May 14, 2018 Edition

How to Create Good Error Messages

Mobile Matters

Designing for every screen

A column by Steven Hoober
May 14, 2018

In this column, instead of talking about one of my usual topics—tactics to avoid errors—I’ll discuss how to work within constraints and pragmatically address real-world issues. During the software-development process, your team may ask you to design an error message. Annoying edge cases all too often pop up—usually too late in the process to fix the issue in any other way.

For starters, I never write what I’d call error messages. Admittedly, I occasionally use that term—in the same way I might use words such as sitemap—just at the beginning of a conversation to orient everyone to my process. Just as I did in the title of this column. But I then switch to a more meaningful term and get everyone to talk about exception messages. Read More

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Avoiding Half-Assed User Research

Practical Usability

Moving toward a more usable world

A column by Jim Ross
May 14, 2018

Although we can’t always spend as much time and money as we’d like to conduct user research and there are times when we need to take shortcuts, there’s a fine line between discount user research and half-assed user research. UX professionals have always had to fight to get user research included on projects. Because of time and money pressures, we may have felt justified in cutting corners to fit in whatever user research we could. After all, even a little user research is better than none at all. Isn’t it?

Yes, taking clever shortcuts can reduce the time and cost of doing user research—and, sometimes, conducting at least some user research is better than doing none at all. However, if you sacrifice in the wrong areas, you can end up gathering incorrect or incomplete information that can lead to poor design decisions and, ultimately, waste far more time and money than the time and money you originally saved by conducting discount user research. Read More

How to Make User Research a Conversation

May 14, 2018

A good user researcher is able to connect with participants, establish rapport and gain trust, and make people comfortable sharing their candid feedback and deeper needs. An effective user researcher must skillfully guide conversations with participants—allowing them to flow organically, while probing more deeply on interesting comments—and always remain mindful of leaving enough time to cover every strategically important topic. Sounds simple, right?

It is important to keep user-research sessions natural and conversational, making participants feel at ease. Ideally, they’ll enjoy themselves and maybe even forget they’re talking to a complete stranger about their inner thoughts and feelings. Read More

Review: Enterprise UX 2017, Part 3: Conference, Day 2

May 14, 2018

For the concluding day of Enterprise UX (EUX) 2017, on Friday, June 9, we again gathered at the Innovation Hangar in San Francisco’s Palace of Fine Arts.

In Part 1 of my EUX 2017 review, I wrote about the overall conference experience—including its organization, content, presenters, proceedings, venue, hospitality, events, and attendee community—and provided reviews of the full-day workshops Jim Nieters and I attended on Wednesday, June 7. In Part 2, I covered Day 1’s sessions, which focused on the themes “Crafting Enterprise Experiences” and “Leading Teams That Execute.”

Now, in Part 3 of my EUX 2017 review, I’ll cover Day 2 of the main conference, which focused on two more themes:

  • “Transcending Silos”
  • “Creating a Legacy”

For Day 2, the conference organizers put together another day of strong content. Read More

The Role of Content in User Experience

May 14, 2018

There are many aspects to a Web site’s user experience, but one of the least discussed and perhaps most important is content. The content of any Web site drives the user experience. You can have the best design themes, the best graphics, and even a great personalization strategy, but without great content to back it up, the user’s experience may still be very poor.

What exactly can you do about this? How can you structure great content to enhance the user’s experience?

First Impressions

Personalization is one of the primary drivers of modern Web-site design. Subdomains and even unique domains for specific metropolitan or local areas are common. There is some debate about which is better for both SEO (Search-Engine Optimization) and the user experience. Read More

April 30, 2018 Edition

Vital Accessibility Design Principles

Evolution of XD Principles

Challenging XD conventions

A column by Dashiel Neimark
April 30, 2018

In the not too distant future, accessibility design will no longer be a nice-to-have in UX design job postings. It will be a standard requirement. An expectation. If you are a UX designer with only a cursory understanding of accessibility design techniques, you should improve on that as soon as possible. Soon, accessibility design principles will be as well known and commonly practiced as the famous Nielsen Norman Group heuristics. User empathy is rapidly becoming common practice within product companies and accessibility is gaining traction as a cardinal facet of empathy-driven design.

Designing for diverse users—that is, children, seniors, and people with physical, cognitive, visual, or hearing impairments—requires that we pay special attention to their unique needs.

With this in mind, I have been journaling some of the accessibility considerations that are top of mind in my own practice of UX design. While the accessibility design principles I’ll present in this column certainly do not represent an exhaustive list, they do provide a great starting point—or refresher—of accessibility considerations to keep in mind as you create your next digital experience. If you design digital experiences—or work with someone who does—think about where you could have applied these principles on past projects and, more importantly, start mapping out how you might leverage them on your current or upcoming projects. Read More

Designing Point-of-Sale Systems

April 30, 2018

While point-of-sale (POS) systems belong to a unique software niche, they also display a surprising degree of variety. Like most old software, POS systems may have originated in the garages of small software innovators or established industry manufacturers. However, recently, POS systems have started transitioning into the realm of Web-based applications and mobile apps. This trend poses challenges to user-interface designers, who must be aware of how the design of POS systems differs from the design of other Web and mobile apps.

The Evolving World of POS Design

In bricks-and-mortar stores, cashiers use point-of-sale systems software, which functions as a digital cash register. Historically, POS systems have resembled embedded software systems because they rely on custom hardware. Plus, the contexts in which POS systems are used are professional settings, and they may receive heavy use by trained operators. However, the reality is more nuanced: many POS operators get little training because the turnover of staff is so high that they don’t have time to develop the mastery that is necessary to operate traditional embedded systems. Today, most new POS systems work either on a mobile phone or a tablet with a touchscreen, so gestural design patterns are making their way into the world of POS user interfaces. Read More

Becoming an Agile Company

Ask UXmatters

Get expert answers

A column by Janet M. Six
April 30, 2018

In this edition of Ask UXmatters, our experts consider how best to lead UX design efforts when a company is becoming an agile house. First, our expert panel considers where UX design fits into the timing of agile sprints. Then, our panelists discuss the different flavors of agile—some of which are adaptations that are not truly agile.

Our expert panel also discusses how to present the benefits of agile for the company, as well as the final product, while ensuring strong UX design. Finally, the panel explores the challenges of working for developer-centric companies. Read More

What Great UX Designers Do

April 30, 2018

What it takes to make a great UX designer doesn’t depend on what kind of company you work for—whether a product or service company or an agency. In this article, I’ll describe some common best practices that enable UX designers to do great work.

Practice 1: Build Trust by Being Authentic and Loving Your Job

Only people who truly love their job and work with passion can do great work.

For example, I take my passion into agency pitches. Dewetron, an Austrian company, needed support in developing new, long-term data-measurement software. They understood the importance of simplicity. I really wanted to work on this project and was passionate about doing it. Why? Because, these days, we don’t often get the chance to build software for an industry from scratch without any user-interface requirements. I was thankful to be part of this development effort.

As a UX professional—whether in consulting or in business—you have to build expertise and trust. At the beginning, you must convince your clients of your expertise and establish your references. Your passion for your work will help you to convey your expertise. Read More

Review: Enterprise UX 2017, Part 2: Conference, Day 1

April 30, 2018

The main Enterprise UX (EUX) 2017 conference took place on Thursday, June 8, and Friday, June 9, at the Innovation Hangar in San Francisco’s Palace of Fine Arts.

In Part 1 of my review of EUX 2017, I covered the overall conference experience, including its organization, content, presenters, proceedings, venue, hospitality, events, and attendee community. Jim Nieters and I also reviewed the full-day workshops we each attended on Wednesday, June 7:

  • Strategy for Design Leadership”—Dave Malouf, Director of Product Design at Digital Ocean
  • Product Management for UX People”—Laura Klein, Principal at UsersKnow, and Kate Rutter, Principal at Intelleto

Now in Part 2 of my review, I’ll cover Day 1 of the main conference. Across two full days of conference sessions, the organizers provided a highly enjoyable and edifying conference experience. Read More