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January 2010 Issue

By Janet M. Six

Published: January 18, 2010

Send your questions to Ask UXmatters and get answers from some of the top professionals in UX.

In this edition of Ask UXmatters, our experts discuss two topics:

Ask UXmatters answers our readers’ questions about user experience matters. To read our experts’ responses to your question in an upcoming edition of Ask UXmatters, please send your question to: ask.uxmatters@uxmatters.com. Read moreRead More>

By Jim Nieters

Published: January 18, 2010

“A crucial role for UX leaders is to sell our business partners and senior leaders on the value of user experience. We also need to sell our employees on a vision that excites them and makes them truly believe they are changing the world for the better.”

I see a dichotomy in the thinking of UX professionals: On one hand, we believe strongly in user-centered design (UCD) practices—that it is critical to understand our users and their tasks. We want to design products and services that reflect these practices and delight our users. On the other hand, it seems a large number of UX professionals are unable to understand the motivations of their business partners—that is, Product Management or Business Analysis and Engineering—and assume they should simply agree with our perspectives. Of course, that would require them to understand our perspectives in the first place.

I’ve also observed that many UX professionals feel a bit frustrated that it is necessary for them to convince their business partners that user experience is valuable—and that our core practices should be a central part of standard business practices. I hear statements like: “Well, if they don’t understand the value of great design, maybe we should make them go back to using command line interfaces for email!” The bottom line is that we absolutely need the perspectives of those other disciplines to deliver successful products—just like they need ours—so it behooves us to understand them. Read moreRead More>

By Mike Hughes

Published: January 18, 2010

All UX professionals, not just user assistance developers, face the problem of integrating their work into the product development lifecycle.”

All UX professionals, not just user assistance developers, face the problem of integrating their work into the product development lifecycle. At lower levels of organizational usability maturity, too often, the contributions of User Experience tend to be reactive. Usability professionals test the usability of a given product, then designers mitigate any shortcomings they find, and user assistance developers merely document what is already there. This column takes a look at the full scope of the product development lifecycle and how UX professionals can add value.

Figure 1 shows a simple view of the product development lifecycle. You could certainly define more fine-grained phases, but the four phases I’ve shown capture most activities to which UX professionals can add value:

  • requirements definition
  • design and validation
  • development and testing
  • deployment and support

Read moreRead More>

By Kyle Soucy

Published: January 18, 2010

“Recently, there has been a surge in the number of tools that are available for conducting unmoderated, remote usability testing—and this surge is changing the usability industry.”

Conducting traditional synchronous, or moderated, usability testing requires a moderator to communicate with test participants and observe them during a study—either in person or remotely. Unmoderated, automated, or asynchronous usability testing, as the name implies, occurs remotely, without a moderator. The use of a usability testing tool that automatically gathers the participants’ feedback and records their behavior makes this possible. Such tools typically let participants view a Web site they are testing in a browser, with test tasks and related questions in a separate panel on the screen.

Recently, there has been a surge in the number of tools that are available for conducting unmoderated, remote usability testing—and this surge is changing the usability industry. Whether we want to or not, it forces us to take a closer look at the benefits and drawbacks of unmoderated testing and decide whether we should incorporate it into our usability toolbox. Read moreRead More>

By Greg Nudelman

Published: January 4, 2010

“We’ll explore the simple, but very powerful design pattern called More Like This, which provides the information scent and motivation necessary to make customers navigational decisions quick, easy, and intuitive.”

In my last installment of Search Matters, “Cameras, Music, and Mattresses: Designing Query Disambiguation Solutions for the Real World,” I presented several design strategies for query disambiguation. This month, we’ll explore the simple, but very powerful design pattern called More Like This, which provides the information scent and motivation necessary to make customers navigational decisions quick, easy, and intuitive. Unfortunately, most sites do not make sufficient use of this pattern and some that do use it design and implement it incorrectly.

Show Me More

The idea behind the More Like This pattern is very simple: within each group of items representing a particular category from a catalog or accompanying each item in search results, provide a prominent link or button with a label that is some variation of More Like This. Of course, the devil, as they say, is in the details. Figure 1 shows one of the more successful implementations of this pattern, the Amazon.com home page. Read moreRead More>

By Pabini Gabriel-Petit

Published: January 4, 2010

“Why do so many applications provide a poor user experience as a result of their not behaving properly?”

In my last column on UXmatters, “First, Do No Harm,” I discussed some basic design principles whose violation either interferes with users’ work or actually harms their work, causing frustration for users. Those design principles are not new. They’ve been widely known for decades. So, why do so many software products still violate them? And why do so many applications provide a poor user experience as a result of their not behaving properly? I can think of several possible reasons why some applications don’t behave as they should:

  • ignorance of interaction design principles—This could be the result of either there being no interaction designer or UX designer on a project and/or a developer’s or designer’s inadequate education regarding the principles of good interaction design. Perhaps a Web application designer has never designed desktop applications, so hasn’t learned the UX design guidelines for Windows, Mac OS X, or Java, which established the standard behaviors users have come to expect in the applications they use. This problem is relatively easy to solve: Study the books and Web sites that document UX principles, guidelines, and patterns. (See suggested reading.) Read publications like UXmatters, Boxes and Arrows, Johnny Holland, interactions, and User Experience Magazine.

Read moreRead More>

By Afshan Kirmani

Published: January 4, 2010

“I’ve been exploring Justinmind Prototyper, a prototyping tool that serves the ideation process well and, more important, generates HTML code for the prototypes we create.”

Since our clients require an ideation phase before looking at a product’s visual design, I’ve been looking at a lot of wireframing and other prototyping tools lately. To find out more about prototyping tools, I’ve combed several mailing lists—such as SIGIA and IxDA—looking for discussions about the latest tools that are available to us. As a result of what I’ve found out, I’ve been exploring Justinmind Prototyper, a prototyping tool that serves the ideation process well and, more important, generates HTML code for the prototypes we create. Read moreRead More>

By Demetrius Madrigal and Bryan McClain

Published: January 4, 2010

“As user researchers, we’ve come to realize the average consumer doesn’t expect companies to involve their users in developing their products and services. … If some of the people creating software don’t understand our role, it’s not surprising consumers don’t.”

In our column, Insights from Research, we’ll explore user research and the communication that drives it. We’ll talk about the need for innovating research methodologies, as well as the need to learn to listen and communicate effectively. We’ll describe some of the challenging situations that can arise while performing research and ways to resolve them. For example, we often get questions about how to handle participants who won’t open up and talk about their experience—or the complete opposite, participants who talk a great deal, but stray off topic. Finally, we’ll discuss ways to use communication to better connect with customers and gain an understanding of their experience. Through it all, we’ll draw upon examples from our experience performing research in a variety of different domains and with different types of people. We hope you’ll all join us in this discussion about user research, whose purpose is understanding users and their user experience.

When people ask us what we do for a living, it can be difficult to explain if they aren’t familiar with the user-centered design process. As user researchers, we’ve come to realize the average consumer doesn’t expect companies to involve their users in developing their products and services. Most people envision engineers having an idea, building a product, then sending it to market. So, describing our role in a process the average consumer doesn’t understand has been a challenge. Read moreRead More>