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

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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

February 19, 2018 Edition

How to Stand Out in the Expanding Field of User Experience

Ask UXmatters

Get expert answers

A column by Janet M. Six
February 19, 2018

In this edition of Ask UXmatters, our experts consider what it takes to stand out in the growing field of User Experience. As more and more companies realize the importance of good UX design and hire more designers, many people outside the field of User Experience are attracted to the opportunities this field offers and becoming UX designers. While some have the necessary education and talent to become good UX designers, others do not. Unfortunately, the field of UX design is becoming commoditized because some weak UX designers are willing to work for ridiculously low wages, and companies that aren’t able to discriminate between great, good, and poor designers just go with the least expensive option.

Our expert panel explores how to make yourself stand out in the current competitive environment, making specific recommendations for how and what you should communicate about not only your skills, but also about how your design work can fit within a company’s goals. Because it is important to balance business goals and design goals in our work, we need to consider how our work will affect a company—and maybe society at large—over the long term. Our panelists also encourage designers who are working for companies that do not value them to look for other opportunities. Of course, this discussion could be applied to many fields. Read More

The User Interface Vanishes: How Smartware Will Change the User Experience


The evolution of computing

February 19, 2018

In this column on the future of computing, we’ve examined how a handful of advances in technology, including the Internet of Things (IoT); along with sciences of human understanding such as neuroscience and genomics; and emerging delivery platforms such as 3D printers and virtual-reality (VR) headsets will together transform software and hardware into something new that we’re calling smartware.

Smartware are computing systems that require little active user input, integrate the digital and physical worlds, and continually learn on their own. Now, in this, the final edition of our column on smartware, we’ll consider how the powerful capabilities of smartware will enable new interactions and user experiences that, over time, will become seamlessly integrated into our digital lives. Read More

3 Ways to Take a Step Back and Think Strategically

February 19, 2018

Maybe you’re excitedly reviewing research questions for your upcoming study on internal communication and messaging, and your manager asks how your work will impact the product team’s larger communication strategy. While you’d thought about the larger communication strategy at the beginning of the project, its importance has slowly waned as you focused on creating your interview guide. Or worse, you’re presenting your research findings on improving the usability of a tool in wide use, and your main stakeholder asks how this will improve awareness and adoption of the tool overall. Somehow, that initial goal faded during the research planning discussions.

These sorts of things can happen all too easily. Sometimes we throw ourselves into planning and executing our user research, getting caught up in the details, until someone barges in and asks a simple question: Why? Why are we doing this? What is the overall goal of the research? Read More

The Opportunities of Cloud Computing

February 19, 2018

There are a number of technological drivers that are affecting the way interaction design is currently evolving. Even more than artificial intelligence and virtual and augmented reality, cloud computing has become the new norm for information technology (IT) in all kinds of companies. What does this mean for interaction designers?

In this article, I’ll explain what cloud computing is and its four major benefits for designers and users:

  1. Democratized innovation
  2. Seamless, personalized experiences
  3. Native collaboration
  4. Robust user experiences

I’ll also explain a few common misconceptions about cloud computing, as well some concerns and misconceptions that people have about computing in the cloud. Read More

Liminal Thinking

February 19, 2018

This is an excerpt from Dave Gray’s book Liminal Thinking: Create the Change You Want by Changing the Way You Think. 2016, Two Waves Books, an imprint of Rosenfeld Media.

Principle 2: Beliefs Are Created

Liminal Thinking CoverAround noon on August 9, 2014, a hot summer day in Ferguson, Missouri, a young black man named Michael Brown was shot and killed by a white police officer named Darren Wilson.

Although there were several witnesses to the shooting, their stories about what happened varied widely.

In the following days and weeks, the mostly black population clashed with the mostly white police force of Ferguson in an escalating series of protests, riots, and police clamp-downs.

This is not a new pattern in the United States. It is a recurring one that has been happening for years. Even as I write this, a similar pattern is unfolding in Baltimore, after a young black man named Freddie Gray died of a broken neck while in police custody. Read More