November 20, 2017 Edition

Overcoming Common Barriers to Collaboration, Part 2

Leadership Matters

Leading UX transformations

November 20, 2017

This two-part series describes some common organizational, cultural, and interpersonal barriers that hinder the ability of people and teams to collaborate effectively. It is important to understand what unique combination of barriers to collaboration exists within your own organization, then devise solutions to overcome those specific barriers. In Part 1 of this series, I described four common barriers to collaboration and provided solutions for overcoming them.

  1. A lack of respect and trust
  2. Different mindsets
  3. Poor listening skills
  4. Knowledge deficits

Now, in Part 2, I’ll cover the remaining five barriers to collaboration:

  1. A lack of alignment around goals
  2. Internal competitiveness
  3. Information hoarding
  4. Organizational silos
  5. Physical separation

For an organization to create a culture of collaboration, it must overcome these barriers. Whether your role is that of a leader or an individual contributor, you can help your team to overcome these organizational, cultural, and interpersonal barriers to collaboration. Read More

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Smartware, AI, and Magical Products


The evolution of computing

November 20, 2017

Do you remember the first time you saw magic? Something that stretched your imagination beyond what you thought possible? For Dirk, this happened in a most unlikely place: a Sears store in a sleepy mid-Western shopping mall, circa 1977, at a demonstration of the Home Pong console, which was, at the time, the latest technological wonder. A small crowd had gathered in awe around a chunky tube TV, and children and adults alike turned the control wheels with delight, bouncing a pixelated ball back and forth. Although, as a child, Dirk had experienced a variety of traditional magic shows involving cards, rings, and pigeons, it was that Pong demonstration that stayed with him. In that moment, the television transformed into a machine with which he could interact, and he began a newfound relationship with the screen.

The interactivity that so enthralled Dirk that day is, in fact, core to computing. Ever since consumers adopted the earliest personal computers, we’ve input commands to yield desired outputs. Today, however, interactivity is changing, becoming far less direct. Using artificial intelligence (AI), services such as Amazon and Netflix have mapped a detailed identity graph for each of their customers. Machine learning enables these services to recommend products that customers are likely to buy and new shows that viewers are likely to enjoy. Read More

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Reflections on Making Meaningful Work

November 20, 2017

We just presented at CanUX 2017, in Ottawa, Canada. Like all good conferences, Can UX created a place for community, conversations, learning, and connecting with local and global practitioners. The conference provided reminders of why we do what we do and opportunities to look at practice patterns that may connect to the practices we use in our own project work. This experience definitely prompted some reflections on our intention to make meaningful work. When asking how we can make meaningful work, we should consider the following core elements:

  • character—We must be aware of the dimensions of individuals and teams that contribute to identity, values, beliefs, intention, and impact.
  • perspectives—Our character forms our essential perspectives.
  • barriers—It is important to recognize the barriers that get in the way of our seeing all the dots we must connect.
  • intersections—These are the connections between the dots—whether those dots are people, disciplines, roles, or the conditions that are necessary to promote and harness meaningful conversations.
  • impacts—The impacts of our work include those on ourselves, our teams, our communities, and the entire planet. Read More

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The Ethics of User Experience Design

Innovating UX Practice

Inspirations from software engineering

A column by Peter Hornsby
November 20, 2017

About six months ago, I left Facebook cold turkey. I had tried leaving it before, but always ended up going back. It wasn’t the not‑so‑subtle hints or wanting to see the pictures of all my friends—or at least people with whom I’d connected on Facebook—that drove me back, but fear of missing out (FOMO). What if something happened to someone, and I wasn’t aware of it? What if I thought of a witty one-liner and couldn’t share it immediately with a group of people, then bask in the adulation they would inevitably provide in response to my genius? What about that important political opinion about Trump or Brexit that I’d need to share among my fellow right‑thinking people?

You know what happened? Nothing. Nothing bad, at any rate.

Breaking Free of Addictive User Experiences

I had decided that the price I was paying for being on Facebook was too high. I’d get drawn into arguments and find myself getting annoyed and frustrated. Something is wrong on the Internet! I’d find myself checking my account far too frequently. There’s nothing inherently wrong with either of those things—except that they took time away from other, more important things that I felt I should be doing. I’d read an excellent piece about why one person left World of Warcraft. Read More

Tools for Remote, Collaborative UX Design

Ask UXmatters

Get expert answers

A column by Janet M. Six
November 20, 2017

In this edition of Ask UXmatters, our experts discuss their favorite tools for remote, collaborative UX design and how to use them in a variety of situations. Collectively, these tools support verbal and written communication, file sharing, screen sharing, collaborative drawing, and prototyping. Some tools try to replicate the way designers work in person, while others transcend these norms and create new paradigms for remote, collaborative UX design.

Our expert panel also explains how to use to these tools to ensure that the result is a good design and every team member’s voice is heard. As you’ll see, UX designers are comfortable with various processes for creating designs, so some tools are a better fit for certain processes than others. Read More

November 06, 2017 Edition

Qualities of Effective User Researchers

Practical Usability

Moving toward a more usable world

A column by Jim Ross
November 6, 2017

Perhaps you’re thinking about a career specializing in user research. Perhaps you’re looking to hire a user researcher. Or perhaps you manage or work with user researchers. If so, you might be thinking about what qualities lead a person to succeed in user research. While others have written about this topic—notably Demetrius Madrigal and Bryan McClain in a 2010 column on UXmatters—I want to add my own perspective based on what I’ve observed specializing in user research over the past 17 years.

The following list of characteristics may seem daunting, but you don’t have to be a perfect ten in all of them. There are certainly areas in which I have strengths and weaknesses. We all have room for improvement. But the more of these qualities you possess, the more well suited you are for a career in user research. In this column, when I refer to a user researcher, I mean both user-research specialists and generalists who do both user research and design. Read More

Design, Craft, and Manufacturing for Digital Products

Mobile Matters

Designing for every screen

A column by Steven Hoober
November 6, 2017

The rise of the design rock star, the full-stack developer, and various other unicorn breeds, along with the move to make everyone a coder, has made the creation of digital products too focused on metrics—and not enough on quality.

Designing Products, Not Pixels

Companies increasingly pursue design with great vigor and much discussion, but in many ways, with increasingly poor results. The UX design community spends a lot of time arguing which screen-design tool is best and talk about screen-design workflow with a straight face, while most junior designers have never actually designed an information architecture. Read More

UX for the Industrial Environment, Part 3

November 6, 2017

There is a tendency to associate the profession of User Experience with consumer-facing Web sites and applications. And why not? After all, social media and ecommerce experiences are a constant part of users’ lives—even those who are also UX designers. These experiences represent desirable activities such as buying products and interacting with friends and family. There is high demand for such experiences, which, in turn, draws the collective focus of the UX community. Fair enough. But the profession of User Experience also provides value in unexpected places that exist at the periphery of modern consumerism. In this three-part series, I’ve discussed one such unexpected place—the industrial environment. Humans—who help manufacture the goods we enjoy—must be productive and are no less deserving of experiences that make them more efficient, effective, and satisfied in their jobs.

In Part 1 of this series, I explained that industrial automation is more human facing than you might think. Then, I described how the industrial environment itself presents difficult challenges for UX designers to overcome when designing software for human-machine interfaces (HMIs), covering both plant-floor and control-room environments. Finally, I shared some key principles of effective HMI design that apply to both environments. Read More

Interview with Kurt Walecki, VP of Design at Intuit

Leadership Matters

Leading UX transformations

November 6, 2017

Thanks to the leadership of Scott Cook—formerly Intuit’s CEO and now Chairman of the Board—Intuit has always been a customer-centric company that really listens to its customers. In the company’s early startup days, Cook instituted Intuit’s Follow Me Home program, in which Intuit employees hung out at stores that sold packaged software until a customer bought Quicken, Intuit’s personal-finance software and, then, the company’s flagship product. An Intuit employee asked the customer if he could follow him home to see whether he had any difficulty installing the application. He would then observe the customer as he unpacked and installed the software and note any causes of frustration or confusion.

Through this program, Intuit learned what aspects of their software needed improvement. Cook’s goal was to make it easier for people to balance their checking account using Quicken than with a paper checkbook. By observing their customers, Intuit learned that people were using Quicken to handle bookkeeping for their small businesses, so they created QuickBooks for that market. From the very beginning, Intuit has done user research both to understand how customers are using their current products and to identify customers’ unmet needs, allowing them to introduce new products to the market to satisfy them. Read More

The VR Book: Human-Centered Design for Virtual Reality

November 6, 2017

This is a sample chapter from Jason Jerald’s book The VR Book: Human-Centered Design for Virtual Reality. 2016 Morgan & Claypool Publishers.

Chapter 28: Interaction Patterns and Techniques

The VR Book: Human-Centered Design for Virtual RealityAn interaction pattern is a generalized high-level interaction concept that can be used over and over again across different applications to achieve common user goals. The interaction patterns here are intended to describe common approaches to general VR (Virtual Reality) interaction concepts at a high level. Note interaction patterns are different from software design patterns that many system architects are familiar with. Interaction patterns are described from the user’s point of view, are largely implementation independent, and state relationships / interactions between the user and the virtual world along with its perceived objects.

An interaction technique is more specific and more technology dependent than an interaction pattern. Different interaction techniques that are similar are grouped under the same interaction pattern. For example, the walking pattern covers several walking interaction techniques ranging from real walking to walking in place. The best interaction techniques consist of high-quality affordances, signifiers, feedback, and mappings that result in an immediate and useful mental model for users. Read More