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May 2010 Issue

By Traci Lepore

Published: May 17, 2010

“We don’t all mean the same thing when we say sketch or wireframe or prototype.”

Why is every conversation about wireframes I’ve encountered lately so tense? For instance, at a recent UX Book Club meeting whose topic was a discussion of some articles on wireframes, the conversation moved quickly from the actual articles to the question of what a wireframe even was. What the discussion came down to was this: no one knows the answer, and trying to find it feels like a wild-goose chase—or like wandering off on our own down a yellow brick road to find the all-knowing and powerful Oz to figure the answer out for us.

The Wizard of Oz asks questions like: What is courage or heart or a brain? Who should define them for us? As I see it, UX design suffers from similar definitional issues. We don’t all mean the same thing when we say sketch or wireframe or prototype. So how can we all get on the same page? There are differences between a sketch, a wireframe, and a prototype, but how can we understand the distinctions and the best use of each? And what is their value as communication vehicles? Let’s discuss what separates a sketch from a wireframes from a prototype. Read moreRead More>

By Janet M. Six

Published: May 17, 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 the following topics:

  • best practices for designing for senior citizens
  • organizing your work schedule

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

By Heather Nam

Published: May 17, 2010

“Children, as an audience, do not differ dramatically from adults when it comes to navigation and usability issues. When creating Web sites for children, we should follow the same techniques and conventions we would use when designing for adults.”

Creating a great experience for Web site users should always take the users’ perspectives into consideration. While a user’s age can be a contributing factor in a design’s success for a particular user, demographic information should not trump design conventions. Then, why do UX designers struggle when creating Web sites for children?

The best rule of thumb: We must consider that children, as an audience, do not differ dramatically from adults when it comes to navigation and usability issues. When creating Web sites for children, we should follow the same techniques and conventions we would use when designing for adults.

This is not to say that content, themes, characters, and other forms of engagement should not cater to the intended target audience. On the contrary, when we design a site for preschoolers, the site should look like we’ve designed it for preschoolers—when it comes to colors, sounds, and, sometimes, even interactions. A young user’s ability to read is another important consideration, and creates the need for verbal instructions and limited text. But there are standard best practices we should always follow in any design, regardless of the age of the audience. Read moreRead More>

By Shira Gutgold

Published: May 17, 2010

“As user experience designers, we tend to focus on getting users to the end of the journeys we’ve designed for them as quickly and effortlessly as possible.”

As user experience designers, we tend to focus on getting users to the end of the journeys we’ve designed for them as quickly and effortlessly as possible. We try to take them from point A to point B in the shortest possible time. To me, it sometimes feels a little like we’re trying to get a child to quickly undergo a blood test before he notices that it hurts.

And in many cases, this is just what we should do. People using the Tesco Web site, shown in Figure 1, for instance, just want to complete their week’s shopping quickly and easily. And that’s Tesco’s goal for its customers, too. Read moreRead More>

By Jim Ross

Published: May 3, 2010

“Companies that haven’t already cut user research from their project plans altogether are asking researchers to achieve the same results for less money, in less time—or just to do less.”

Despite our seeing some initial signs of a recovery, for most people the economy still sucks. Companies have less money to spend and are more cautious about how they spend it. Companies that haven’t already cut user research from their project plans altogether are asking researchers to achieve the same results for less money, in less time—or just to do less. Is it possible to scale back user research and still provide value? If so, how can we do things faster and cheaper?

An inherent problem with traditional user research is that it tends to require a lot of time. Any activity that involves meeting with multiple people requires the time-consuming steps of recruiting, coordinating schedules, perhaps traveling, the actual session time, and the downtime between sessions. User research generates a great deal of qualitative and quantitative data that researchers must consolidate, type up, analyze, and report clearly to project team members or clients. The larger the scope of the user research, the longer it takes to provide thorough, detailed, articulate results.

Clearly, some information about users is better than none. In this column, I’ll review a variety of ways in which you can scale back the time it takes to do user research, while still providing valuable results. Read moreRead More>

By Greg Nudelman

Published: May 3, 2010

“Teasers are nothing new. Most mobile user interfaces implement this pattern….”

In Part I of “Design Patterns for Mobile Faceted Search,” I looked at the challenges and opportunities of mobile faceted search. To address the well-known challenge of limited screen real estate on mobile devices, I covered the Four Corners, Modal Overlay, Watermark, and Full-Page Refinement Options design patterns, which maximize the real estate available for search results on a mobile device. This month’s column covers strategies for making people more aware of the filtering options that are available to them, as well as methods of improving transitions between the various states a user encounters in a search user interface.

Teaser Mobile Design Pattern

Teasers are nothing new on mobile phones. Most mobile user interfaces implement this pattern in some manner or another. Consider, for example, the Yelp iPhone application, shown in Figure 1. Read moreRead More>

By Daniel Szuc and Josephine Wong

Published: May 3, 2010

“Stakeholders with business, design, and technology viewpoints can pull products in different design directions—
sometimes without knowing how the design work fits into an overall strategy.”

Stakeholders with business, design, and technology viewpoints can pull products in different design directions—sometimes without knowing how the design work fits into an overall strategy. This can leave stakeholders feeling lost and unhappy.

Creating a focus around design goals and asking and answering the hard design questions as a team is an effective way of coalescing a team around one design direction. At the same time, it can create a more optimal and fun working environment.

In this article, we’ll describe a design workshop approach that can help you find that design focus, including

  • stakeholders’ preparation before the design workshop—defining goals
  • the facilitator’s role in helping to glue the team together—creating engagement, now and beyond
  • what your team needs to agree on and take away from the design workshop—your design goals and next steps

Read moreRead More>

By Bryan McClain and Demetrius Madrigal

Published: May 3, 2010

“We have the opportunity to devise new and innovative ways of more accurately understanding user experience through the use of technology.”

As technology evolves and new gadgets and electronics emerge in the marketplace, our options for the use of technology in conducting our user research continue to expand. The processes through which we have long gathered data—such as surveys and interviews—are no longer the only ways in which we can understand people and how they respond to our clients’ products and services. As professional user researchers, we have the opportunity to devise new and innovative ways of more accurately understanding user experience through the use of technology. For example, consider the following user research scenario:

A client contacts our company because they’re interested in developing technology to reduce the amount of time it takes for patients to receive treatment from their physicians. The client states that they’re interested in understanding what changes they could make to enhance the overall patient experience, while reducing the time patient-physician interactions take. As our team discusses how best to approach the project, the common methods of user research for this type of project quickly emerge—expert interviews with physicians and nurses, patient journaling, patient and physician shadowing, and basic observation. All of these techniques are very effective for gathering insights, but they don’t take advantage of improvements in technology that are readily available to us. Read moreRead More>