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June 2012 Issue

By Baruch Sachs

Published: June 18, 2012

“Quality means doing it right, when no one else is looking.”—Henry Ford

“Building a quality UX team in any setting is a tough challenge. Trying to build a quality UX team in a services organization presents unique challenges, because a ready pool of qualified applicants simply does not exist.”

This edition of Selling UX is about leadership in our profession. Over the past few months, I have had many conversations about what it means to build and lead a user experience team. While these conversations included a lot of general management themes, there are some specific differences in not only leading a UX team, but in leading a team that exists as part of a larger services organization. I would like to share my experiences with this aspect of UX leadership so others facing similar situations may benefit from my experience, as well as to raise a topic that people don’t often discuss.

Building a quality UX team in any setting is a tough challenge. Trying to build a quality UX team in a services organization presents unique challenges, because a ready pool of qualified applicants simply does not exist. Thankfully, our profession is in demand. The unfortunate side effect is that we can’t easily find the right people to grow our team, even in this challenging economy. Read moreRead More>

By Ritch Macefield

Published: June 18, 2012

“In the field of user experience, people often confuse terms like information architecture, interaction design, visual design, usability engineering, and UX design.”

Unfortunately, in the field of user experience, people often confuse terms like information architecture, interaction design, visual design, usability engineering, and UX design. In some cases, people use these terms almost interchangeably. This article provides a lexicon of these terms and more clearly defines the role of the user experience designer.

Information Architecture

Information architecture (IA) focuses on the organization of data—that is, how data is structured from a user’s perspective, as opposed to the system, or technical, perspective. Read moreRead More>

By Mike Hughes

Published: June 18, 2012

“While product managers are often the greatest allies UX professionals can have, in spite of the many positive aspects of our relationships with them, there is some inherent tension between us.”

I hate the unnecessary inclusion of versus in titles and headings, because it often implies an adversarial relationship where one does not—or at least should not—exist. But, while product managers are often the greatest allies UX professionals can have, in spite of the many positive aspects of our relationships with them, there is some inherent tension between us. They usually want as many features in a product as possible, while UX professionals and developers typically do not want to be held accountable for fulfilling unrealistic expectations of what we can accomplish in a single product release. Read moreRead More>

By Peter Hornsby

Published: June 18, 2012

“Elegance is not a dispensable luxury but a quality that decides between success and failure.”—Edsger W. Dijkstra

“We’ll explore how you can apply one of the key principles of effective software development, component-based reuse, to the development of UX prototypes….”

Some of my favorite conversations have included the phrase “Can you just…?” As in: “You know that wireframe you created? Can you just make it into a fully interactive, branded clickthrough? The sales guys want to give a demo of our new product tomorrow.” Part of your brain is screaming, “No! No! That wireframe was to get a discussion going! We’re not nearly ready yet!” But you may find yourself saying, “Sure! When do you need it by? 4pm? No problem!” then setting up the coffee machine.

While you can always treat a request like this as an opportunity to get more user feedback—and perhaps to educate colleagues on the UX development process—sometimes you just need to bite the bullet, get on with it, and fulfill such requests. In such cases, having created your prototype in the right way to begin with can have major benefits. In this article, we’ll explore how you can apply one of the key principles of effective software development, component-based reuse, to the development of UX prototypes, thus making prototyping more effective. For the purpose of this article, I’ll encompass both low- and high-fidelity renderings of applications in the term prototype. We’ll look at how you can use Axure effectively and the benefits reuse can provide when using this tool. Read moreRead More>

By Janet M. Six

Published: June 18, 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 how to evangelize the value of user experience when going through a company merger or acquisition.

Every month in Ask UXmatters, our UX experts answer 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 Jim Ross

Published: June 4, 2012

“Contextual inquiries require a difficult balance between traditional interviewing and ethnographic observation.”

Of all the user research techniques, I think contextual inquiry is the most difficult to perform effectively. Despite what you may have learned about doing contextual inquiries in school, from books, or from articles on the Web, they’re not as easy as they seem. When you first try to conduct a contextual inquiry yourself, you’ll soon discover all kinds of unanticipated problems.

Contextual inquiries require a difficult balance between traditional interviewing and ethnographic observation. The name contextual inquiry is foreign to most people outside the field of user experience, and people don’t understand what this approach involves, leading to a lot of misconceptions. In this article, I’ll discuss the most common problems you’ll face when conducting contextual inquiries and how to solve them. Read moreRead More>

By Carissa Demetris, Chris Farnum, Joanna Markel, and Serena Rosenhan

Published: June 4, 2012

“The agile literature that informed our agile champions did not mention UX activities, so it was up to our UX Design team to work out what it would mean for us to work within an agile framework.”

A few years ago, our Development organization championed a move from a waterfall development approach to an agile development process. [1] Our User Experience Design team had already established a well-respected place in our organization, and everyone had a clear understanding of our roles and responsibilities within our waterfall development process. However, the agile literature that informed our agile champions did not mention UX activities, so it was up to our UX Design team to work out what it would mean for us to work within an agile framework. But the more we learned about the way the Development team wanted to work, the harder it was to see how the work we did and the value we had traditionally provided would fit into the new order of things.

The Development team achieved its new-found agility through daily builds and two-week sprints, or releases, but as we started attending daily meetings and delivering designs, we often struggled to feed the work backlog and keep pace with them. We were defining a new application from the ground up, so were giving time and attention to global and foundational aspects of the design. At the same time, Development told us that our user stories were epics, so too large to implement within a sprint. We encouraged the UX Design team to keep the experience basic, to leave the bells and whistles for a later time, and to break things into smaller chunks, but we continued to have a hard time letting go and sharing designs with Development before we’d thought them to perfection. Read moreRead More>

By Curt Collinsworth

Published: June 4, 2012

“The way to earn consumer loyalty and competitive advantage is to deliver the most satisfying experience.”

We talk about good user experiences an awful lot these days, but when it comes to digital interactions, hardly anyone seems to know what that really means.

Business magazines and design blogs agree: the way to earn consumer loyalty and competitive advantage is to deliver the most satisfying experience. But they’re a lot less clear about what defines a good user experience. When we consider user interfaces, mobile apps, and Web sites, there are many factors that may contribute to the success of their user experience. Is it the way it looks? The density or sparseness of information? Or is it just that it functions the way users expect it to function?

So It Works, Now What?

The problem with trying to define a good user experience is that the definition is incredibly context dependent. Back when search engines’ results were 90% useless, Google offered a better experience because of its superior ranking algorithm. When Apple released OS X, it delivered a better experience because it got rid of visual clutter and just worked—something Windows couldn’t match at the time. Read moreRead More>

By Demetrius Madrigal and Bryan McClain

Published: June 4, 2012

“A primary purpose of UX research is risk mitigation. When we perform research we often look for indicators that let us know whether we are on the right or the wrong track with product development—and, if we’re on the wrong track, how we can get back on the right track.”

A primary purpose of UX research is risk mitigation. When we perform research we often look for indicators that let us know whether we are on the right or the wrong track with product development—and, if we’re on the wrong track, how we can get back on the right track. Continuing on the wrong track can be extraordinarily costly, both in your financial investment in research, design, and marketing, as well as the potential cost of losing customers. Because of this, we advocate for companies to make research a priority, because it can be the leading indicator of product success.

Take, for example, the case of Netflix. Late last year, Netflix management announced that they would split DVD lending and video streaming into two separate services—coupled with a 60% price increase. The company quickly realized that they had made a mistake when customers cancelled their subscriptions in droves and Netflix stock lost 60% of its value. Netflix CEO, Reed Hastings, admitted that they had moved too quickly in announcing the service split and had fumbled the announcement badly because they had misunderstood their customers. Ironically, Hastings talked about performing research, but they had conducted only focus groups to help identify names for their spin-off service. If they had done more concept testing to ascertain customers’ readiness for the splitting of these services, they might have discovered that both content availability and the quality of streaming video are not yet sufficient to fully supplant DVD lending—or at the very least, that there would be massive customer backlash on the split they were planning. Read moreRead More>

By Adina Klein

Published: June 4, 2012

“This is a good time to review some of the key pointers that I’ve picked up about succeeding in the working world—pointers that you don’t learn in school, regardless of how great your education is.”

During my last semester of graduate school, I attended a design-oriented job fair, hoping and praying that it would be my foot in the door to the professional design world. I dreaded the prospect of being stuck on my parents’ couch for months after graduation, desperately submitting resumes and networking with anyone who might offer even the smallest connection to a job opportunity.

I’m happy to say that I wasn’t warming my parents’ couch for very long. I was finally going to be a real design professional. I’d found a full-time job in Philadelphia that would start in the middle of my first summer after graduation. While I experienced the self-doubt that anyone might have when starting a new job in a new field, I believed that my educational foundation was as good as that of anyone with whom I might be working or competing. The toughest challenge ahead of me would probably be settling in a new city—changing my permanent address for the first time. I’d be living on my own, having to make almost all new friends, and navigating a new place. Read moreRead More>