Do you create products or organize events for UX professionals or manage a UX team that’s hiring? Sponsor UXmatters and see your ad or logo here! Learn moreLearn More

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

May 2008 Issue

By Mike Hughes

Published: May 19, 2008

“While technical communicators tend to write in a low-context style, user assistance occurs in high-context situations.”

Jean-Luc Dumont is a respected authority in international technical communications, but he is most renowned for a particularly entertaining presentation he gives about road signs. This genre of tight communications that are written for small spaces and meant to read by users in motion holds many lessons for those of us who write user assistance.

Especially enlightening is the distinction Jean-Luc makes between high-context cultures and low-context cultures and how that difference in cultures influences the language of road signs. While technical communicators tend to write in a low-context style, user assistance occurs in high-context situations. So, in this column, I’ll discuss the need to reexamine how we write user assistance in light of this cultural proclivity.

High Context and Low Context

Jean-Luc points out—nonjudgmentally—that the American culture is a low-context culture. Figure 1 shows one of Jean-Luc’s examples that makes his point most vividly. I see this kind of sign several times a week in my own neighborhood. Read moreRead More>

By Keith LaFerriere

Published: May 19, 2008

“Separating client requests into content units removes uncertainty and offers clearer direction, while helping your client recognize each individual request as a deliverable, requiring assignments and responsibilities.”

The Roman philosopher Cicero stated, “Never go to excess, but let moderation be your guide.” The trouble is, even though people have repeated this particular quotation over the past couple of millennia, our clients often push the limits excessively—beyond moderation—for both content and presentation.

As a UX professional, how do you demonstrate to your clients the benefits of moderation in user experience? You show them.

Stop Right There

You’re sitting in a meeting with a client and the first thing they say to you is: “We’d like the site to have some sort of movement on it. It has to be interactive, and it needs to include some Ajax, or whatever that’s called, and make sure people can see everything without scrolling….”

Rather than running from the room screaming, because your client has given you a hodgepodge of unworkable requirements, take a deep breath and respond to each and every one of the things your client has asked you to do. You could approach doing this in a couple of different ways, but I’ve found that separating client requests into content units removes uncertainty and offers clearer direction, while helping your client recognize each individual request as a deliverable, requiring assignments and responsibilities. Read moreRead More>

By David Kozatch

Published: May 19, 2008

“I often find that client companies keep these two disciplines locked up in separate silos—usability research within IT and marketing research within the Marketing Services department.”

Being a consultant with experience in both traditional marketing research and user experience and usability gives me a unique perspective on a broad range of issues relating to customer experience. Not only do I have a good idea of what the other discipline does, I am a practitioner of the other discipline. However, in attempting to play both roles at once, I often find that client companies keep these two disciplines locked up in separate silos—usability research within IT and marketing research within the Marketing Services department. This can have a serious impact on the sharing of information relating to customer experience.

To help demonstrate my point, here is a brief quiz for UX professionals and other members of your product team. Read moreRead More>

By Steve Baty

Published: May 7, 2008

“As UX professionals, we can always add value, at any stage in a project.”

It’s not uncommon for projects to lack the time, money, or resources to conduct ideal user research activities. There are many reasons why this occurs:

  • Sometimes we’re brought onto a project late.
  • Perhaps we’re new to an organization that doesn’t really get UX.
  • Maybe a company is rushing to bring a product to market for some reason—and there are plenty of good and bad reasons this might be so—and there simply isn’t time to “go big”.
  • Perhaps your client or organization is following an Agile development methodology.

At such times, it can be tempting to just throw up our hands in dismay and do nothing or lament the fact that everything isn’t perfect. But the simple fact is that, as UX professionals, we can always add value, at any stage in a project—even if a project team can’t act on our advice straight away. Read moreRead More>

By Joshua Kaufman

Published: May 7, 2008

“Established publishers aren’t quite ready to jump into the UX waters with both feet.”

After working on five books as an editor or co-author, Lou Rosenfeld became disenchanted with the traditional book publishing model. So, in late 2005, he founded Rosenfeld Media, a new publishing house that develops short, practical, useful books on user experience design. Rosenfeld Media published their first book, Mental Models: Aligning Design Strategy with Human Behavior, in early 2008. I recently had the opportunity to interview Lou—along with Liz Danzico, Senior Development Editor at Rosenfeld Media—about starting a new publishing house and “eating their own dog food.”

Joshua Kaufman (JK): When you started Rosenfeld Media, you recognized that book publishing has been a relatively unchanging and unhealthy industry over the last few decades. What are the big issues within the industry, and how will you be confronting them as a publisher?

(Lou Rosenfeld (LR): Established book publishers are locked into a really difficult legacy business model, relying heavily on sales staff and middlemen to reach customers through retail channels. For publishers, selling retail means giving away 55–70% of the book’s list price to make a consignment sale. Those are some ugly numbers to live with, so Rosenfeld Media has opted to sell through two primary channels: direct from our site and via Amazon—which is inescapable. Read moreRead More>

By Lucinio Santos

Published: May 7, 2008

“An awareness of the damage complexity inflicts on users is spreading to the enterprise market.”

There is increasing interest in the simplification of information technology (IT). The IT industry is recognizing the need to simplify software technology as businesses express their increased interest in governing the return on their IT investments. Two goals are surfacing as explicit mandates to which all software vendors are responding:

  • lowering the skills required of software users
  • increasing their productivity

Although this simplification mandate is most essential to small- and medium-sized businesses, where people with high-end technical skills may not be affordable, an awareness of the damage complexity inflicts on users is spreading to the enterprise market as well. Commoditization pressures make it necessary for the IT industry to reduce skills requirements as well as service and maintenance costs.

This article postulates that we cannot address the issue of simplification exclusively by analyzing the physical and computational parameters of technology. Instead, we must understand the goal of simplification in light of the knowledge, tasks, and processing-load demands on its users. We can approach simplicity as an engineering endeavor by controlling the impact on these three usage dimensions. Read moreRead More>