Even though computers are controlling more and more of the world, they are not always getting smarter. Oh, they’re becoming more sophisticated, but humans must make computer code smart, and we don’t always get things right. It doesn’t help that we’re using old, ad hoc methods of planning, design, and analysis.
It’s scary that we sometimes don’t know why artificial intelligence (AI) systems work. But we should be even more worried that pretty much every system we use—every app, every device—is now so complex that we cannot possibly predict all system behaviors. Read More
Testing social media is difficult. We are not testing micro interactions, but macro, or global, behaviors. These can be extremely hard to observe—either by using qualitative methods to assess the commentary of individuals or groups or by tracking clicks. When testing social media, we are assessing social influence and motivation, which are much more elusive.
Understanding these types of behaviors won’t let you determine things like the perfect placement of your shopping basket icon. However, it can be invaluable when determining the right timing for providing choices such as content or action buttons. The monitoring of macro behaviors is quantitative in nature, and the data represents broad trends—what people do en masse, not individually. Nevertheless, it is the sum of many people’s behavior that is important rather than the behavior of individuals. Studying societal behaviors requires a different way of thinking—macro thinking—rather than the micro thinking that is characteristic of studying the behaviors of individuals. Read More
I’ve encountered a wide variety of participants in the many usability tests I’ve conducted over the last 17 years. The perfect participant is a rare and elusive breed. I’ve spotted only a few who came even close to being perfect. Most usability test participants are just average human beings who have somehow found themselves thrust into the odd, unnatural experience of participating in usability testing. Even though they’re not perfect, they try to do their best, and you can easily work with most participants to get the information you need.
However, occasionally, you’ll stumble across a test participant who is the antithesis of perfect—the difficult test participant! When you do, stay calm and tread carefully. These people can be dangerous and unpredictable. Knowing how to handle them is key to saving test sessions with difficult participants. In this column, I’ll provide some tips on how to effectively wrangle difficult participants to salvage as much as you can from their test sessions. Read More
In Part 1 of this three-part series on designing user experiences for the industrial environment, I explained that industrial automation is more human facing than you might think. Then, I discussed how the industrial environment itself presents difficult challenges for UX designers to overcome when designing software for human-machine interfaces (HMIs), covering both plant-floor and control-room environments. Finally, I shared some key principles of effective HMI design that apply to both environments.
The chaotic plant-floor environment impedes users’ ability to focus. Plus, the necessity of using personal protective equipment (PPE) affects their ability to perform actions on an HMI terminal. The control-room environment poses its own set of unique challenges. For example, in a control room, users must monitor several large HMI displays over an eight-to-twelve-hour shift, which can result in eye fatigue.
Now, in Part 2, I’ll explain some methods that industrial-automation UX designers can use to combat challenges relating to the design of isolated customer sites and to localizing information for global users. Read More
In Part 1 of this two-part series, I highlighted the study Byron Reeves and Clifford Nass conducted at Stanford University, which showed that people treat computers, Web sites, applications, and other new media just as they treat other people. The study’s findings formed the basis of my article’s core argument: we should strive to design human-like politeness into software.
In his book The Inmates Are Running the Asylum, Alan Cooper describes fourteen characteristics of polite software. I discussed the first nine of those characteristics in detail in Part 1. Now, in Part 2, I’ll cover the remaining five characteristics of polite software, providing several examples. Read More
Recently, I conducted this interview with Richard Dalton, Head of Design at Capital One, about his background, his recent work at Capital One, his vision of where their experience design strategy is headed in the coming years, and his upcoming UX STRAT speaking engagement.
Paul: Hi Richard! Thanks for taking the time to talk with me. Can you start by telling UXmatters readers a little about yourself—such as your educational background, professional path, specific areas of focus, and anything else that you think will help them get to know you a little better.
Richard: Hey Paul, I graduated from the University of Newcastle upon Tyne, in England, with a degree in Software Engineering just as the World Wide Web was turning into a thing. I am eternally grateful for this synchronicity because I’m not really sure what I would have done otherwise! I was always a terrible coder. I was more interested in the things I could make the systems do rather than in actually creating the systems. After I graduated, I was employee #1 at an Internet design startup—this was in 1994. Soon after that, I co-founded another Internet design firm in the North of England. Then, I moved to the US in 1999, and 18 years and three financial services companies later—Vanguard, then USAA—I now find myself Head of Design at Capital One. Read More
In this edition of Ask UXmatters, our expert panel contemplates the current state of User Experience in relation to agile development. The panel discusses the importance of unifying product teams, as well as of working ahead of development on a project’s UX research and design. We also look at how to do UX design within the time constraints of a typical sprint.
Finally, it is important to consider why particular companies are employing an agile development process. Are they doing it simply because everyone else is? Are they taking an agile approach primarily to save time and money? Do they believe agile techniques will lead to superior products? We’ll explore each of these cases and consider the impacts on UX design. Read More
User research is central to our work in User Experience: doing research to find out about our users, then acting on what we’ve learned—or persuading our colleagues to act on a shared understanding of what we have learned.
But what about doing research with other people? In this column, we’ll focus on exactly that: conducting research with people who are not users—that is, people who aren’t part of the target audience for the product or service you’re creating. We call this type of research consultation. Read More
“You manifest your own reality.” You’ve probably heard some version of this message before. It’s almost become a cliché. But what does it really mean? Can you literally create your own reality? Well, no. You can’t simply change the physical world in which you live at the snap of your fingers. But what you can change is your mental state—and that just might impact the world around you over time. For example, people’s interactions with digital products influence their mental state. So, as more and more customer experiences become digital experiences, UX designers have the opportunity to design experiences that can be a catalyst for emotionally positive chain reactions among customers.
Finding ways to positively influence your mental state has always been a worthy pursuit. So I have put a lot of thought into my self-improvement philosophy—and to tell you the truth—it feels very secondary to me whether the world around me changes to reflect my internal changes. I want positivity, and I want it now! The most instantaneous way to feel actual positive change is to double or triple up your internal response to the positive moments that either have occurred or could occur. Read More
This is a sample chapter from Brett Harned’s new book Project Management for Humans: Helping People Get Things Done. 2017 Rosenfeld Media.
I worked in retail when I was a teenager. Yup, I was a mall rat for a summer or two. I sold expensive sunglasses. Looking back on the experience, I can say that it gave me the perspective to understand how people make decisions when spending a lot of money on an item that they could get for much cheaper elsewhere. It was interesting to see what would drive someone to make a final decision to purchase a $200+ pair of sunglasses. As the salesman, I was incented to make sales for a commission. But I was also paid a base hourly wage, so I wasn’t a viper. I like to think I helped people make decisions on their purchases. Read More