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June 2011 Issue

By Mike Hughes

Published: June 24, 2011

“Usability testing is a form of user research, in so far as it allows you to make conclusions about a large population based on observations of a small sample of that population.”

Usability testing is a form of user research, in so far as it allows you to make conclusions about a large population based on observations of a small sample of that population. Essentially, we try to assess our products’ suitability for our marketplace—as well as its usability for the population of interest—by testing it with a group of typical users. Usability testing often involves both quantitative and qualitative data—either of which can be subject to misunderstandings. This column discusses principles of rigorous research as they apply to usability testing, with an emphasis on reliability and dependability. Read moreRead More>

By Janet M. Six

Published: June 24, 2011

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 the challenges of managing a globally distributed UX team.

Every month in my column Ask UXmatters, our panel of UX experts answers 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, please send us your question at: ask.uxmatters@uxmatters.com. Read moreRead More>

By Louis Rosenfeld

Published: June 24, 2011

This is a sample chapter from Lou Rosenfeld’s forthcoming book, Search Analytics for Your Site: Conversations with Your Customers. ©2011 Rosenfeld Media.

Chapter 8: Practical Tips for Improving Search

I’ll show you some specific benefits that come directly from site search analytics, starting with improving your site’s search system. Read moreRead More>

By Lauren Shupp and Davis Neable

Published: June 24, 2011

“This phenomenally challenging, yet productive UX Design Boot Camp exercise is the norm for new members joining our design team.”

The stakes were high and the timelines short; we had just two weeks to prepare before going in front of the judges. As sweat beaded on our brows, our mentors continually encouraged us: “You can do it! Just a few more!” Sounds like your typical boot camp, right? Not quite. This time, those mentors were designers, and they asked us to iterate on our design again and again before pitching it to a panel of executives. This phenomenally challenging, yet productive UX Design Boot Camp exercise is the norm for new members joining our design team. Like the most avid participants in a reality TV show, we not only survived, but thrived throughout our brief project. Because it was such a positive exercise, we just had to share our experience with the UX community!

Our objective during the UX Design Boot Camp was to design a user interface for a new product concept in only two weeks. Four new team members paired up to form two teams that would work on separate design projects. Deliberately vague, the description of the design problem for each pair comprised fewer than five sentences. Read moreRead More>

By Peter Hornsby

Published: June 24, 2011

“I’ve been amazed at how often those outside the discipline of design assume that what designers do is decoration. Good design is problem solving.”—Jeffery Veen

“I really get a feel for what I’m designing only when I can start to pull my ideas together and see how they work. Prototyping lets me visualize how something will work and identify problems and opportunities early in the design process.”

I’m a big fan of prototyping. While it’s always good to have a defined set of requirements, I really get a feel for what I’m designing only when I can start to pull my ideas together and see how they work. Prototyping lets me visualize how something will work and identify problems and opportunities early in the design process. More important, it lets clients see how a design is progressing early in the process, enabling them to give feedback, and lets us test the design with users. And, as with any aspect of software development, the earlier in a development cycle you can make any necessary changes, the less it costs to implement them.

I used to use Visio or pencil-and-paper sketches to create my designs. While these still have their place—particularly for ad hoc explorations of design ideas—I’m now an Axure convert. In this review, I’ll explore what Axure can do and how it can contribute to an effective UX design process. I should add one caveat: I’ve used Axure primarily to prototype Web sites rather than applications, so that will be my focus in this review. Read moreRead More>

By Jim Ross

Published: June 7, 2011

“Nowadays, there are multiple techniques and tools, both online and offline, for generative and evaluative user research for information architecture (IA), which provide greater insights on organizing and labeling information.”

In the old days, card sorting was simple. We used index cards, Post-it notes, spreadsheets, and buggy software—USort and EZCalc—to analyze the results, and we liked it! But this isn’t another article about how to do card sorting. Nowadays, there are multiple techniques and tools, both online and offline, for generative and evaluative user research for information architecture (IA), which provide greater insights on organizing and labeling information.

In this column, I’ll summarize and compare the latest generative and evaluative methods for IA user research. The methods I’ll examine include open card sorting, Modified-Delphi card sorting, closed card sorting, reverse card sorting, card-based classification evaluation, tree testing, and testing information architecture with low-fidelity prototypes. I’ll cover the advantages and disadvantages to consider when choosing between these methods, when it makes sense to use each method, and describe an ideal combination of these methods. Read moreRead More>

By Demetrius Madrigal and Bryan McClain

Published: June 7, 2011

“The main impetus for using a lab with a one-way mirror is being able to invite designers, investors, and engineers to observe how participants react to products and services.”

Since the early 1970s, professions such as user experience, market research, advertising, and law enforcement have been using rooms that have one-way mirrors—like the one shown in Figure 1—to enable direct observation of research participants—and suspects. For both user experience and market research, the main impetus for using a lab with a one-way mirror is being able to invite designers, investors, and engineers to observe how participants react to products and services. We’ve worked with quite a few clients who felt that this is the only way to do user research. But, in reality, observing participants through a one-way mirror is just one of many approaches to research and, like all approaches, has its advantages and disadvantages. In this column, we’ll outline the challenges of using labs with one-way mirrors, share user feedback on such labs, and offer effective alternatives from current practice. Read moreRead More>

By Colleen Roller

Published: June 7, 2011

“People must often make important decisions that involve the ability to interpret and act on numeric data.”

People must often make important decisions that involve the ability to interpret and act on numeric data. The financial services and healthcare industries, for example, commonly provide consumers with significant amounts of numeric information, so they can make informed decisions regarding their finances and health.

There are a variety of ways in which we can present numeric data to consumers—for example, as frequencies, percentages, decimals, or fractions. Does it matter how we display numeric data? Do number formats affect decision outcomes or the ways in which people interpret or use numeric data? These questions are worth considering, especially because so many critical decisions—from those involving personal finances to those about medical treatments that could have serious, life-impacting consequences—depend on people’s ability to use numeric data to make appropriate decisions.

In this column, I want to take a look at several research studies that have revealed how what kind of data we display and how we display that data influences people’s judgments and decisions. These research findings can help us understand how to better present and format numeric data to help consumers make informed decisions. Read moreRead More>

By Mike Myles and Karen Smith

Published: June 7, 2011

“Even on only moderately complex projects, it is often difficult to get a clear vision of the overall project status at any given point.”

Even on only moderately complex projects, it is often difficult to

  • get a clear vision of the overall project status at any given point
  • know where to best allocate limited resources
  • be sure you—as a team member—are working on what you should be

While this is difficult enough with small, collocated teams, things becomes much harder if team members are distributed across time zones. In this article, we’ll discuss how to use a Knowledge / Importance Matrix (K/I Matrix) that is integrated into a collaborative wiki environment to address these issues.

What Is a Knowledge / Importance Matrix?

A K/I Matrix is a two-dimensional graph with Knowledge on the X axis and Importance on the Y axis. Each dimension of the graph ranges from 0% to 100%. Read moreRead More>

By Catalina Naranjo-Bock

Published: June 7, 2011

“Your use of text should be moderate unless you are designing specific areas of an application that need to accommodate large amounts of text … for children who have experience reading.”

In this installment of my column, I’ll take a look at one of the most important visual design elements for graphic user interfaces: typography. I’ll concentrate on general guidelines for the effective use of typography in the design of applications for children between 3 and 10 years of age. What considerations do we need to take into account when working with digital typography when children are its primary interpreters?

Using Typography in User Interface Design for Children

It is essential to note that tolerance toward reading and understanding text varies greatly, depending on the age of children and whether they are pre-readers, beginning readers, or readers with middling skills. In most cases, your use of text should be moderate unless you are designing specific areas of an application that need to accommodate large amounts of text—for example, on community pages, forums, Help pages, or game discussion boards—for children who have experience reading. Read moreRead More>