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June 2010 Issue

By Michael Hawley

Published: June 21, 2010

“I … came away from the conference inspired by the variety of speakers, topics, and presentations.”

For the first time in its history, the International Usability Professionals’ Association (UPA) conference took place outside of North America. While this certainly shifted the percentage of attendees from different geographic regions, all reports are that the conference was well attended, with crowded presentations filled with attendees from Europe, North America, and Asia.

I was fortunate enough to attend UPA 2010 and came away from the conference inspired by the variety of speakers, topics, and presentations. As the author of a column here on UXmatters titled Research That Works, I was especially interested in discussions about the evolution and refinement of various user research methods. Compared to discussions at CHI or other conferences, UPA has a reputation for being geared toward usability and user research practitioners. I am happy to report that this tradition continues. It was very encouraging to hear from both usability professionals and academics who are continuing to refine our methodologies and challenge old thinking in the light of new technologies. Unfortunately, it was impossible to attend all of the sessions, but in this conference recap, I will outline several trends I recognized. Read moreRead More>

By Sean Van Tyne

Published: June 21, 2010

“Customers have experiences with an organization’s products and services regardless of whether the organization is consciously managing them.”

Customers have experiences with an organization’s products and services regardless of whether the organization is consciously managing them. A good user experience delights customers—increasing adoption, retention, loyalty, and, most important, revenue. And a poor user experience discourages customers from using a product or service and drives them to the competition—eventually, making a product offering unviable.

Smart organizations recognize that providing a good user experience for a product is an essential competitive advantage. They know it is the product’s user experience that forms their customers’ impression of the product—by both attracting and delighting customers and differentiating their product from its competitors. Just look at the user experiences consumer companies like Apple provide. Even government organizations know this is important. Check out Usability.Gov.

Because user experience has become so important to organizations’ success in the marketplace and, thus, their revenue, it is now part of their overall business strategy. Organizations should plan how to manage and measure user experience. Therefore, most organizations have some system for managing their strategy and measuring their progress toward achieving their goals. One popular system for managing and measuring strategy is Balanced Scorecard. Read moreRead More>

By Nathanael Boehm

Published: June 21, 2010

“In this article, I want to look at ways in which UX professionals can conduct research, usability testing, and evaluation for the upper rungs of the Human-Tech Ladder—the social elements of technology design….”

In his book The Human Factor, Kim Vicente presents the Human-Tech Ladder, which categorizes human and societal needs according to five factors: physical, psychological, team, organizational, and political. Many UX professionals are familiar with usability testing, which focuses on the first two rungs of this ladder—the physical and psychological factors of people’s interactions with technology. However, in this article, I want to look at ways in which UX professionals can conduct research, usability testing, and evaluation for the upper rungs of the Human-Tech Ladder—the social elements of technology design and how people interact with a particular technology while working together within an organization.

On my current project, I’m designing and implementing a framework for business that provides workflow management and supports information gathering and reporting. While there may be a software component further down the track, for now the technology is taking the form of procedures, reporting templates, and guidance material. This technology is both intellectual and social. Its goal is to support teams within the organization, and it requires people to work together. Read moreRead More>

By Janet M. Six

Published: June 21, 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:

  • favorite UX and technology blogs
  • how to learn about new Web and mobile applications

Each month in Ask UXmatters, our panel of experts answers our readers’ questions about user experience matters. To get answers to your own questions about UX strategy, design, user research, or any other topic of interest to UX professionals in an upcoming edition of , please send your questions to us at ask.uxmatters@uxmatters.com. Read moreRead More>

By Demetrius Madrigal and Bryan McClain

Published: June 7, 2010

“It takes real commitment and a lot of personal development to do user research well.”

One of the best things about user research is that anyone can do it. On the other hand, it takes real commitment and a lot of personal development to do user research well. People commonly assume that research is research—and doing any kind of research is better than doing none at all. Unfortunately, this isn’t always the case. Not all user research is created equal. Flawed research can be a significant liability to the success of a product, as well as the company developing it, so it really is important to get it right.

To be effective, there are certain personal characteristics a user researcher should have. Whether you are a dedicated user researcher, a student who is considering a career path in user research, a UX designer or software engineer who sometimes gets called upon to do user research, or a stakeholder looking for research support, this column will help you to understand the personal characteristics that really make a difference to a user researcher’s success. Read moreRead More>

By Caroline Jarrett

Published: June 7, 2010

“A question protocol is a tool for finding out which form fields are required….”

One of the nicest things about being an author is that, from time to time, people write to say they enjoyed our book, Forms that Work: Designing Web Forms for Usability. Of course, I write back and ask what they like about it. And surprisingly often, the reply is “question protocols.”

What Is a Question Protocol?

A question protocol is a tool for finding out which form fields are required and lists

  • every question you ask
  • who within your organization uses the answers to each question
  • what they use them for
  • whether an answer is required or optional
  • if an answer is required, what happens if a user enters any old thing just to get through the form

The question protocol is different from the form itself, because it’s about how you use the answers. Read moreRead More>

By Peter Hornsby

Published: June 7, 2010

Behavioral economics…has emerged as a discipline, bringing together economics and psychology to understand how social, cognitive, and emotional factors influence how people make decisions, both as individuals and at the market level.”

Much of economics theory is based on the premise that people are rational decision-makers. In recent years, behavioral economics—also known as behavioral finance—has emerged as a discipline, bringing together economics and psychology to understand how social, cognitive, and emotional factors influence how people make decisions, both as individuals and at the market level. Many of the findings of behavioral economics have a direct influence on how users interact with a product. In a worst?case scenario, a product’s design may encourage user behaviors that are detrimental to users’ best interests.

To understand this, let’s take a look at the video of the Selective Attention Test shown in Figure 1 and follow the voice-over instructions. Read moreRead More>

By Mike Hughes

Published: June 7, 2010

“To understand how these users would access and use the Body of Knowledge, we decided to create personas that would let us envision what type of structure it should have and communicate our findings….”

In the summer of 2007, the Society for Technical Communication (STC) initiated a collaborative effort, combining representatives from academe and industry, to define the Technical Communication Body of Knowledge (TCBOK). I got involved in that project in January 2008, when a group of us started working asynchronously online to lay out the foundations. Very early, we identified a core set of stakeholders whom we thought would constitute the primary users of this Body of Knowledge. To understand how these users would access and use the Body of Knowledge, we decided to create personas that would let us envision what type of structure it should have and communicate our findings to the leadership and members of STC. This column describes the personas we created, as well as a surprising discovery I made when I later visited the prototype that the team had created for these personas.

Early Design Efforts and Personas

Ginny Redish, who is a noted user experience expert in the field of technical communication, provided a framework for the team to use when creating a persona. Figure 1 shows an excerpt from a typical persona. Read moreRead More>