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April 08, 2019 Edition

Choosing Your Battles, Part 2

Enterprise UX

Designing experiences for people at work

A column by Jonathan Walter
April 8, 2019

UX designers often have limited influence in enterprise environments with relatively immature User Experience cultures. So exhausting your hard-earned capital with stakeholders on the wrong things can create unnecessary obstacles.

In Part 1 of this two-part series, I presented the following scenarios in which it makes sense for UX designers to demonstrate some flexibility with their teammates and stakeholders:

  • making aesthetic choices
  • employing custom patterns and controls
  • following a UX process
  • managing teammates’ expectations
  • using UX jargon
  • defining the scope and timing of projects and features

Now, in Part 2, I’ll consider scenarios that necessitate UX designers’ taking a firmer stance. Then, I’ll suggest some ways of deciding whether a particular situation befits your taking one course of action over another—acknowledging that the best approach can sometimes be ambiguous. Read More

A Transparent Approach to Project Estimation, Part 1

April 8, 2019

Whether you’re doing business development for an agency or an in-house UX group, to win a stakeholder’s business, you must provide a value proposition that makes your services more attractive than those of your competitors. If you’re managing a project, a team, or a business that depends on the delivery of services, it’s essential that you negotiate the project scope and ensure your stakeholders understand what you’ll be delivering before beginning work. It’s also important to reconcile the project scope and track status along the way and to manage costs and stakeholder expectations—not to mention your contractual obligations.

In this article, I’ll describe the approach that I devised for scoping, estimating, and reconciling services at Phase II, an external agency, and have since applied as an internal service provider at Intel and The Home Depot. The scoping and estimating spreadsheet that I created has evolved over the years and now accounts for a far broader range of services than it did initially. My work, whether at Phase II or as an internal service provider has always focused on B2B (Business to Business) applications—meaning I am serving clients who have clients of their own. This is an important perspective to keep in mind. In a B2B context, your clients need to know the costs of services they’ll incur as quickly and transparently as possible, so they can, in turn, manage their change orders with their client. Read More


Lead, Don’t Manage, Part 2

Management Matters

Managing UX teams

A column by Jim Nieters
April 8, 2019

In Part 1 of this two-part series, I highlighted some of the important differences between a manager and a leader. I also described how, when managers manage employees, that often means they’re directing employees to do things the way they would do them. Such managers function as critics rather than coaches. The challenge is that, when managers are more critical than constructive, they diminish their employees.

In contrast, good leaders are multipliers who inspire their employees to execute better than even those employees thought possible. When employees execute well and are happy, their leaders are usually successful, too. I also discussed the importance of being an advocate who coaches employees rather than acting as a critical adversary. Read More


How to Explain UX Research to Skeptical Stakeholders

April 8, 2019

One day at work, a bright, young engineer approached me, asking how things were going. He said, “I’m curious about UX research. But isn’t asking people what they want a bad way to approach product development? Didn’t Henry Ford say, “If I had asked people what they wanted, they would have said ‘faster horses’?”

I thought this was a great question, and it gave me an opportunity to dispel some misconceptions about UX research. So I replied, “Great question! Actually, we don’t ask people what they want because you’re exactly right that they probably wouldn’t give us a productive answer. It’s not their job to design the next great product. It’s ours!” Instead of asking participants what our next product or feature should be, UX researchers take a much more nuanced approach. UX research involves careful observation of users along with targeted inquiry and thoughtful analysis. Read More


Reining in UX Regression

April 8, 2019

UX regression—that is, a step back in the quality or usability of an application or Web site’s user experience—can occur whenever a design diverts from an existing workflow because of a technology or design change. Some refer to this phenomenon as UX backlash. As designers and developers, we subject users to UX regression to some extent every time we embark on making a design change.

Historical Context

User Experience is a moving target. Just ask Google. Design experiments around their Search toolbar over the years have demonstrated both forward progress and regressive patterns in their search experience.

For example, in 2007, Google introduced universal search, integrating search results from a variety of sources such as Web, images, video, news, and maps. A tabbed navigation bar in the upper-left corner of the Google home page and search results pages allowed users to search for, then view results for each of these types of content. This navigation bar remained part of the user interface for about two and a half years. Read More

March 18, 2019 Edition

The Life in Between: A New Model of Customer Engagement for Life Insurance

Service Design

Orchestrating experiences in context

A column by Laura Keller
March 18, 2019

Several years ago, our financial advisor and good friend began talking to us about retirement planning, college savings for our infant daughter, and the importance of life insurance. He said, “It’s not cheap, but you need to do it.” He advised us on the company to choose, began the paperwork, and told us how to continue the application process. Of course, I didn’t look forward to taking on the cost or the administrivia of applying for life insurance. “You’ll need to answer questions about your income and health and have physicals,” our friend told us. Nevertheless, there was something oddly fulfilling about applying. Life insurance isn’t a fun topic or process, but it represented a milestone in our lives. With a family, I was ready to think about someone other than myself.

The Emotional Side of Life Insurance

The woman processing our application was perfectly nice and professional. Some of the questions she asked caused some anxiety and made me feel defensive—those about drinking and exercise. Others, I answered proudly—no smoking, good eating. However, I wasn’t prepared for one question: “Are your parents alive or deceased?” My dad had passed away a few months earlier. I felt my renowned ability to contain my emotions start to waiver. She expressed her sympathy and asked the reason. I answered, “pancreatic cancer,” and started crying, then apologized, saying it was still recent so I hadn’t gotten used to talking about it. She was very patient, then we continued with the questions. Read More


Platform UX: Domain-Driven Design Concepts in Enterprise UX

March 18, 2019

Adopting systems thinking is critical for designing effective UX research, particularly at the enterprise level. Enterprise software is a complex ecosystem that propagates data from one set of applications to another, typically with no explicit articulation to the user of the rules that govern this flow of data. Making key software-architecture decisions based on an understanding of user needs regarding the transmission of data throughout this ecosystem is essential.

Domain-driven design (DDD) is a set of modeling techniques that can facilitate systems thinking. DDD is an approach to modeling software that accounts for business processes by explicitly articulating the relationships among teams and technical systems with the intent of accelerating the discovery work that is necessary to iterate on existing software. Read More


Creating Environments That Encourage Behaviors That Make Meaningful Work

March 18, 2019

In this article, we’ll examine the environments in which we live and work, taking a moment to reflect on how they make us feel. We’ll also consider how to create explicit moments for practicing reflection and helping us make meaningful work. This need not be work that is saving-the-world meaningful, but simply work that is personally meaningful.

Consider meaningfulness in connection with this definition of behavior: “The way in which one acts or conducts oneself, especially toward others.”

  • Who makes us feel the way we feel and why?
  • How does the environment play a role?
  • Do we have an explicit role to play in our environment?
  • How can we create an environment that thrives, and why is this important?

This article builds on the ideas in our earlier article “Fostering Learning Environments to Generate Sparkle.” Read More


The Scope of User Experience

Ask UXmatters

Get expert answers

A column by Janet M. Six
March 18, 2019

In this edition of Ask UXmatters, our expert panel addresses scoping UX projects and what functions are within and outside the scope of User Experience. It seems that the definition of User Experience is constantly expanding. First, our experts discuss how the business community currently perceives the practice of User Experience in relation to their business. Then, we’ll explore some specifics such as:

  • defining the scope of the project work an organization need to do
  • how to manage change
  • matching the skills of team members to the work
  • how to accomplish the work within the allocated time and budget

One panelist asks us to consider whether it really matters if something is within the defined scope of User Experience. Read More


Book Review: Information Anxiety

March 18, 2019

Cover: Information AnxietyOne thing we can count on is that the quantity of information is increasing over time. The prevalence of information, its relationship to knowledge, and its impact on people’s decision-making faculties is becoming a more central concern for UX professionals.

Richard Saul Wurman, the author of Information Anxiety, is a trained architect, a very prolific writer, the founder of the TED conference, and a well-known public speaker. Although he wrote this book 30 years ago, the ideas it presents are just as relevant today as they were then, perhaps more so. It’s a credit to the solidity of his thinking that many of his concepts seem to predict the world in which we live today. Read More