Do you create products or organize events for UX professionals or manage a UX team that’s hiring? Sponsor UXmatters and see your ad or logo here! Learn moreLearn More

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

November 2010 Issue

By Traci Lepore

Published: November 22, 2010

“Everywhere around us today, we feel the desire and drive to build innovative products and find creative solutions to design problems.”

Have you ever seen really good improv? Did you walk out of the experience willing to swear that the actors had rehearsed it ahead of time or it was some kind of magic? I’ll let you in on an actor’s secret: chances are the work was neither rehearsed nor magic! What’s more likely is that the group performing the improv was a true ensemble of actors who had trained and practiced the principles of improv and were accustomed to working together.

When it comes to knowing how to achieve innovative design, you may be just as mystified as you were watching that improv. Everywhere around us today, we feel the desire and drive to build innovative products and find creative solutions to design problems. I’m sure you have, at times, thought those were impossible goals to achieve. But if we take some lessons from the practice of theatrical improvisation, we’ll discover it isn’t really that hard at all.

Many of the skills actors use expertly are the same skills we use in our daily work lives as UX designers. In fact, the Creative Engineering Web site says:

“Both [improv and design] engage in solving a problem while creating or discovering something new within a given set of constraints. In business, the constraints are often represented by money, time, talent, resources, and the self-imposed limitations of conventional wisdom. In improv, the process is constrained by its rules and the different characteristics inherent in individual exercises or games.”—Creative Engineering Read moreRead More>

By Pabini Gabriel-Petit, Publisher & Editor in Chief

Published: November 22, 2010

The 2010 UXmatters Reader Survey has closed, but you can view the results.

Thanks to all of the UXmatters readers who have already participated in our fifth annual UXmatters Reader Survey! We appreciate receiving your feedback. But, so far, only 55 of you have participated in the survey. That means, of all the people who have visited our site so far this month, 37,836 haven’t participated.

To help us better understand and serve your needs, we’d really like to hear from more of you. We want to know what you think about UXmatters. Please take advantage of this opportunity to participate in the 2010 UXmatters Reader Survey and contribute your thoughts while you still have the chance. The survey will close on December 1, 2010.

We’d like to know what kinds of content interest you and any thoughts you might have about the future direction of UXmatters. Completing the entire survey takes only about 10 minutes, and you can answer or skip questions as you choose. Thanks again for your participation in our survey!

The 2010 Top 25

In this final installment of our fifth anniversary issue of UXmatters, for the first time we’re announcing the Top 25 articles of the year—that is, the most-read articles during our latest publishing year. Some of these articles go back to the early days of UXmatters, but they’re just as timely today. Others are among the most popular articles we’ve published in the intervening years since we started publication in November 2005. And still others represent the very best articles of 2010. To find out what UXmatters content the most people read between November 1, 2009 and October 31, 2010, check out our 2010 Top 25. Read moreRead More>

By Sean Van Tyne

Published: November 22, 2010

“Prioritizing user advocacy from the beginning of a product design process puts users at the center of the process and ensures their needs are foremost in all UX design decisions.”

User experience encompasses all aspects of users’ interactions with a company, its services, and its products. Prioritizing user advocacy from the beginning of a product design process puts users at the center of the process and ensures their needs are foremost in all UX design decisions.

To meet your customers’ real needs and deliver simple, elegant solutions that are a joy to use, you must do much more than merely giving them what they say they want or fulfilling a checklist of features. You must have a deep understanding of your product’s market and the needs of its target users. Plus, your business objectives should provide clear metrics for the success of your product’s user experience design. You must develop an understanding of what motivates your users and manage their expectations, while consistently representing your organization’s brand and message.

In today’s marketplace, solutions need to be easy to use. Customers have come to expect this. Good technology is ubiquitous or invisible. Easy-to-use solutions increase customer effectiveness and efficiency and reduce the need for training and support. Ultimately, they increase customer adoption and retention and, thus, result in increased market share and revenue. Read moreRead More>

By Peter Hornsby

Published: November 22, 2010

“Many people tend to look at programming styles and languages like religions: if you belong to one, you cannot belong to others. But this analogy is another fallacy.”—Niklaus Wirth

“Unified Modeling Language (UML) is probably the most widely used modeling language among software engineers.”

Software Engineering is typically much more formal than User Experience in they way they model an application before development begins. After pseudo code, the Unified Modeling Language (UML) is probably the most widely used modeling language among software engineers. It has developed from other object?based analysis and design languages over a period of many years and provides software engineers with a visual language that describes the design of a system at multiple levels.

Comparable UX design artifacts such as user journeys and personas can take a wide variety of forms. While this diversity can enable us to tailor our design artifacts to different circumstances, drawing features from modeling languages such as UML could promote better cross?functional work practices, increase a design’s reusability, and reduce the overall effort of developing software systems.

This article looks at how User Experience can use UML modeling techniques to enhance user journeys and promote better cross?disciplinary collaboration.

Use-Case Modeling

Most product teams that use UML begin by developing use cases, which provide a good overall view of a software system’s capabilities. Strictly speaking, use cases are analysis artifacts rather than design artifacts, but product teams tend to refer to them throughout the life of a project, because use cases provide a quick way to understand what a system does. Read moreRead More>

By Chandler Turner

Published: November 22, 2010

“There are several key elements that are missing from a large number of Web sites, and these missing elements often lead to bad user experiences and the total ineffectiveness of those sites.”

There are several key elements that are missing from a large number of Web sites, and these missing elements often lead to bad user experiences and the total ineffectiveness of those sites.

Leahy’s Law states: if a thing is done wrong often enough, it becomes right. As a result, volume becomes a defense of error. During a recent review of hundreds of Web sites, I found Leahy’s Law to be descriptive of the content on most Web sites. That is terribly unfortunate for the Web site owners who are trying to attract the attention of their prospective and current customers and entice them to take a desired action—often no more than a phone call or an email message requesting more information. The same errors of omission exist on most sites—whether their purpose is sharing information or selling products or services.

In this article, I am going to explore the written Web site content whose purpose is to cause prospective customers to take action—or that results in their not taking action—from the perspective of its achieving a company’s sales and marketing goals. This discussion assumes the company has a service or product to sell. If you’re not interested in the motivational aspects of sales psychology and what their proper use can do to help a company’s sales efforts, then stop right here, because you will not like this article. Yes, I am one of those people—a professional salesman who has over 36 years of experience—who has turned his attention to assisting companies in properly communicating with their current and prospective customers through their Web sites and other media. I’ll describe a few of the main reasons Web sites often don’t fulfill their owners’ expectations for sales or marketing tools or provide support for their branding strategy, then offer some simple and creative solutions to these problems. Read moreRead More>

By Colleen Roller

Published: November 8, 2010

“What is it that makes a Web site great? In answering this question, it’s sometimes valuable to take a step back and consider anew why we create Web sites. … For the most part, we create Web sites to get users to do something….”

Right now, your Web site is affecting users’ decisions.

  • What influences your users’ decisions?
  • What decision-making strategies do they use?
  • How does your design affect decision outcomes?

Many UX professionals are passionate about creating great Web sites. But what is it that makes a Web site great? In answering this question, it’s sometimes valuable to take a step back and consider anew why we create Web sites. What is it that we’re trying to achieve?

For the most part, we create Web sites to get users to do something—for example, to make a purchase, donate to a cause, or sign up for our service. It is our expectation that users will make decisions about how to proceed. But are we designing for optimal decision making by users?

In my column, Decision Architecture, I’ll discuss how people make decisions and how we can design Web sites to make decision making easier for them and get the decision outcomes we need. Read moreRead More>

By Pabini Gabriel-Petit, Publisher & Editor in Chief

Published: November 8, 2010

The 2010 UXmatters Reader Survey has closed, but you can view the results.

To those of you who have already participated in our fifth annual UXmatters Reader Survey, thank you! We really appreciate your sharing your thoughts with us.

We’d really like 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 2010 UXmatters Reader Survey. 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. Completing the entire survey takes only about 10 minutes, and you can answer or skip questions as you choose. This survey will close on December 1, 2010. Read moreRead More>

By Janet M. Six

Published: November 8, 2010

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

In this edition of Ask UXmatters—which is the second in a two-part series focusing on user experience design for mobile devices—our experts discuss how you should determine whether to

  • create a mobile version of your Web site or application
  • reuse your existing Web site’s or Web application’s design or start your mobile design from scratch

Ask UXmatters is a monthly column on UXmatters, in which our panel of UX experts answers our readers’ questions about various 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 Ask UXmatters, please send your questions to us at: ask.uxmatters@uxmatters.com. Read moreRead More>

By Mike Hughes

Published: November 8, 2010

“Typically, the role of an information dashboard is to quickly inform users and, thus, enable them to take immediate action.”

The explosion of information that analysts and executives must consume, as well as the increasing variety of sources from which that information comes, has boosted the popularity of information dashboards. Modeled after the dashboard of a car or airplane—which informs its operator about the status and operation of the vehicle they’re controlling at a glance—dashboard user interfaces provide a great deal of useful information to users at a glance. Typically, the role of an information dashboard is to quickly inform users and, thus, enable them to take immediate action.

For example, a sales executive might use a dashboard to compare current sales levels to plan or levels at the same time last year, as well as to see the current volume of orders in the sales pipeline—that is, orders his salespeople are working on, but have not yet closed. Using that same dashboard, he could compare that information across the various sales regions and respond quickly if indicators showed a potential problem brewing in a particular region or a general slow-down across the enterprise. Read moreRead More>

By Demetrius Madrigal and Bryan McClain

Published: November 8, 2010

“Adoption is key to the success of products and services. When clients come to us to evaluate a concept, prototype, or completed product, the evaluation really boils down to one fundamental question: Will people use it?

Adoption is key to the success of products and services. When clients come to us to evaluate a concept, prototype, or completed product, the evaluation really boils down to one fundamental question: Will people use it? We think of adoption as continuous use throughout a product’s expected lifecycle. Thus, adoption is different from purchase behavior, which does not take a product’s actual usage into account. In evaluating products, we emphasize adoption over purchase behavior because adoption tends to lead to other important user behaviors such as customer loyalty, future purchases, and customers’ becoming brand advocates. In our experience, there are four factors that directly affect adoption: perceived value, confidence, accessibility, and trust. By understanding and assessing each of these factors, you can gain insight into how to maximize adoption.

Perceived Value

We consider perceived value to be the central factor in product adoption. When assessing a product’s value, look at whether it provides functionality that would have a positive impact on the life of a consumer. When considering the likelihood of adoption, focus on evaluating a product’s perceived value, because, while a product might actually have a positive impact, if consumers do not perceive and understand that impact, the product is not likely to achieve significant adoption. Read moreRead More>

By Shanshan Ma

Published: November 1, 2010

Mobility will answer these questions and more—questions about mobile user experience and user interface design for small, handheld, mobile devices.”

Many people now use different mobile devices—including smartphones, digital cameras, MP3 players, eReaders, and GPSs (Global Positioning System)—in particular contexts. How are users interacting with these devices when they are away from their computers? How does the design of a device—including the controls its hardware provides, its interaction models, and its form factor—determine the design and usability of the software applications that run on it? How can we understand user experience on the move? My new column Mobility will answer these questions and more—questions about mobile user experience, user interface design, and usability for small, handheld, mobile devices.

“The only important thing about design is how it relates to people.”—Victor Papanek

As companies progressively introduce more advanced technology in their consumer electronics products, handheld devices are taking up more and more of people’s time in their everyday lives. Are users interacting with handheld devices in the same way they interact with Web sites on their computers? What kinds of challenges are users facing when using such a wide range of handheld devices on a day-to-day basis? What should usability professionals take into consideration when studying usability for these different platforms? Read moreRead More>

By Pabini Gabriel-Petit, Publisher & Editor in Chief

Published: November 1, 2010

The 2010 UXmatters Reader Survey has closed, but you can view the results.

We’re celebrating the fifth anniversary of UXmatters this month. Since our launch in November 2005, we’ve published 388 articles—including columns, interviews, and reviews of books, conferences, and products for UX professionals—on a great variety of topics, by 110 authors from countries around the world. Over the years, our 23 columnists have contributed 210 columns, and this month, we’re adding two new columnists:

  • Shanshan Ma—whose column Mobility: User experience on the move focuses on user experience, user interface design, and usability for mobile devices
  • Colleen Roller—whose column Decision Architecture: Designing for decision making discusses designing Web sites to optimize users’ decision-making experience and, thus, ensure companies achieve their business objectives

Our community of readers on UXmatters continues to grow. Over the past year, more than 353,000 UX professionals have read articles on UXmatters.

At UXmatters, our goal is to produce a Web magazine that fulfills the information needs of UX professionals worldwide. To continue to achieve that goal, we need to hear from you! Therefore, we are now conducting our fifth annual reader survey to give you an opportunity to tell us how we’re doing, what your future content wants and needs are, and a little something about yourself. Read moreRead More>

By Jessica Kerr

Published: November 1, 2010

“We can use what we know about human perception to help people move through forms quickly, easily, and successfully.”

I know as well as anyone that we humans are very visual creatures. My area of specialty is the design of forms and, as you can imagine, a significant part of my work focuses on visual design and layout. Recently, I published a series of six articles about human perception, or how people see, and the impact this has on the way we should design Web forms. We can use what we know about human perception to help people move through forms quickly, easily, and successfully. Form design is not about aesthetics just for aesthetics’ sake.

Don’t get me wrong. I do think the attractiveness of a user interface is important. My concern is that people sometimes pay disproportionate attention to how sexy, pretty, or aesthetically pleasing a form is, in comparison to how well a person can actually use it. If users can’t successfully fill out and submit a form, it’s a waste of pixels—not to mention everybody’s time.

As a result of this fixation on fashionable forms, it seems, every other week, there is a new article with a title like “20 Fetching Forms” or “How to Jazz Up Your Forms with CSS and JavaScript.” I get excited by the possibility that these articles might show us some way to help people fill out forms faster or make fewer errors. Alas, they frequently do exactly the opposite—promoting techniques that are often unnecessary reinventions of the metaphorical wheel or, worse still, result in forms that are harder for people to fill out. Read moreRead More>

By Jon Kolko

Published: November 1, 2010

This is a sample chapter from Jon Kolko’s forthcoming book, Exposing the Magic of Design: A Practitioner’s Guide to the Methods and Theory of Synthesis. 2010 Oxford University Press.

Chapter 4: The Value of Synthesis in Driving Innovation

“Businesses are increasingly realizing that not just quantitative research, but also qualitative research combined with creative thinking can lead to new and interesting ideas for products, services, and systems.”

As the word innovation has crept into the vocabularies of executives, so too has the word design. The search for the keys to innovation has made increasingly clear that both “design thinking” and ethnography play a critical role in the larger context of the design process. In this context, businesses are increasingly realizing that not just quantitative research, but also qualitative research combined with creative thinking can lead to new and interesting ideas for products, services, and systems.

Observational research is the type of qualitative design research often performed at the beginning of the design process. This research involves observing real people, in their environments of work and play, as they go about performing a task, achieving a goal, or having an experience. Pragmatic design research grew out of information technology and software design, as researchers observed people using complex computer systems in an effort to increase the usability of these systems. Other qualitative research methods have latched onto the successes of the social sciences in understanding culture. Ethnography involves immersion in the culture in which people spend their time, a method that is much less goal directed and might simply offer a topic statement—the “culture of entertainment,” for example—as a starting point. Read moreRead More>

By Daniel Szuc

Published: November 1, 2010

“I tell stories to my work teams when I have something really important to say or something I really want to share with them, and I want them to experience it.”—Whitney Quesenbery

I had the good fortune of speaking with both Whitney and Kevin about their new book Storytelling for User Experience: Crafting Stories for Better Design. According to Rosenfeld Media:

“This book looks across the full spectrum of user experience design to discover when and how to use stories to improve our products. Whether you are a researcher, designer, analyst, or manager, you will find ideas and techniques you can put to use in your practice.”

Now, onto the interview…

Daniel: Why the book?

Whitney: Because thinking about user experience as a form of storytelling and, more importantly, thinking of our own process as a form of storytelling is something that was out there, but no one had really collected up in a coherent form. So I thought this was a chance to look at storytelling that way. Read moreRead More>