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October 2012 Issue

By Traci Lepore

Published: October 22, 2012

“The most impactful lesson in helping me to become an innovative thinker and designer is the importance of habit.”

I’ve taken away many valuable lessons from my theater training that have affected broader aspects of my life. The most impactful lesson in helping me to become an innovative thinker and designer is the importance of habit. Understanding the need to acquire certain good habits and be disciplined in my practice of them has been one of the key lessons that now enables me appear to be a magician who can pull a rabbit from a hat whenever I want to. The magic is my ability to innovate. I’d like to share some thoughts on the value of developing good habits with you, in the hope that they will, in time, enable you to create your own magic.

The Learning Curve

The first director I worked with in undergrad is someone who knows what discipline and creative habit is all about. And he worked hard to instill this in his actors, even if it sometimes felt like he was just working us hard. I will most certainly never forget the first lesson he taught us and the profound impact it has had on my behavior, which has forever been cemented by what I learned from him. Read moreRead More>

By Jordan Julien

Published: October 22, 2012

“There is subtle, but important barrier to applying empathy to design that lies in our perception of the user.”

Users don’t always know exactly what they want. Sometimes they know only that they want help figuring out what they want. This makes figuring out user intent particularly challenging for marketers and product manufacturers.

Intent and Empathy

There’s no question that empathy is one of the most important traits of anyone who is a UX professional. However, there is subtle, but important barrier to applying empathy to design that lies in our perception of the user. I frequently encounter colleagues who, though they may have a much keener sense of empathy than I do, consider users to be like a school of fish and UX design to resemble manipulating the physical barriers that influence the school’s movements.

Averaging the likeliness of users’ interacting with a system in any particular way eliminates the nuances that are associated with any particular user. Rather than trying to develop empathy for a group average, I try to relate to the various needs and intents that individual users might have while interacting with a system. This lets me create flows that fulfill those needs, while throttling the number of distractions and competing messages. Read moreRead More>

By Baruch Sachs

Published: October 22, 2012

“In an age of real-time, yet remote collaboration possibilities, nothing really beats working side by side to build a relationship.”

Part 1 of “Playing Nicely with Others” focused on working with clients and earning our colleagues’ respect. In Part 2 of this series, I want to share some specific advice that has worked well for me when trying to build stronger workplace relationships among internal UX people, in the various companies at which I’ve been employed.

Actually Work Together

When I think of some of the strongest workplace relationships I have had, they were almost all due to our having been, at some point in our relationship, stuck in a room together, working well past a reasonable hour. In an age of real-time, yet remote collaboration possibilities, nothing really beats working side by side to build a relationship. Most of the time, UX designers sling wireframes back and forth with each other. It’s clean, it’s productive, and it’s a modern way to work. However, it is also completely sanitized of the human element. You really see a person’s character shine through when it is late, and you are both tired and frustrated. You leave that experience either really wanting to work with that person again or never again. Read moreRead More>

By Janet M. Six

Published: October 22, 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 best to design and utilize customer feedback surveys to obtain data from customers.

In my monthly column Ask UXmatters, our 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 question to: ask.uxmatters@uxmatters.com. Read moreRead More>

By Peter Hornsby

Published: October 22, 2012

“My go-to site for asking and answering questions about user experience: the UX Stack Exchange.”

There are a few online resources that I use to keep up to speed with what’s happening in the world—or to help me get new ideas for design. One of these is the Coding Horror blog, where Jeff Atwood talks about programming and human factors. Another is my go-to site for asking and answering questions about user experience: the UX Stack Exchange, one of the many Stack Exchange Q&A sites. I was delighted when Jeff Atwood, the man behind both of these sites, agreed to do an interview for UXmatters.

Peter: Jeff, thanks for your time today. Could we start with a brief history, up to your Stack Exchange days?

Jeff: I sort of mark my career in two phases: one before the blog and one after the blog. Before the blog, I had a background as a programmer, working with a lot of small businesses. Read moreRead More>

By Jim Ross

Published: October 8, 2012

“The most effective research techniques involve observing participants doing things and talking about what they’re doing. … Therefore, the best way to evaluate a new design is to create a prototype and give participants something concrete to interact with and react to.”

Because user research studies peoples’ behavior, the most effective research techniques involve observing participants doing things and talking about what they’re doing. Research that focuses on opinions and discussions of behavior in the abstract isn’t as useful, because it’s difficult for people to talk about their behavior out of context or to evaluate a design without using it. Therefore, the best way to evaluate a new design is to create a prototype and give participants something concrete to interact with and react to.

However, there are some differences between testing a prototype and testing a fully functional Web site or application. In this column, I’ll provide some tips that can make your usability studies more successful and help you to avoid problems when testing prototypes. Read moreRead More>

By Ritch Macefield

Published: October 8, 2012

“Despite the fact that fourth-generation prototyping tools are now well established and the organizations that are in the know have gained a significant competitive advantage by using such tools, many organizations have yet to adopt them.”

Working as a UX design and user-centered design (UCD) consultant across the world, it continues to surprise me that many software development organizations are still using what I call second- or third-generation prototyping tools and their associated techniques. Despite the fact that fourth-generation prototyping tools are now well established and the organizations that are in the know have gained a significant competitive advantage by using such tools, many organizations have yet to adopt them.

To help you understand the various generations of prototyping tools, I’ll first define a set of criteria for evaluating all prototyping tools, then assess each generation of prototyping tools and their associated prototyping techniques against those criteria. I’ll also describe why each generation of tools arose and why designers continue to use them. Read moreRead More>

By Rebecca Albrand

Published: October 8, 2012

“As a usability professional, you have to wear the hats of a facilitator, a consultant, a conversationalist, a note-taker, a technologist, and a psychologist.”

Sometimes it seems as though usability professionals need to have superhuman multitasking abilities to conduct usability test sessions. As a usability professional, you have to wear the hats of a facilitator, a consultant, a conversationalist, a note-taker, a technologist, and a psychologist. You have to do everything from handling technology issues to understanding participants’ personalities and comfort levels, all while working within a session’s time constraints—and perhaps with the added pressure of having your client observing. But despite your having to do all of these things, your main responsibility is to gather high-quality, valuable data for your client.

In a perfect world, a team of at least two researchers would work together to gather this data: one in the role of a facilitator; the other, a recorder. However, on fast-paced UX projects, this is not always possible, and you may often be working on your own. Read moreRead More>

By Frank Guo

Published: October 8, 2012

“There are many common beliefs about UX design that are, unfortunately, based on casual and inaccurate observation.”

There are many common beliefs about UX design that are, unfortunately, based on casual and inaccurate observation. However, through systematically planned and conducted user research, we can see that some of these could not be further from the truth. In this series, I’d like to single out a few such design beliefs that meet two conditions:

  1. Many product development professionals believe them.
  2. Little user data supports them.

Such ideas may not be completely wrong—just oversimplified. But, if UX designers applied them indiscriminately, adherence to them would undermine user engagement and task completion. While many experienced UX designers have already realized the problems that result from adhering to these ideas, many others still firmly believe in them. In debunking these UX design myths, I’ll show that they’re just half truths that don’t fully account for the complexity of user experience and that there are better alternatives for achieving your design objectives. Read moreRead More>

By Afshan Kirmani

Published: October 8, 2012

“In this review, I’ll describe Justinmind Prototyper’s support for mobile application prototyping and assess how well Prototyper integrates with usability testing applications.”

Almost three years ago, I wrote a review of Justinmind Prototyper as a user-interface design platform. While that review focused on Web application prototyping, in this review, I’ll describe Justinmind Prototyper’s support for mobile application prototyping and assess how well Prototyper integrates with usability testing applications.

As UX professionals, we often use prototyping tools to create low-fidelity and high-fidelity wireframes at different stages of an application design process. Stakeholders need to be able to participate in the creation of those prototypes and review and provide feedback on them. More important, we need to test applications with the help of prototyping tools. However, most prototyping tools lack effective responsiveness where mobile application design, gestural interactions, and usability testing come into play. Read moreRead More>