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December 2013 Issue

By Paul Bryan

Published: December 23, 2013

“Recently, … it seems that user experience is increasingly playing a role in formulating designs that diametrically oppose users’ wants and needs for the sake of generating greater profits.”

The field of user experience has, from its inception, championed the notion that meeting users’ needs is the path to success for digital products. Recently, however, it seems that user experience is increasingly playing a role in formulating designs that diametrically oppose users’ wants and needs for the sake of generating greater profits.

The Growth of User Experience

By the early 1990s, the term user friendly was in common use for describing software that was easy to use. Throughout the ’90s, as more companies recognized that useful, easy-to-use Web sites led to fewer customer-service issues and greater profits, the topic of usability gained prominence. Around the year 2000, the field of user experience blossomed as more and more designers recognized that the design of digital products should focus on users’ complete experience with a product rather than paying attention only to ease of use. At each new step in this progression, meeting the needs of users was the primary goal. Over the past few years, user experience has enjoyed explosive growth, as evidenced by UX-focused LinkedIn groups with more than 60,000 members and international conferences like UXPA and UX STRAT springing up to meet UX professionals’ growing need for professional development. Read moreRead More>

By Janet M. Six

Published: December 23, 2013

Send your questions to Ask UXmatters and get answers from some of the top professionals in user experience.

In this edition of Ask UXmatters, our experts discuss the best ways of prioritizing a list of products and features.

In my monthly column Ask UXmatters, our panel of UX experts provides 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, please send your questions to: ask.uxmatters@uxmatters.com. Read moreRead More>

By Kevin Jeong

Published: December 23, 2013

“We haven’t yet gone far enough in bridging the gap between users’ social behavior and product design. The next step is to infuse personality into the products that we create.”

I love my [blank]. My [blank] is my workout buddy. I think my [blank] hates me. My [blank] is like a member of the family!

We hear statements like these all the time. Of course, we all know people who we love or hate. People who are companions that we’ve grown close to. But, what if you replaced the blanks with product names instead? Surprisingly, they sound just as credible. People are social beings. And we treat the objects in our lives as social actors. Whether products are physical objects, software, company services, or combination of all three, we define them not just by their features, but by our very interactions with them.

UX design has now moved beyond its traditional goals of usability and efficiency. We now design for desirability, seductiveness, and persuasion. Indeed, there are numerous books and articles on how to design for emotional response, each promising to enrich the product experience. This is a great direction for UX design to take, but we haven’t yet gone far enough in bridging the gap between users’ social behavior and product design. The next step is to infuse personality into the products that we create. Designing personality can lead to more satisfying and meaningful relationships with users. Read moreRead More>

By Peter Hornsby

Published: December 23, 2013

Inspired by George Wyle and Eddie Pola’s song “It’s the Most Wonderful Time of the Year”

It’s the most frustrating time of the year
With our focus on scaling
And everyone telling “There’s nothing to fear;
Our site must look fine on all sorts of gear.”

It’s the most frustrating time of them all
The users are clueless, the stakeholders useless
Our budget is small
It’s the most frustrating time of them all. Read moreRead More>

By Nicholas Ward

Published: December 23, 2013

“Because legal services involve both interactions and goal-directed behavior, one might expect the legal system to have been designed on principles of usability. Instead, the products of the legal system inflict legalese on people.”

People engage with our legal system in the US to achieve some goal—usually one relating to some form of risk mitigation or conflict resolution. Because legal services involve both interactions and goal-directed behavior, one might expect the legal system to have been designed on principles of usability. Instead, the products of the legal system inflict legalese on people. Merriam-Webster.com defines legalese as the “the specialized language of the legal profession.” [1] Whatever the design principles behind this specialized language, they are definitely not principles of usability. Why are so many products of our legal system unusable?

What Is Usability?

Let’s begin this discussion by looking at the ISO 9241 standard, which defines usability as “the extent to which a product can be used by specified users to achieve specified goals with effectiveness, efficiency, and satisfaction, in a specified context of use.” Poor usability in product and system design can lead to litigation. So this discussion focuses on why the legal system has not embraced the tenets of usability in the design of its products. Read moreRead More>

By Lis Hubert and Paul McAleer

Published: December 9, 2013

“Typically, each organization implements agile in their own image, and this has caused a feeling of unease for everyone involved in agile projects.”

The last time you heard from us, in Part 2 of this series, we expanded on the method of mapping business value to User Experience that Lis described in Part 1 and also described how we put that method to work in a real-life workshop. Now, in this third part of our series, we’ll describe the aftermath of that workshop. Our goal is to disclose the findings from our survey and the observations and takeaways from our workshop, as well as some highlights of what we learned about how we, as UX professionals, should consider moving forward in attempting to sell our value to our business and executive partners.

The Workshop

During our workshop’s discussion period, a participant made one very salient statement: “I know that, when I have a member of the UX team on a project, it runs better. The output is better. But, I can’t tell you why.” This kicked off just one of several spirited discussions, which focused on process, value, and communication.

Since the organization for which we conducted the workshop had transitioned its entire development organization to agile, many participants had particular questions about how to incorporate the UX activities we had outlined in our charts into their agile development process. User Experience and Creative Services had previously used an agency waterfall model, and while User Experience was transitioning to agile, Creative Services was not—nor did they have dedicated team members. Read moreRead More>

By Yury Vetrov

Published: December 9, 2013

“A team first needs to validate that they're solving the right problem for the right audience, in the right market. Only after that should they polish their product.”

In a perfect world, companies would take a systematic approach to product design from their very first days. But, in reality, early product design efforts can be sporadic for various reasons—for instance, because a product must launch as soon as possible, there’s not enough money at the start, the user base must grow at the fastest rate possible, or the product idea changes constantly in trying to discover an effective business model. Why is this?

Product-growth and market-penetration rates are critical in a company’s early days. In fact, they’re more important than perfect technical solutions or high-quality designs. This is true especially for lean startups that employ the minimum viable product (MVP) concept. A team first needs to validate that they're solving the right problem for the right audience, in the right market. Only after that should they polish their product. At that point, a company understands that good design is important to the product’s success. Read moreRead More>

By Ritch Macefield

Published: December 9, 2013

“For … internally facing systems, we can identify most individual users and have considerable opportunities to influence their skills and attitudes about using the system.”

Much UX design thinking today centers on public, customer-facing, or externally facing systems such as B2C and B2B ecommerce sites and social-media sites. An intrinsic feature of such systems that strongly affects our UX design and related processes is that the users of these system are largely anonymous to us. Even with good user research and persona development, we can’t know in advance who most individual site users will be or how many users there will be; and we have little influence over the skills and attitudes that they possess when they first arrive at our new site.

This contrasts with the large body of information systems (IS) that are designed for use within an organization—such as accounting or CRM systems. For such internally facing systems, we can identify most individual users and have considerable opportunities to influence their skills and attitudes about using the system Read moreRead More>

By Cheryl Carroll

Published: December 9, 2013

“By carefully planning and executing usability studies…, we were able to provide the supportive data that was necessary to defend our proposed designs to stakeholders and implement a redesigned, usable knowledge management system.”

Several years ago, I left a content-management position with a healthcare organization where I had been heavily involved in an intranet platform migration. This migration experience, coupled with my background in technical writing, usability, and information architecture, became important to me in my new job as a UX information architect on Deloitte’s Global Knowledge Services (GKS) portal team. As a member of this team, it was my responsibility to plan and conduct usability studies in helping the team to redesign the knowledge management system (KMS). By carefully planning and executing usability studies, evaluating the data that we extracted from the studies, and incorporating user feedback, we were able to provide the supportive data that was necessary to defend our proposed designs to stakeholders and implement a redesigned, usable knowledge management system. Read moreRead More>

By Martin Stellar

Published: December 9, 2013

“If there’s one thing that makes a copywriter great, it’s the ability to really get into the minds of other people.”

Even though a UX expert and a copywriter are two very different kinds of professionals, we have one thing in common: we both work with people. Specifically, we influence people’s minds. It’s our job to influence users, readers, or subscribers in such a way that they complete a process that we’ve designed.

Create a Better User Experience by Thinking Like a Copywriter

If there’s one thing that makes a copywriter great, it’s the ability to really get into the minds of other people. My ability to do this lets me get site visitors to do essentially what I want them to do. Fill out a form? No problem. Buy a product? I can make that happen. Refer friends or share on social media? Easy.

Here are five copywriting tips that you can quickly put into practice to make your Web site’s UX design much more effective. Read moreRead More>