’d used briefly at a very large company a few years prior—and was a distant memory. But once my current employer decided we should evaluate SharePoint 2007, then soon afterward, decided to migrate our intranet to SharePoint, the migration project became a large part of my day-to-day life as a usability specialist working solely on intranet applications.

As I worked with our SharePoint implementation team, I struggled with many things—and, hopefully, learned a few things, too. This article attempts to capture the most important concepts organizations migrating their corporate intranets to SharePoint—and their usability professionals in particular—should understand. Read moreRead More>