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March 2011 Issue

By Laura Keller

Published: March 21, 2011

“We don’t design user experiences in isolation. We’re always aware that there’s a human component to them.”

I’m very excited to be kicking off my new UXmatters column, Service Design: Orchestrating Experiences in Context, with this discussion of the value of service design to UX professionals. In my column, I’ll explore the concepts of service design and how to leverage its practices to optimize the user experiences our companies and clients look to us to create. Read moreRead More>

By Mike Hughes

Published: March 21, 2011

“Assuming a spherical user, … who knows what he wants to do and takes the logical path in achieving his goals. Our scenarios describe happy paths that lead to success for this user.”

Apparently, the following joke is very popular among physicists:

A dairy farmer is concerned because his cows aren’t giving enough milk, so he consults a friend who is a theoretical physicist.

The physicist listens to him and says, “I’ll need to think about it.”

The next week, he calls up the farmer and says, “I’ve got the answer.”

“Tell me,” pleads the excited farmer.

The physicist starts his answer by saying, “First, we assume a spherical cow…”

Physicists often have to construct clean, clear-cut models to describe messy realities. They do this by cleaning up their concepts about reality, assuming things like frictionless surfaces, lossless mirrors, and yes, spherical objects. UX designers often do the same thing, assuming a spherical user, as represented in Figure 1, who knows what he wants to do and takes the logical path in achieving his goals. Our scenarios describe happy paths that lead to success for this user. Read moreRead More>

By Janet M. Six

Published: March 21, 2011

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:

  • the purpose and benefits of a UX vision
  • cultures that foster great design

Every month, Ask UXmatters gives our panel of UX experts an opportunity to answer our readers’ questions about a broad range of 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 question to us at: ask.uxmatters@uxmatters.com. Read moreRead More>

By Kristi Olson

Published: March 21, 2011

UX analytics—a marriage of right-brain, deep-dive, empathic UX research and left-brain, quantitative analysis of users’ actual behaviors”

As UX researchers, our goal is to identify customer pain points and obstacles in a given workflow or process, then tell a compelling story about their risks and provide general recommendations for alleviating those risks. But after eight years in UX research—even having mastered the arts of compelling storytelling and building stakeholder empathy—I still never quite saw the results I’d hoped for. Worse, my work required me to move quickly onto the next project, never to hear again about the outcomes of projects past.

However, my experience on one project was enlightening: When Web analytics data disproved my post-usability test hypothesis, I realized the importance of my being data driven in my practice—as opposed to my just providing UX research data. This revelation was the starting point of my reinvented career in UX analytics—a marriage of right-brain, deep-dive, empathic UX research and left-brain, quantitative analysis of users’ actual behaviors. Read moreRead More>

By Shanshan Ma

Published: March 21, 2011

“The form-factor difference seems to have a dramatic impact on the success rates of users’ interactions, and therefore, should impact how we design mobile sites as well.”

Web site design principles and best practices are becoming well known these days. For example: In a process funnel, progress status should be readily visible across its pages. We should prevent errors from happening, but when errors do occur, provide adequate guidance to help users resolve them.

Many believe the basic principles and guidelines that are applicable in the design of Web sites should still apply when designing for mobile platforms. After all, Web design has evolved from basic, text-based HTML pages into today’s Web standards. So, we might expect that mobile sites that follow the same guidelines could easily reach the same level of success with users that desktop Web sites have achieved. Read moreRead More>

By Catalina Naranjo-Bock

Published: March 7, 2011

“We are now seeing even higher adoption of technology among children—thanks to the unpredictably intuitive interaction of youngsters with touchscreen technologies and mobile devices that they can carry everywhere and use at any time.”

I am writing this first installment of my column Designing for Children as I observe my three-year-old son playing a game for preschoolers on a touchscreen mobile device. It is incredibly interesting to see how easy and natural it is for him to interact with technology, and at the same time, remember the many challenges I had to face when I started using computers—and technology in general.

Children’s exposure to computing devices depends on a great variety of factors—including cultural traditions, economic power, and family values. But there is no doubt that, in general, children’s access to technological devices and interactive products has increased dramatically in recent years. We are now seeing even higher adoption of technology among children—thanks to the unpredictably intuitive interaction of youngsters with touchscreen technologies and mobile devices that they can carry everywhere and use at any time. Read moreRead More>

By Michael Hawley

Published: March 7, 2011

“Customer experiences increasingly include online components, where their experience of considering and evaluating choices is constantly shifting and, after making purchases, their engagement with brands continues through social media channels.”

In a recent issue of the Harvard Business Review that focused on branding, David Edelman articulates how consumers’ engagement with brands is evolving through the proliferation of social media and other digital channels. In his article “Branding in the Digital Age: You’re Spending Your Money in All the Wrong Places,” he proposes a model for consumer and brand engagement titled the “Customer Decision Journey.” This model recognizes that customer experiences increasingly include online components, where their experience of considering and evaluating choices is constantly shifting and, after making purchases, their engagement with brands continues through social media channels.

Edelman’s article goes on to discuss how marketing teams should shift their focus to researching and supporting the advocacy and bonding portion of the consumer engagement lifecycle. Read moreRead More>

By Colleen Roller

Published: March 7, 2011

“Because people determine value by comparing things, the value of a particular item can seem very different in various situations, depending on what they’re comparing it to.”

In my previous couple of columns, I discussed a very important aspect of decision-making: relativity—the way people determine value by comparing and contrasting one thing to another. Because people determine value by comparing things, the value of a particular item can seem very different in various situations, depending on what they’re comparing it to. Read moreRead More>

By Demetrius Madrigal and Bryan McClain

Published: March 7, 2011

“While it is always advisable to understand the user perspective, there are certain dangers that are associated with an overreliance on user input.”

In last month’s column, we talked about ways to include users in the design process by employing Subject-Matter Experts (SMEs). While it is always advisable to understand the user perspective, there are certain dangers that are associated with an overreliance on user input. As we’ve mentioned in the past, improperly conducted user research can be a liability that could lead you down the wrong path. These kinds of mistakes are extremely costly and easily avoidable. The trick is to know where the pitfalls lie and ensure that you navigate them properly. This month, we’ll talk about ways to be a critical consumer of user research.

Users Don’t Always Know What They Want

Users often have some difficulty being objective and thinking outside the box when it comes to factors that affect their own lives on a day-to-day basis. Even UX professionals, with all our experience developing innovative products, occasionally react to the introduction of a new product that could greatly influence our lives by asking ourselves: Why didn’t we think of that? The answer is that we, as users, become so accustomed to our own needs—and the pain points we encounter in trying to satisfy them—that we fail to perceive them. As a result of this phenomenon, what users report they want may not ultimately reflect what they actually need. Read moreRead More>

By Daniel Szuc

Published: March 7, 2011

“Reading … enables me to identify UX trends and better understand where the industry is headed, how I can position myself in it, … and whether my current thinking is in line with or opposed to that of other UX experts.”

In between project work, travel, and presenting at conferences, one activity I have kept up diligently over the past ten years is reading. I do this both to ensure that I am as up to date as possible as a UX professional and to ensure I am passing on current knowledge to both colleagues and clients. My self-education includes reading feeds and books, listening to podcasts—from folks like UIE, Adaptive Path, Gerry Gaffney, and Radio Johnny to name a few—catching useful links from colleagues I follow on Twitter, and bookmarking key paragraphs in Delicious or Google Reader, so I can refer to them later or share them with colleagues.

A significant benefit of this activity is that it enables me to identify UX trends and better understand where the industry is headed, how I can position myself in it, where the market in which I reside sits in terms of the global maturity of the UX marketplace, the role I want to play in it, the skills I need to improve upon, how I can better lead or direct people, and whether my current thinking is in line with or opposed to that of other UX experts. In short, it gives me a perspective I can share and fodder for discussion when I meet up with other UX professionals. Read moreRead More>