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

September 24, 2018 Edition

Defining Enterprise UX

Enterprise UX

Designing experiences for people at work

September 24, 2018

What do you think of when you hear the term enterprise UX? Designing corporate Human Resources (HR) systems or intranets? Many articles and books for UX professionals focus on designing Web sites and mobile applications for consumers. But what about the silent majority of users in the workplace who are trying to get their job done? Many of them think of enterprise software as the generally sub-par tools that companies force them to use.

However, over the past few years, enterprise UX has started to get more attention from user-experience thought leaders. (There’s even a conference dedicated to it.) But what does enterprise UX actually mean? From what we’ve observed, it seems that there is not yet an agreed-upon definition of this term. This fuels confusion about enterprise UX, why it matters, and what scope it encompasses. Therefore, in our first column on this topic, we’ll

  • provide a working definition of enterprise UX
  • describe a few of the many environments in which enterprise UX makes a difference
  • identify obstacles to designing and developing great enterprise software Read More


Ask UXmatters

Get expert answers

A column by Janet M. Six
September 24, 2018

In this edition of Ask UXmatters, our experts discuss the newest discipline within User Experience: DesignOps, which covers the operational aspects of design. Most DesignOps practices have been standard operational practices within software companies for many years—they just weren’t called DesignOps until a couple of years ago, and they did not yet constitute an integrated set of practices.

DesignOps is such a new discipline that the term is still somewhat ill-defined—even though there’s already a conference that focuses on this discipline, the DesignOps Summit, for which 2018 will be its second year, and InVision has just released an ebook on this topic, The DesignOps Handbook. It’s unclear who originally coined the term DesignOps, but there is universal agreement that it was inspired by the term DevOps. This is just the second piece that UXmatters has published about DesignOps. The first was Jeff Sussna’s article “What DesignOps Can Learn from DevOps.”

In this column, our expert panel defines DesignOps, discusses what dimensions the discipline comprehends, and describes DesignOps roles and practices at several leading companies. Read More

Book Review: Living in Information

September 24, 2018

Cover: Living in InformationThe idea of information architecture was what initially attracted me to the field of User Experience some 15 years ago. Working in a small graphic-design studio as the only Web designer for an ad agency, I designed Web sites, often coding them myself. Sometimes, clients sought more complexity in their Web sites. They needed interactions, information processing, and, in some cases, a precursor of customer-relationship management (CRM).

During that period, it occurred to me that, to be successful, Web designers had to do more than just create attractive Web sites. Because we were creating something new, the language of critique that had developed for modern graphic design, which was rooted largely in print design, was inadequate for the work we were now doing. So, in an effort to augment our design vocabulary to describe the new artifacts we were creating, we borrowed some terms from the adjacent fields of industrial design, human factors, and of course, architecture—among many others. Read More

UX Research Is Essential to Product Success

September 24, 2018

During a project kick-off meeting, my design team was in a discussion with a client when various mental models clashed in the room: “Why should we do that?” “What is journey mapping?” “Why do you need to mention man-hours for doing card sorting explicitly in the UX-effort estimation sheet—and, seriously, what is that?” It became quite evident that it was difficult for our client to understand the meaning and value of UX research. Of course, it would be rather ludicrous for the team to request that the client read about the benefits of UX research. But it became clear that everyone on the project needed a common language and a shared philosophy.

Should your design team dedicate time to UX research—despite the stakeholders and project manager thinking otherwise? How could you convince them of the return on investment (ROI) your client would generate by doing UX research? All too often, when these types of questions arise, teams sacrifice the value that a generative user-research phase would add. Many people think a research phase would be a waste of time and money. However, they are unaware of how user research impacts product strategy—from the conception of an idea to the delivery of the product. To change the mindset of your stakeholders from being naysayers to being advocates for user research, you must help them understand how research can add value to their product and that learnings from user research are an indispensable asset to a product team. Read More

Choosing the Right Design Deliverables for Your Clients

September 24, 2018

There are many types of deliverables, including presentations, reports and design artifacts such as wireframes, prototypes, and specifications for engineering. It’s not always necessary for a deliverable to show the final version of what a product will look like after being implemented. In many cases, deliverables can be helpful in team decision making, making critiques, and validating designs or identifying the need to make improvements. You need not always strive for perfection.

UX designers focus too much on design deliverables because they are the output of our process, and we want them to look as good and stylish as possible. That mindset usually comes from agencies who sell their services and whose deliverables must make a huge impact to attract and solidify their relationships with their clients. Read More