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December 04, 2017 Edition

The Crucial Role of UX in the Design of Software Robots

Selling UX

A unique perspective on service UX

A column by Baruch Sachs
December 4, 2017

At networking and business events, I often get asked about where I think user experience is going. A common theme that has emerged during these conversations is the sense that some of the latest trends in software—such as robotic process automation (RPA) and artificial intelligence—may do away with the need for UX design. While I understand the overarching fear of this perceived threat to UX designers’ livelihood, I find this very human fear ironic given what the worry is about. People often fear what they don’t quite understand and, certainly, the general hoopla about robots taking over human’s jobs breeds much fear and misunderstanding.

However, our guiding principle should always be: When we, as humans, use a product, we should not have to adapt to the technology. Instead, technology should adapt to us. A product that does this successfully is well designed. To create such well-crafted experiences, companies will need UX designers more than ever. Good design does not just happen. In actuality, the introduction of a new technology has no bearing on the validity and continued value of a mature design process. Read More

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Preparing Your UX Career for Virtual Reality

December 4, 2017

If you have been to your local mall recently, you have probably noticed that virtual reality (VR) and augmented reality (AR) products and services are now hitting the market in much greater numbers than last year. These digital experiences mix with or even completely replace physical reality, letting users get out from behind their devices’ screens.

From sports to retail, entertainment, and medicine, there are clear signs that we are approaching a tipping point with immersive technology. These signs are similar to those we experienced before other major platforms—such as the Web and smartphones—exploded on the scene. Businesses are investing strategically in what will be the biggest platform introduction since mobile. For example, Mark Zuckerberg offered a strong business rationale for Facebook’s decision to pay $2 billion for Oculus Rift: “Strategically, we want to start building the next major computing platform that will come after mobile. … Immersive virtual and augmented reality will become a part of people’s everyday [lives].” Read More

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What DesignOps Can Learn from DevOps

December 4, 2017

As respect for design as a competitive advantage grows, companies are tackling the challenge of integrating design practices into enterprises and digital businesses. DesignOps is an emerging strategy for addressing this challenge. The UX community is now exploring best practices for operationalizing and scaling in-house design.

DevOps is an IT methodology for designing and operating complex IT systems and organizations. DevOps addresses the question of how to build and run sociotechnical systems that can scale without becoming brittle. Understanding the DevOps approach can help the UX community think more broadly and systematically about what it means to scale design.

DevOps and DesignOps are both responses to the same underlying phenomenon. We are living through a transition from an industrial economy whose focus was physical products to a post-industrial economy that centers on digital services. This post-industrial business economy isn’t just about making digital products instead of physical ones. It’s about integrating the physical and digital realms with one another—infusing each with the other. Read More

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Empathy and the Art of Product Design

December 4, 2017

Product design is more than a series of simple steps or a mechanical process for solving a problem. In fact, when done well, product design is something of a mystery. Solving extraordinary problems and creating customer-centric products and services that people want and need is a valuable skill that requires a unique blend of fact-based expertise and creativity.

Companies are starting to recognize that great design involves far more than just providing solutions for functional or business needs. Design taps into the human experience in new, unexpected ways. So, while expertise is essential, product designers are most effective when they also possess soft skills such as empathy and emotional intelligence. Read More


The Role of Empathy in Understanding Users

December 4, 2017

Great leaders have been able to lead significant social revolutions because they understood people’s needs and recognized and worked to alleviate their pain and suffering. [1] Such leaders’ empathy toward people has brought revolutionary social changes. Likewise, people who have understood and empathized with users’ needs, frustrations, goals, and motivations have brought the world innovative solutions such as the telephone and Apple iPod. Apple came back from its near downfall by designing products that people need and want and delivering mind-blowing, innovative solutions.

In pursuit of innovation, more organizations have adopted design-thinking strategies, including leading companies such as IBM, Intuit, Airbnb, Microsoft, SAP, and Toshiba. Still, only a few companies have harnessed the power of innovation. If your organization wants to incorporate design thinking into its culture, you must start by being empathetic toward your users. Design thinking begins with developing a deep understanding of your users and the problem you are trying to solve for them. Only by developing empathy for your users, you can design truly breathtaking solutions for their problems. Read More

November 20, 2017 Edition

Overcoming Common Barriers to Collaboration, Part 2

Leadership Matters

Leading UX transformation

November 20, 2017

This two-part series describes some common organizational, cultural, and interpersonal barriers that hinder the ability of people and teams to collaborate effectively. It is important to understand what unique combination of barriers to collaboration exists within your own organization, then devise solutions to overcome those specific barriers. In Part 1 of this series, I described four common barriers to collaboration and provided solutions for overcoming them.

  1. A lack of respect and trust
  2. Different mindsets
  3. Poor listening skills
  4. Knowledge deficits

Now, in Part 2, I’ll cover the remaining five barriers to collaboration:

  1. A lack of alignment around goals
  2. Internal competitiveness
  3. Information hoarding
  4. Organizational silos
  5. Physical separation

For an organization to create a culture of collaboration, it must overcome these barriers. Whether your role is that of a leader or an individual contributor, you can help your team to overcome these organizational, cultural, and interpersonal barriers to collaboration. Read More


Smartware, AI, and Magical Products

Smartware

The evolution of computing

November 20, 2017

Do you remember the first time you saw magic? Something that stretched your imagination beyond what you thought possible? For Dirk, this happened in a most unlikely place: a Sears store in a sleepy mid-Western shopping mall, circa 1977, at a demonstration of the Home Pong console, which was, at the time, the latest technological wonder. A small crowd had gathered in awe around a chunky tube TV, and children and adults alike turned the control wheels with delight, bouncing a pixelated ball back and forth. Although, as a child, Dirk had experienced a variety of traditional magic shows involving cards, rings, and pigeons, it was that Pong demonstration that stayed with him. In that moment, the television transformed into a machine with which he could interact, and he began a newfound relationship with the screen.

The interactivity that so enthralled Dirk that day is, in fact, core to computing. Ever since consumers adopted the earliest personal computers, we’ve input commands to yield desired outputs. Today, however, interactivity is changing, becoming far less direct. Using artificial intelligence (AI), services such as Amazon and Netflix have mapped a detailed identity graph for each of their customers. Machine learning enables these services to recommend products that customers are likely to buy and new shows that viewers are likely to enjoy. Read More


Reflections on Making Meaningful Work

November 20, 2017

We just presented at CanUX 2017, in Ottawa, Canada. Like all good conferences, Can UX created a place for community, conversations, learning, and connecting with local and global practitioners. The conference provided reminders of why we do what we do and opportunities to look at practice patterns that may connect to the practices we use in our own project work. This experience definitely prompted some reflections on our intention to make meaningful work. When asking how we can make meaningful work, we should consider the following core elements:

  • character—We must be aware of the dimensions of individuals and teams that contribute to identity, values, beliefs, intention, and impact.
  • perspectives—Our character forms our essential perspectives.
  • barriers—It is important to recognize the barriers that get in the way of our seeing all the dots we must connect.
  • intersections—These are the connections between the dots—whether those dots are people, disciplines, roles, or the conditions that are necessary to promote and harness meaningful conversations.
  • impacts—The impacts of our work include those on ourselves, our teams, our communities, and the entire planet. Read More


The Ethics of User Experience Design

Innovating UX Practice

Inspirations from software engineering

A column by Peter Hornsby
November 20, 2017

About six months ago, I left Facebook cold turkey. I had tried leaving it before, but always ended up going back. It wasn’t the not‑so‑subtle hints or wanting to see the pictures of all my friends—or at least people with whom I’d connected on Facebook—that drove me back, but fear of missing out (FOMO). What if something happened to someone, and I wasn’t aware of it? What if I thought of a witty one-liner and couldn’t share it immediately with a group of people, then bask in the adulation they would inevitably provide in response to my genius? What about that important political opinion about Trump or Brexit that I’d need to share among my fellow right‑thinking people?

You know what happened? Nothing. Nothing bad, at any rate.

Breaking Free of Addictive User Experiences

I had decided that the price I was paying for being on Facebook was too high. I’d get drawn into arguments and find myself getting annoyed and frustrated. Something is wrong on the Internet! I’d find myself checking my account far too frequently. There’s nothing inherently wrong with either of those things—except that they took time away from other, more important things that I felt I should be doing. I’d read an excellent piece about why one person left World of Warcraft. Read More


Tools for Remote, Collaborative UX Design

Ask UXmatters

Get expert answers

A column by Janet M. Six
November 20, 2017

In this edition of Ask UXmatters, our experts discuss their favorite tools for remote, collaborative UX design and how to use them in a variety of situations. Collectively, these tools support verbal and written communication, file sharing, screen sharing, collaborative drawing, and prototyping. Some tools try to replicate the way designers work in person, while others transcend these norms and create new paradigms for remote, collaborative UX design.

Our expert panel also explains how to use to these tools to ensure that the result is a good design and every team member’s voice is heard. As you’ll see, UX designers are comfortable with various processes for creating designs, so some tools are a better fit for certain processes than others. Read More