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April 2010 Issue

By Janet M. Six

Published: April 19, 2010

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

In this Ask UXmatters column—which is the second in a special, two-part series focusing on Web form design and evaluation—our experts discuss the following topics:

  • putting a paper form online
  • avoiding Web form dropouts and false information
  • applying aesthetic styles to Web forms

To read more about designing and evaluating Web forms, see “Pagination in Web Forms | Evaluating the Effectiveness of Web Forms.” To read our previous discussion of label placement in forms, see “Label Alignment in Long Forms.”

In this column every month, our Ask UXmatters experts answer our readers’ questions about user experience matters. To get answers to your questions about UX strategy, design, or research in an upcoming edition of Ask UXmatters, just send your questions to us at: ask.uxmatters@uxmatters.com. Read moreRead More>

By Jim Nieters

Published: April 19, 2010

“As User Experience matures as a discipline and grows in influence in the business community, UX leaders need to support one another by sharing their insights with their counterparts in other organizations….”

As User Experience matures as a discipline and grows in influence in the business community, UX leaders need to support one another by sharing their insights with their counterparts in other organizations, as well as with the educators molding the next generation of UX leaders at universities offering Human-Computer Interaction (HCI) programs. Indeed, the success of UX design and research initiatives within organizations depends significantly on how UX leaders position their teams and partner and build support with other senior leaders in their organizations.

To advance these goals and help evolve leadership practice throughout the UX community, at CHI 2010 in Atlanta, Carola Thompson, who is Senior Director of User Experience at MindJet, and I co-chaired the Management Community. Our goal for this community was to bring discussion of UX management to CHI 2010, hear and answer the questions of those tackling new challenges in managing their UX teams, and gain insights from both experienced leaders and new voices. Our hope was to provide UX leaders the opportunity to share the tactics and lessons they’ve learned in managing their teams, as well as methods of ensuring strategic relevance for User Experience, working in partnership with senior leaders in all disciplines within their organizations. Read moreRead More>

By Matthew C. Clarke

Published: April 19, 2010

“Among the challenges facing social networking services, concerns about security and privacy are becoming increasingly significant.”

Among the challenges facing social networking services, concerns about security and privacy are becoming increasingly significant. In particular, even if we trust do a given social networking service provider, the mechanisms for restricting who can see the information we publish are usually inadequate. Despite all of their claims to offer fine-grained control over who can see what, they provide far more control over the what than the who.

First, I’ll describe an Object-Actor-Action permissions model and survey some social networking services’ current approaches to privacy control. Then, I’ll propose two specific constructs—privacy onions and privacy tags—that attempt to address control over the Actor dimension at the appropriate level of granularity. Finally, I’ll outline the advantages of the privacy tag approach. Read moreRead More>

By Malobika Khanra and Debarshi Gupta Biswas

Published: April 19, 2010

“User engagement and the democratization of content drive the popularity of social networking Web sites.”

Social networking Web sites are gaining increasing prominence on the Internet landscape, with millions of users around the world connecting to their friends and making new ones, participating in online communities, and posting comments. Social networking leads to the creation of social capital, primarily taking the form of user-generated content (UGC). User engagement and the democratization of content drive the popularity of social networking Web sites. In looking at the social networking model closely, we have observed that it is a collaborative and dynamic model, in which the consumers of content are also its creators and owners.

Society and technology have played equally crucial roles in providing a platform for user-generated content. The social networking phenomenon has ushered in a shift in mindset that, in turn, has driven people to become actively engaged in generating their own content and sharing it with an international audience on the Web, in contrast to the earlier trend of passively viewing content that others had created. Previously, people viewed the Web mostly as a place of anonymity, but times have changed. People now perceive the Web as a more personal space where they can connect with thousands of other people who have similar interests and share their photographs, videos, and writeups with them. One of today’s most frequently referenced Web sites, Wikipedia champions the cause of user-generated content. As users’ contributions add more value to the Web site, it attracts more users, creating a virtuous cycle. Read moreRead More>

By Demetrius Madrigal and Bryan McClain

Published: April 5, 2010

“Assumptions are important and useful. However, if not managed properly, they can definitely lead a project down the wrong path.”

One of the most important aspects of product development is the process of predicting the behavior of a product’s intended users. I’ve participated in ideation sessions with companies where designers, user researchers, and engineers were making major assumptions about what users would and wouldn’t be willing to do with their product, without performing any research. Of course, assumptions are important and useful. However, if not managed properly, they can definitely lead a project down the wrong path.

There are many examples of products that have challenged established industry assumptions—finally, overcoming them through their own success. Assumptions like these: People wouldn’t want to own a personal computer. People wouldn’t pay more for a high-capacity electronic music player. People wouldn’t feel comfortable purchasing electronic media without getting a physical product. One by one, these assumptions have fallen by the wayside as innovators have moved forward and created products that redefined their markets.

When dealing with assumptions, the most important thing is to recognize that you’re making them and need to understand their potential consequences. Once you recognize you’re making an assumption, it’s important to determine whether it’s a safe assumption or a risky one. Then you can evaluate each assumption and determine its viability. Read moreRead More>

By Greg Nudelman

Published: April 5, 2010

“The designers of mobile applications do not have established user interface paradigms they can follow or abundant screen real estate for presenting facets and filters….”

In my previous Search Matters column, “Mobile Finding: Turning Limitations into Opportunity,” I discussed how mobile search user experiences differ from those on the Web. In this and my next column, I’ll look specifically at the challenges and opportunities of mobile faceted search. This column covers design patterns for maximizing the real estate available for search results, while the next will cover strategies for making people aware of filtering options.

Faceted search is extremely helpful for certain kinds of finding—particularly for ecommerce apps. Unfortunately, the designers of mobile applications do not have established user interface paradigms they can follow or abundant screen real estate for presenting facets and filters in a separate area on the left or at the top of a screen. To implement faceted search on mobile devices, we need to get creative rather than following established Web design patterns. Join me in exploring the Four Corners, Modal Overlay, Watermark, and Refinement Options design patterns for mobile devices. Following these patterns can move us one step closer to making faceted search a usable reality on mobile devices.

But first, let’s take a look at the challenges of designing mobile faceted search, which include navigational elements that use up precious screen real estate, limited search-refinement options, and the general lack of an iterative refinement flow. Read moreRead More>

By Mike Myles

Published: April 5, 2010

“I had been involved with a couple of products that used genetic algorithms for optimization, so I was intrigued by the concept of leveraging a similar approach in user interface design.”

I first learned about parallel design several years ago when I read “Shortening the Human-Computer Interface Design Cycle: A Parallel Design Process Based on the Genetic Algorithm,” by John McGrew of Decision Process Consulting. By that time, I had been involved with a couple of products that used genetic algorithms for optimization, so I was intrigued by the concept of leveraging a similar approach in user interface design.

Genetic algorithms essentially mimic evolutionary biology to find optimal solutions. Initially, they select a population of solutions based on some evaluation criteria, then use some subset of that population—the fittest members—as breeding stock for the subsequent generation of solutions. This process continues for multiple generations, each getting closer to an optimal solution.

This article describes my experience with parallel design and discusses how to make parallel design more collaborative. Read moreRead More>

By Jeff Johnson

Published: April 5, 2010

This is a sample chapter from Jeff Johnson’s forthcoming book, Designing with the Mind in Mind: Simple Guide to Understanding User Interface Design Rules. 2010 Morgan Kaufmann.

Chapter 3: We Seek and Use Visual Structure

“When information is presented in a terse, structured way, it is easier for people to scan and understand.”

Chapter 2 used the Gestalt principles of visual perception to show how our visual system is optimized to perceive structure. Perceiving structure in our environment helps us make sense of objects and events quickly. Chapter 2 also mentioned that when people are navigating through software or Web sites, they don’t scrutinize screens carefully and read every word. They scan quickly for relevant information. This chapter presents examples to show that when information is presented in a terse, structured way, it is easier for people to scan and understand.

Consider two presentations of the same information about an airline flight reservation. The first presentation is unstructured prose text; the second is structured text in outline form (see Figure 3.1). The structured presentation of the reservation can be scanned and understood much more quickly than the prose presentation. Read moreRead More>