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October 22, 2018 Edition

The Role of Soft Skills in Conveying Strategy to Executives

Ask UXmatters

Get expert answers

A column by Janet M. Six
October 22, 2018

This month, my question to our Ask UXmatters experts surfaced a common area of confusion among UX professionals: the difference between UX strategy and UX design strategy. As a consequence, the focus of our experts’ answers differs somewhat. Some of our experts more broadly address the soft skills that are essential to conveying strategy to executives—whether UX strategy or design strategy. The answers of other experts focus more on how to convey design strategy to executives, covering both the soft skills this requires, as well as some elements of design strategy that it is important to communicate.

Therefore, in this column, we’ll first briefly define UX strategy and design strategy and describe some differences between these two types of strategy. Then, we’ll consider soft skills that are essential to conveying strategy to executives. We’ll provide an overview of some soft skills that are particularly important for UX designers who are conveying strategy. We’ll cover presenting strategy to executives in some depth. Finally, we’ll look at a particular approach that is helpful in communicating design strategy. Read More

Improving User Acceptance of AI: The Bold Future of UX

October 22, 2018

Conversations around artificial intelligence (AI) inevitably lead either to dreams of a world in which computers predict every need one might have or fears of the impending doom of humanity through a SkyNet / Ultron / War Games scenario.

As entertaining as these discussions might be, our focus should instead be on what AI needs to do to provide better functionality and achieve greater acceptance by society—that is, by users. Sometimes, technology—including some advances in AI—seems to be advancing simply because developers want to see whether they can build it. But, as UX professionals, we want to see meaningful advancements in AI that deliver useful functionality to users. This is key to the success of AI. Read More


Voice First Versus the Multimodal User Interfaces of the Future

October 22, 2018

What will be the voice-technology winner of tomorrow—voice-first or multimodal user interfaces? Those working in the voice user-experience sector are avidly discussing this hot topic—and UX researchers, UX designers, developers, marketers, and entrepreneurs may find it of interest as well.

In this article, I’ll define the terms voice first and multimodal, using current products as examples, explore some use cases and rationales for different types of user interfaces, consider contemporary research, and conceptualize the future of voice user interfaces. Should you keep your product’s visual features? Yes, because, ultimately, voice-enabled, multimodal user interfaces will be the preferred user experience. Read More


7 Tips for Building a UX Research Team

October 22, 2018

I recently transitioned from working as part of a mature UX Research team at a large Fortune-500 company to building a UX Research practice from the ground up at a small, but rapidly growing startup. It’s now been about two months since I joined the company, and I’ve already made some real progress.

In this article, I’ll describe the goals that I’ve focused on accomplishing and what I’ve done so far that has worked well. If you’ve accepted a job as a UX Research team of one or are excited about an amazing opportunity to establish a UX Research practice, but you’re not entirely sure where to start, I hope the seven tips I’ll share here will help you get off to a good start. Read More


Book Review: Managing Chaos

October 22, 2018

Cover: Managing ChaosOften, when I attend conferences, I like to purchase a new book. This is how I discovered Lisa Welchman’s book, Managing Chaos: Digital Governance by Design, to which I was immediately drawn.

Digital projects are often challenging, creative, and fun. There may be a fair amount of healthy—and, sometimes, unhealthy—debate, but that’s generally a positive thing. Inevitably, if you are working on an initiative of any great size, someone will mention governance.

If there’s a faster way to remove oxygen from a room, I’ve yet to find it. Perhaps part of people’s aversion to governance is its reputation for bureaucracy, overhead, and generally slowing things down. There may be a sense of dissonance between those who exercise governance and those who feel encumbered by it. Read More

October 08, 2018 Edition

What Children Have Taught Me About Design

Selling UX

A unique perspective on service UX

A column by Baruch Sachs
October 8, 2018

Recently, I conducted a design-thinking workshop. That, in and of itself, is no big deal; I do them all the time. I also teach others how to conduct and facilitate design thinking and quickly move to “design doing.” However, this workshop was different. I faced my toughest audience of all time—a group of individuals with such strong opinions. These folks were smart and insightful in ways I had never experienced before. They had strong personalities and were seemingly able to build and destroy at will. In short, this was my daughter’s kindergarten class.

Her teachers invited me to come in and read a story to the class—and perhaps share something about what I did for a living. The reading part was easy. I could choose from hundreds of my daughter’s books or even buy a new one to read. The sharing part was much more difficult. I struggle telling adults about what I do for a living. How could I explain this to five and six year olds in the right way? Should I focus on the design part? The technology part? If design, I might come off as someone who draws cartoons—and I am terrible at drawing. If technology, I might be inundated with calls from parents asking me to fix their Wi-Fi or take a look at a malfunctioning computer. Read More


XR Design: User Agency, Interactions, and Building Mental Models

Evolution of XD Principles

Challenging XD conventions

A column by Dashiel Neimark
October 8, 2018

In my previous column on extended reality (XR), I discussed some of the bigger-picture themes that have led to the creation of virtual reality (VR), augmented reality (AR), and mixed reality (MR), as well as some of the fundamental building blocks that determine the effectiveness of an XR experience. In this installment of my XR mini-series, I’ll continue by discussing some core considerations to keep in mind when designing an XR experience—from how to approach designing the first minute of an experience to experience-wide design decisions, including user agency, interaction capabilities, and virtual personas.

The First 60 Seconds

When designing for augmented or virtual reality, particularly the latter, you must introduce the user to an experience that may range from slightly different—for example, fairly passive AR—to wildly different—very imaginative VR. In doing so, you’ll likely include some sort of narrative and a set of interactions that lets the user pursue that narrative. Read More


Empathy and the Ever-increasing Velocity of Life and Technology

October 8, 2018

There are new work functions and means for collaboration. Obsolete job titles and lagging industries. A data glut of exponential proportions. The changes wrought by modern life force us to constantly parse the real from the false, creating a rift between new- and old-world skills and challenging our ability to navigate rapid change.

Futurist Alvin Toffler wrote about how technology would impact society in a series of books, with Future Shock (1970) catapulting him to international fame that persists beyond his 2016 death. He predicted the proliferation of free-flowing information via computers and the Internet. He introduced the term information overload into popular culture, which refers to the difficulty the average person has understanding issues, identifying their underlying causes, and making decisions to resolve them because of the overwhelming—and now, unprecedented—amount of information available. Read More


A Practical Guide to Designing Conversational Voice Interfaces

October 8, 2018

Voice delivers the special power of human connection. According to data about how voice assistance is reshaping consumer behavior on Think with Google, 41% of people who own voice interfaces feel as though they are conversing with a friend or another person. These friends assist people in tasks ranging from checking the weather in the morning to switching the lights off at night.

We explored a voice intervention for the task of learning a new language and designed a Voice User Interface (VUI) called Chattie that helps language learners practice real-world conversations and, in turn, improve their vocabulary. When designing Chattie, we used various design methods and iteratively improved the user interface based on our learnings from multiple usability tests. Read More


Technical Writing: More Than a Support Function

October 8, 2018

Sometimes, new technical writers might feel a bit lost. They may not be aware of all the areas in which they can contribute. The general perspective of many companies is that technical writers do not add value to the product, but are simply part of a support function. As a technical writer, this can make your life really difficult!

In this article, I’ll discuss the various ways in which you can contribute as a technical writer. I’ll also provide an overview of a general documentation process, or workflow, that you should follow, which can vary depending on whether you’re creating release-related content or improving existing content, as well as from company to company. Read More