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August 2012 Issue

By Peter Hornsby

Published: August 20, 2012

“Let’s take a look at some recent technology developments that promise to change the landscape of user experience….”

In this column, let’s take a look at some recent technology developments that promise to change the landscape of user experience in the months and years to come:

  • Leap
  • ChronoZoom
  • AffectAura
  • Phylo

Leap

While, by now, most people have used some type of wireless, gesture-based technology—for example, the Wii or Kinect—the Leap focuses on replacing the mouse and keyboard for all interactions with a computer rather than being a gaming technology per se. An iPod-sized box that tracks a user’s movements down to 1/100th of a millimeter, within a volume of 8 cubic feet of space, the Leap enables a user’s individual hand and finger movements to control interactions with a screen. Microsoft claims that the Leap is much more accurate than any other input device on the market—although the product site is a little vague, claiming it is both 100x and 200x more accurate. While it sounds like the Leap would track every hand tremor—with the possible danger of a user’s being punished for them—hands-on reviews by Wired and Engadget have been positive. Read moreRead More>

By Tomer Sharon

Published: August 20, 2012

“One of the worst things that can happen to a UX researcher is when the people who have asked for a study regret, reject, or refute key components of the study….”

One of the worst things that can happen to a UX researcher is when the people who have asked for a study regret, reject, or refute key components of the study—either when it is currently in progress or after you’ve completed the study. To avoid this frustrating situation, people who practice UX research must set the right expectations with stakeholders who request a study or—if it was you who suggested doing a study—say they want one. I cannot stress enough the importance of starting off a study on the right foot. The quality with which a study begins has a huge impact on its outcome. In this article, I’ll provide guidance about what questions to ask your stakeholders prior to any UX research activity. The answers to these questions can help you create a study proposal and set stakeholder expectations.

Why Interview Stakeholders?

As soon as your immediate stakeholders express interest in conducting a study, schedule a 30-minute meeting with them. These stakeholders may be, for example, a product manager and lead software developer or a designer and marketer. You should interview your stakeholders for the following reasons: Read moreRead More>

By Janet M. Six

Published: August 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 how to think globally, with respect to user experience.

Each month in Ask UXmatters, our panel of UX experts answers our readers’ questions about 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 Baruch Sachs

Published: August 20, 2012

“You cannot successfully sell UX if you are unsuccessful in getting along with others at work. Especially when those others are UX people.”

Common wisdom dictates that our interpersonal relationships are interconnected with our overall success and happiness in life. Since we’re spending more and more of our lives working, thinking about work, worrying about something we have to do for work, and in general, staying connected to work, it makes sense to try to make our interpersonal relationships at work positive ones, so we can continue to be happy in life.

You cannot successfully sell UX if you are unsuccessful in getting along with others at work. Especially when those others are UX people. This two-part column focuses on this aspect of selling UX: how you can solve workplace conflicts and build stronger workplace relationships to enable you to sell UX more effectively. Read moreRead More>

By Laura Keller

Published: August 20, 2012

“Regardless of the type of dining experience, deliberate service transparency is critical to fulfilling customers’ service expectations.”

Dining out at any type of eating establishment represents a prototypical service experience: an often elaborate coordination of numerous service employees—including host staff, wait staff, kitchen staff, and cleaning staff— ensures customers enjoy their meal and are able to pay for it successfully. One reason dining out serves well as a prototypical service experience is that I know of no one who cannot tell me stories about both good and bad dining experiences, regardless of the quality of the food a restaurant or other establishment served. Such stories may begin with comments like these: “We waited forever.” “They messed up our order three times.” “The service was excellent, and they were so accommodating.”

Notice that I am not necessarily referring to these services as restaurant experiences. Rather I am referring to them as dining-out experiences, which broadens the service design possibilities tremendously. Dining out might include picking up food from a fast-food restaurant or a food truck or eating at a pub or a high-end restaurant. Read moreRead More>

By Jim Ross

Published: August 6, 2012

“There’s nothing more impactful than seeing people perform their tasks and encounter problems firsthand. Observation promotes empathy for users and the problems they face.”

It’s usually a great idea to invite others to observe user research. There’s nothing more impactful than seeing people perform their tasks and encounter problems firsthand. Observation promotes empathy for users and the problems they face. For those who already believe in the value of user research, observation can strengthen their commitment to it. And actually observing user research can convert nonbelievers. On the practical side, observation saves time. A team that has observed your user research sessions can quickly discuss findings, formulate conclusions, and decide on what changes to make based on their direct observation of the sessions.

However, if you don’t manage observers properly, they can have a negative impact on your research. For example, halfway through a recent usability testing session, the project manager and clients interrupted the session three separate times by coming into the lab to inform me that the people listening in to the session through a speakerphone could no longer hear the session. These interruptions completely disrupted the session and made the participant and myself very uncomfortable. Evidently, my client had decided that the needs of the observers were more important than the research itself. Afterward, I sarcastically tweeted that there are only four reasons to disrupt a user research session: a fire, someone died, aliens have landed, or a zombie apocalypse. Someone later suggested adding, “Lava is coming,” which I think makes sense. Read moreRead More>

By Nathaniel Davis

Published: August 6, 2012

“Business clients don’t pay practitioners to practice information architecture; they pay professionals to produce IA work products that help them to meet their business objectives.”

In my previous columns, I’ve framed my discussions around the practice of information architecture. To recap, the DSIA Research Initiative—of which I am the curator—defines the practice of information architecture as “the effort of organizing and relating information in a way that simplifies how people navigate and use content on the Web.” While the practice of information architecture can surely extend beyond the Web and its content, this IA practice definition eschews theoretical language to resonate with businesses looking for concrete Web solutions and practitioners who want to make a living off something tangible.

In the end, business clients don’t pay practitioners to practice information architecture; they pay professionals to produce IA work products that help them to meet their business objectives. So, of the many professional interests that come together to create a digital experience, what work products make the practice of information architecture unique? Read moreRead More>

By Frank Guo

Published: August 6, 2012

“User experience is much more than just ease of use. In fact, when it comes to business impact, … usability is of less importance than the other three elements….”

In Part I of this series, I provided an overview of the four elements of user experience: usability, desirability, adoptability, and value. By decomposing user experience into these four elements, we can see that user experience is much more than just ease of use. In fact, when it comes to business impact, I would argue that usability is of less importance than the other three elements—even though it is the most frequently mentioned aspect of user experience. The reason? That’s the topic of this column.

We can break down how users interact with a product into two stages. At the first stage, a user has yet to use the product, but is considering whether to use it. If the user finds it appealing, he may start using it. Getting people to start using a product has greater business impact, but designers often expend too little effort at this stage to fully realize the potential business impact. At the second stage, the user is actually using the product, and that is when usability plays a critical role. Let’s look at a few examples to illustrate these two stages. Read moreRead More>

By Ryan Bell

Published: August 6, 2012

“Are tablets such as the iPad … good tools for content creation, or are they generally limited to content consumption?”

Since Apple introduced the iPad in early 2010, an Internet debate has been simmering that goes something like this: One side scoffs at the iPad and tablets in general as high-end toys that push users to spend their time doing little more than passively surfing the Web, checking Facebook or email, and watching YouTube videos. The other side claims that such devices are just as good as traditional personal computers (PCs)—even better for creative tasks—and that there is nothing to prevent them from writing the next great novel—or its equivalent in any given field—on their iPad.

Who is right? Are tablets such as the iPad—with the particular vision of tablet computing it has popularized so quickly—good tools for content creation, or are they generally limited to content consumption? Read moreRead More>

By Caroline Jarrett

Published: August 6, 2012

“Does your signature look like one ‘drawn by an unusually talented chicken’?”

Does your signature look like one “drawn by an unusually talented chicken”?

That’s how John Hargrave described his signature, and he started to worry about it—particularly when thinking about using his credit card:

“In my lifetime, I have made nearly 15,000 credit card transactions. I purchase almost everything on plastic. What bugs me about credit card transactions is the signing. Who checks the signature? Nobody checks the signature.” Read moreRead More>