August 12, 2019 Edition

Prioritizing Design Critique, Part 2

Enterprise UX

Designing experiences for people at work

A column by Jonathan Walter
August 12, 2019

In Part 1 of this two-part series, I described the importance of prioritizing design critique. As UX designers, we often receive little support for cultivating our craft and the quality of our design deliverables, especially in enterprise environments where User Experience is often underfunded and poorly understood. If we, as UX designers, do not prioritize design critique, nobody else will.

I also explained the importance of having a shared understanding of what design critique means because people often confuse it with doing design reviews. I presented some ground rules for design-critique activities—similar to those my teammates and I at Rockwell Automation have instituted. Providing such guidance can help lower any barriers that would hinder your ability to conduct these activities. Further, I described a process you can follow when conducting design critique, because it is often best to assign tangible actions to rules and heuristics so people see how to carry out related activities. Finally, I presented some ideas for building accountability into the design-critique process, acknowledging that even the best rules and procedures won’t work unless people are committed to executing them. Read More

Keeping Your Clients Happy When Doing Agile Development

August 12, 2019

If you use—or want to start using—an agile-development process, you probably already know its benefits, but you might not be as aware of one of its main drawbacks. Even though 46% of US organizations and 85% internationally report that they’ve used an agile approach within the past year, communicating your agile process to clients remains a challenge.

Specifically, the problem is bridging the gap between clients’ expectations of the process and the way agile really works. But overcoming this difficulty is well worth the effort if you wind up with a first-rate product and a fully satisfied client.

Of course, some clients are already quite familiar with how agile works. However, for those who aren’t—and whose previous experience was with waterfall product-development approaches—explaining the process and merits of agile can be tough. Sure, your clients might know some agile buzzwords, be familiar with some of the tools, or know the importance of meetings to the agile process. However, it’s unlikely that they understand how agile actually works in practice. Read More

Delivering Innovation

Selling UX

A unique perspective on service UX

A column by Baruch Sachs
August 12, 2019

Let’s be really honest with ourselves. We are good, sometimes even great, at coming up with innovative ideas and really cool features and functions. However, only occasionally, despite our best efforts, are we actually able to think about the experience first—let alone create an innovative culture that places human beings’ needs at the same level as business needs.

Moreover, we really suck at delivering innovation. Whether you are a UX designer, marketer, product manager, business leader, or technical architect, chances are you’ve experienced that amazing rush at the start of a project when everyone is bright eyed and bushy tailed because you’re super excited about designing with people who might actually use what you’re designing! Or you might have launched a new agile methodology that would enable you to deliver something that truly provides value in 30 days or less. Read More

The Worst Ideas I’ve Heard for User Research

Practical Usability

Moving toward a more usable world

A column by Jim Ross
August 12, 2019

In my 19 years of involvement in User Experience, I’ve heard some really bad ideas about how to conduct user research. Don’t get me wrong—I’ve had a few bad ideas myself. However, in this column, I’ll write about the very worst ideas I’ve ever encountered.

Most of these ideas originated as attempts to shortcut the difficulties, time, effort, and cost of user research. The results were far from optimal.

Bad Idea: Let’s Offshore Our UX Work

“We’re offshoring all of our development work. Why don’t we offshore the UX work, too?”

Back in the early 2000s, I worked for a large corporation that was thinking about adopting the fad of offshoring as much work as possible to India, and our management team decided to experiment with offshoring the work of our UX team. Read More

Democratization of UX Insights: What Does This Really Mean?

August 12, 2019

In 1999, nearly 20 years ago, I conducted my first Web site usability test. Wow! I still vividly remember how it felt to conduct that type of research. That was back when no one understood how to design Web sites, let alone had any insights into what made a great digital experience. At that time, being able to conduct a usability test felt like a luxury that others had yet to experience. A large bank had commissioned that study. Of course! Only those with excess cash were running usability tests back then.

Those who have been in the field of User Experience since the ’90s know exactly what I mean. Fortunately, things have improved dramatically in the last few years. There’s much more user research being conducted and far more insights are available than ever before, which ultimately translates into better digital product experiences.

Given how critical User Experience has now become as a competitive advantage, the thirst for those insights is growing exponentially. Good UX design has become strategic. Now, it’s not just UX researchers and designers, but product managers and even C-level executives who are seeing the value of powerful UX insights in improving digital experiences. Read More

July 29, 2019 Edition

UX Research: The Tinkering Mindset


Insights from UX research

A column by Michael Morgan
July 29, 2019

At some point in our childhood, we constructed things—whether it was a house out of logs or a hat out of origami paper. We have all figured out a way to build stuff, solving problems through play and by trying things out. Sometimes they work. In other cases, they don’t. Often, even when they don’t, we still take away something of value from the experience—be it a lesson on what to do or what not to do.

Researchers working in the instructional-learning field refer to the concept of understanding through play as tinkering. While this might sound somewhat childish—and it sort of is—tinkering has its time and place in fields such as engineering, design, and science, whose focus is the development and refinement of new ideas. Read More

Readability Formulas: 7 Reasons to Avoid Them and What to Do Instead

Good Questions

Asking and answering users' questions

July 29, 2019

If you’ve ever had your computer give you a readability score or a grade level for something you’ve written, you’ve run a readability formula. Readability formulas are easy to use and give you a number. This combination makes them seductive. But a number isn’t useful if it isn’t reliable, valid, or helpful.

In this article, we’ll explain how readability formulas work and give you seven reasons why you shouldn’t use them. We’ll also show you better ways to learn whether the people you want to reach can find, understand, and use your content. Read More

Project Estimation, Part 5: Embellishing the System to Manage Expectations and Costs

July 29, 2019

Throughout this five-part series, I’ve presented an approach to selling, estimating, and managing services that puts your client in control while letting you maximize your value. Using this approach lets you avoid billing by the hour. You can instead quantize your service offerings—transforming the time necessary to complete a task into a deliverable unit of value. In Part 4, I decomposed an example of a service offering, Craft an IA, into its constituent elements. In a detailed spreadsheet, I illustrated how you can break a single service offering into 24 separate deliverable units—only a few of which relied on hourly charges.

In addition, I discussed how you can leverage this approach to increase your value proposition with your stakeholders. By being transparent about the range and costs of your services with your prospects, you’ll increase their trust in your proposals. Giving your prospects access to your estimating spreadsheet lets you discuss all the possible services you might offer. By working with them throughout the estimating process, you can show that you understand their desired outcomes. By situating each service element within a design-thinking framework, you can help your prospects understand where changes in scope are most likely to occur. In illustrating to your prospects the relationships between your service elements and the larger design-thinking framework, you can communicate both that your approach is rational and logical and that your final scope of effort and resulting costs could likely change. Read More

User Research and Design for Voice Applications

Ask UXmatters

Get expert answers

A column by Janet M. Six
July 29, 2019

In this edition of Ask UXmatters, our experts consider how user research and design for voice applications differs from research and design for traditional, graphic user interfaces (GUIs). First, our expert panel discusses the importance of deeply understanding the context in which people would use an application, as well as the behavior of those who would use it.

Our panel of experts also recommends that we accurately understand the problems a voice application can solve, so it is truly helpful rather than just a cute gimmick. The panel also explores how to collect data from users when you’re designing a voice system or training artificial-intelligence (AI) algorithms. Read More

Book Review: Factfulness: Ten Reasons We’re Wrong About the World and Why Things Are Better Than You Think

July 29, 2019

“It ain’t what you don’t know that gets you into trouble. It’s what you know for sure that just ain’t so.”—commonly attributed to Mark Twain

Cover_FactfulnessDespite our technological advances, it seems that things just keep getting worse. Overpopulation, terrorism, natural disasters, lack of food and resources, crime, income inequality, and access to education are just some of the things with which humanity is contending. It makes one long for the good old days.

But is this perception of the world correct?

A critical skill for UX professionals is the ability to recognize our biases and evaluate the quality of the information we consume and develop. By recognizing the errors in our perception and in the information at hand, we can improve decision making for ourselves and our teams. Read More