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February 2012 Issue

By Baruch Sachs

Published: February 20, 2012

“As a UX professional working in a services organization, you face unique challenges for which a formal education in user experience does not really prepare you.”

Since this is my introductory column for my new column Selling UX: A unique perspective on service UX, I’d first like to explain a little about my background and the world of services user experience that I’ll be writing about.

After graduating with a degree in technical writing, I started off my career as a technical writer and, on the advice of my advisor, went straight into a Human Factors graduate program. Back then, I never thought I would be in a services role. Indeed, I did not even really know what it meant to be a UX consultant working for a software firm. I have since realized that, as a UX professional working in a services organization, you face unique challenges for which a formal education in user experience does not really prepare you. Read moreRead More>

By Peter Hornsby

Published: February 20, 2012

“People are hardwired to make connections between cause and effect and, in some cases, to infer connections that do not actually exist.”

During the Second World War, the USA established bases on a number of islands in the south seas. Having previously had little contact with the outside world, the islanders saw American aircraft landing that were filled with valuable materials. After the war ended and the Americans left, the islanders wanted the aircraft to continue to come and bring wealth to the island. So, they built imitations of the things that they perceived as having brought the aircraft. They laid fires alongside the runway, constructed a wooden hut where a man would sit with wooden pieces on his head like headphones, had someone stand on the runway waving wooden paddles, and so on. Yet, despite all of this effort, the planes did not come.

While this cargo cult may appear foolish to modern eyes, people are hardwired to make connections between cause and effect and, in some cases, to infer connections that do not actually exist. (See, for instance, the classic work by B.F. Skinner on operant conditioning. Read moreRead More>

By Traci Lepore

Published: February 20, 2012

“I assure you no art was ever less spontaneous than mine. What I do is the result of reflection and study of the great masters; of inspiration, spontaneity, temperament … I know nothing.”—Edgar Degas

“I continue to be fascinated by Degas, his process, and the beauty of his work.”

Degas may have said that he knew nothing of inspiration or spontaneity, but in reality, he knew their meaning better than most artists. More important, he understood the work that is necessary to make either happen. So, I continue to be fascinated by Degas, his process, and the beauty of his work. Therefore, I am choosing to get a little off topic to explore some important lessons from Degas and what I like to call his performance art. Read moreRead More>

By Laura Keller

Published: February 20, 2012

“Emergencies lead to fascinating service design challenges, for which aligning the service experience between service providers and their customers and strong leadership skills are critical.”

I watched the water come into our finished basement during Hurricane Irene. I don’t believe it—not again, I thought, as my husband and I quickly prioritized which of our remaining belongings from the last flood, only 17 months earlier, we wanted to salvage as the water rushed in. Thirty minutes later, the water stopped rising at four feet—a foot higher than the last time. My husband cautiously turned off the circuit breakers and determined whether the water had reached the gas line. I was seven months pregnant, so could help only by asking our less-affected neighbors for some assistance. The following weeks were all too familiar: filing a claim with our insurance, calling remediation experts to dry out the basement, calling plumbers for quotes to replace the hot water heater and boiler, calling electricians to replace outlets—the list went on and on. Throughout this entire experience, all we wanted was to get our house and lives back to normal. Read moreRead More>

By Janet M. Six

Published: February 20, 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 UX experts discuss what organizational stories we should be teaching UX designers, as well as professional roadmaps for UX designers.

In my monthly column, Ask UXmatters, our panel of UX experts answers 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: February 6, 2012

“The rapid rate at which people and organizations create and propagate information complicates our getting a grip on information overload….”

The one thing we know about information overload on the Web is that we don’t know enough. The rapid rate at which people and organizations create and propagate information complicates our getting a grip on information overload in the domain of information technology. Our information includes things like our Honey-Do lists, gigabytes of digital documents, and the deluge of email messages that pile up in our email inboxes. The amount of information we consume and manage is growing in both its volume and volatility. Probably worse than the self-inflicted burden of information glut that we’ve invented for ourselves is the fact that the less we know about information overload, the less we can know about the relevance of our collective stockpiles of information.

Signatures of Information Overload

In this month’s column, I’d like to broaden the scope of our IA strategy lens by raising awareness of six information signatures that many of us may have observed in practice, but never related collectively to the information overload problem. Read moreRead More>

By Jim Ross

Published: February 6, 2012

“No one reads reports!”
“PowerPoint must die!”

“Conveying user research findings so people can understand them, believe them, and know how to act on your recommendations can be challenging.”

We’ve all read monotonous reports and struggled to remain awake during boring presentations, but must all deliverables be interminably dull? Conveying user research findings so people can understand them, believe them, and know how to act on your recommendations can be challenging. And providing enough detail without boring your audience is a difficult balance. But there are some best practices in communicating user research findings that can make them more effective—and even entertaining.

Why Provide Any Deliverable At All?

First, you might question whether your project needs a formal deliverable. Some project teams are tempted to simply translate their research findings into a product’s design without producing any documentation of their research findings. This saves time in the short term, but the danger is that, without some kind of description of the findings, the research knowledge remains in the brain of the researcher. When that person moves on to another project or another employer, you’ll lose that knowledge. I experienced this problem recently when I took over a project from a researcher who had left our company. It was extremely difficult to understand the previous research, because there were only raw notes and no deliverables. Read moreRead More>

By Tomer Sharon

Published: February 6, 2012

“Many executives … have gained a better understanding of what UX design and research can do to boost the success of a business offering.”

An increasing number of organizations and individuals who develop software products, Web applications, Web sites, or other digital products are gaining a better understanding and appreciation for user experience and UX design and research. Subsequent to the introduction of some magnificent products and services that many executives now own or use—such as smartphones, tablets, Web applications, social media, and video games—they have gained a better understanding of what UX design and research can do to boost the success of a business offering.

That said, it still seems that the majority of product development organizations and the individuals who work for them have not yet fully bought into the benefits of UX design and even less so of UX research. When you encounter these sorts of organizations or individuals, you have a decision to make: fight or flee. To make a good decision, you should start by identifying the maturity of the organization in which you work. It might be helpful to do this by considering the UX research maturity model I’ll describe in this article. Read moreRead More>

By Caroline Jarrett

Published: February 6, 2012

“Recently, I’ve been dealing with my fears and overcoming my resistance to learning statistics. I’m writing a book on surveys, and what’s the point of getting lovely, large-sample data if you can’t run a few statistical tests on it?”

How do you feel about statistics?

For a long time, I was a stats refusenik. Years ago at university, I took a class in mathematical statistics, and it never made any sense to me. My sporadic attempts to overcome my fears and learn to understand p-values, t tests, and ?2, or chi-squared, had never come to anything.

But recently, I’ve been dealing with my fears and overcoming my resistance to learning statistics. I’m writing a book on surveys, and what’s the point of getting lovely, large-sample data if you can’t run a few statistical tests on it? So I knuckled down, bought a variety of introductory statistics books and tackled them. Plus, I took some college courses for good measure. And I’m pleased to report that all of my effort is sort of working. Although I’m definitely still a statistics newbie, I no longer automatically skip the statistical section in every academic paper I read. So that’s progress. Read moreRead More>

By Kristina Mausser

Published: February 6, 2012

mindful |?mïndf?l|
adjective [predic.]
conscious or aware of something

“Design, as a creative process, is often subconscious. What we create might be based on design principles, but what we ultimately produce largely comes down to emotion—how we feel about a design and, more important, how we think others will feel about it.”

Design, as a creative process, is often subconscious. What we create might be based on design principles, but what we ultimately produce largely comes down to emotion—how we feel about a design and, more important, how we think others will feel about it.

Jeff Johnson’s new book, Designing with the Mind in Mind, demystifies the cognitive and emotive components of design by forcing us to consider the physiological aspects of interaction design and the psychological factors that influence its interpretation. I had a chance to catch up with Jeff recently to talk about how, as user experience and interaction designers, we can all be a little more mindful of these aspects of the designs we create. Read moreRead More>