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November 2008 Issue

By Janet M. Six

Published: November 17, 2008

“The language of your application is as fundamental to the user interface as the choice between a radio button and a check box.”—David Heller Malouf

Welcome to the inaugural Ask UXmatters column, where you can submit your questions and get expert answers. Our highly experienced experts are ready to answer your questions on a variety of user experience matters. Please send your questions to ask.uxmatters@uxmatters.com. Without further ado, let’s get to our first question.

Q: We have a challenge that I’m sure is common to many software development efforts. Everyone on our team—including the user interface (UI) designer, product manager, quality assurance, developers, and documentation—wants to choose the words that show up in the user interface. We are having a really hard time naming page elements that represent business processes and objects. Language is so subjective, and we all consider ourselves experts. I’m wondering if there are any best practices for the process of choosing the language that appears in user interfaces. We’ve tried having smaller meetings with key team members and brainstorming, but always end up reaching compromises that no one really likes and are apt to create confusion for our users. We have great documentation people and use them throughout the process, but can’t figure out who should have the final say. Everyone is very unhappy with the choices we make when naming elements by consensus. We need to figure out a process that ensures we use the best language in the product. Who should own these decisions, and why?—from a UXmatters reader Read moreRead More>

By Pabini Gabriel-Petit, Publisher & Editor in Chief

Published: November 17, 2008

The 2008 UXmatters Reader Survey has closed, but you can view the results.

To all of our readers who have already participated in our third annual UXmatters Reader Survey, thank you! We really appreciate your sharing your thoughts with us. So far, 58 people have participated in the survey.

We want to hear from more of you, so our editorial staff can better understand and serve your needs. Please take this opportunity to participate in the 2008 UXmatters Reader Survey while you still have the chance. Let us know what kinds of content interest you, help shape the future direction of UXmatters, and give us an opportunity to learn more about you. It takes just few minutes. The survey will close on December 4, 2008. Once the survey closes, we’ll publish the results on the UXmatters Web site. Read moreRead More>

By Steve Baty

Published: November 17, 2008

“The larger the proportion of a population that holds a given opinion, the fewer people you need to interview when doing user research. Conversely, the smaller the minority of people who share an opinion, the more people you need to interview.”

It might seem counterintuitive, but the larger the proportion of a population that holds a given opinion, the fewer people you need to interview when doing user research. Conversely, the smaller the minority of people who share an opinion, the more people you need to interview.

Mariana Da Silva has written an article about sample sizes in market research—or user research—titled “The More the Merrier.” In the article, Mariana made a comment that has caused some consternation—and for good reason.

“It all comes down to the size of the effect you intend to detect. Imagine you wanted to know whether people in London are taller than people in New York. If people in London and people in New York are actually pretty much the same height, you will need to measure a high number of citizens of both cities. If, on the other hand, people in London were particularly tall and people in New York were shorter than average, this will be obvious after measuring just a handful of people.”—Mariana Da Silva Read moreRead More>

By Mike Hughes

Published: November 17, 2008

“If we’re giving manuals to users to read online, why do we design and write them for paper?”

Let me describe a familiar user assistance experience. A user installs a new application, and when the user wants Help, the application directs her to the user documentation on a Web site or CD-ROM. What the user finds there is a PDF file containing the manual—or a collection of PDF files, representing a library of manuals, including a user guide, configuration guide, troubleshooting guide, and various references. And the layout of each of these PDF manuals is exactly the same as if it were a printed book. This raises an interesting question: If we’re giving manuals to users to read online, why do we design and write them for paper?

I’m not down on every use of PDF files online. Campus maps, article reprints, and my aunt’s Christmas letters all work quite well as PDF files. What I want to challenge in this column is the use of PDF files for distributing user assistance online, in the form of large books.

Use the following checklist to see if I’m talking about a kind of document that is near and dear to your heart. Read moreRead More>

By Joe Lamantia

Published: November 3, 2008

“Through this column, interested readers can investigate the expanding wavefront of the ubiquitous experience as it impacts design, covering topics ranging from ubiquitous computing to near-field communication, pervasive computing, The Internet of Things, spimes, ubicomp, locative media, and ambient informatics.”

“The most profound technologies are those that disappear. They weave themselves into the fabric of everyday life until they are indistinguishable from it.”—Mark Weiser [1]

Welcome to the inaugural installment of “Everyware: Designing the Ubiquitous Experience,” a column exploring user experience and design in the era of ubiquitous computing. Through this column, interested readers can investigate the expanding wavefront of the ubiquitous experience as it impacts design, covering topics ranging from ubiquitous computing to near-field communication, pervasive computing, The Internet of Things, spimes, ubicomp, locative media, and ambient informatics.

Everyware is the term coined by designer and futurist Adam Greenfield to describe “a vision of processing power so distributed throughout the environment that computers per se effectively disappear.” [2] The realization of the future that Greenfield envisions will mean fundamental changes to nearly every aspect of our lives. Read moreRead More>

By Pabini Gabriel-Petit, Publisher & Editor in Chief

Published: November 3, 2008

The 2008 UXmatters Reader Survey has closed, but you can view the results.

Our goal at UXmatters is to produce a Web magazine that meets the information needs of UX professionals worldwide. Therefore, on the third anniversary of our launch in 2005, we’re conducting our annual reader survey to give you an opportunity to tell us how we’re doing. Please take the 2008 UXmatters Reader Survey to let us know what kinds of articles you’d like to see on UXmatters, help shape the future of UXmatters, and give us the opportunity to learn more about our readers. What we learn will help UXmatters to better serve the needs of the UX community. Read moreRead More>

By Luke Wroblewski

Published: November 3, 2008

“Though visual designers might face different hurdles in particular product domains and at different points in their careers, there are three common misconceptions that surface quite frequently.”

Recently, I had the opportunity to reflect on common misconceptions about the role of visual design that are still prominent in the beliefs of executives, product leaders, engineering managers, and marketing professionals. Is there anything team members can do to illustrate certain beliefs are wrong? What could they do to demonstrate the truth about visual design to coworkers and stakeholders?

Though visual designers might face different hurdles in particular product domains and at different points in their careers, there are three common misconceptions that surface quite frequently:

  • Visual design is about making things look pretty.
  • Making things pop more can improve visual design.
  • It’s possible to evaluate visual design in pieces.

Read moreRead More>

By Jim Nieters

Published: November 3, 2008

“We need to support, defend, and promote our artisans or artists, and we need to eliminate the assholes from our organizations.”

The title of this column may seem a bit harsh. That’s exactly what Robert I. Sutton’s publisher said at first, when he submitted a manuscript titled The No Asshole Rule. [1] Yet, they did publish the book, and it’s worth a read. I don’t use the term lightly, but as Sutton suggests, other terms such as jerk just don’t convey the same understanding or intensity.

My key point in this column is that we need to support, defend, and promote our artisans, or artists, and we need to eliminate the assholes from our organizations. In practice, I see a lot of managers who do not support their artisans—their greatest performers—but hold onto and even reward their assholes. In the end, an organization that rewards the wrong people can destroy its effectiveness and drive the most talented people out. Often, such managers just don’t understand why things aren’t working out and make excuses for their weak performers. Bottom line… Any manager who either doesn’t understand the difference between the artists and the assholes—or simply can’t make the hard choices—shouldn’t be a manager. As managers, we must be incisive and exercise the courage of our managerial convictions. Read moreRead More>