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January 2012 Issue

By Paul Bryan

Published: January 23, 2012

In my new column, UX Strategy, I’ll explore the growing field of user experience strategy, which combines business strategy with user experience design to build a rationale and a road map for guiding an organization’s UX efforts. This column will address methods and practices that UX Strategists can use to collect data, formulate personas and interaction models, document UX strategies, and create UX road maps.

“UX teams are feeling the pressure from all sides to integrate and innovate as they design user interfaces that must span multiple channels such as the Web—on multiple browsers—smartphones, tablets, game consoles, and kiosks.”

These are exciting times. The business of user experience is evolving rapidly. In a very short period of time, the complexity of user-interface considerations has multiplied. New product and service introductions occur so fast that trying to keep up with last month’s announcements is like drinking out of a fire hose. Consumers have so many options at their fingertips that the vast majority of them have barely begun to exploit the resources that are only a tap or a download away. Read moreRead More>

By Jim Nieters

Published: January 23, 2012

“An interaction model is a design model that binds an application together in a way that supports the conceptual models of its target users.”

In March of 2011, I joined HP to lead the User Experience and Front-End Development organization for Consumer Travel. My goal? To design products that transform the future of travel. At the time, eleven UX professionals had already been working on the design for one of our travel applications for several months. Unfortunately, I had to throw the entire design away and start from scratch. Why? In addition to other challenges, the team could not articulate an interaction model.

What Is an Interaction Model?

What is an interaction model? An interaction model is a design model that binds an application together in a way that supports the conceptual models of its target users. It is the glue that holds an application together. It defines how all of the objects and actions that are part of an application interrelate, in ways that mirror and support real-life user interactions. It ensures that users always stay oriented and understand how to move from place to place to find information or perform tasks. It provides a common vision for an application. It enables designers, developers, and stakeholders to understand and explain how users move from objects to actions within a system. It is like a cypher or secret decoder ring: Once you understand the interaction model, once you see the pattern, everything makes sense. Defining the right interaction model is a foundational requirement for any digital system and contributes to a cohesive, overall UX architecture. Read moreRead More>

By Carol Barnum

Published: January 23, 2012

“Here’s my own experience of the problems I encountered with my DVR remote after my recent switch from one cable provider to another.”

We hear a lot about the difficulty of getting all of our entertainment devices to talk to each other. Jakob Nielsen once wrote an Alertbox column about this problem, showing the six different remotes he uses to watch TV.

Often, people buy after-market, add-on products to remedy such problems—for example, Logitech’s Harmony all-in-one remote, which lets users connect to all of their devices via a single device—or so they advertise. It’s a testament to the frustration level of many people that they are willing to pay upward of $200 for a device just to support the devices they already own and use.

But what if the problem is not having multiple remotes, but issues with just one remote: the essential DVR remote? Here’s my own experience of the problems I encountered with my DVR remote after my recent switch from one cable provider to another. Read moreRead More>

By Whitney Quesenbery and Daniel Szuc

Published: January 23, 2012

“The UX research and design professions are seeing a shift that edges us beyond the boundaries within which we live and work.”

In our increasingly connected world of 2012, we have more ways of continually learning to better understand, communicate, live, and work with each other, both locally and globally. The old boundaries, borders, and divisions are slowly disappearing, and established systems are starting to break down, making it challenging to learn what this new world means to all of us.

When it is easy to become a friend of someone who does not live in our neighborhood or even our country, our assumptions about other people start to change. Similarly, the UX research and design professions are seeing a shift that edges us beyond the boundaries within which we live and work, forcing us to look outside our window when designing and improving the products and services we work on. Read moreRead More>

By Janet M. Six

Published: January 23, 2012

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 whether UX professionals need to have degrees or certifications in areas of study relating to user experience to practice in the field and the value that they provide.

In my monthly column, Ask UXmatters, a panel of UX experts answers 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 questions to: ask.uxmatters@uxmatters.com. Read moreRead More>

By Nathaniel Davis

Published: January 9, 2012

“Of the many professionals who say they practice information architecture, most don’t practice effectively. In fact, one could say the same regarding other professionals who operate within the domain of UX design.”

What I am about to tell you may come as a surprise. Of the many professionals who say they practice information architecture, most don’t practice effectively. In fact, one could say the same regarding other professionals who operate within the domain of UX design. While many of us may practice in the sense of the definition “repeated performance or systematic exercise for the purpose of acquiring skill or proficiency,” we don’t necessarily practice with the intent of creating a discipline—as in “a rule or system of rules.” As a result, many fall short in practicing effectively.

I tend to think that most UX professionals fail to recognize the subtle nuances of the terms practice and discipline. Indeed, it’s common to refer to the practice of information architecture and the discipline of information architecture as though both terms describe the same concept. But they do not. In fact, the difference between these terms is important, and understanding this can help tremendously in defining our expectations of the benefits each brings to academic and professional training. Read moreRead More>

By Shanshan Ma

Published: January 9, 2012

“Product destination pages are some of most crucial pages on a Web site, because the major conversions that affect a company’s bottom line usually take place on these pages.”

What is a product destination page and why is it important? One of the questions marketers constantly ask is how to effectively display products online. On a typical marketing Web site, each product appears on a product destination page. Site visitors looking for products usually traverse a path to the type of product they need and eventually land on a product destination page.

Product destination pages are some of most crucial pages on a Web site, because the major conversions that affect a company’s bottom line usually take place on these pages. Although all product pages on any marketing Web site—whether on a B2B or B2C site—serve a similar purpose, this article focuses specifically on B2B product destination pages. The reason for my focus on B2B sites is that marketing products on such sites generally involves a more complicated sales process; plus, the status quo of B2B product pages is less mature than that for B2C product pages. Read moreRead More>

By Adina Klein

Published: January 9, 2012

“When your role requires you to deliver valuable and actionable information to a client, the pressure is on—
especially when a client is observing your usability testing sessions.”

When you first entered the field of usability, did you know that you would also have to play the role of a psychologist or psychotherapist—not to mention a juggler, asking questions, taking notes, observing, worrying about technology snafus, and making necessary adjustments throughout a usability testing session, all at the same time? I didn’t. Though, for me, it was a welcome surprise—in most instances.

When your role requires you to deliver valuable and actionable information to a client, the pressure is on—especially when a client is observing your usability testing sessions. You have to know how to react, on the fly, to any situation that might come up—all while making the client think everything is going just exactly as you’d planned. It’s not okay to tell your client that “this participant didn’t help me at all because he just vented the whole time” or “this participant was just really quiet, so she didn’t really offer anything.” There may be lots of possible excuses, but none of them apply when your client is paying you good money for answers that could direct or redirect their business or design strategy. The three most important letters on the client’s mind are ROI (Return on Investment). Read moreRead More>

By Laurene McCafferty

Published: January 9, 2012

“What exactly Google+ offers that would differentiate it greatly from the functionality users currently get through Facebook, Twitter, and LinkedIn isn’t clear.”

With all of the hype surrounding Google+, I was eager to set up an account when Google launched the beta site this summer. It’s fair to say that I had high expectations—not only because Google had created it, but also because I needed an invitation from a current member to join. At one point, Google suspended these invitations due to “overwhelming demand.” This may have been the truth—or perhaps it was a clever marketing tactic of Google to generate demand through the illusion of scarcity. Who knows?

After setting up my Google+ account, I was pleasantly surprised by the application’s user interface design, shown in Figure 1. But I was slightly confused about the offering’s premise. Although Google+ provides a sleek and simple user interface on both its desktop and mobile platforms, what exactly Google+ offers that would differentiate it greatly from the functionality users currently get through Facebook, Twitter, and LinkedIn isn’t clear. Read moreRead More>

By Chloe Lloyd

Published: January 9, 2012

“What should you do if you are just starting out as a UX designer, and what steps should you take to further your career?”

Quite often, Web magazines, blogs, and other Web sites feature many interesting and informative articles about how to do UX design, graphic design, and Web design, but offer very little content about the fundamental steps that one must take to actually develop a career in one of these fields. So what should you do if you are just starting out as a UX designer, and what steps should you take to further your career?

Education

As in many other areas of life, a good education is, of course, essential to success. It is vital that you understand all that user experience encompasses before trying to decide what you are really good at and what really excites you, so you’ll know what area you want to specialize in. Read moreRead More>