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

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

January 2011 Issue

By Janet M. Six

Published: January 17, 2011

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 the following topics:

  • the core elements of design thinking
  • employing design principles in our work
  • defining the ultimate, theoretical target for ease of use

Ask UXmatters is a monthly column in which our panel of UX experts answers our readers’ questions about a broad range 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, send your question to us at: ask.uxmatters@uxmatters.com. Read moreRead More>

By Christian Rohrer

Published: January 17, 2011

“What keeps us … from really solving problems holistically and designing total-system solutions that deeply meet our target users’ needs? At least three barriers to this holy grail of UX design endeavors seem pervasive in corporate environments.”

Face it, most UX design work consists of incremental improvements over the previous version of a product, and we rarely get to design holistic solutions that elegantly meet the needs of our target audience across systems, services, and devices—or wherever such needs crop up. Further, time-to-market pressures and narrow, predefined solution spaces usually constrain the occasional opportunities we may get to design a first-release product. This leaves so many UX professionals dissatisfied, because they know they could have done a better job or, worse, they may even have envisioned exactly how their design could have been better, only to find insurmountable barriers to their vision’s ever seeing the light of day.

So what keeps us, as UX professionals, from really solving problems holistically and designing total-system solutions that deeply meet our target users’ needs? At least three barriers to this holy grail of UX design endeavors seem pervasive in corporate environments. Read moreRead More>

By Shanshan Ma

Published: January 17, 2011

“In comparing the design of mobile Web sites with the design of Web sites for computers, I realized that complex context is another important factor that differentiates the two platforms.”

There are several differences between designing a Web site for a computer and designing one for a smartphone. In his Alertbox post on “Mobile Usability,” Jakob Nielsen points out a number of constraints affecting Web site use on mobile devices: small screens, awkward input, delayed downloads, and poorly designed mobile Web sites. In comparing the design of mobile Web sites with the design of Web sites for computers, I realized that complex context is another important factor that differentiates the two platforms. For Nielsen’s report, controlled usability testing in a lab was one of the primary methods for studying mobile usability, so it’s understandable that his report didn’t consider context.

In addition to the four problems Nielsen wrote about, I’ll cover design for complex contexts of use in my discussion of constraints on mobile Web sites. In practice, being aware of these constraints lets us approach these problems with caution and come up with better design solutions for mobile devices. Based on my analysis of more than 20 mobile Web sites, I’ll point out some ways of working within these constraints. Read moreRead More>

By Mia Northrop

Published: January 17, 2011

“Rather than relying on participants’ being good talkers…, realize that everybody has something to say, but you have to know what buttons to push to find what it is they care about and what they know that can inform your design.”

How many times have you come away from a user interview thinking That was a complete waste of time? That the person with whom you just spent an hour or more of your life revealed perhaps two interesting observations, but the interview didn’t contribute anything particularly worthwhile to your project? This probably happens at least once during every design research study: you just have an interview that, for whatever reason, is a dud.

Design research can be a costly exercise and, with small sample sizes, every minute with every person counts. Some people know exactly what they want to talk about. With others, it’s like peeling layers off an onion or cracking a safe. Rather than relying on participants’ being good talkers who know how to respond to your lines of questioning, realize that everybody has something to say, but you have to know what buttons to push to find what it is they care about and what they know that can inform your design. Read moreRead More>

Review by Peter Hornsby

Published: January 17, 2011

“Brooks posits that a rational model of design is the implicit view engineers have of design, but I would argue that this holds true for most nondesigners, who regard design as a linear process.”

Fred Brooks is a computer scientist. He is perhaps best known for his seminal book The Mythical Man?Month, which looked at how the human factor in software engineering affected nonlinear economies of scale in collaborative work—that is, how assigning additional engineers to a late software project usually makes it even later. The Mythical Man?Month was first published in 1975, and its findings still hold true today. Now, in The Design of Design: Essays from a Computer Scientist, Brooks looks at the design process and what makes a design elegant. While Brooks himself is a computer scientist, the book contains lessons that are applicable to all domains of design—much as Christopher Alexander’s A Pattern Language: Towns, Buildings, Construction looked at patterns in the architecture of physical environments, but ultimately led to the use of design patterns in other domains, including software engineering and UX design. Read moreRead More>

By Pabini Gabriel-Petit

Published: January 5, 2011

“Interaction design is absolutely central to the design of application user experiences
—whether for the desktop, Web, mobile devices, or other handheld devices….”

I’ve referred to the work I do as user experience design ever since Don Norman introduced the term at Apple in 1993—when I was a Human Interface Engineer there. But interaction design is absolutely central to the design of application user experiences—whether for the desktop, Web, mobile devices, or other handheld devices—and it is the core skill of application designers.

With this column, I’m introducing a multipart series on what I consider to be the essence of interaction design for application user experiences. First, I’ll lay the groundwork for this series by describing the role of interaction design, then I’ll embark on my exploration of the essence of interaction design by discussing the design of virtual contexts for interaction.

As I began thinking about this series, I realized I should describe the process of design first—or I’d end up constantly revisiting the same process issues—so I wrote my column “Design Is a Process, Not a Methodology.” Throughout this series, I’ll refer you to that column for details about steps of the design process that are especially important in solving particular types of design problems. Read moreRead More>

By Jim Nieters

Published: January 5, 2011

“Designers increasingly have the opportunity to facilitate strategy dialogues among stakeholders within our companies and, ultimately, to align product teams around a powerful design-led vision.”

In October 2010, I was fortunate to participate in a panel discussion at the Mobile HCI conference in Lisbon Portugal titled “Guru’s Views,” [1] with moderator Bruno von Niman, who is a long-time UX visionary in the mobile space. In my opening statement, I pointed out that designers increasingly have the opportunity to facilitate strategy dialogues among stakeholders within our companies and, ultimately, to align product teams around a powerful design-led vision. In response, Josh Ulm of Vodafone pointed out that trying to gain support for design efforts through collaboration was no longer worth his time. If his design team did not have the sponsorship and support of senior leaders, including the CEO, it just took too much effort to make progress, so he would rather find a company where he could more easily make a difference.

In this column, we’ll explore these very questions: Do UX leaders need to acquire and wield power to ensure their organizations can produce game-changing design? If they don’t already have executive support, can they can collaborate their way to success? Read moreRead More>

By Colleen Roller

Published: January 5, 2011

“Since we do not possess an inherent ability to judge the value of something in isolation, we determine value by comparing and contrasting one thing to another.”

In my last column, I discussed how the number of options in a choice set affects decision making. In this column, I’ll talk about the implications of a choice set—that is, how the relationships between and among options affect people’s ability to decide.

Let’s begin by addressing a very important reality that carries significant impact on human beings’ ability to make decisions effectively: the concept of relativity, through which people assign value to something—anything—by comparing it to something else. Since we do not possess an inherent ability to judge the value of something in isolation, we determine value by comparing and contrasting one thing to another.

People do not make judgments and decisions in a vacuum. They make them against a backdrop of available options. And a choice set—what the options are and how they relate to each other—is an important aspect of the context in which they make decisions. Read moreRead More>

By Demetrius Madrigal and Bryan McClain

Published: January 5, 2011

“We must keep in mind the new technologies that are currently under development and could influence the fundamental ways in which people interact with the products we design and develop.”

We think it’s appropriate to kick off the new year with an examination of what the future holds for user experience and product development. To stay ahead of the curve when it comes to user research and UX design, we must keep in mind the new technologies that are currently under development and could influence the fundamental ways in which people interact with the products we design and develop. We’ve seen the advent of such disruptive technologies repeatedly throughout time, including automobiles, telecommunications—radio, telephones, and television—and the personal computer. In this column, we’ll describe several new technologies that have the potential to change how we interact with technology and the world. Some of these technologies may be many years away from maturity, but they are definitely going to have massive impact in years to come. Read moreRead More>

By Daniel Szuc and Josephine Wong

Published: January 5, 2011

“Our travels gave us the opportunity to meet many people face to face and get a better understanding of how UX professionals are thinking about and incorporating UX design into their project work.”

Over the last few months, as 2010 started winding down, we had the good fortune to travel around Asia to places that included Nanjing and Guangzhou, in China; Singapore, for UX Singapore; and Taipei, Taiwan. We ran workshops, gave presentations, met with members of the local UX communities, and of course, enjoyed the good Asian food that usually gets wrapped around our travel experiences in Asia. Trips we took to New Zealand and Australia—for UX Australia, where Dan gave his presentation “The Value of Asking Why—also gave us some exposure to UX design there. Read moreRead More>