September 10, 2018 Edition

Signon, Signoff, and Registration

Mobile Matters

Designing for every screen

A column by Steven Hoober
September 10, 2018

The first experience people have with your mobile app is the most critical. If they cannot get it working right away, they won’t finish setting it up and won’t come back.

As UX professionals, we often talk about problems with app tours, pound our fists and say “no splash screens,” or discuss the overall onboarding experience. However, there’s still far too little information available about even the basics of designing for security.

Some of the most visible aspects of app security—and those that are most badly done—are registration and sign-on screens. So, in this column, I am going to discuss how to create registration, sign-on, and other related security functions of mobile apps. Read More

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UX Research: Using Sketches in Asking Questions


Insights from UX research

A column by Michael Morgan
September 10, 2018

Young children communicate well visually. When they want to articulate something for which they simply don’t have words, they point to objects in their environment. When they want more food and their plate is empty, they point to their empty plate or slam their plate down onto the table to signal hunger. They are prompting their parents to visualize what they are asking for. Their parents see the empty plate and know they’ve just finished eating their food. Their child must be asking for more food.

Visuals are effective ways in which to communicate. Sometimes sketching is the fastest way to convey a need or ask a question. According to education professor John Hattie and cognitive psychologist Gregory Yates, people are not all just better visual learners or auditory learners. Lab studies show that people learn best when the stimuli they receive are from different types of media. Our brains are wired to integrate information in different modalities. When we want people to understand something that we are explaining to them, we can reinforce our meaning not just through words, but also through pictures and sounds. Read More

The Role of Observation in User Research

Practical Usability

Moving toward a more usable world

A column by Jim Ross
September 10, 2018

User research consists of two core activities: observing and interviewing. Since we’re most interested in people’s behavior, observing is the most important of these activities because it provides the most accurate information about people, their tasks, and their needs.

While interviewing is also very important, the information people provide during interviews isn’t always accurate or reliable. Often, research participants don’t know why they do things, what they really need, what they might do in the future, or how a design could be improved. To really understand what people do, you can’t just ask them, you have to observe them.

But exactly what is observation, and what does it entail? Though we all know what the word observation means and everyone knows how to look and listen, there is more to it than just pointing your eyes in a particular direction, listening, and taking notes. By doing a little research, I found many books and articles about interviewing, but surprisingly few about how to observe research participants. So, in this column, I’ll first explore what observation is and the different types of observation methods, then focus on one particularly useful, yet underused UX research method: naturalistic observation. Read More

Case Study: Collaborative Engineering with Lean UX

September 10, 2018

The adoption of iterative product development has required teams to make time-boxed decisions, iterate quickly, and pivot as necessary. At Rockwell Automation, where I work, we transitioned some of our product-development projects to SAFe (Scaled Agile Framework) agile development about three years ago, and we’re continually trying to improve the efficiency and quality of design and engineering across teams. Within the context of our adoption of agile, we’ve piloted a collaborative approach to UX design.

Lean UX

Rockwell’s next-generation products leverage common user-interface (UI) components across products. However, some level of design revision is necessary for each feature that ships. So User Experience supports product teams from an early, evaluation stage. Read More

Case Study: Adapting a Software-Development Technique for Usability Testing

September 10, 2018

As UX researchers, we have a great variety of tools and methods that are available to us. However, at times, a project’s scope, timeline, and budget limit our choices. Therefore, we may need to get creative and come up with a new method that both fits the business criteria and helps us discover usability issues.

In this article, I’ll describe how I combined a software-development technique—pair programming—with usability testing on a recent, exciting project at a smart-lighting company for which I was the usability engineer. The project had a very tight deadline. One of my tasks was to test the user experience of a mobile app called Casambi, a remote-control app for smart lighting, which is shown in Figure 1. Read More

August 20, 2018 Edition

Design Thinking and Digital Intent, Part 2

Selling UX

A unique perspective on service UX

A column by Baruch Sachs
August 20, 2018

As I discussed in Part 1 of this series, companies are focusing on design thinking and digital transformation these days, trying to come up with better solutions to the same old problems that still exist in business today. I also talked about the term digital intent. While this not my own term, I have applied it in a different way to describe the outcomes of design thinking.

The popular business term digital transformation describes the journey companies are undertaking today as they integrate digital technologies into every aspect of their business. Digital transformation considers people, processes, organizational culture; and the how, what, and why of how customers engage with a business. While every major company is currently engaged in digital transformation, often undertaking multiyear transformation programs, their progress and digital maturity vary greatly as they grapple with legacy processes, technologies, and culture. As a result, many are still struggling to deliver tangible business outcomes. Read More

The Ebbs and Flows of UX Teams in Large Organizations

August 20, 2018

When something’s level regularly becomes higher, then lower in any particular situation, it has an ebb and flow. There are multiple examples of such ebbs and flows in life. I remember, when growing up, my sister had a poster on her wall of a kitten hanging from a tree branch with these printed words: “Hang in there, baby,” shown in Figure 1. This metaphor has appeared in the arts many times: Frank Sinatra performed a song called “Ebb Tide,” the first episode of Season 2 of The Wire was titled “Ebb Tide,” and Ken Griffen’s “Ebb Tide” provided background music for Season 5 of Mad Men. In business, a company’s stock price reflects the daily ebb and flow of the company’s business performance. Read More

Book Review: Design Leadership

August 20, 2018

Design LeadershipAs the profession of User Experience matures and becomes more enmeshed in organizational strategy, we see a greater need for UX professionals to develop soft skills. It is this realization that led Paul Sherman, my colleague at Kent State, to give his presentation “The Unicorn Is Dead” at several conferences and for our Kent State UXD program to explore ways to incorporate leadership skills into our curriculum. Leadership is a learned skill that we need to apply at all levels of an organization—not just at the top.

One of the books I reviewed during this exploration was Design Leadership: How Top Design Leaders Build and Grow Successful Organizations, by Richard Banfield. Read More

Book Excerpt: Meeting Design

August 20, 2018

This is a sample chapter from Kevin M. Hoffman’s new book Meeting Design: For Managers, Makers, and Everyone. 2018, Two Waves, an imprint of Rosenfeld Media.

Chapter 5: Facilitation Strategy and Style

Cover: Meeting DesignFacilitation Styles

Facilitation is a balancing act. It requires demonstrating empathy for a group’s interests and capabilities while simultaneously keeping them away from tempting, but unproductive lines of discussion. The effort and focus required to maintain that balance varies based on what kind of person you are and what kind of topic or group you’re facilitating. These three spectrums—scripted to improvisational, drawing to speaking, and space making to space filling—are designed to help you get a better sense of your own, or anyone’s, facilitation style. They will also help to assess when a style supports a meeting or when it needs something different. Read More

Integrating Documentation with an Existing User Experience

August 20, 2018

Is it possible to integrate documentation into an existing user experience? Yes, this is certainly possible. I would even go so far as to state that creating such an integrated user experience is a must for every vendor trying to create greater customer loyalty.

I am not referring to the kind of loyalty that results from loyalty schemes that give a customer a sense of belonging—for example, when checking into a hotel where the customer stays frequently. Although such schemes undoubtedly do add to the customer’s satisfaction when using a product or service. I’m really thinking of something much more basic—something that seems to be terra incognita for most companies. Read More