December 03, 2018 Edition

6 Tips to Keep in Mind for Iterative Usability Testing

December 3, 2018

The idea of bringing in fewer research participants for more frequent research sessions is becoming more prevalent in the field of UX Research. Usability studies that follow each cycle of iterative design are typically referred to as iterative usability testing. The purpose of iterative testing is to refine the design of a user interface over time.

Generally, for iterative usability testing, UX researchers bring three or four research participants into a testing lab, each of whom takes part in a 30 to 60-minute research session. Based on participants’ feedback during testing, UX designers then make changes to the user-interface design. A researcher then tests the next iteration of the design—either with the remaining participants in the same study or during the next round of testing, perhaps a week or two later. Typically, UX researchers conduct iterative testing over the course of several weeks or even months, as designers continue to refine the design. The goal of iterative testing is to reduce the number of usability issues. Read More

Fostering Learning Environments to Generate Sparkle

December 3, 2018

Our environment refers to everything around us, including physical, chemical, and other natural forces. People constantly interact with their environment—including interactions between other people, animals, plants, soil, water, air, and other living and inanimate elements. They adapt themselves to the conditions of their environment. Their environment affects their growth and development as a person. What people do—or do not do—and the way we behave in our environment has huge impacts on others, affecting their behavior, body, mind, and heart.

Different fields of knowledge use the word environment differently:

  • psychology—Our psychological environment constitutes the impacts of other people, physical things, and places on our psyche.
  • electromagnetism—In our electromagnetic environment (EME), radio waves and other electromagnetic radiation and magnetic fields interact.
  • astronomy—The galactic environment of our solar system is the larger context in which we live among the stars. Read More

Enterprise User Experience as a Competitive Advantage

December 3, 2018

Most enterprise software is not easy to use. Applications for domains such as content management, customer-relationship management, or business intelligence are rarely examples of UX best practices. The same is true of the Web applications that people access from their company’s intranet. Performing tasks such as logging time into a timesheet, choosing an insurance beneficiary, posting a job, and reviewing job applications can be daunting. These are the sorts of applications employers require their employees to use.

However, people have been performing these common tasks for many decades—since well before the digital age. Why do such tasks so often translate poorly to the digital medium? How can enterprise-software vendors improve their products? Read More

Resisting the Lure of Dark Magic in User-Interface Design

December 3, 2018

“Any sufficiently advanced technology is indistinguishable from magic.”—Arthur C. Clarke

People usually interpret Clarke’s quotation as a positive recognition of the power of technology. The new user interfaces (UIs) of gestures, voice, and chat aspire to magic, enabling people to control technology without any apparent, screen-based user interface. For some designers, this quotation also represents the future of user interfaces. Imran Chaudhri, UI designer for Apple’s iPhone has said:

“I see a natural progression from knobs and dials, to clicks and taps, to swipes and gestures, to voice and emotion.”

Magic is powerful, but as we all know, it also has a dark side. Could today’s trend toward magical user experiences that rely on gestures, voice, and chat spell doom for users? In this article, I’ll take you on a “Magical Mystery Tour” of these new user interfaces. Read More

Sample Chapter: The Elements of Content Strategy

December 3, 2018

This is a sample chapter from Erin Kissane’s book The Elements of Content Strategy. 2011, A Book Apart.

Chapter 2: The Craft of Content Strategy

Cover: The Elements of Content StrategyBecause content has so frequently demonstrated its potential to derail Web projects, and because it is uniquely entangled with business strategy, it requires special attention. Throughout each project, a content strategist compares evolving content-related expectations with available resources, and warns the team of shortfalls that may require that the content work be scaled back or the resources stepped up. She navigates the politically fraught territory of distributed publishing, and long after information architecture and visual design work is approved, she keeps an eye on the ways in which organizational strategy changes affect ongoing content work.

In short, she watches the hills for signs of trouble.

To do content strategy, defined as the planning and leadership of content projects and online publishing endeavors, is to run point. The term run point derives from a military term for the soldier or soldiers who moved ahead of the rest of the advancing troops: the point man. An equally influential and appropriate use in American English refers to the cowboy who rides at the front of a herd of cattle. The current version of the Wikipedia article for “Take Point” notes in characteristically deadpan prose that: “It is a hazardous position that requires alertness and ability to deal with unexpected attacks.” Indeed. Read More

November 19, 2018 Edition

Integrating User-Research Findings into Strategy

Ask UXmatters

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A column by Janet M. Six
November 19, 2018

This month, the Ask UXmatters expert panel considers how best to make user research relevant to the company vision and integrate the learnings from research into product and corporate strategy. Key discussion points include making user research part of the product design and development lifecycle from the beginning of a project and establishing a clear connection between user research and product and corporate strategy.

Our experts also discuss the value of aligning on a shared vision and strategy that have user research at their foundation, our ability to influence corporate strategy, as well as the importance of getting out of our silos and involving key stakeholders throughout the user-research process to prevent their perceiving user research as a phase that is separate from the rest of product development. Finally, our experts describe how to become strategic and consider the benefits of having a C-level leader—or at least someone in a very senior position—oversee User Experience. Read More

Differentiating Product Strategy Through User Experience

November 19, 2018

Strategy is your product’s path to success. As software continues to eat the world and artificial intelligence becomes pervasive and, eventually, even commoditized, your product strategy can build competitive advantage through your product’s user experience—how people feel, what they think, and how they connect with others when using your product.

So how can you differentiate your product’s user experience and, thus, leverage user experience to create competitive advantage? By integrating user experience into your product strategy. Read More

Presenting UX Research Findings Using the Jobs to Be Done Framework

November 19, 2018

Over the last couple decades, the works of Clayton Christensen, Stephen Wunker, Jessica Wattman, David Farber, Anthony Ulwick, and others who have written about the Jobs to Be Done (JTBD) framework have had considerable influence on the direction of UX research. For example, the Home Depot online UX research team has derived many benefits from applying the JTBD framework in presenting research findings to our Design, Development, and Product stakeholders.

Usability studies often provide tactical data that our colleagues can grasp with little explanation. For example, participants preferred or clicked Button A more than Button B—or Button A correlated with other desired behaviors. However, our UX research must sometimes seek answers to high-level, strategic questions and elicit generative insights—for example, how do online consumers shop for time-sensitive products? It can be challenging to provide a deliverable that effectively communicates our results and facilitates both innovative creativity and tactical decision making. Connecting high-level information with a tactical recipe for creating an optimal experience may require thinking through several layers of abstraction. Read More

Book Review: Sprint

November 19, 2018

Cover: Managing Chaos“Speed.” This was the unflinching response Sandy Cutler, former Eaton CEO who is now retired, gave at a public meeting in Manhattan roughly ten years when a Wall Street analyst asked what worried him the most. Taking his answer further, Cutler said he was concerned that, as the company swelled through both acquisition and organic growth—already to nearly 100,000 employees globally—it would slow down. To be competitive, the company needed to be as fast as its smallest competitor.

People working in virtually every industry I’ve dealt with, in organizations from a few hundred to a hundred thousand, often say the same thing: “We’re too slow.” The fact is that, as you grow—even from a one-person show to a two-person partnership—your decision-making process becomes more complex and you begin to plant the seeds of bureaucracy. Left unchecked, bureaucracy seems to scale geometrically—the larger the organization, the more overhead bureaucracy requires. Workers need supervisors, those supervisors need managers, managers require directors, and on it goes. Read More

Motion Design and Its Impact on User Experience

November 19, 2018

In bygone days, motion design was circumscribed by aesthetics. But, in today’s world, motion design is a crucial element in making users’ interactions with a brand’s digital products more streamlined and intuitive. Companies aim to provide better narratives through their product user experiences, making motion design an essential part of modern user-interface design.

“Motion tells stories. Everything in an app is a sequence, and motion is your guide. For every button clicked and screen transition, there is a story that follows,” says Craig Dehner, formerly on the Human Interface team at Apple. Designers need to begin thinking about such moments in an interaction from the very beginning of the design process. Read More