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September 2012 Issue

By Paul Bryan

Published: September 17, 2012

“The term user experience … has come to refer to the design of a full range of digital touchpoints that mediate the relationship between an individual user and the products or services a company or organization develops.”

User experience design evolved out of a discipline that was previously known as user interface design. Before user experience entered the popular vernacular, user interface designers were responsible for creating the thin visual and functional layer of software that allowed humans who didn’t know any programming language to successfully interact with computers. But since the emergence of the term user experience, as it has become more prominent, it has come to refer to the design of a full range of digital touchpoints that mediate the relationship between an individual user and the products or services a company or organization develops. Although this change in terminology wasn’t dramatic, the shift in focus from designing a user interface that makes computers easier to use to designing an engaging, relationship-building experience is a substantial transformation.

However, not all digital design teams have participated in this transformation. Some User Experience teams still focus primarily on designing user interfaces rather than the more strategic aspects of user experience. Perhaps they don't yet have the authority, the resources, or the access to the people and business information that they would need to deliver a holistic experience for their users. So, they continue to focus on the thin visual and functional layer of a Web site or application. There is nothing wrong with that—unless a team aspires to take on a larger, more mission-critical role in their company’s future. Read moreRead More>

By Erin Walsh

Published: September 17, 2012

“We’re user-centered designers, so the first thing we thought about was our audience for our book.”—Jesmond Allen

In recent months, I’ve found myself rereading staples from my UX bookshelf in preparation for a course that I’m teaching. Regardless of how fascinating the subject matter, it tends to get a bit dry around book five. However, I recently had the great pleasure of reading Jesmond Allen and James Chudley’s new book, Smashing UX Design: Foundations for Designing Online User Experiences. From the beginning, I was struck by the novel approach they had taken. Rejuvenated, I found myself eager to implement some new ideas—and even to resurrect some oldies that had gotten buried in my UX toolbox.

Erin: The tone and personality of your book is so refreshing; it is as if a mentor or friend is talking to the reader. Since setting the tone and language for a product is an important aspect of our job as UX designers, were you cognizant of writing your book in this manner, or was it was simply a natural product of your writing style? Read moreRead More>

By Janet M. Six

Published: September 17, 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 two different topics:

  • how to become more empathetic
  • designing user experiences for foreign cultures

Ask UXmatters is a monthly column in which a panel of UX experts answers our readers’ questions about a variety 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 us at: ask.uxmatters@uxmatters.com. Read moreRead More>

By Daniel Szuc and Josephine Wong

Published: September 17, 2012

“Some of the presentations that we attended at UX Australia 2012 addressed the importance of taking time to better understand people as part of a design cycle….”

We’ve just returned home from an energizing and enjoyable time at UX Australia 2012 in Brisbane. It is always thrilling to connect with local UX communities around the world; to hear about the project work people are doing, the problems they face, their latest thinking, and the maturity of user experience in local markets; and to think about what this means for global UX practice. This is particularly the case in a community as active, passionate, and intelligent as the UX community in Australia.

Some of the presentations that we attended at UX Australia 2012 addressed the importance of taking time to better understand people as part of a design cycle—whether its goal is to improve the design of products, services, spaces, businesses, communities, or the world for a better future. Read moreRead More>

By Delia Rusu

Published: September 17, 2012

“You don’t need to have the title of a UX professional or consultant to make a contribution in the field of user experience.

The idea for the title of this article came to me after listening to Mark Sanborn’s audio book You Don’t Need a Title to Be a Leader: How Anyone, Anywhere, Can Make a Positive Difference. In his book, Sanborn shows how, by improving little things every day, we can make a great contribution to customers and communities. According to his book, anyone—regardless of whether they have a particular title—can make a positive difference in their environment and organization.

On forums and groups on social networking sites that focus on user experience and usability, people quite often ask about how they can move from their role as a technical writer to that of a UX professional. They ask what they would need to know; what degrees, courses, or certifications they would need to have; and what companies would encourage such a transition. They seem to be looking for step-by-step guidance on how to make the transition from technical writer to UX professional. Read moreRead More>

By Steven Hoober

Published: September 3, 2012

In my new column for UXmattersMobile Matters: Designing for every screen—I’ll discuss the conditions and considerations that are unique to designing user interfaces for mobile phones—the most successful, widespread technology on the planet—tablets, and all their offshoots.

“Most errors result from assuming people are like computers and making them do work they shouldn’t have to do or to work the way a computer works.”

In this first installment of my column, I’ll discuss inline form validation for mobile user interfaces and provide some guidelines for its use.

Error messages are bad. Users get annoyed when they encounter them. And when they do, they’re likely to drop off your site, perhaps never to visit it again. Whatever we can do to eliminate error messages is good for users, as well as our organizations or clients. Read moreRead More>

By Ritch Macefield

Published: September 3, 2012

“UCD has a lot in common with agile. Both encourage a multidisciplinary approach, are iterative, encourage feedback, discourage bloated and overly rigid documentation, and value people over processes.”

Many organizations are moving from waterfall to agile software development methods. They often combine this shift with a move to user-centered design (UCD). This makes sense because, in addition to bringing great intrinsic benefits, UCD has a lot in common with agile. Both encourage a multidisciplinary approach, are iterative, encourage feedback, discourage bloated and overly rigid documentation, and value people over processes. However, the combination of agile and UCD all too often leads to UX design becoming the main blocker in the development process. Why is this?

The Problem

A key reason for using agile methods is to improve development speed. Agile achieves its speed in a number of ways, but key among these is breaking the development process down into lots of short, sharp, sprints of the same length—typically, just two to six weeks—that have clear goals—for example, get the search feature working. In many ways, these sprints are like a relentless code production line and, as with any production line, stopping it unnecessarily is a cardinal sin. Read moreRead More>

By Demetrius Madrigal and Bryan McClain

Published: September 3, 2012

“Both qualitative and quantitative methods of user research play important roles in product development.”

Both qualitative and quantitative methods of user research play important roles in product development. Data from quantitative research—such as market size, demographics, and user preferences—provides important information for business decisions. Qualitative research provides valuable data for use in the design of a product—including data about user needs, behavior patterns, and use cases. Each of these approaches has strengths and weaknesses, and each can benefit from our combining them with one another. This month, we’ll take a look at these two approaches to user research and discuss how and when to apply them.

Quantitative Studies

Quantitative studies provide data that can be expressed in numbers—thus, their name. Because the data is in a numeric form, we can apply statistical tests in making statements about the data. These include descriptive statistics like the mean, median, and standard deviation, but can also include inferential statistics like t-tests, ANOVAs, or multiple regression correlations (MRC). Statistical analysis lets us derive important facts from research data, including preference trends, differences between groups, and demographics. Read moreRead More>

By April McGee

Published: September 3, 2012

“It is essential that an organization’s UX strategy be at the core of user-centered design. A UX strategy establishes goals for a cohesive user experience across all channels and touchpoints.”

Today, organizations interact with their customers through multiple digital channels such as call centers, mobile devices, applications, and Web sites. It is not enough to create a strategy for these channels from business, technology, and marketing perspectives. Rather, it is essential that an organization’s UX strategy be at the core of user-centered design. A UX strategy establishes goals for a cohesive user experience across all channels and touchpoints. The success of a UX strategy across multiple channels and offerings depends especially on the following factors:

  • identifying the business objectives of the channel leadership and relating them to the user experience
  • understanding the overall ecosystem of the customer—in particular, what motivates them

Organizations must translate this information into a cross-channel user experience that meets the needs and aspirations of both its business and its customers. Read moreRead More>

Review by Arun Joseph Martin, Calvin Chun-yu Chan, Erico Fileno, Noriko Osaka, and Yohan Creemers

Published: September 3, 2012

Author: Jon Kolko

Publisher: Austin Center for Design

Publication date: March 2012

Format of print edition: Paperback; 8.5 x 8.5 inches; 176 pages

ISBN: 978-0-6155931-5-9

List price: $45

Free online edition: Wicked Problems: Problems Worth Solving

“Kolko suggests that it is possible to mitigate wicked problems through what he calls social entrepreneurship—entrepreneurship that aims to create social capital by adding value to the community rather than focusing only on creating economic wealth.”

Overview

In this “Handbook & Call to Action,” Kolko introduces the idea of wicked problems—large-scale social issues that plague humanity, like poverty and malnutrition—then describes the role of design in mitigating these problems. Starting with the example of his experience with Project Masiluleke, Kolko points out that traditional approaches cannot deal effectively with complex social and cultural problems. Such wicked problems always interconnect with other problems, are costly to solve, and often lack clear methods for understanding and evaluating them. Read moreRead More>