October 07, 2019 Edition

Navigating Ambiguity

Enterprise UX

Designing experiences for people at work

A column by Jonathan Walter
October 7, 2019

In many respects, we have reduced the ambiguity in our world. We can now sample an entire music album before deciding to purchase it, use a smartphone app to learn what’s happening at home while we’re on vacation, or click a button to discover who has viewed our LinkedIn profile. However, while we might enjoy the occasional mystery/thriller novel or movie, in which the story’s outcome remains uncertain as we’re propelled through suspenseful twists and turns, we are becoming much less tolerant of mystery in our daily lives. We like to disambiguate the circumstances of our lives. We like to know things. This gives us comfort and favors predictability, which in turn reduces our anxiety and stress. Resolving uncertainty is actually something for which people are willing to pay.

But ambiguity is still alive and well in the work we do as UX designers. Those of us who design enterprise software should be very familiar with ambiguity. We encounter it often, whether in vague feature requirements, unfamiliar capabilities that derive from the acquisition of a new product or company, or the complex workflows that are characteristic of the highly specialized domains in which we work. Read More

3 Keys to Effective Product Roadmapping

October 7, 2019

Product development is complex, so it’s important to have a plan. Your product roadmap serves that purpose and lets you plot the journey ahead and ensure your entire team is aligned.

While it’s crucial to have a well-defined product roadmap at the outset of development, many companies do not have a good system in place for proper project planning. In fact, last year’s Pulse of the Profession report showed that 58% of survey respondents failed to grasp the full value of project management.

A product roadmap can help clear up any confusion and outline a project’s trajectory. Abraham Lincoln once said, “Give me six hours to chop down a tree, and I will spend the first four sharpening the ax.” If only more of us in software development had that same mindset. Read More

Fears About User Research

Practical Usability

Moving toward a more usable world

A column by Jim Ross
October 7, 2019

As Halloween approaches, I thought it would be fun to write about a scary subject: user research! User researchers can sometimes be a fearful, neurotic bunch, and user research can be a scary business for newcomers and even those with years of experience.

Perhaps some might find user research scary because it has often been misunderstood, devalued, and viewed with skepticism. User researchers have struggled to prove our value and to prevent user research from being the first thing cut from projects to save time and money. We always feel that we must work hard to prove our worth and overcome these doubts. Read More

Why Retailers and Shoppers Need Self-Healing Technology

October 7, 2019

Advanced technologies for retail experiences have become so ubiquitous that it’s easy to forget they’re not impervious to degradation. Most technology vendors establish support processes—with varying degrees of quality—to intervene when things go wrong for retailers. Sometimes, support means an information-technology expert is waiting to jump to action as soon as something breaks. In other cases, it’s a complicated manual that store associates must muddle through on their own.

However, neither of these scenarios will cut it in the retail landscape of the future. According to a recent study by Fung Global Retail & Technology, technology disruption in retail will only accelerate, so we’ve barely glimpsed what is to come. Repair and support mechanisms must become as advanced as the systems for whose maintenance we design them. Read More

October 06, 2019 Edition

Interactive Prototyping, Part 2: An Introduction to Axure RP

October 6, 2019

In Part 1 of this series, I discussed the importance of wireframes, mockups and prototypes to your product’s overall success. Also, I stressed the importance of your clients’ understanding the significance of creating these design artifacts. Now, in Part 2 of this series, I’ll explain the user interface of Axure RP in detail.

Axure RP is quite a handy tool, and you can use it for wireframing, prototyping, and creating specifications. UX designers, information architects, user researchers, business analysts, and product managers commonly use Axure RP to design applications and Web sites. Without writing a single line of code, you can quickly prototype, then visually present your application or Web site. Read More

September 23, 2019 Edition

Socially Conscious Service Design

Service Design

Orchestrating experiences in context

A column by Laura Keller
September 23, 2019

Looking at nine packages from Amazon in my office, I realized that I wasn’t even sure I knew what was in them—and it was only a few days ago when I used my glorious Prime membership to place the orders—so I decided to open them. “Ah, yes, all things we need for our upcoming vacation.” Sunscreen, toothpaste, and travel toys and sticker books for my kids are just a few of the items I had ordered in the week leading up to our trip.

So I began unpacking these items and moving them nearer to the suitcases I’d already started packing. Then, when I looked back and saw the carnage I’d left in my office—the boxes, scraps of tape, bubble wrap, and randomly inflated, plastic mini-pillows—I started adding this refuse to our recycling and trash bins. Read More

Book Review: UX Strategy

September 23, 2019

Cover: UX StrategyI must admit that I picked out this book based on its title alone, UX Strategy, which I found intriguing. Plus, the book had high reviews on Amazon. I was curious about what the term UX strategy meant from author Jaime Levy’s perspective. Was it strategy for leading UX teams? Was it applying UX to strategic planning in companies? Something different altogether?

My own thinking was that UX professionals need to think more strategically about the impact of their work. We should consider the big picture for an organization and where User Experience fits into it. Taking a strategic view also requires a broader understanding of externalities that affect our work and its reception within an organization. Read More

Choosing Whether to Create a Responsive Web or Native App

Ask UXmatters

Get expert answers

A column by Janet M. Six
September 23, 2019

In this month’s edition of Ask UXmatters, our panel of UX experts discusses whether to recommend creating a responsive Web site or application over a native mobile app. While each type of application offers unique benefits, the panel advises UX designers not look at this as an either/or question. Instead, consider the benefits of creating both of these types of applications on a continuum. Clearly, a Web site is necessary at least to enable customers to discover a product.

A UX designer should consider how best to satisfy user needs, relying on a deeper consideration of the usage scenarios for specific types of users. Depending on the contexts of use, users often require that a tool be available on more than one platform. Plus, you must consider business needs throughout the design process. Read More

Sparkle Studio and the Make Meaningful Work Show

September 23, 2019

This year, we have been experimenting with the creation of a Sparkle Studio to house and produce a “Make Meaningful Work” show. The creation of this platform would enable us to produce a series of mini-events, including this show, throughout each year.

We want to invite people around the world to participate in the show, discuss various topics relevant to making meaningful work; and experience together the drafting, discussion, rehearsal, and making of the show. We want to create a place where people can experience and reflect on their learnings from the practice of making something meaningful together.

This is an experiment of sorts that aims to move beyond traditional training formats toward one in which we can start making together, then reflect on the relevant practices from that making rather than considering the theory of making first. In this article, we’ll describe and reflect on that experience in its making. Read More

Crafting Winning Personas

September 23, 2019

Personas are essential tools in adopting a user-centered approach to product design. Personas help a product team maintain a constant focus on their target users, ensuring that the designed product conforms to their needs and requirements. Personas are useful throughout the complete design lifecycle—from developing business requirements, product concepts, functional specifications, and Web content to interaction and visual design for the product user interface.

Alan Cooper pioneered the adoption of the Goal-Directed Design methodology, including the use of personas, as a practical approach to interaction design for high-technology products. Creating personas is a quick, efficient way of gauging the needs and requirements of a potentially diverse user base that would make use of a particular product, service, or system in different contexts and environments. Read More