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July 2012 Issue

By Paul Bryan

Published: July 24, 2012

“Do the tenets of rapid iteration and minimal documentation that characterize the lean and agile approaches preclude the research and analysis activities that we typically conduct when formulating UX strategy?”

UX strategy is a growing field that promises clearer guidance for UX design projects. Agile UX and lean UX are topics that have caught fire in the world of UX professionals, promising faster delivery and less waste. Do the tenets of rapid iteration and minimal documentation that characterize the lean and agile approaches preclude the research and analysis activities that we typically conduct when formulating UX strategy?

I posed the question in this article’s title—“Is UX strategy fundamentally incompatible with agile or lean UX?”—to the UX Strategy and Planning group on LinkedIn. The responses passionately asserted quite different points of view. Jim Kalbach, Principal UX Consultant at USEEDS in Germany, wrote: “I think they are wholly compatible. In fact, with agile’s sprints and quick iterations, it’s even more imperative to have a strategy in place before digging in. So agile makes UX strategy more relevant.”

Joseph Borne, formerly Director of UX Consulting at Bullseye, in Sydney, Australia, expressed a different view: “I’m sad to say that I strongly disagree with anyone who feels that agile/scrum and strategic UX have any overlap. I’ve worked in many [agile/scrum] environments where … it overlapped with strategic UX. The inevitable result was complete and utter disaster.” Read moreRead More>

By Dorian Peters

Published: July 24, 2012

“With educational applications for kids, corporate eLearning, and online degree programs, more and more UX designers face design briefs for creating digital experiences with an educational purpose.”

With educational applications for kids, corporate eLearning, and online degree programs, more and more UX designers face design briefs for creating digital experiences with an educational purpose. Other applications, whether they’re new or launching new features, often present micro-learning experiences that gently teach users how to use the software.

But as UX designers, how much do we really know about how people learn? And does design really affect learning?

Absolutely. Research shows that user interface and interaction design decisions significantly affect how well users learn. For a manifesto on that topic, see my article “Say Hello to Learning Interface Design.” Nevertheless, for the most part, we go into these projects armed with a wealth of UX knowledge about how people use technology, but without any sound knowledge about how people learn.

In this article, I’ll begin to fill that gap by presenting some design guidelines that derive from key findings from relevant psychology and education research on learning with technology. These findings relate specifically to user interface and interaction design for digital learning experiences. I’ve drawn most of these guidelines from the pioneering work of educational psychologist Richard E. Mayer, whose discoveries form the foundation of much multimedia instruction today. Read moreRead More>

By Janet M. Six

Published: July 24, 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 identify product value and design the product your audience needs.

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 Michael Hawley

Published: July 24, 2012

“When you’re designing something new, it’s desirable to seek feedback on your design direction from potential users early in the design lifecycle. To elicit this feedback, you may set up sessions that look a lot like qualitative usability tests….”

When you’re designing something new, it’s desirable to seek feedback on your design direction from potential users early in the design lifecycle. To elicit this feedback, you may set up sessions that look a lot like qualitative usability tests: one-on-one sessions with a moderator, in which participants work their way through a series of tasks using design artifacts. However, many traditional elements of usability testing protocols were originally developed as a means of discovering usability problems such as confusing labels and poorly placed buttons.

In the very early stages of creating a new design, our priority is not generally finding usability problems per se, but rather answering high-level questions about requirements, users’ preferences for alternative design approaches, or the overall viability of a proposed design. So, if your goal is not identifying usability problems, is usability testing a valid approach to eliciting early-stage feedback? How should you adjust your approach to get feedback that informs your overall design direction and inspires innovation? Read moreRead More>

By Traci Lepore

Published: July 24, 2012

“Because of the all-important first impression, setting the mood and theme is often one of the most challenging parts of defining the story.”

You are standing backstage, waiting for the curtain to rise—to start the first performance. A lot of hard work has led up to this moment. Electricity is in the air, your stomach is doing acrobatics, then it happens—the curtain rises, the crowd hushes, and the performance begins.

The feeling that you get is not all that different when you launch a large project, like the one I’ve been working on for the past year. In a previous column, “Implementing the CSS of Design Storytelling: Real-World Theatrics Meets Internet Theater,” I discussed our beginning attempts at a major Web site redesign that would hopefully better address the elements of context, spine, and structure to tell a story for the company that would be engaging and compelling.

We just launched our first-phase redesign last month, and I’d like to share some insights into how we braved the elements to tell a new story. Read moreRead More>

By Catalina Naranjo-Bock

Published: July 9, 2012

“The fields of user experience, human-computer interaction, and design research have also adopted diary studies as a method of collecting user insights during the product development process.”

Diary studies have been a traditional research method in the behavioral and social sciences for many years. More recently, the fields of user experience, human-computer interaction, and design research have also adopted diary studies as a method of collecting user insights during the product development process.

Diary studies are self-reporting research exercises, in which participants periodically log entries describing their experiences with a particular task, product, or activity in their lives. Researchers conduct these studies over a fixed period of time that can last for a couple of days or a few weeks or even extend over months.

Conducting diary studies with younger demographics can be a challenging endeavor. In this column, I will describe the process of preparing for and conducting these types of research activities with children, pre-teens, and teenagers. Read moreRead More>

By Alex O’Neal

Published: July 9, 2012

“Intention-focused design is a specific UX strategy that can help you to discover hidden and shared user narratives.”

At this point in the development of the field of user experience, I’m assuming that most good UX professionals know how to tailor sites or applications to user profiles, create personas, and tell a compelling story that drives users’ process flows. But sometimes we encounter a situation that’s a bit more challenging: we’re asked to design one product for very different users—or even users with seemingly conflicting goals.

Without a unifying narrative, such challenges can result in compromised user experiences. A client, or even a UX designer, may find it simpler to either target the most valuable or common user profile or to design very different process flows and interactions for different users. These approaches aren’t necessarily bad, but integrating them gracefully is difficult without a shared context. Intention-focused design is a specific UX strategy that can help you to discover hidden and shared user narratives. Read moreRead More>

By Yury Vetrov

Published: July 9, 2012

“We need to demonstrate that we bring measurable value to the products for which we design user interfaces.”

Even experienced UX professionals often feel that they are not being heard by their clients, managers, and developers. Why? Many such problems come from our desire to be valued for our knowledge and skills alone and to have our expertise respected without question. But this desire conflicts with the reality in which we find ourselves. To overcome this problem, we need to demonstrate that we bring measurable value to the products for which we design user interfaces.

Armed with your understanding of a business and a calculator, here are a few ways in which you can prove your value as a UX professional and get the resources you need—whether budget, UX team members, or more time. Read moreRead More>

By Lori Kirkland

Published: July 9, 2012

Neurodesign is an approach that lets you look at the brain triggers behind good customer experience and use them to help you make better informed design decisions based on customer behavior, human trends, and overall customer or company interactions.”

Finally, the corporate world is catching up with UX fanatics. Companies are hiring UX designers and UX strategists like crazy. As these UX professionals complete projects, many organizations are happy with the new software they’ve created, but they haven’t necessarily learned why and how they can continue to implement better user experiences in the future.

Using the principles of neuroscience and cognitive science in combination with the disciplines of good user experience and customer experience (CX), neurodesign lets UX designers better communicate their creative direction. Neurodesign is an approach that lets you look at the brain triggers behind good customer experience and use them to help you make better informed design decisions based on customer behavior, human trends, and overall customer or company interactions. It can help explain why an experience is fundamentally good or bad. Understanding what is going on from a neuroscience standpoint enables UX designers to explain the digital user experiences and customer experiences that result in optimal solutions. Read moreRead More>

An interview by Kris Mausser

Published: July 9, 2012

“I wanted to invite UX designers to think of game design as a competency they should build into their own toolkits, as well as to think of video games as another form of human-computer interaction.”

While I don’t consider myself a gamer, I have played a lot of video games in my time—from Coleco’s hand-held Head to Head Baseball in the early 80’s to my recent obsession with the launch of Darksiders II. So imagine my delight when UXmatters asked me to interview John Ferrara about his recent Rosenfeld Media book, Playful Design: Creating Game Experiences in Everyday Interfaces. It isn’t every day that I get to combine my professional expertise in user experience with my closely related personal interest in gaming. I caught up with John just prior to the recent launch of his book.

KM: Let me start by saying there’s a huge buzz in the industry about your new book, Playful Design: Creating Game Experiences in Everyday Interfaces. I think people’s interest comes down to their innate understanding of play. Everyone can relate to it—and it’s fun! After all, game play is a shared human experience that ties directly into our emotions—something we think about a lot in user experience. Why did you write your book? Read moreRead More>