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July 09, 2018 Edition

Handling Delays

Mobile Matters

Designing for every screen

A column by Steven Hoober
July 9, 2018

Ding. “This is your train manager. I’d like to apologize for the impromptu stop in the middle of nowhere….”

Delays happen. Complex systems such as a train from London to Leeds encounter situations that get in the way of our expectations. The Virgin EC train manager adjusted our expectations well by announcing exactly what had happened, right away, then kept reminding the passengers about the exact delay and the updated arrival times throughout the rest of the trip.

Compare this messaging to what happens with most airplane flight delays, which are typically unannounced. Even when an apology finally arrives, it never communicates a specific cause for the delay—just something vague such as “because of a mechanical issue.” Read More

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Providing Better UX Recommendations

Practical Usability

Moving toward a more usable world

A column by Jim Ross
July 9, 2018

As UX researchers, we provide two main types of information: findings and recommendations. The findings describe both the existing state of problems and opportunities a researcher has identified. Recommendations describe how to solve those problems and take advantage of those opportunities. While it’s very important for your audience of stakeholders to understand the findings, it’s even more important for them to know what actions to take based on that understanding. In this column, I’ll discuss how to provide effective UX recommendations that get implemented correctly.

What to Consider

Some considerations that can affect the types of recommendations you provide are the audience, the research method you’ve used, whether you’ll remain on the project after delivering your recommendations, and whether you or someone else is the UX designer. Read More


The Sound of Silence: What We’re Not Saying About Siri and Her AI Gal Pals

July 9, 2018

Ask Siri to self-identify, and you’ll get an existential, but noncommittal answer. For most consumers’ ears, however, SiriNorse for “beautiful woman who leads you to victory”—has a decidedly feminine voice. Siri isn’t alone in the sorority of feminine digital assistants. She joins a lineage that started in 1952 with Bell Labs’ Audrey, who could recognize spoken numbers. Since then, technology companies have produced an array of female digital assistants, including Viv, Alexa, Cortana, and Ooma.

More recently, a couple of male voices have joined the chorus, including Google Assistant’s Voice II and Samsung’s Bixby. But Bixby was lambasted on the Internet as sexist, and Voice II’s very name implies that it is a token feature. Even Siri now has a male-voice alternative, but the name and default setting say it all.

After more than six decades of voice assistants, it’s time to ask an uncomfortable question: Why do we—Americans, anyway—prefer female voices for our digital assistants? Read More


Benefits and Limitations of Doing Usability Testing with Your Colleagues

July 9, 2018

It is generally accepted that testing your product with your company’s employees comes with a certain set of risks. Employees, by default, have a higher level of company and product knowledge than your actual users. They harbor their own personal opinions about what direction the business and its products should take. There is generally a much higher chance of conscious and unconscious bias creeping into the data when testing with your colleagues.

These are certainly all valid points. However, there are some instances when testing with your colleagues can actually be of benefit—not just to your product, but also to your UX team and even the broader business. I’ve experienced these benefits myself. Read More


Book Excerpt: Living in Information

July 9, 2018

This is an excerpt from Chapter 8 of Jorge Arango’s new book Living in Information: Responsible Design for Digital Places. 2018, Two Waves Books, an imprint of Rosenfeld Media.

Chapter 8: Systems

Living in Information: Responsible Design for Digital PlacesA well-thought-out structure is a necessary component for a viable environment—but it’s not sufficient. For you to be able to experience it, a building must be built; it must transcend the abstraction of its conceptual stage to become a thing in the world. Of course, the same goes for a website or an app. Making something as complex as a building or a software application requires that different systems work in concert toward a coherent experience.

Let’s return to the Kimbell Art Museum. When you step into one of the Kimbell’s galleries, you enter a space that takes care of various things you need. At the most basic level, the building provides a roof over your head. If it’s sunny outside, you won’t get baked, and if it’s raining, you won’t get wet. While the combination of materials and forms that make this roof possible is impressive, a building such as this goes much further than merely protecting you from the elements. For example, the air in the museum must be within a particular range of temperature and humidity for your comfort and the preservation of the art. Light washes down some surfaces and pools in others to provide consistent illumination and highlight particular objects and spaces. You shouldn’t be distracted by unnecessary noise. Art displays are arranged in particular ways to allow you to move around them and observe them in the best light. Read More

June 25, 2018 Edition

XR Design: Imagination, Immersion, and Presence

Evolution of XD Principles

Challenging XD conventions

A column by Dashiel Neimark
June 25, 2018

As for many UX professionals, my career so far has centered largely around performing UX research and design for Web and mobile applications. However, for the past year or two, I’ve been increasingly excited by virtual reality (VR) and augmented reality (AR) applications and their potential to positively impact our lives. My excitement stems from reimagining existing use cases in spaces such as education, workplace productivity, and entertainment, as well as from recognizing the potential for VR and AR to introduce entirely new digital experiences that go beyond what we’ve so far envisioned. The capabilities of the technology are quickly getting to where they need to be. The primary question people are asking now is: will the content be there?

Experience designers must rise to the challenge. Of course, transitioning from traditional digital platforms to the wild west of extended reality (XR)—a blanket term that encompasses VR, AR, and mixed reality (MR)—requires some prep work. While I’m by no means claiming to be an expert experience designer for XR quite yet, I want to share my journey as an XR fan-boy. I’ve been absorbing the relatively small amount of information that is currently available on designing VR and AR experiences—reading every article and watching every video—and tinkering first hand with my beloved head-mounted display (HMD). Read More


Design Thinking and Digital Intent, Part 1

Selling UX

A unique perspective on service UX

A column by Baruch Sachs
June 25, 2018

These days, it seems that everyone is all about design thinking—scrambling to jump on this runaway train and ride it for what it’s worth before the next big thing hits. There are design-thinking classes and certifications from premier management and technology consulting firms. However, UX professionals who focus on delivering amazing user experiences to people have always been design thinkers—for very good reason. After all, everything we do and experience in life is designed. From the applications we use, to the way we purchase a cup of coffee, design is everywhere. These things don’t just happen. Product teams don’t just write and execute requirements. Business analysts don’t just dream up these experiences. We design them by following design principles and business strategies. So, by employing the same design strategies to real business problems, we are bound to be able to come up with better solutions.

Digital transformation is another popular term that describes the journey companies are undertaking today as they look to integrate digital technologies into every aspect of their business. These transformations consider people, process, organizational culture, the how, what, and why around the ways customers engage with their business. While every major company is engaging in digital transformation, their progress and maturity in this endeavor varies greatly. Throughout what are often multiyear transformation programs, they’re grappling with legacy processes, technology, and culture. As a result, many are still struggling to deliver tangible business outcomes. In fact, it is hard to find any company that will stand up and say, “Yes! We have reached the end of our digital-transformation journey, and we succeeded!” Why is that? Read More


Testing Low-Fidelity Versus High-Fidelity Mockups

Ask UXmatters

Get expert answers

A column by Janet M. Six
June 25, 2018

In this edition of Ask UXmatters, our expert panel considers the benefits of testing low-fidelity and high-fidelity mockups at different stages in the design process. The panel emphasizes the advantages of testing mockups at both levels of fidelity at appropriate points during the design process.

Our experts also explore various ways in which to create mockups and discuss how to use them in a testing environment. In deciding what types of mockups to test, it is important to consider not only the environment in which the application will be tested, but also the culture of the company that is building the application. Read More


Book Review: Creative Confidence

June 25, 2018

Creative ConfidenceTom Kelley and David Kelley, coauthors of Creative Confidence: Unleashing the Creative Potential Within Us All, are men on a mission. Tom Kelley is general manager of IDEO, a design consultancy specializing in product development and innovation. David Kelley is a founder of IDEO and has been a leader in establishing the concept of design thinking. After experiencing decades of success working with—and designing for—many of the biggest companies in the world, then surviving cancer, David Kelley has committed his life to helping others to realize their creative potential. After seeing his interviews and a TED talk, running into him at the airport, and reading Creative Confidence, I believe that his message is not just inspiring, but actionable.

Creativity. Few words are so loaded and fearsome to people. Unfortunately, many successful people fail to embrace or even fear their creativity. Worse, they may dismiss creativity as a novelty or, even worse, suppress it within their organizations. Perhaps they are uncomfortable with creativity as a way to solve problems. Many people rarely have visibility into the process of creative professionals. Instead, they typically see and evaluate only the end results. They have been conditioned by an education and employment system that prioritizes predictable outcomes and repeatability. Often, the desire for such outcomes is based on an assumption that what always was, will always be. We see the leaders of these same institutions wringing their hands and complaining about disruption. Read More


You’re My Favorite Client

June 25, 2018

This is a sample chapter from Mike Monteiro’s book You’re My Favorite Client. 2014, A Book Apart.

Chapter 5: When Things Go Well

You're My Favorite ClientNo designer’s gonna read your mind and get it right the first time, and you’ll encounter the occasional stumbling block. (This is fine and normal, as long as you pay attention and get back on course.) But for the most part things should go well, and you’ll see proof in the signs below. Some may be obvious; some may be counterintuitive.

Regular Communication

The best sign that things are going well—or that you can fix things if they aren’t—is having an open channel of communication. Whether they’re in-house or outside designers, make sure they give you regular status reports and you can reach them when needed. Do you have a main contact on the design team? Establish one at the project’s start. Who should you talk to if that person flakes on you? Have an escalation strategy ready. (Do this sparingly, if at all. You don’t like it when people go over your head either.) Read More