April 06, 2020 Edition

Breaking into the Field of User Experience

Enterprise UX

Designing experiences for people at work

A column by Jonathan Walter
April 6, 2020

Lately, I’ve been having some conversations with people who want to enter the field of User Experience. These people range from professionals who work in adjacent roles or domains to college students who are studying User Experience and are hoping to land their first job. This is a wonderful signifier that people are seeing the value of the UX professions and want to be part of them.

However, as many people working in UX related roles can attest, it is not easy to get a job in User Experience. There are many barriers to entry. You must take the time to craft a compelling portfolio, which is no trivial matter. You need to demonstrate your ability to think critically about users’ needs, which can be difficult to quantify and measure. If you do not have a formal education relating to User Experience, you must somehow show potential employers that you are better suited for a job than the many experienced UX professionals or highly educated people who are vying for the job. Read More

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Messy Success and Ambiguous Failures, Part 2

April 6, 2020

In Part 1 of this series, I described how people often conceive of project outcomes in black-and-white, binary terms. They deem a project either a success or a failure. I also identified some common pitfalls that many organizations face in identifying an initiative’s desired strategic outcomes, then measuring results against them.

To look at these challenges using a wider lens, it’s necessary to understand how organizations can best position themselves, at a foundational level, to reap the most benefit from design thinking. How can they effectively partner with UX professionals to ensure that any shared undertaking achieves maximum impact?

Whether you’re a UX designer, working with one, or thinking of hiring a UX design team, the following tactics can help you put your efforts on the best path to achieve a positive outcome. Read More

Forgetting to Breathe: Mindful User Research


Insights from UX research

A column by Michael Morgan
April 6, 2020

“Thus we are sucked away into the future—and we are incapable of actually living one minute of life.”—Thich Nhat Hanh

It’s your last research session in a long day filled with hours of listening to participants talk about their complex systems. Their gripes start to blend together. One person’s complaints about gluing together their data files from multiple systems start to sound just like the difficulties of another participant whose system froze when he tried to click Print.

Fortunately, you have recordings to fall back on. Perfect concentration is impossible. You may forget to listen. But if you forget to breathe and be alive in the moment, you may succumb to an awkward silence, while a participant swigs some water between rants. Meditation guru Thich Nhat Hanh says, “It is only in an active and demanding situation that mindfulness really becomes a challenge.” Read More

Prototyping User Experiences: Reducing the Risks of Product Innovation

April 6, 2020

Because of the time, energy, and money that product-development projects require, product design and UX design carry tremendous levels of risk. Most organizations are perpetually seeking ways to innovate more quickly, while at the same time, mitigating the risk that is inherent in taking chances on new products and design solutions. The need to balance the speed and the risks of product innovation is not new. What is new is how many organizations of all sizes are embracing design thinking and prototyping to reduce the risk of product design.

By adopting a design-thinking approach—and fostering a culture that embraces prototyping and rapid iteration—you can improve time to market while reducing the capital and human costs of product development. Read More

How to Create Better Alerts and Symbols in Your Designs

April 6, 2020

Alerts indicate hazards in products’ hardware or software functions. Symbols are useful in displaying such alerts more effectively, but their use is not limited to alert functions. You can also use symbols in conveying any kind of information that is complex, hard to remember, or difficult to express using words or abbreviations. Using symbology is a convenient way of keeping track of many similar functional details in hardware or software products. Therefore, it is important to understand how to design these functions.

Using Alerts

The use of alerts is inevitable in all product design. From simple lifestyle applications to military avionics, alerts play a significant role in updating users about background activities or warning them about major errors or failures that require their attention. However, users can ignore most of the alerts in lifestyle applications and expect no major consequences. For example, while a security update might be essential, the user can attend to it at a later time. Read More

March 23, 2020 Edition

Retaining Your Sanity as a User Researcher

Practical Usability

Moving toward a more usable world

A column by Jim Ross
March 23, 2020

How many times have your clients or coworkers said to you, “That was great. You’re so patient! I could never do that,” after observing your user-research sessions?

User researchers do need to have a lot of patience. We sit through multiple sessions, asking the participants the same questions, observing them going through the same tasks, and hearing them say the same things over and over and over again. We do all this while observing, listening to, and understanding participants, determining whether and when to ask questions, assessing how the sessions are going, keeping track of time, managing questions from observers, and taking notes. And that’s if everything is going perfectly well! Read More

Book Review: Change by Design

March 23, 2020

Cover: Change by DesignInterest in design thinking as a professional practice seems to ebb and flow. Currently, we’re in a period when there is great interest in design thinking. This trend may lead to some confusion or even consternation among my UX colleagues, who may see design thinking as a faux version of User Experience that dilutes interest in the real work that UX professionals do. Other criticisms of design thinking are that it is derivative of other innovation methods and that its reliance on empathy is a poor stand-in for doing real user research.

While these criticisms are fair, they may be misdirected. Certainly, design-thinking workshops take certain shortcuts. An abbreviated description of design thinking might emphasize the need for multiple iterations and the fact that an innovation process diverges at the beginning, then converges on possible solutions. The assumption is that insights arise from a project team alone, with little to no interaction with users. However, design thinking has made creativity and design processes accessible to more people and introduced new ways of building consensus. Read More

User Experience and the Big Picture, Part 3: The Solution

March 23, 2020

In Part 1 of this three-part series, I described some problems with the software-development lifecycle (SDLC). Then, in Part 2, I shared some of the key lessons I’ve learned during my more than 30 years of experience in IT. For the last 25 years, I’ve focused on improving the efficiency and effectiveness of the SDLC, considering the key role UX professionals have to play in making such improvements.

Over the last five years, these learnings have led to a new method that we have been honing at my company Ax-Stream. I believe that this new method is now at the cutting edge of software-engineering methodology. Naturally, this method incorporates all of the key lessons I discussed in Part 2. In doing so, it integrates aspects of Lean, user-centered design (UCD), agile, and waterfall, along with some novel thinking and highly advanced use of our modeling tool of choice, Axure. As Figure 1 shows, this new method comprises just three key stages: Inception, Design and Build. Read More

Big Data: Revolutionizing UX Design Strategies, Part 3

March 23, 2020

In Part 1 of this series, I covered some outdated design strategies that businesses still employ. Then in Part 2, I discussed how businesses could leverage big-data analytics to improve their UX design strategies and optimize them for the modern consumer.

Now, in Part 3, I’ll describe the role of data-driven UX design strategies in helping businesses to grow. What are the advantages of implementing such strategies? What is the impact of these strategies on businesses’ overall process and performance? How do they help augment growth for brands? Read More

Navigating a UX Job Search

Ask UXmatters

Get expert answers

A column by Janet M. Six
March 23, 2020

This month in Ask UXmatters, the UX experts on our panel give their recommendations on how to navigate the UX job–search process. They discuss online services and job-posting boards that can be useful sources of UX jobs, how to let people know you’re looking for a job, and how to find local UX meetups and connect with UX professionals in your community. In addition, our expert panelists provide links to books, articles, and videos on this topic.

They suggest that, when you’re just starting out or making a major transition in your career in User Experience, you should consider where you should live. What job market would provide the opportunities you’ll need to advance your career? Read More