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March 23, 2020 Edition

Retaining Your Sanity as a User Researcher

Practical Usability

Moving toward a more usable world

A column by Jim Ross
March 23, 2020

How many times have your clients or coworkers said to you, “That was great. You’re so patient! I could never do that,” after observing your user-research sessions?

User researchers do need to have a lot of patience. We sit through multiple sessions, asking the participants the same questions, observing them going through the same tasks, and hearing them say the same things over and over and over again. We do all this while observing, listening to, and understanding participants, determining whether and when to ask questions, assessing how the sessions are going, keeping track of time, managing questions from observers, and taking notes. And that’s if everything is going perfectly well! Read More

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Book Review: Change by Design

March 23, 2020

Cover: Change by DesignInterest in design thinking as a professional practice seems to ebb and flow. Currently, we’re in a period when there is great interest in design thinking. This trend may lead to some confusion or even consternation among my UX colleagues, who may see design thinking as a faux version of User Experience that dilutes interest in the real work that UX professionals do. Other criticisms of design thinking are that it is derivative of other innovation methods and that its reliance on empathy is a poor stand-in for doing real user research.

While these criticisms are fair, they may be misdirected. Certainly, design-thinking workshops take certain shortcuts. An abbreviated description of design thinking might emphasize the need for multiple iterations and the fact that an innovation process diverges at the beginning, then converges on possible solutions. The assumption is that insights arise from a project team alone, with little to no interaction with users. However, design thinking has made creativity and design processes accessible to more people and introduced new ways of building consensus. Read More


UX and the Big Picture, Part 3: The Solution

March 23, 2020

In Part 1 of this three-part series, I described some problems with the software-development lifecycle (SDLC). Then, in Part 2, I shared some of the key lessons I’ve learned during my more than 30 years of experience in IT. For the last 25 years, I’ve focused on improving the efficiency and effectiveness of the SDLC, considering the key role UX professionals have to play in making such improvements.

Over the last five years, these learnings have led to a new method that we have been honing at my company Ax-Stream. I believe that this new method is now at the cutting edge of software-engineering methodology. Naturally, this method incorporates all of the key lessons I discussed in Part 2. In doing so, it integrates aspects of Lean, user-centered design (UCD), agile, and waterfall, along with some novel thinking and highly advanced use of our modeling tool of choice, Axure. As Figure 1 shows, this new method comprises just three key stages: Inception, Design and Build. Read More


Big Data: Revolutionizing UX Design Strategies, Part 3

March 23, 2020

In Part 1 of this series, I covered some outdated design strategies that businesses still employ. Then in Part 2, I discussed how businesses could leverage big-data analytics to improve their UX design strategies and optimize them for the modern consumer.

Now, in Part 3, I’ll describe the role of data-driven UX design strategies in helping businesses to grow. What are the advantages of implementing such strategies? What is the impact of these strategies on businesses’ overall process and performance? How do they help augment growth for brands? Read More


Navigating a UX Job Search

Ask UXmatters

Get expert answers

A column by Janet M. Six
March 23, 2020

This month in Ask UXmatters, the UX experts on our panel give their recommendations on how to navigate the UX job–search process. They discuss online services and job-posting boards that can be useful sources of UX jobs, how to let people know you’re looking for a job, and how to find local UX meetups and connect with UX professionals in your community. In addition, our expert panelists provide links to books, articles, and videos on this topic.

They suggest that, when you’re just starting out or making a major transition in your career in User Experience, you should consider where you should live. What job market would provide the opportunities you’ll need to advance your career? Read More

March 09, 2020 Edition

Avoiding User Research No-Shows

Enterprise UX

Designing experiences for people at work

A column by Jonathan Walter
March 9, 2020

If you’ve conducted any kind of user research, you likely know how it feels for people you’ve recruited for research activities to ghost you. You’ve invested your time and effort in creating an interactive stimulus or interview script, called in favors from management to gain access to elusive customers and participants, and done dry runs using your stimulus or script to ensure it’s airtight. Then, when it comes time for a session … crickets. You’re left holding out hope that the person who agreed to participate in your research activity might actually show up.

Ghosting is on the rise and, as any UX professional can attest, the domain of User Experience is hardly immune to receiving a cold shoulder from research participants. What can you do to not only mitigate the risk of being ghosted but to react to such scenarios when they occur? Read More


Understanding Cultures

March 9, 2020

The term culture describes the behaviors of people in organizations. Sometimes, as UX professionals, we are outsiders and organizations invite us in to observe their organizational culture. In other cases, we are insiders who work within organizations and experience their culture daily. An organization’s culture can influence any of us, depending on our interactions with it.

The challenge is that we never fully understand cultures because they are constantly in flux—whether because of the movements of people or the changing times, places, and practices that are at play. Who is responsible for explicitly fostering and leading a culture to ensure that people not only deliver their transactional work outputs but also attend to achieving meaningful outcomes and nurturing the cultures within which people work?

In this article, we’ll describe how well placed UX professionals are to become cultural leaders, by helping to track people’s potential, defining behavioral outcomes, and influencing organizational culture, strategy, and direction. Read More


Are You Sure? Versus Undo: Design and Technology

Mobile Matters

Designing for every screen

A column by Steven Hoober
March 9, 2020

Last week, on one of my client projects, I was uninvited to a sprint demo at the last minute because all of the features the development team had completed that week were technical, so they assumed there was no need for User Experience. This sort of thing happens a lot, even on teams and projects for clients with whom I’ve worked for years. They’ll say, “Do the UX design later.” Or “We don’t need any UX design because it’s an off-the-shelf component.”

This is clearly a case of misunderstanding the difference between UX design versus user-interface (UI) design—even among people with whom I’ve worked for a long time—and all too often, even among other UX design professionals. Read More


Book Review: Do I Make Myself Clear?

March 9, 2020

Cover: Do I Make Myself Clear?Information designers must manage all aspects of a communication-design project. But graphic designers’ primary concern is the design of graphics, so they would not typically edit text. In contrast, writers focus on writing text, so would not typically design graphics. However, as information designers know well, a failure to manage all aspects of a project can lead to designs that do not work well.

As someone with no formal training in writing, I hoped reading Harold Evan’s book Do I Make Myself Clear? Why Writing Well Matters would answer these questions: Would this book help me to write more clearly? What is the author’s definition of clear, and what type of clarity does his book promote? Would this book help me solve practical writing problems and maybe provide some before-and-after examples? Would I be able to understand the book’s content and get what he is saying? Would he discuss plain English practice and doing research or testing information with people? Read More


Book Excerpt: Why We Fail

March 9, 2020

This is an excerpt from Victor Lombardi’s book Why We Fail: Real Stories and Practical Lessons from Experience Design Failures. 2013, Rosenfeld Media.

Chapter 10: Avoid Failure

Cover: Why We FailAlthough there is no secret formula for creating successful customer experiences, what I can offer you is a method to help you avoid failure while you search for successful designs. These recommendations counter the [following] deficiencies: …

  • We’re all vulnerable to psychological biases that make it difficult to accept errors and share information about problems.
  • Contemporary digital products and services engage us in more complex ways, and because our reasons for using them are multifaceted, our experiences of them are emotional and subjective. They are experiential products, so testing product performance alone is insufficient to avoid failure. Read More