February 04, 2019 Edition

The Biggest Mistakes in User Research, Part 2

Practical Usability

Moving toward a more usable world

A column by Jim Ross
February 4, 2019

User research is challenging, and it’s all too easy to make mistakes. In Part 1 of this two-part series of columns, I discussed some of the biggest user-research mistakes that teams make, including the following:

  • conducting general user research without any focus
  • dismissing client and stakeholder knowledge about users
  • relying too much or too little on what participants say
  • separating research from design
  • leaving others out of the research
  • bringing too many people along on field studies
  • being too inflexible
  • not providing enough time for user research
  • scheduling sessions that are too short

Now, in Part 2, I’ll describe eight additional mistakes and provide advice about how to avoid them. Read More

Book Review: Human + Machine

Leadership Matters

Leading UX transformation

February 4, 2019

Cover: Human + MachineAs UX professionals, it’s important that we stay abreast of the latest technologies and consider how they might impact UX design. So, over the past year or so, I’ve read more than half a dozen books, as well as numerous articles on various aspects of artificial intelligence (AI)—ranging from highly technical books for developers to more accessible works whose targets are business leaders, product managers, or even the general public. The most valuable of these books: Human + Machine: Reimagining Work in the Age of AI, by Paul R. Daugherty and H. James Wilson. This book is targeted primarily at business leaders and the professionals who influence them. Anyone who works for a corporation that deploys software to achieve its business goals would benefit from reading this book—and today, that’s just about every business. Those in government and education should also read this book. In addition to applying its lessons to their own unique contexts and ensuring that the workforce is ready to contribute maximal value in the age of AI, they can also influence business leaders to choose the right path forward at this critical inflection point. Read More

Supporting Localization

Enterprise UX

Designing experiences for people at work

A column by Jonathan Walter
February 4, 2019

Users want to work in familiar languages and environments, so companies that build and sell enterprise products to customers from different cultures and in different locales must support these expectations. Doing so requires localization—adapting documents or products to ensure they’re culturally appropriate. However, product teams often overlook this requirement or put off localization until late in the development cycle.

Even when localization is a formal requirement, a product team that is battling a tight deadline or budget constraints may choose to skip localization or defer it until a later release. Their localization effort languishes in the team’s growing pile of UX debt, remaining unaddressed until a senior executive receives an angry phone call from a customer, complaining about the product’s subpar experience in their native language or environment.

How can you, as a UX professional, support localization, help reduce the odds that your product might alienate customers, and avoid contributing to your team’s UX debt? In this column, I’ll provide a localization expert’s perspective on this topic, then describe some practical ways in which you can design user interfaces to better support localization. Read More

Creating a Usable Intranet Despite the Backend

February 4, 2019

Intranets have evolved considerably since their debut in 1994, changing from simple document-management systems to unifying business collaboration and communication solutions. Successful intranets bring real, bottom-line benefits to businesses—including improved efficiency, increased productivity, and satisfying employee experiences in today’s digital workplaces.

Typically, by the time a company has matured sufficiently to acknowledge the need for an intranet, the company has already made significant technology investments and a legacy platform is in place. Previous investments heavily influence decisions to purchase new software for an intranet. Thus, UX professionals often have very limited or no influence on the selection of an intranet’s backend platform.

How can you design a useful, usable, engaging user interface for an intranet when the backend is already in place? Focus on understanding the users’ needs and how best to help them accomplish their goals. Read More

Sample Chapter: Just Enough Research

February 4, 2019

These excerpts are from a sample chapter from Erika Hall’s book Just Enough Research. 2013, A Book Apart.

Cover: Just Enough ResearchChapter 8: Analysis and Models

Qualitative analysis can seem like a mysterious process. A group of people enters a conference room with interview notes and stickies and emerges with recommendations for creating or changing the functionality or interface of a system.

For us humans, this is actually the most natural thing possible. We’re social creatures and pattern-recognition machines. Getting people together to analyze qualitative data is like throwing a party for our brains. Once you start, you’ll get hooked. Read More

January 21, 2019 Edition

Managing Talent Strategically Using Career Roadmaps

3 x 5 UX

Strategy and tactics in a nutshell

A column by Liam Friedland
January 21, 2019

“Order and simplification are the first steps toward the mastery of a subject.”—Thomas Mann

As a young product designer, I worked hard to perfect my craft. I read widely, studied the work of the masters, and challenged myself. But I was also fortunate: My managers in those early years were good mentors. They gave me projects that would test me, as well as the autonomy to work, learn, and mess things up a bit. They looked out for me—assigning projects that were suitable for my skill level and helping me to avoid any serious mistakes. However, whenever I asked them what I needed to do to move up to the next level, they’d give me answers, but not a detailed career roadmap. What I was lacking was a comprehensive overview of the specific skills and objectives that would be necessary for me to make progress in the professional world of User Experience.

Although I was mastering the design skillset, I soon realized that this was not sufficient to take me where I ultimately wanted to go. Mastery of craft is simply not enough. It is also important to master the work context so we can design effectively within a product-development organization, as depicted in Figure 1. Read More

Platform UX: Integrating Applications Through Sharing Data

January 21, 2019

Enterprise software faces a number of UX challenges, including the following:

  • Enterprise solutions often depend on integrations between multiple applications.
  • Few of these applications were built with the intent of integrating them into a system that supports a cohesive user experience.

There is a profound lack of information on UX-research approaches that are suitable for exploring integration issues for enterprise software.

This article is Part 1 of a series in which I’ll examine several critical software-integration considerations from a UX perspective. In Part 1, I’ll focus on how to characterize users’ mental models of the data that underlie enterprise systems. In cases where an enterprise is integrating two or more applications that have disparate, back-end data sources, UX research should guide efforts to align those data sources to achieve a seamless user experience. This article outlines specific approaches for characterizing both the current and ideal workflows for viewing, adding, or modifying data across multiple applications. It also identifies success criteria for use when evaluating integrated user experiences. Read More

The Power of Metaphor


Insights from UX research

A column by Michael Morgan
January 21, 2019

In Metaphors We Live By, George Lakoff writes that language is an important source of evidence about how people think and act in their everyday lives. The way we think, act, and communicate about everyday things in our lives is inherently metaphorical in nature.

Because metaphor is a fundamental means of communicating with others, we should be able to use metaphors to construct coherent pictures of key research findings to help stakeholders understand and act on them. Perhaps we can even use metaphors to frame questions for our research studies as a more direct means of facilitating participant understanding.

This edition of Discovery is about unleashing the power of metaphor. How can you leverage the value of metaphor when conducting early-phase product research? Read More

Book Review: Why We Fail: Learning from Experience Design Failures

January 21, 2019

Cover: Why We FailOne of my favorite things to do is to take photos of bad user experiences. I usually do this when I’m traveling or shopping—maybe because my senses are heightened when I’m trying to find my way around unfamiliar places or seeking out some new item to purchase. I would guess that many of you do similar things. I suppose this points to a paradox of experience design: it’s easier to identify examples of bad experiences than good ones. Good experiences just work without effort, so we don’t notice them as readily. When things are going well, they don’t make the news.

There are lots of examples of good user experience. A casual search online finds a variety of impassioned articles on the value of User Experience and how it contributes to an organization’s bottom line and ultimate success. We see many examples of how User Experience is good and how we can add value. Read More

ResearchOps and User Experience

Ask UXmatters

Get expert answers

A column by Janet M. Six
January 21, 2019

In this edition of Ask UXmatters, our expert panel discusses the importance of ResearchOps to the UX community. Our panel begins by defining ResearchOps and describing the efforts of the nascent ResearchOps community to establish a common understanding of ResearchOps.

Our panelists then explore the many challenges practitioners of the discipline of ResearchOps face—for example, issues they encounter in different types of organizations and in agile and Lean development environments. Our experts also consider the challenges of global user research. Finally, our panel cautions against trying to generalize ResearchOps across the larger UX community. Read More