October 09, 2017 Edition

Overcoming Common Barriers to Collaboration, Part 1

Leadership Matters

Leading UX teams

October 9, 2017

“Organizations…often develop barriers that hinder information sharing and collaboration. … The job of a leader is to spot these barriers and tear them down….”—Morten T. Hansen

Organizations differ in their ability to collaborate within and across teams and business units. A unique combination of organizational, cultural, and interpersonal barriers to collaboration afflicts any organization that is experiencing difficulty collaborating. Therefore, to assess their organization’s ability to collaborate, leaders must first determine what barriers to collaboration exist within their organization. One effective way of doing this is to conduct a survey to identify which of the behaviors that hinder collaboration commonly occur within their organization.

Once leaders understand what dysfunctional behaviors are preventing their people and teams from collaborating effectively, they must tailor solutions to address the specific barriers to collaboration that exist within their organization. They must motivate their people to change the behaviors that are preventing or diminishing the success of collaboration within and across teams and business units.

In this column, I’ll describe some common organizational, cultural, and interpersonal barriers to collaboration and provide solutions for overcoming them. To create a culture of collaboration, an organization must overcome these barriers. Read More

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What Is Proper UX Anyway?

Selling UX

A unique perspective on service UX

A column by Baruch Sachs
October 9, 2017

Recently, in speaking with various members of my team, as well as UX professionals from other companies, the expression proper UX has come up a lot. A common refrain is: “I did not get to do proper UX at my last company, so I left.” Everyone nods knowingly, offers words of encouragement, and we move on to a different topic.

But what exactly is proper UX practice? How should we define that? There is a lot of information out there about exactly what proper UX practice is. However, almost everyone’s conception of proper UX practice suffers from one glaring omission: flexibility. Read More

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UX Design in a Nutshell: How the Design Process Drives Behavior

October 9, 2017

UX design is an exciting, dynamic field that constantly challenges us to broaden our understanding and expertise. But constant innovation can come at a price: confusion among UX design professionals and stakeholders alike. This confusion can present significant obstacles that UX design professionals need to overcome in

  • improving our skills—For example, you might ask yourself: How could this practice or technique fit my process?
  • winning over stakeholders—These coworkers may be unfamiliar with our way of working. Read More

Sympathy Card to a Front-End Developer

October 9, 2017

Once upon a time, I joined an enterprise software team with a ten-year old product and an outdated user interface design. I was the first UX designer they had ever worked with. They didn’t understand my role on the team. In fact, they didn’t think they needed a UX designer at all. Even after I reviewed the product and explained how a redesign would benefit users, they still resisted. But, after doing extensive user research in their niche market, I began a complete redesign of their user interface (UI).

There was one team member who took my fresh-eyed sketches particularly hard: the front-end developer. The current user interface—every gratuitous drop-down menu, slider, and animated icon—paid homage to his years of service. For him, the user interface represented a scrapbook of memories. For me, it represented a collection of questionable design choices. Read More

Usability Testing for Survey Research

October 9, 2017

This is a sample chapter from Emily Geisen and Jennifer Romano Bergstrom’s new book Usability Testing for Survey Research. Reprinted with permission from Elsevier/Morgan Kaufmann, Copyright © 2017.

Chapter 2: Respondent–Survey Interaction

Usability Testing for Survey ResearchUsability testing allows an in-depth evaluation of how respondents interact with surveys and how this interaction affects the quality of a survey. For example, a respondent may understand the survey question and response options, but may have difficulty selecting an answer accurately on a smartphone’s small screen.

To begin to understand how usability testing can be used to identify potential problems with surveys and improve the overall quality of data collected, we consider the different types of error that can occur in the survey process. Read More

September 25, 2017 Edition

Smartware: The Evolution of Computing


The evolution of computing

September 25, 2017

In this column on the future of computing, we’ll look at how a handful of advances—including artificial intelligence (AI), the Internet of Things (IoT), sciences of human understanding like neuroscience and genomics, and emerging delivery platforms such as 3D printers and virtual-reality (VR) headsets—will come together to transform software and hardware into something new that we’re calling smartware.

Smartware are computing systems that require little active user input, integrate the digital and physical worlds, and continually learn on their own.

A Tribute to Dead Machines

Humanity and technology are inseparable. Not only is technology present in every facet of civilization, it even predates archaeological history. Each time we think we’ve identified the earliest cave paintings—such as that by an unknown artist in Figure 1—stone tools, or use of wood for fuel, some archaeologist finds evidence that people started creating or using them even earlier. Indeed, while our own species, Homo sapiens, is only about 300,000 years old, the earliest stone tools are more than 3 million years old! Even before we were what we now call human, we were making technology. Read More

Frugal UX: A Jugaad Approach to Research and Design

Innovating UX Practice

Inspirations from software engineering

A column by Peter Hornsby
September 25, 2017

In recent years, the Hindi word Jugaad has gained popularity as a synonym for frugal innovation—that is, the ability to do more with less. While the concept of Jugaad came out of developing nations such as India, the concept has garnered interest in the developed economies of the West. This trend has arguably occurred after a half century of relative wealth. Consider, for instance, the British wartime call to arms on the domestic front to “Make do and mend.” The idea of frugality is not simply about making things cheaply. Companies, particularly well-known Western brands, have hard-earned reputations they need to maintain. For these companies, frugality means staying true to their brand values while, at the same time, delivering additional value to the customer. They may accomplish this by

  • reducing overconsumption and waste—Thus, a company can deliver environmental benefits as part of their corporate social responsibility.
  • engaging with a broader range of users—This may mean delivering value in new markets or engaging with customers who the company had previously excluded from consideration by virtue of their age or disability.
  • making their product-design, development, and production processes more decentralized and flexible—This helps the company respond more quickly to market trends and opportunities—functioning like a fleet of speedboats rather than a single supertanker. Read More

Applied UX Strategy, Part 6.1: Implementation

September 25, 2017

In my series “Applied UX Strategy,” I’ve written about a model that describes three levels of UX maturity and key areas of effort that can transform designers from implementers into strategic partners.

To achieve the goal of transforming User Experience into a strategic function, a company needs a long-term action plan. In the beginning of this journey, there will likely be a huge list of things that are wrong with the company and its products or services. Seeing an enormous number of painpoints for our customers is frustrating and saddens our product designers. Of course, we want to fix all of them at once, but resources may be scarce. Plus, ineffective processes and narrow-mindedness about design often hinder our solving customers’ woes once and for all. Moreover, the value of every change we make may differ, depending on the company’s stage of UX maturity.

Now, in Part 6 of my series, I’ll discuss the implementation of a company’s UX strategy in two installments, each covering the following topics:

  • Part 6.1:
    • Organizational Redesign
    • Design-Management Patterns
    • Planning and Tracking Changes
  • Part 6.2: How Companies Are Transforming Product Design Read More

Testing Products People Will Use in a Variety of Environments

Ask UXmatters

Get expert answers

A column by Janet M. Six
September 25, 2017

In this edition of Ask UXmatters, our expert panel discusses how best to test designs for products that people will use in a wide variety of environments. First, the panel discusses which and how many of the expected environments you should test within, then how to simulate those environments, if necessary.

Of course, it is also important to consider the financial and time costs of testing in multiple environments. Furthermore, you must design a usability study appropriately when testing in various environments, recognizing that particular participants may complete only certain tasks within each of these environments. The panel also explores the advantages of remote testing when users’ environmental conditions are likely to have usability impacts. Finally, I describe a two-phased approach for evaluating the design of products for use in multiple environments. Read More

5 Myths Your Product Stakeholders Believe About UX Research, Part 1

September 25, 2017

What do your product stakeholders really know about user research? In organizations in which User Experience is more mature or even completely institutionalized, there is a good chance that product stakeholders—for example, your product owners, product managers, business analysts, and developers—know at least a little something about user research and user-centered design practices.

But in organizations in which User Experience is in its infancy or corporate budgets underfund User Experience, you might hear someone on your product team say, “That’s the stuff you do with the one-way mirrors, right?” The majority of product teams are likely neither practicing nor evangelizing UX research. There might be a UX unicorn or two—a UX professional who does a little bit of everything, including design, strategy and research. In companies that have not fully embraced User Experience, product stakeholders do not have a firm grounding in UX research and do not truly understand what is necessary to capture the user’s story. Read More