February 10, 2020 Edition

Educating Colleagues on the Differences Between UX and UI

Enterprise UX

Designing experiences for people at work

A column by Jonathan Walter
February 10, 2020

Many of our colleagues still do not understand the function of UX design. This problem is systemic in many companies, cascading from a C-level where there is a gaping User Experience void—and no leader to fill it adequately—and fueling misconceptions at every level of the organization.

As a UXmatters reader, you probably don’t need me to educate you on the differences between User Experience and user-interface (UI) design. But many of the people with whom you work probably do need to better understand the differences—so they can more effectively engage your efforts and you can engage with theirs. Do you have time to sit each of them down and explain to them the fundamental differences between User Experience and UI design? Not likely. So, in this column, I’ll describe some ways in which you can progressively educate your colleagues on the differences between User Experience and UI design, as follows:

  • tactfully responding to misinformed comments
  • advocating for user-centered requirements
  • producing deliverables that reveal the why behind your designs Read More

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Capture Attention Through Color Psychology

February 10, 2020

With luck, the ads that are promoting your app will reach out and grab people’s attention. Hopefully, once visitors are on its landing page, they’ll appreciate your app’s value proposition and immediately download it. Then, once people download your app, with luck, they’ll fly through your onboarding process. What do all of the steps in this scenario have in common? Luck. Plus, they’re part of a process in which visual salience determines whether your app gets ignored or people download and adopt it.

If users don’t notice what matters, our design work fails. Instead of relying on luck, it’s important to design for attention. By using the right techniques, you can control what users notice—and the order in which they notice things. In this article, I’ll look at how to design to command user attention. Specifically, I’ll cover visual hierarchy and salience and discuss how to blend these concepts with color psychology. By better understanding these techniques, you’ll be more empowered to design intuitive processes, clear page content, and persuasive technology. Read More

Designing Your Life Using Design Thinking

February 10, 2020

Cover: Designing Your LifeDesign thinking. It’s probably something you use in your job every day to tackle thorny design problems. But have you ever thought about using it to design your life?

In their book, Designing Your Life, Bill Burnett and Dave Evans outline a step-by-step process, using design thinking, to help people build lives in which they can find fulfillment and joy. This review highlights some techniques from the book that people have used successfully in achieving their professional and career objectives. To get a complete understanding of the Life Design process, though, you need to read the book. Read More

3 Keys to Effective Design Teams: Empowerment, Environment, and Research

February 10, 2020

In both private and public sectors, people are realizing that design is a competitive advantage. Good design can have a huge impact on the customer experience and operational efficiency—not to mention the success of products and services. But what makes an effective design team? How do leading organizations maximize the impact they get from their investment in design?

To answer these questions, my company Clearleft recently ran a study during which we surveyed 400 designers in 37 different countries across six continents. We wanted to find out the current state of design and determine the conditions under which design can make maximal impact on an organization’s goals. Almost every industry sector is represented in the survey, including health, education, entertainment, travel, utilities, and government, as well as charities, private companies, and public organizations. Read More

Designing for Touch

February 10, 2020

This is an sample chapter from Josh Clark’s book Designing for Touch. 2015, A Book Apart.

Chapter 4: Gestures

Cover: Designing for TouchHands are wonderfully expressive. We talk with our hands all the time: they ask questions, show intent, command attention, reveal emotion. A backhanded wave dismisses an idea; a jab of the finger accuses; a thumbs-up enthuses. If hands are excellent at communicating with people, they’re even more effective at communicating with objects. From the delicate operation of tying a shoelace to the blunt-force strength of opening a pickle jar, our hands and fingers constantly improvise in grip, pressure, position, and sensitivity.

How can we bring similar expression to manipulating digital information? Touchscreens put data literally in the user’s hands, and it’s the designer’s job to enable and interpret that interaction. Unfortunately, while our hands have a robust vocabulary for speaking to people and objects, we’re still in the grammar-school stages of a gestural language for touchscreens. A richer lexicon lies ahead, but it will take time for a more sophisticated range of touchscreen gestures to become common knowledge. Read More

January 20, 2020 Edition

Popular Excuses for Not Doing Exploratory Research and How to Overcome Them


Insights from UX research

A column by Michael Morgan
January 20, 2020

At your company, what percentage of your time is spent doing evaluative studies—for example, usability testing or expert reviews—versus formative, early-phase research, using such approaches as contextual inquiry or low-fidelity prototype testing?

If you’re spending significantly more time evaluating the usability of your existing applications and finding and fixing problems, there’s a good chance your firm is underinvesting in exploratory research.

The main purpose of exploratory research is to discover and understand how your clients are using your existing products and identify their painpoints and challenges within their current context. It’s also about understanding how prospective buyers are using similar products to get their work done today. Read More

Is Focusing on Agile or Lean Damaging the Practice of UX? Part 1

Ask UXmatters

Get expert answers

A column by Janet M. Six
January 20, 2020

This month in Ask UXmatters, our panel of UX experts discusses how development teams’ prioritizing the use of agile or Lean methodologies affects the practice of User Experience. Our panelists lament how the goal of speeding up development devalues UX research and design, leads to design inconsistencies, and encourages product-team members to take shortcuts. Agile and Lean’s focus on speed can also make it more difficult for product teams to keep the big picture in mind.

Some companies have even decided that their use of agile or Lean methodologies means they can reduce the number of UX designers and researchers working within their organization—or that they can even bypass UX research and design altogether. This is a big problem! Read More

Book Review: How Not to Be Wrong

January 20, 2020

Cover: How Not to Be WrongThere are certain topics—politics, religion, sex—that are sure to invite disagreement, judgment, and the gnashing of teeth. I want to add math education to that list of uncomfortable discussion topics. Math education—how math is taught and whether it is really applicable to the real world—as been a consistent source of irritation for parents and students across generations.

When I was in school, I hated math. In fact, I maneuvered my education so I could take my final math class in the 11th grade—meeting the state’s minimum requirements for high school. I avoided math throughout my post-secondary education, but I was still able to earn undergraduate and graduate degrees. Nearly 20 years after that final math class, in an admission interview for business school, I shared that I was somewhat concerned about the accounting, finance, options, and statistics courses I would need to take. The admissions committee assured me that I would do fine. Read More

User Experience and the Big Picture, Part 1: Problems, Problems

January 20, 2020

This is Part 1 of a three-part series in which I’ll ultimately present some radical thinking about how we could improve the software-development lifecycle (SDLC) and the key role that UX professionals can play in achieving this improvement.

Those of you who are familiar with my other UXmatters articles—such as “Are You Still Using Earlier-Generation Prototyping Tools?”—are aware that I’ve given a great deal of thought to making the UX function more effective and efficient. If you’re familiar with some of my other articles—such as “Agile Problems, UX Solutions, Part 1: The Big Picture and Prototyping”—you’ll also understand that I’ve given even more thought to making the entire SDLC more effective and efficient, and the key role that User Experience plays in this important goal. Read More

Big Data: Revolutionizing UX Design Strategies, Part 1

January 20, 2020

The world of UX design has seen rapid evolution in the last decade—much of it because of the value users have gained in the digital space.

Search engines consistently rolled out updates that penalized Web sites with crappy user experiences. Digital marketers woke up to the reality that—no matter how great their backlink strategy or the depth of their content—it was their Web site’s user experience that determined how users perceived and valued their site and the things on offer there.

But some big questions remain: What exactly is a good user experience? How do we define the specifics of what makes a good user experience? How can companies create good user experiences for their Web sites and apps? Ambiguity regarding the answers to these questions persists.

In Part 1 of this four-part series, I’ll discuss the negative impacts that some typical UX design approaches have had on businesses. Read More