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March 2012 Issue

By Michael Hawley

Published: March 20, 2012

“In addition to understanding academic principles, good designers have mastered the soft skills relating to design. They know how to channel their creative energy, they understand how to work with others, they are effective at presenting their work….”

If you are a UX leader or the lead designer on a team, it’s likely that part of your job is helping other designers improve their skills. Fortunately, there is a wide variety of resources on the concepts and methods of experience design, information architecture, user research, and related disciplines that you can leverage in educating other designers on the fundamentals of user-centered design. However, fundamentals are just the start. In addition to understanding academic principles, good designers have mastered the soft skills relating to design. They know how to channel their creative energy, they understand how to work with others, they are effective at presenting their work, and so on. As a UX Manager or Director, coaching designers on these softer skills can be a challenge.

Coaching designers can take many forms—formal check-ins or progress reports, structured design reviews or critique sessions, or simply informal conversations and collaborations. No matter what your style, consider the following guidelines when interacting with others as a coach. Read moreRead More>

By Mike Hughes

Published: March 20, 2012

“There is a big difference between someone’s thinking out loud about a task they are doing and someone’s voicing their opinion about a design. The first is very valuable; the second is so-so at best and dangerous at worst.”

A recent Alertbox by Jakob Nielsen, Thinking Aloud: The #1 Usability Tool,” reinforced the usefulness of the thinking-aloud protocol as a great usability testing approach. I couldn’t agree more. But there is a big difference between someone’s thinking out loud about a task they are doing and someone’s voicing their opinion about a design. The first is very valuable; the second is so-so at best and dangerous at worst.

Here is the kind of data you want to get from a user who is thinking aloud:

  • “I want to do…”
  • “I’m looking at the UI, and I think it does…”
  • ‘Hmm, that’s not what I expected; I thought it was going to…”
  • “That took longer than I expected.”

In short, you want to learn how a user sees her task and how she is making sense of a user interface in terms of that task. Read moreRead More>

By Paul Bryan

Published: March 20, 2012

“Does this role open up a new career path for UX professionals, or is this title just a way of making our work sound more important?”

The role of UX Strategist has been popping up lately in job descriptions, discussion forums, and professional profiles on the Web. Clients have assigned this role to me on a number of consulting projects. Some of my colleagues have taken UX Strategist as their new title. But what does a UX Strategist do that’s different from, say, a UX Architect or a UX Designer or a Director of User Experience? Does this role open up a new career path for UX professionals, or is this title just a way of making our work sound more important? Recently, I did some research, and I’d like to use this edition of my column UX Strategy to take a stab at defining the role of UX Strategist as it stands today. Read moreRead More>

By Janet M. Six

Published: March 20, 2012

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 soft skills that UX designers should cultivate.

In my monthly 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 your questions to:ask.uxmatters@uxmatters.com. Read moreRead More>

By Pabini Gabriel-Petit

Published: March 20, 2012

At long last, here’s Part III—the final part—of my IA Summit 2011 review. Between a very busy time at work and publishing and editing UXmatters, I’ve had very little time for writing over the last year. You’ll find the other two parts of my review here:

I hope reading this review might prompt you to consider attending IA Summit 2012, which will take place at the Hyatt Regency in New Orleans, Louisiana, March 21–25. I highly recommend that you do. Of the various annual conferences presented by UX professional organizations that I’ve attended, this conference is my favorite. Because—don’t let the name fool you—this really is a user experience conference. There’s great content on almost every aspect of user experience—including information architecture, of course—likely because of the diverse community of UX professionals who attend the Summit each year. And it’s a very friendly, fun community, too. Read moreRead More>

By Nathaniel Davis

Published: March 5, 2012

“[Creating] an IA maturity assessment tool … helps to quantify IA solutions in a more tangible and actionable manner.”

Methods for measuring the various aspects of a Web site’s information architecture are hard to find. In this month’s column, I’ll demonstrate how we can use the six tiers within the information architecture (IA) vertical of the DSIA Research Initiative’s UX Design Practice Verticals, shown in Figure 1, to create an IA maturity assessment tool. The benefit of this method is that it helps to quantify IA solutions in a more tangible and actionable manner. Read moreRead More>

By Adler Jorge

Published: March 5, 2012

Effectiveness depends enormously on the profiles of the individuals on a team and an organization’s understanding of user experience.

During the last few months, I have been asking colleagues how they do user experience at their companies. While all work in Hong Kong, they come from all over the world and include designers, businessmen, and engineers. I have heard a lot about different ways of working and resources being tight, but two other matters caught my attention—especially because people seem to underestimate their implications:

  • the impact of an organization’s mindset on product teams
  • the influence of each team member on the final product

The problems lie in the process, they told me. Read moreRead More>

By Frank Guo

Published: March 5, 2012

“User research is a powerful truth-finding tool that can help business leaders to make better business decisions, in addition to supporting UX professionals in making good product design decisions.”

User research is a powerful truth-finding tool that can help business leaders to make better business decisions, in addition to supporting UX professionals in making good product design decisions. In this article, I’ll look at user research best practices through the lens of driving business benefits.

If you’re a business leader, this article can serve as a quick guide on how you can leverage user research in supporting your organization’s goals. If you’re a product manager or UX designer, you’ll learn about some interesting ways of using user research to you develop better products. If you’re an experienced user researcher, I hope to give you some new ideas about connecting user research with business results. Read moreRead More>

By Demetrius Madrigal and Bryan McClain

Published: March 5, 2012

“Sometimes, even more important than what type of technology is being developed is what people are doing with that technology….”

With the arrival of the new year, we’ve been paying attention to some new trends that are coming to fruition. Many of them are technological trends, but some are interesting social trends. Research focuses on the intersection of human and technology. Sometimes, even more important than what type of technology is being developed is what people are doing with that technology and the implications that has for product development. We’re going to take a look at some of these social trends and explore what they mean for the technology industry as a whole. Read moreRead More>

By Riley Graham

Published: March 5, 2012

“By implementing responsive JavaScript, it’s possible to tell Web sites to adapt to whatever device a person is using to view a Web site.”

Mobile first has become a popular trend within the UX design and development communities. But, what does mobile first mean, exactly? I first encountered this concept at TechWeek, in Chicago, in the summer of 2011, when I attended a talk on mobile UX design by John Buda, who taught the audience how to write responsive behavior. I was stunned. By implementing responsive JavaScript, it’s possible to tell Web sites to adapt to whatever device a person is using to view a Web site. I had seen Web sites behave in this manner, but until that moment, I hadn’t understood that mobile first is both a strategy and a new way of writing code. I left the conference with some questions, including: What is mobile first? What is a mobile-first strategy? And, why is mobile first becoming increasingly popular? I’ve since come up with some answers to these questions that I’ll share with you in this article. Read moreRead More>