March 20, 2018 Edition

7 Questions to Ask Users Early in the Product Lifecycle


Insights from UX research

A column by Michael Morgan
March 20, 2018

Whether you’re a UX designer, product stakeholder, or some other kind of curious-minded product professional, you need to know what makes your users tick. My new column Discovery: Insights from UX research is about unearthing what is already there—just waiting for a UX researcher to discover it.

In Discovery, I’ll explore various approaches to gaining insights about your users by employing UX-research methods early in the product-development process. UX research can help you understand what would make your users’ lives easier.

When you’re asking questions during user-research interviews, the key to getting answers that are not tainted by bias depends on what the question is and how you ask it. Taking the time and thought to pose constructive, reflective questions, ensures that participants can provide the information you need to portray an accurate picture of the customer narrative. Encourage participants to take the time to reflect on your questions and ask you for clarification when necessary. Read More

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The Benefits of Embracing Failure

March 20, 2018

Failure. Not many people savor it or seek it out. But instead of focusing on disappointing outcomes, we should consider viewing failures as opportunities to learn and improve. One principle of agile software development is failing fast. Of course, the goal is not to aim for failure, but to recognize that failure is a necessary and beneficial part of the development process if you approach it properly. Research and development depends on iteratively generating, inspecting, and evaluating ideas, designs, and products. Great products aren’t miraculously conceived—they’re built, refined, and enhanced iteratively.

Learning About Others’ Failures Improves Persistence and Performance

Professors from Teachers College, Columbia University, and University of Washington wanted to see whether exposing students to stories of the intellectual or life struggles of famous scientists such as Albert Einstein, Marie Curie, and Michael Faraday would impact their own scientific achievements. They found that the performance of students who heard stories about others’ intellectual or life struggles in science classes actually improved, unlike that of students who were exposed only to stories of successes. Read More

Conference Review: Enterprise UX 2017, Part 1

March 20, 2018

The third annual Enterprise UX (EUX) conference opened on Wednesday, June 7, 2017, when a day of workshops convened at the Argonaut┬áHotel, which is located in the San Francisco Maritime National Historical Park at Fisherman’s Wharf. The main conference took place Thursday, June 8, through Friday, June 9, at the Innovation Hangar in the Palace of Fine Arts in San Francisco’s Marina District.

Overall, Rosenfeld Media, the producer of this event, delivered a well thought out conference experience, with excellent content. I’m glad the organizers made attending EUX easy for me this year by moving the conference from San Antonio to San Francisco, which is a great city to visit. In recent years, one of my design goals has been the consumerization of enterprise software, so it was high time I attended this conference. Now that I have, I’m sorry I missed the first two. Read More

When You Need a Product-Design Reality Check with Users

March 20, 2018

In 2001, Apple released the first version of iTunes. The app was simple, sleek, and easy to navigate and users loved it. So why did Apple, a perennial paragon of great design, decide to pack subsequent versions of the product full of features that users didn’t ask for?

Adding features users don’t want is a classic issue in product design. Even though users prefer simplicity in product design, companies rarely reward UX designers for removing features. Instead, they incentivize designers to add bells and whistles that make stakeholders happy, but often hinder users. Because Apple didn’t listen to iTunes users, they inflicted feature fatigue on them and, thus, frustrated their biggest fans. Read More

Researching UX: Analytics

March 20, 2018

This is a sample chapter from Luke Hay’s book Researching UX: Analytics. 2017 SitePoint.

Chapter 6: Measuring and Reporting Outcomes

“The greatest value of a picture is when it forces us to notice what we never expected to see.”—John Tukey, American Mathematician

Researching UX: Analytics CoverSo far, we’ve covered how to check that your analytics is set up correctly, how to use analytics data to identify potential problems, and how to use it for user research. These techniques, along with other UX methods, will help you to identify where you should make changes to your Web site, and what those changes might look like. Once you’ve made the changes to your site, don’t stop there! You should look to measure the outcome of those changes and learn from the results. Read More

March 05, 2018 Edition

Avoiding Common Prototyping Mistakes

Practical Usability

Moving toward a more usable world

A column by Jim Ross
March 5, 2018

Prototyping is the best way to explore a design, determine how well it works, effectively communicate the design to others, and test the design with users. Over the past few years, we’ve seen an explosion in new prototyping tools that allow you to simulate sophisticated interactions quickly and easily. Yet, despite these technological advances—and sometimes because of them—UX designers still make the same common mistakes when creating prototypes. In this column, I’ll discuss some of the most common prototyping mistakes designers make and how to avoid them.

Jumping Too Soon into Prototyping

One of the most common mistakes is jumping too soon into creating a prototype before sufficiently thinking through and planning out a design. This problem is especially common among those of us who aren’t very comfortable with the messiness of sketching. It can be tempting to open up a prototyping tool, assuming that it would be easier to work out the design on the screen. Read More

Understanding Location

Mobile Matters

Designing for every screen

A column by Steven Hoober
March 5, 2018

While many people still talk about the constraints of mobile devices—how they have small screens and are hard to type on—I focus on the value they bring by not making users type and by doing things that no other devices can do.

Sensors are the real key to the magical appeal of mobile devices—and location is one of the first and best of these sensing technologies. Knowing where a mobile device is works very well as a proxy for knowing the location of the user—and very often, what someone needs or wants to do next.

Therefore, knowing users’ location is an excellent way to tie their reality to the digital experience you’re designing. Read More

7 Ways Bad Localization Can Ruin the User Experience

March 5, 2018

Competition for the attention of customers is fiercer than ever. In such a highly competitive marketplace, a flawless user experience is not a luxury. It is central to your product’s adoption and success. We invest heavily in optimizing our products’ design and work to squeeze the last bit of efficiency out of Web forms, microcopy, and the color of that proverbial Check Out button. We explore, test, and measure every possible improvement to our user experiences.

Then, the day comes when it’s time to enter a new, non-English-speaking market. Many businesses realize too late that a naive approach to localization can instantly cancel out all your hard-won gains in user experience.

After helping dozens of companies foster a successful localization process—and reduce expenses along the way—I have collected seven common pitfalls of localization. Read More

Developing Empathy in Designers

March 5, 2018

In my previous article, “Empathy and the Art of Product Design,” I explored the notion that empathy should be at the core of design. I talked about how product design is not just a mechanical procedure for solving a problem. The process is more complex than meets the eye. Creating products and services that delight the customer requires a combination of fact-based expertise and creativity. Solving problems and creating workable solutions also demands the ability to empathize with the user. It is a given that companies want to employ product designers with a certain level of expertise, but creating the most effective designs also requires soft skills such as empathy and emotional intelligence. Continuing that discussion in this article, let’s turn our attention to empathy in the individual product designer.

What is empathy exactly—a personality trait or an acquired skill? What does it mean to show empathy for the user? How can we infuse empathy into the design process? Let’s take a closer look at how we can use empathy in the design process to connect on a deeper level, improving the product design and, thus, the customer experience. Read More

Planning for Everything: The Design of Paths and Goals

March 5, 2018

This is a sample chapter from Peter Morville’s new book Planning for Everything: The Design of Paths and Goals. 2018 Semantic Studios.

Chapter 2: Framing

“I will show you fear in a handful of dust.”—T.S. Eliot

Cover: Planning for EverythingAt 14,259 feet, Longs Peak is the highest summit in Colorado’s Rocky Mountain National Park. In summer, day hikers can reach the top without climbing gear. The 15 mile trek takes 10 to 15 hours. The views are breathtaking. In 2016, lured by its siren song, I arrived at the trailhead of the Keyhole route with backpack and headlamp at 4 a.m. The night sky was beautiful. A few hours later, I made it over a boulder field to the keyhole which serves as a gateway to narrow ledges and steep inclines. The wind was fierce. I began to have doubts, resolved to forge ahead, but on the threshold, I froze in fear. After a moment of abject terror, I crept to safety and began my untimely descent.

It didn’t take long to conclude I was happy with the outcome. I’m a hiker not a climber. The decision to try was made lightly. It’s my habit to value grit, but in planning this book and this trip, I’d chosen to experiment with commitment. So why risk my life for an unforced goal? Also, the summit was actually a subgoal. Each year I choose a quest, be it a mountain or a marathon, that inspires me to exercise and eat well. I’d already put in the work. As I wandered my way down, I felt happy and carefree. But later that day as I told my wife, she surprised me by asking “so when will you try again?” She didn’t get it. I had nothing to prove. I was happy to let it go. Or so I thought. Read More