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October 2010 Issue

By Janet M. Six

Published: October 18, 2010

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

In this edition of Ask UXmatters—which is the first in a two-part series focusing on user experience design for mobile devices—our experts discuss

  • designing for a wide range of devices with different screen sizes
  • promoting your mobile application

Every month in Ask UXmatters our panel of UX experts answers our readers’ questions about various 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 Szuc

Published: October 18, 2010

“As our UX profession matures, UX professionals are beginning to explore how they can help businesses design their strategy and better understand the kind of culture they need to design successful products.”

When attending UX Australia 2010, in Melbourne, I enjoyed the opportunity to meet with the both the local and the international UX communities.

A few key themes emerged from the presentations: As our UX profession matures, UX professionals are beginning to explore how they can help businesses design their strategy and better understand the kind of culture they need to design successful products. What team structures and sizes and skill sets do those teams need? What types of leadership roles are available to UX professionals who are helping product teams to scope their products and services by facilitating discussions around understanding need before writing business requirements?

Unfortunately, we do not always have the luxury of being able to take the time up front to better understand the potential value of what we design. Dana Chisnell touched on this in her presentation at UX Australia, “Beyond Frustration: 3 Levels of Happy Design,” during which she spoke about meaning. In recent years, I’ve begun to dig deeper into the topic of value, so I spoke about the value of asking Why? at UX Australia 2010. Read moreRead More>

By Michael Hawley

Published: October 18, 2010

“A business sponsor and observer asked me about my line of questioning: ‘What do you expect…?’”

I recently conducted some user research on a proposed experience for a Help and value-added learning center for a Web application. The goals of the study were as follows:

  • Assess how well our proposed designs would align with user needs.
  • Understand how the new branding for the section would impact the user experience.
  • Understand how well a proposed conceptual approach to information categorization would support information seeking.

The setup for this study was similar to that for any typical usability study. We invited people to participate in one-on-one sessions with a moderator and asked participants to complete a series of tasks while using the think-aloud protocol. Project team members, including designers and business sponsors, watched from another room.

We wanted to gain the best possible understanding of the entirety of the proposed user experience, including branded words for labels, information architecture, and categorization. Therefore, during the course of the sessions, I asked participants to describe what they expected to see in a section or on a page behind a link before they clicked it. I thought this would help me to understand the users’ mindsets coming into the experience. Read moreRead More>

By Niranjan Jahagirdar and Arun Joseph Martin

Published: October 18, 2010

“How did the writer of your application’s documentation know how to meet your needs? The most likely answer would point to the effective application and use of personas.”

Picture this scenario: You are using an application to work on a time-critical project, and suddenly, you are stuck for want of information about a particular screen. Time is running out. You reach for the application’s documentation and spend a few minutes trying to figure out what to do next. Thankfully, you are quickly able to locate the relevant information and continue with your work. You are pleased with the documentation and praise the unknown writer.

In this case, the application’s documentation served your needs well. How did the writer of your application’s documentation know how to meet your needs? The most likely answer would point to the effective application and use of personas.

What Are Personas?

Personas are fictitious users you create based on your user research. Personas summarize your user research findings and provide a practical approach to understanding the requirements of your target audience and keeping user perspectives in mind when designing products and creating documentation for them. Read moreRead More>

By Paul J. Sherman

Published: October 4, 2010

High, medium, and low don’t begin to sufficiently explain the potential brand and business impacts usability issues can have.”

Many of us in the field people now generally refer to as user experience have long used levels of severity as a means of indicating the criticality of a product’s or service’s usability issues to clients.

Over the past several years, I’ve grown increasingly dissatisfied with the vague and somewhat solipsistic nature of the gradations UX professionals typically use to describe the severity of usability issues. High, medium, and low don’t begin to sufficiently explain the potential brand and business impacts usability issues can have.

After incrementally iterating on several existing classifications of severity, I finally decided in late 2008 to simply create some new ones, which I’ll present in this column. For lack of a better term, I call them business-aligned usability ratings.

What’s the advantage of my ratings? In short, business-aligned usability ratings help me communicate the actual business impacts of the issues we identify during usability testing. They include information about how a user experience issue can affect an organization’s brand equity and revenue. Read moreRead More>

By Caroline Jarrett

Published: October 4, 2010

“I always have problems filling out paper forms that have the labels above. Is this my special problem, or have you heard from people who have the same experience?”—Roland Feichtinger

Here’s a topic that divides UX professionals from ordinary people: label placement in forms. UX professionals get all excited about it, and I plead guilty to joining the discussion. I’ve written about it, included it in my book Forms That Work: Designing Web Forms for Usability, and given many talks on label placement. But conversations with my non-UX friends—maybe the retired teacher, the bookseller, or the waitress—that touch on this topic, go something like this:

Friend: “What are you talking about at the next conference?”

Me: “Label placement in forms.”

Friend: “People care about that? Really?” Read moreRead More>

By Nicola Rovetta

Published: October 4, 2010

“This article cautions you against following a common information-architecture practice that can have negative consequences in terms of costs: the creation of index pages that correspond to a single item in a category.”

During an information architecture project, creating index pages for items within categories can result in a lot of unexpected work.

Organizing and classifying a Web sites’ content when you’re developing its information architecture (IA) is one of the key activities you must undertake to deliver a usable site. Designing an information architecture to ensure users can reliably reach the information they want—and in less time—is the main focus of an information architect’s work. To accomplish this goal, information architects employ user-centered design methods, keeping users at a project’s center.

Over the years, the design and development of user interfaces for products and services has evolved, resulting in design conventions and best practices that we follow when designing a user interface. However, following common practice can occasionally lead us astray. This article cautions you against following a common information-architecture practice that can have negative consequences in terms of costs: the creation of index pages that correspond to a single item in a category. Read moreRead More>

By Bryan McClain and Demetrius Madrigal

Published: October 4, 2010

“If we don’t get out, experience, and truly understand what other cultures and subcultures are doing with technology, we’ll only be guessing when we try to innovate for large and diverse audiences.”

Over the last ten years, both of us have read countless articles about innovation, entrepreneurship, and socially responsible ventures that change the world. The theme that appears to emerge time and time again is the importance of getting out of the office, visiting different cultures, looking outside the bubble we live in, and experiencing new adventures. But it wasn’t until a recent vacation in Costa Rica, where Bryan had the opportunity to see rural farm workers using cell phones to talk with other farm workers—people who appeared to be very poor—that he fully realized the importance of understanding the world beyond that which we encounter on a daily basis.

Though we have spent the majority of our adult lives studying people and how they use technology, the lesson we took from Bryan’s experience is this: if we don’t get out, experience, and truly understand what other cultures and subcultures are doing with technology, we’ll only be guessing when we try to innovate for large and diverse audiences.

Innovation is about introducing something new and different to the world that helps enhance people’s lives. If we constantly have the same experiences day in and day out, it’s hard to generate thoughts and ideas that are different from those that are consistent with our everyday experiences. With fresh experiences come fresh perspectives. To push the limits of technology, we have to cultivate ideas that are outside the norm. We have to push against the limits of our own personal experience and understanding. Read moreRead More>