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July 2008 Issue

By Mike Hughes

Published: July 21, 2008

“Looking for a better way, I discovered Excel and the power of managing by task inventories and check-off lists.”

One of my earlier careers was in manufacturing management, and it grounded me in the principles of project planning and management. When I moved into technical communication, I brought my project management disciplines with me, and I embraced the prevailing tools of my new profession. I dutifully produced documentation plans in Microsoft Word and supported them with detailed project plans in Microsoft Project. However, the problem is that—like bad relationships—these artifacts never gave back results that were sufficient to reward the effort I put into creating them.

Excel: A Minimalist Tool

Looking for a better way, I discovered Excel and the power of managing by task inventories and check-off lists. Project management boils down to just three essential requirements:

  • scoping the size of the project
  • bundling the tasks into manageable and assignable chunks, or components
  • tracking progress

Read moreRead More>

By Anirban Basu Mallik

Published: July 21, 2008

“In addition to the UX team itself, others who might be target users for the UX intranet include business development people and, via an extranet, your clients.”

Most of us who are working as part of a design team in a services company, a product company, or even a design boutique have to live with a generic intranet. In this article, I’ll describe how to leverage your company’s intranet and how to build a community around an intranet for a UX team.

Exactly Who Are We Designing an Intranet For?

Depending on the services a multidisciplinary UX team provides, it might comprise interaction designers, information architects, visual interface designers, graphic designers, Web analysts, ethnographers, usability professionals, copy writers, technical writers, instructional designers, prototypers, and developers. In addition to the UX team itself, others who might be target users for the UX intranet include business development people and, via an extranet, your clients. Typically, you would give your clients access to only certain parts of the intranet. Read moreRead More>

By Jim Nieters

Published: July 7, 2008

“The skills that make you successful as an individual contributor are not the same skills you need as a leader.”

In my last column, I suggested that being a manager of UX is no better—and no worse—than being a great designer or user researcher, but the roles are very different. In fact, as the book The First 90 Days [1] points out, the skills that make you successful as an individual contributor are not the same skills you need as a leader.

Still, I was glad to see that a couple of people who talked with me after reading my column are being offered the opportunity to move into management roles and have decided to take the plunge. They asked me how they could make this transition a positive experience for them, their teams, and their companies. They were asking the right questions. This column discusses what attributes can help someone become a successful first-time UX manager—though these attributes are foundational elements for all managers. Read moreRead More>

By Michael Hawley

Published: July 7, 2008

“A researcher’s skill in conducting interviews has a direct impact on the quality and accuracy of research findings and subsequent decisions about design.”

Interviewing is an artful skill that is at the core of a wide variety of research methods in user-centered design, including stakeholder interviews, contextual inquiry, usability testing, and focus groups. Consequently, a researcher’s skill in conducting interviews has a direct impact on the quality and accuracy of research findings and subsequent decisions about design. Skilled interviewers can conduct interviews that uncover the most important elements of a participant’s perspective on a task or a product in a manner that does not introduce interviewer bias. Companies hire user researchers and user-centered designers because they possess this very ability.

There is a wide variety of literature regarding best practices for user research interviews. For example, in their book User and Task Analysis for Interface Design, Hackos and Redish devote an entire section to the formulation of unbiased questions. They advise interviewers to avoid asking leading questions, to ask questions that are based on a participant’s experience, and to avoid overly complex, lengthy questions. Read moreRead More>

By James Kelway

Published: July 7, 2008

Organization 4 stars
Content 3.5 stars
Presenters 4.5 stars
Proceedings 4 stars
Venue 4 stars
Hospitality 4 stars
Community 5 stars

The 2008 IA Summit was held April 10–14, at the Hyatt Regency in downtown Miami, Florida, shown in Figure 1. It had the highest attendance in the conference’s nine-year history: Over 600 people signed up for the conference run by ASIS&T (American Society for Information Science and Technology). All the signs are that information architecture (IA) is a community and a practice that is growing, and that its sister disciplines—interaction design (IxD) and experience design—are well-represented at the conference—not just in terms of attendees, but also speakers.

There certainly is a need for our design services, as a photo Kristen Johansen captured of the lifts—that’s elevators to those of you from the US—inside the conference hotel shows. (See Figure 2.)

This was my first IA Summit—and a conference that I had anticipated would be “one of the best I would ever go to,” as touted by a previous boss who had attended the Las Vegas Summit last year. Though I try to avoid hype at all times and was determined to look at the Summit through objective eyes, I must say the range of speakers was impressive. Read moreRead More>