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August 2013 Issue

By Janet M. Six

Published: August 19, 2013

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 some concepts and practices that defy UX best practices and, thus, have negative consequences—concepts and practices that they wish would simply go away.

Every month in Ask UXmatters, our panel of UX experts answers our readers’ questions about a variety 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 Afshan Kirmani

Published: August 19, 2013

The behavioral principles that I describe in this article enable you to increase user engagement online and motivate personalization through social media.

The framework that Don Norman proposed in 2005 for analyzing products and services by the emotions that they evoke in users includes a product’s presentation—its attractiveness, behavior, and the image that it presents. We can assess a product design according to the different levels at which users process their responses to it: visceral, behavioral, and reflective. Visceral design refers to designing the user’s first impression of a product—the appearance the product presents to users. Behavioral design is about the experience that users have while using the product. And reflection is about users’ thoughts after using a product—the feelings that using the product induced, the image that it portrayed, its brand messaging, and the overall trust that the product gains or loses after people use it. It is important to understand these stages because this article focuses on users’ engagement with online products and services, describes how engagement enables conversions, and analyzes the affects of engagement on user behavior. Read moreRead More>

By Marnie Andrews and April L. de Vries

Published: August 19, 2013

“Neglecting to process and act on the information that your customer sessions reveal is likely to result in your customers’ feeling frustrated and wondering why they spent their valuable time providing their feedback—only for it to be ignored.”

In Part 1 of this three-part series, we described how to set up a continuous customer feedback program to obtain the qualitative data that your product team needs. Part 2 covered conducting customer feedback sessions. Now, in Part 3, we’ll discuss post-session activities, as well as the outcomes of conducting a continuous customer feedback program like ours at IBM.

Post-session activities are perhaps the most time-consuming and important aspect of running a successful customer feedback program. Our experience has proven that neglecting to process and act on the information that your customer sessions reveal is likely to result in your customers’ feeling frustrated and wondering why they spent their valuable time providing their feedback—only for it to be ignored. Therefore, it’s essential that you spend time processing customer feedback and correctly route it back to the development team and other stakeholders to enable the eventual resolution of your customers’ issues. Read moreRead More>

By Peter Hornsby

Published: August 19, 2013

“Although people working in user experience often come from a broad range of established professional backgrounds, user experience, as a discipline, often appears rather unsure of itself.”

Discussions about the use of language and, in particular, the question “What is user experience?” are surprisingly common themes on UX forums. I say surprisingly because, although people working in user experience often come from a broad range of established professional backgrounds, user experience, as a discipline, often appears rather unsure of itself. In this column, I’ll look at some of the common discussions about user experience and the use of language within the UX community. Read moreRead More>

By Katharina Glück

Published: August 19, 2013

“Users are becoming increasingly impatient with touch technology. If the device in front of them does not react to their input as they expect, they will quickly abandon it to find something else.”

Touch and multi-touch technologies are everywhere, with Apple and its i-devices leading the way. Legions of designers battle everyday to create user interfaces for POI (point of interest) and POS (point of sale) installations that are unique, provide stylish graphics, and still remain easy to use. At the same time, users are becoming increasingly impatient with touch technology. If the device in front of them does not react to their input as they expect, they will quickly abandon it to find something else. Thus, it is essential to create a user interface that is intuitive and easy to use—for anyone. At Ventuz, we have struggled with this same issue for years and have come up with some best practices for creating effective, engaging, interactive POI and POS installations. Read moreRead More>

By Traci Lepore

Published: August 5, 2013

“We deceive ourselves that being agile means you don’t need a vision.”

Is agile a dirty word in your company or among the members of  your UX team? Do you hear the term lean UX and groan? It’s okay—and not really surprising—if your answer is yes. Agile is hard, and we all know it. But since agile is likely to stick around for a while, I’m sure you’ve thought about how to make it easier.

However, the question shouldn’t be how to make it easy; rather, it should be about understanding why agile is so hard in the first place. That way, we can get at the root problems and maybe have some hope of turning what can be a frustrating experience into an amazing one.

By nature, designers are well-organized and linear people. Logical flow is something we can grasp easily. We work well within structure. We are perfectionists and want all the I’s dotted and the T’s crossed. We thrive on recognition and success. But being agile or lean goes against these tendencies and forces us to step into an uncomfortable zone. Read moreRead More>

By Evan Wiener

Published: August 5, 2013

“A debate between designers who prefer highly detailed and textured designs that emulate things in the physical world and those who favor more abstract, flat, and iconic designs has polarized the visual design community.”

A debate between designers who prefer highly detailed and textured designs that emulate things in the physical world and those who favor more abstract, flat, and iconic designs has polarized the visual design community. In the early days of the Macintosh computer, with only black-and-white, bitmapped pixels to work with, creative talent such as Susan Kare did great work within rigid hardware constraints. Her iconic abstractions of metaphors—for example, a trash can for a delete action and a floppy disk for saving a file—served as terrific storytelling devices, educating new users about a new method of interacting with computers.

Today’s touchscreen mobile devices have far greater graphics-rendering power than the original graphic user interfaces of Macs and PCs, and the multitouch screen user interface has now matured and become a widespread, commonly understood technology. The intent of the fully rendered details of skeuomorphic designs was to encourage an audience that was new to multitouch interfaces to tap, pinch, and zoom. However, as the mobile device market has become increasingly more competitive, manufacturers are looking to software as a way to differentiate their offerings, and UX and visual designers are publicly challenging one another’s positions on the value of each style along the spectrum from skeuomorphic to flat design. This debate reminds me of Scott McCloud’s evaluation of a visual vocabulary of cartoon illustration, ranging from realism to abstraction. Read moreRead More>

By Christopher Grant Ward

Published: August 5, 2013

“Most technology companies and digital agencies don’t consider UX design roles to be part of strategic decision making. UX designers usually get hired to execute strategy decisions that others have already made.”

User experience concerns much more than the design of elegant, usable products. By UX design, I’m referring to a broad range of skills, including creating personas, wireframes, specifications, information architectures, interaction flows, high-resolution comps, and prototypes; conducting user research, doing usability studies, and organizing content. All of this work—and much more—sits within the fuzzy boundaries of UX design. We do this work with the intent of streamlining, refining, and optimizing a particular user experience.

UX design is typically the kind of work for which UX professionals get hired. This work is about execution. It is contingent upon corporate goals, a set product roadmap, a list of required features, and previously defined user goals. The problem is, decisions about these things typically get made by corporate leaders and Product Managers, usually without a UX professional present. This happens because most technology companies and digital agencies don’t consider UX design roles to be part of strategic decision making. UX designers usually get hired to execute strategy decisions that others have already made. Read moreRead More>

By James Coston

Published: August 5, 2013

“In this series, I’ll describe the application of some of the scientific techniques that user experience and market research have adopted, including eyetracking, EEG, and fMRI.”

In this series, I’ll describe the application of some of the scientific techniques that user experience and market research have adopted, including eyetracking, EEG, and fMRI. Based on my experience with these techniques, I’ll debunk some myths surrounding their use. This series will help you to understand

  • their technical limitations
  • fundamental limitations attending their use within the UX industry
  • implications of introducing a new scientific method to our industry

I want to ask you to do two things while reading these articles. The first is to maintain an open mind. The second is to take a step back and really think about what happens when a sensitive and specialized scientific tool becomes commoditized. Read moreRead More>

By Jeffrey Greger

Published: August 5, 2013

Steve Portigal, a fixture on the design research scene and founder of Portigal Consulting, has written a new book titled Interviewing Users. His book compiles the insights he has gained from decades of conducting ethnographic research into a highly accessible, informative, and thought-provoking guide. I recently had the pleasure of talking with Steve about his book.

Jeff: Thank you for sitting down with me to talk about your book. You’ve been presenting some of the ideas in Interviewing Users at conferences and on your blog for some time now. What was your process for coalescing and curating all of that content into a book?

Steve: It was a pretty interesting process. As you say, writing this book was a chance for me to finally put together all of these things that I had been mulling over, teaching, and writing about for such a long time. Maybe I’d been telling a story in workshops for a while, but I’d never really written it down in full. There were also some things that I’d been glossing over—like “I can’t really explain how this works, it just does.” So, what was exciting in the writing process was to reflect on those thoughts and realize that I could flesh some of these pieces out, now that I was removed from the immediate mode of presenting. Read moreRead More>