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September 2010 Issue

By Peter Hornsby

Published: September 20, 2010

“Science is what we understand well enough to explain to a computer. Art is everything else we do.”—Donald Knuth

“UX professionals mediate the relationships between the data that describes users and their requirements, design goals, and business objectives, seeking to align them as closely as possible.”

The role of data in a UX design process usually goes something like this: User researchers or UX designers gather data about users and their needs, using a variety of qualitative and quantitative approaches. They then analyze the data—often developing documentation that synthesizes the data, such as a task analysis or a set of personas. Finally, they use their analysis as a basis for making design decisions or influencing the strategy of the broader organization. Throughout this process, UX professionals mediate the relationships between the data that describes users and their requirements, design goals, and business objectives, seeking to align them as closely as possible. This article looks at how we can make this process of data analysis and design—or redesign—more effective by embedding UX design knowledge in computer systems. Read moreRead More>

By Shanshan Ma

Published: September 20, 2010

“User researchers frequently use card sorting to understand how users perceive the structure of a Web site and the ideal way for them to navigate through the site.”

User researchers frequently use card sorting to understand how users perceive the structure of a Web site and the ideal way for them to navigate through the site. Usually card sorting starts with doing an inventory of a Web site’s content, then creating a card for each stand-alone piece of content. Researchers recruit participants for a card sort from a Web site’s target audience, then ask them to group the cards into categories that make sense to them.

There are two methods of card sorting: open card sorting and closed card sorting. In an open card sort, participants are free to group the cards into any category they feel is appropriate, then label the groups using their own descriptors. In a closed card sort, participants group the cards into predefined groups with predefined category labels. Depending on whether you’re validating or creating a sitemap, you can give participants either a closed card-sorting task or an open card-sorting task. You can do card sorts in person, using real cards, or online, using virtual cards. Doing card sorts with real cards gives participants a more tangible sense of actually sorting cards and offers them a more flexible way of organizing cards. Alternatively, online card sorts provide a good way of gaining access to a larger number of participants. Read moreRead More>

By Janet M. Six

Published: September 20, 2010

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

In this edition of Ask UXmatters, our experts discuss two separate topics:

  • how to analyze data from field studies
  • how to design wikis

Every month, Ask UXmatters provides opportunities for our panel of UX experts to answer our readers’ questions about a variety of 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 Daniel Tunkelang

Published: September 20, 2010

“In 2007, … the rallying cry of the workshop was that, while the fields of Human-Computer Interaction (HCI) and Information Retrieval (IR) had both developed innovative techniques to address the challenges of information access, their insights had often failed to cross disciplinary borders.”

In 2007, I had the pleasure of organizing HCIR 2007, the first Workshop on Human-Computer Interaction and Information Retrieval at MIT. The rallying cry of the workshop was that, while the fields of Human-Computer Interaction (HCI) and Information Retrieval (IR) had both developed innovative techniques to address the challenges of information access, their insights had often failed to cross disciplinary borders.

Subsequent workshops built on the success of the first. Microsoft research hosted HCIR 2008, and their Susan Dumais—who was a coinventor of latent semantic indexing and later won the Gerard Salton Award, the Nobel prize of information retrieval—was a keynote speaker. HCIR 2009 moved the workshop back east to Catholic University and enlisted HCI pioneer Ben Shneiderman as a keynote.

HCIR 2010 showed how much this fledgling workshop has grown up. It attracted sponsorship from Google, Microsoft Research, Endeca, and the Linguistic Data Consortium. Google also supplied a rousing keynote speaker: user experience researcher Dan Russell. But most impressive was the quantity and quality of people who actively participated in this day-long event. Read moreRead More>

By Whitney Quesenbery and Kevin Brooks

Published: September 6, 2010

“Stories are a great way to introduce a concept in an imaginative way or sell an idea to your team or management.”

Stories are hot. And why not? We all know how to tell a story. Stories are a lot more interesting than most other ways of sharing information. And they work. Stories are a great way to introduce a concept in an imaginative way or sell an idea to your team or management.

Storytelling fits into the design process in many places. You probably know that collecting stories is key to user research and ensuring your UX designs tell a clear story makes the resulting user experiences better. But in this column, we’ll focus on that big moment when you have something to share and want everyone on your team to pay attention.

Here’s an example of a case where a story is worth a thousand arguments. All of us have likely been there:

You’ve been testing some concepts for a new product design. Your team is excited about the ideas. Unfortunately, your users aren’t. When you take this disappointing news to your team, your report is met with skepticism. They might say, “You must have found the only people on the planet who don’t love this idea.” Or perhaps, “Your tasks must have been wrong.” Or, “You’ve just misunderstood them.” You know the design concepts won’t work as they are, but you just can’t convince the team. Read moreRead More>

By Colleen Jones

Published: September 6, 2010

Persuasive design is designing to change people’s behavior, or actions.”

Persuasive design is designing to change people’s behavior, or actions. This design movement fascinates me, and I’m jump-up-and-down thrilled to see it get more attention lately. Forbes recently ran an article about Jon Kolko, creative frontman at Frog Design, and his perspective on persuasive design. Kolko noted:

“Good design is design that changes behavior for the better. I think it needs to take into account the context of the environment, of the human condition, the culture, and then attempt to make the things you do—make us do them better, make us do better things. It encourages us to change the way that we live.”
—Jon Kolko [1]

While there is a lot to like about using design to improve our behavior and our world, achieving that is a tall order. If persuasive design is going to work on a large scale—and I want it to work—it needs to be complete. Here are three reasons why persuasive design is not enough to make all of its good intentions come to life. Read moreRead More>

By Jim Ross

Published: September 6, 2010

“Very different methods of recruiting are necessary to find the large number of representative participants unmoderated studies require and convince them to participate.”

It seems new, online tools for conducting unmoderated, remote user research emerge every week. While this method of doing user research and these tools have generated a lot of interest and discussion, it is also important to consider how best to recruit participants for unmoderated studies. Though one might assume this would be similar to recruiting for moderated studies, very different methods of recruiting are necessary to find the large number of representative participants unmoderated studies require and convince them to participate.

This column explores the differences between recruiting for moderated and unmoderated user research. It discusses the three primary techniques for recruiting participants for unmoderated, remote user research and helps you decide which technique to choose, based on your study’s needs. For tips on how to recruit participants for moderated user research, please see my previous column, “Recruiting Better Research Participants.” Read moreRead More>

By Demetrius Madrigal and Bryan McClain

Published: September 6, 2010

“Accompanying this new era of innovation is a new set of usability concerns for software that runs on mobile devices small enough to fit in your pocket, which you can use while simultaneously walking around and interacting with the world around you.”

The mobile space is the new Wild West of technology. Much like the Web during the 1990s, mobile is the new domain at the forefront of innovation. Users are discovering new capabilities, integrating them with their daily lives, and experiencing new interaction models. The tech equivalent of indie bands, independent developers—working solo or in small teams—can create innovative new software in the form of mobile applications. These apps have the potential of launching a few software engineers from dorm rooms and garages into tech giants, in the tradition of Google or Facebook. Of course, accompanying this new era of innovation is a new set of usability concerns for software that runs on mobile devices small enough to fit in your pocket, which you can use while simultaneously walking around and interacting with the world around you.

Dealing with Physical Constraints

There are some well-known constraints we must take into consideration when designing and developing mobile apps—mostly surrounding a device’s form factor and physical user interface. Thus, the type of device on which a mobile app will run is a major design consideration. One nice aspect of designing apps for the iPhone is that the device’s form factor and physical user interface are standardized and well known. Plus, you can market your app and people can buy it using the familiar user interface of the iPhone app store. Read moreRead More>