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October 2007 Issue

By Colleen Jones

Published: October 22, 2007

“We all seek to understand customers—needs, preferences, behaviors, attitudes, and more.”

Think you’re not into marketing? Think again. As UX professionals, we share much in common with our close cousins, the marketers. We all seek to understand customers—needs, preferences, behaviors, attitudes, and more. We all seek to create positive touchpoints with customers and, in turn, a positive affiliation with our product or company brand. We all know the importance of communicating effectively with customers and evaluating the performance of our work.

In fact, the worlds of user experience and marketing are colliding as companies increasingly

  • interact with customers through various channels and media—Web, email, mobile, phone, store, print, and so on—for everything from purchasing to customer service
  • engage customers through a range of Web sites—traditional brochure Web sites, social networking sites, personal portals, search sites, partner Web sites, RSS feeds, and so on
  • seek long-term relationships with their customers

More and more, if we’re creating content for the Web or any interactive channel, we’re dealing with marketing issues. Read moreRead More>

By Jonathan Follett

Published: October 22, 2007

“Mobile devices offer the greatest opportunity for satisfying people’s wants and needs by providing context-specific, time-sensitive interactive experiences.”

Of all the digital information delivery systems people use, mobile devices offer the greatest opportunity for satisfying people’s wants and needs by providing context-specific, time-sensitive interactive experiences. But, in order to truly take advantage of this potential, experience designers need to transition from designing for a single, static space—the desktop—to imagining the broad possibilities of the geospatial Web. For digital products and services, the next dimension of user experience we should consider during design is location.

Changing Our Perspective on Mobile Design

There’s no doubt that the mobile experience has the potential to be far more than just the desktop Web reformatted for a tiny screen and accessible on the go. But looking at many of the products that major wireless carriers in the United States are touting, you wouldn’t think so.

Much of the mobile industry is focusing on porting already existing digital content and services to the mobile environment, with a heavy emphasis on entertainment—for example, accessing Fantasy Football stats or viewing abbreviated video clips of network television’s latest and greatest shows. While it might be fun and convenient to check your favorite player’s stats while waiting in line or during a particularly boring business meeting, the experience is, at best, a pleasant distraction. There’s nothing wrong with these products—people will always enjoy entertaining content—but they do not take advantage of the power of the mobile Web as a medium. Read moreRead More>

Review by Leo Frishberg

Published: October 22, 2007

Organization 4 stars
Content 5 stars
Copyediting 2 stars
Illustrations 5 stars
Book Design 3 stars

Sketching User Experiences is a rambling stream of consciousness through Bill Buxton’s head—spanning a treatise on the role of design in business, a history lesson on sketching, and an analysis of specific design solutions. The topics—shifting gently—are often intriguing, and their overall trajectory is completely unpredictable. As, in my current professional context, I am struggling with communicating the power, strategic importance, and benefits of design to the business, I was extraordinarily pleased to find the book speaking about these very topics. You wouldn’t know that you’d find this information in the book from reading the cover or even the first 100 pages.

With Buxton’s casual style and the nearly complete lack of self-promotion in his book, it’s easy to forget Buxton is one of the leading researchers in design. I picked up my copy of the book at the CHI 2007 conference, where I had a chance to chat with Buxton while he signed a seemingly never-ending stream of newly purchased books. His meandering conversational style is not limited to his writing. Buxton is intrigued by many things—one interest leading quickly to another, in a richly interwoven web of associations.

Buxton’s penchant for free association comes through in Sketching User Experiences. I was initially put off by the unevenness of the writing—at all levels, from specific grammar to topic shifts within a chapter to entire sections of chapters in the overall flow. It isn’t until page 111 that he actually defines sketching and introduces the primary theses for his book. Over the first 100 pages, he meanders through a wide range of ideas, entertaining and regaling us with anecdotes seemingly unrelated to any one idea. Read moreRead More>

By Luke Wroblewski

Published: October 8, 2007

“Screen frameworks, user interface structures, and components that enable your product design to gracefully accommodate new features, new markets, and dynamic content—that can shrink or grow—are the cornerstones of a scalable design.”

You’ve spent the last six months toiling away at a product design. The last few weeks were especially rough—tying up loose edge cases, closing out bugs, polishing up interaction and visual design details. And now your product has launched, so its time for some well deserved rest, right?

Unfortunately, Bruce Sterling, science fiction author and design professor, got it right when he said, “Design is never done.” Before you know it, there are new features to add, new markets to conquer, and new updates to your application’s content.

Your seemingly elegant design begins to bloat with features, tear under the pressure of localization, and nearly keel over under the weight of new content that pushes it to its breaking point. Before long you give up. It’s time to redesign—again.

Could you have avoided this all too common cycle? Was there anything you might have done to anticipate these changes? One potential answer lies in scalable design considerations. Screen frameworks, user interface structures, and components that enable your product design to gracefully accommodate new features, new markets, and dynamic content—that can shrink or grow—are the cornerstones of a scalable design. Read moreRead More>

By Roberto Ostinelli

Published: October 8, 2007

“While we wait for technology to catch up with our dreams, the gap between our expectations and the reality of what we can now achieve has inspired two important trends in the development of virtual assistants.”

As early as 1968, influenced by visionary movies such as Stanley Kubrick’s 2001: A Space Odyssey, with its fictional computer character HAL 9000, we envisioned omniscient, intelligent machines that could easily contain the whole range of human knowledge. Then, in 1987, the Knowledge Navigator video from Apple Computer struck our imaginations and greatly boosted our expectations of what computers would be able to do for us in a few years’ time.

It is now 20 years later, but technology is still very far from fulfilling such hopes regarding virtual assistants:

  • Voice recognition isn’t immediate.
  • People adapt to machines’ lexicons rather than the other way around.
  • Computers cannot easily transcend the scope for which they have been programmed.
  • Self-learning machines are still experimental.
  • The generation of high-quality graphics representing emotionally rich, 3-D avatars is far from being real time, cheap, or extensively available.

Read moreRead More>