Several years ago, our financial advisor and good friend began talking to us about retirement planning, college savings for our infant daughter, and the importance of life insurance. He said, “It’s not cheap, but you need to do it.” He advised us on the company to choose, began the paperwork, and told us how to continue the application process. Of course, I didn’t look forward to taking on the cost or the administrivia of applying for life insurance. “You’ll need to answer questions about your income and health and have physicals,” our friend told us. Nevertheless, there was something oddly fulfilling about applying. Life insurance isn’t a fun topic or process, but it represented a milestone in our lives. With a family, I was ready to think about someone other than myself.
The woman processing our application was perfectly nice and professional. Some of the questions she asked caused some anxiety and made me feel defensive—those about drinking and exercise. Others, I answered proudly—no smoking, good eating. However, I wasn’t prepared for one question: “Are your parents alive or deceased?” My dad had passed away a few months earlier. I felt my renowned ability to contain my emotions start to waiver. She expressed her sympathy and asked the reason. I answered, “pancreatic cancer,” and started crying, then apologized, saying it was still recent so I hadn’t gotten used to talking about it. She was very patient, then we continued with the questions. Read More
Adopting systems thinking is critical for designing effective UX research, particularly at the enterprise level. Enterprise software is a complex ecosystem that propagates data from one set of applications to another, typically with no explicit articulation to the user of the rules that govern this flow of data. Making key software-architecture decisions based on an understanding of user needs regarding the transmission of data throughout this ecosystem is essential.
Domain-driven design (DDD) is a set of modeling techniques that can facilitate systems thinking. DDD is an approach to modeling software that accounts for business processes by explicitly articulating the relationships among teams and technical systems with the intent of accelerating the discovery work that is necessary to iterate on existing software. Read More
In this article, we’ll examine the environments in which we live and work, taking a moment to reflect on how they make us feel. We’ll also consider how to create explicit moments for practicing reflection and helping us make meaningful work. This need not be work that is saving-the-world meaningful, but simply work that is personally meaningful.
Consider meaningfulness in connection with this definition of behavior: “The way in which one acts or conducts oneself, especially toward others.”
This article builds on the ideas in our earlier article “Fostering Learning Environments to Generate Sparkle.” Read More
In this edition of Ask UXmatters, our expert panel addresses scoping UX projects and what functions are within and outside the scope of User Experience. It seems that the definition of User Experience is constantly expanding. First, our experts discuss how the business community currently perceives the practice of User Experience in relation to their business. Then, we’ll explore some specifics such as:
One panelist asks us to consider whether it really matters if something is within the defined scope of User Experience. Read More
One thing we can count on is that the quantity of information is increasing over time. The prevalence of information, its relationship to knowledge, and its impact on people’s decision-making faculties is becoming a more central concern for UX professionals.
Richard Saul Wurman, the author of Information Anxiety, is a trained architect, a very prolific writer, the founder of the TED conference, and a well-known public speaker. Although he wrote this book 30 years ago, the ideas it presents are just as relevant today as they were then, perhaps more so. It’s a credit to the solidity of his thinking that many of his concepts seem to predict the world in which we live today. Read More
UX professionals often find it difficult to demonstrate the value of User Experience to enterprise product teams, especially when companies or organizations lack UX maturity. Perhaps you’ve found yourself outnumbered on teams of solution-focused developers and their like-minded peers, feeling as though no one understands your perspective. You might have been the recipient of a dismissive arm wave. Maybe someone has told you that a product or a feature does not require UX oversight—even though it does. Perhaps stakeholders have told you that they already know what users want or there isn’t enough time to address a product workflow that could satisfy a core user need.
When you meet resistance from teammates and stakeholders, do you turn tail and slink away, then allow a product to go to market without its receiving the appropriate level of UX attention? Hopefully not! Some battles are worth fighting—as uncomfortable as they might be. As I described in “Demonstrating the Value of User Experience to Enterprise Product Teams, Part 2,” responding tactfully to caustic feedback from teammates is a challenging skill to master. It requires empathy, a trait that UX professionals must often draw upon in relating to the people who use our products. It is just as important to demonstrate empathy for our teammates, who are under their own pressures and must often meet challenging deadlines. Read More
In the design community at large, we frequently derive amusement from mocking product-assembly instructions—especially those for flat-pack products from Ikea. But I’ve recently experienced a bit of a revelation regarding instructions and product design.
When I finally got a plumber to replace a dripping faucet in our upstairs tub, I took the opportunity to upgrade some of the other fittings, including a new shower / sprayer with a hose. When the package arrived in the mail, I took it up to the bathroom, opened the box without any trouble at all, and found all the product’s parts grouped in little bags.
Typically, products that we have to assemble come the way the factory thinks about them: with all the small hardware bits together in a bag or two and, at best, a sheet of instructions that helps us to understand which type of screw is which. Read More
In response to previous Management Matters columns, readers have asked me to explain the differences between a manager and a leader. In this column, I’ll explain these differences and highlight the value of moving from a tactical management role to a strategic leadership role.
In today’s marketplace, products and services must provide great user experiences as a key differentiator, and every company is trying to outperform its competition. The only way to do that is to have highly talented employees who are deeply motivated to make a difference. Companies spend significant amounts of time and money to find and retain such employees. So one of the fundamental roles of a UX manager is to hire the best UX researchers and designers, then grow and retain these employees. Managers to must function as multipliers, not detractors. Read More
Having to deal with a lot of information from different fields gives us an overview of where we stand in the big picture, but at the same time, it can restrict and sometimes confuse or shift our way of thinking. When there’s too much information, making decisions becomes more and more difficult. To think clearly, without undue influence from one perspective or another, we need to focus our thoughts rather than trust everything we know equally. Clarity comes with less information.
While learning new things often delivers higher performance and greater opportunities, it can be quite challenging. But it’s definitely not limiting. Although learning new things is hard, what’s even more difficult is trying to unlearn our existing mindsets, methods, and behaviors. We should never let them limit our success. Read More
This is a sample chapter from Karen McGrane’s book Going Responsive. 2015, A Book Apart.
“The responsive design became a content solution and not just a technical solution to make the ongoing evolution of our digital products more robust.”—Alex Breuer, the Guardian
Fluid grids, flexible images, and media queries: nothing in the definition of Responsive Web Design (RWD) says anything about your content. And yet, a lasting benefit for many organizations comes from the process of cleaning up and paring down content.
It probably comes as no surprise that creating a good user experience across all devices means presenting less content, better content, and more thoughtfully prioritized content. Gone are the days when we could assume that users want—and look at—everything we cram onto the page and shove into the right column. Truth is, users never wanted all that dreck. Now, with smaller screens, we’re forced to acknowledge that uncomfortable truth and make decisions about what really matters. Read More