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February 2013 Issue

By Steven Hoober

Published: February 18, 2013

“People can use mobile devices when they’re standing, walking, riding a bus, or doing just about anything. Users have to hold a device in a way that lets them view its screen, while providing input.”

As UX professionals, we all pay a lot of attention to users’ needs. When designing for mobile devices, we’re aware that there are some additional things that we must consider—such as how the context in which users employ their devices changes their interactions or usage patterns. [1] However, some time ago, I noticed a gap in our understanding: How do people actually carry and hold their mobile devices? These devices are not like computers that sit on people’s tables or desks. Instead, people can use mobile devices when they’re standing, walking, riding a bus, or doing just about anything. Users have to hold a device in a way that lets them view its screen, while providing input.

In the past year or so, there have been many discussions about how users hold their mobile devices—most notably Josh Clark’s. [2] But I suspect that some of what we’ve been reading may not be on track. First, we see a lot of assumptions—for example, that all people hold mobile devices with one hand because they’re the right size for that—well, at least the iPhone is. [3] Many of these discussions have assumed that people are all the same and do not adapt to different situations, which is not my experience in any area involving real people—much less with the unexpected ways in which people use mobile devices. Read moreRead More>

By Eric Berkman

Published: February 18, 2013

“Workshops are essential to establishing a shared understanding and ownership of a problem and its solutions among multiple key users and stakeholders.”

UX designers and strategists should have the confidence and the skill to organize and facilitate effective and efficient participatory workshops throughout the design process, whether working with internal teams or with clients. Workshops are essential to establishing a shared understanding and ownership of a problem and its solutions among multiple key users and stakeholders. Unfortunately, if a workshop gets off to a bad start, that ultimately leads to bad results. So, in this article, I’ll present some effective ways of beginning a workshop by using a warm-up activity that helps to ensure you’re on the right track.

Attack of the Zombies

Before diving deeply into the details of warm-up activities, let’s look at a common workshop scenario that many of us may have faced and would, of course, dread. This is what would be likely to happen if you didn’t use a warm-up activity. Read moreRead More>

By Janet M. Six

Published: February 18, 2013

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 select UX design tools, as well as some tools that you might find useful in a couple of typical project scenarios—working on a lean UX project and getting assigned to a UX design project late in the development cycle. They provide answers to the following questions from our readers:

  • What capabilities and attributes should you consider when selecting a UX design tool?
  • What UX design tools are critical to facilitating lean UX?
  • When you are assigned to a design project at a later stage in a development cycle, what tools can help you to make the best of your available time?

Read moreRead More>

By Steve Mellor

Published: February 18, 2013

“User experience…, perhaps more than any other area of qualitative research, really requires some thought about the best approach for each brief. … Because doing face-to-face UX research has some disadvantages that can really impact the reliability of the research findings.”

Recently, when I received a UX brief for the evaluation of a Web site, I recognized that there was something different about this brief in comparison to others that I’ve received. This brief involved evaluating a micro-site that had been up and running in 22 markets for a few months. The site had cleverly used an advertisement as content. Visitors could click the advertisement to interact with it—and in doing so, reveal more about the company’s services. The reason that the brief was different was because it wasn’t about navigation—it was about communication.

I recognized that it would be important to remove myself from the research process to capture the realities of how the Web site communicates its services. In other words, I needed to be a fly on the wall. The solution? An online Bulletin Board that would give participants the time, freedom, and confidence to explore the site in their own time and their own environment. Read moreRead More>

By Peter Hornsby

Published: February 18, 2013

Steve Rogers: “Big man in a suit of armor. Take that off, what are you?”

Tony Stark: “Genius … billionaire … playboy … philanthropist.”

—The Avengers

“There are an awful lot of user interfaces in the Iron Man movies: transparent touchscreens on smartphones … and as part of a desktop.”

It’s confession time: I’m a huge fan of Iron Man, who is shown in Figure 1. What’s not to love? A genius, billionaire playboy with a super-powered suit and an endless supply of witty one-liners. I’ve recently been wondering about that suit and how we could make it a reality. However, I’m not thinking about recreating the armor or the arc reactor in the chest that powers the whole ensemble, but the suit’s user interface. Because that’s the bit that really rocks! Read moreRead More>

By Caroline Jarrett

Published: February 4, 2013

“If you’re designing for a cramped mobile screen, space is at a premium. It almost seems wasteful to leave text boxes empty just because people need to type into them.”

Recently, I received the good news that one of my columns is in the UXmatters All-Time Top 25: “Don’t Put Hints Inside Text Boxes in Web Forms.” That was an unusual article for me because I came straight out and said, “Don’t.” Not “it depends”—just “don’t.” And it generated a lot of discussion—none of which changed my views.

So, I’m going to do it again and say, “Don’t put labels inside text boxes.” Well, okay, what I’m actually going to say is, “Don’t put labels inside text boxes—unless you’re Luke Wroblewski.”

And now, I think I’d better explain what I mean. Read moreRead More>

By Sasha Giacoppo

Published: February 4, 2013

“The startup had made it this far without a dedicated UX professional, but it was time for someone to step in—to begin creating a process framework that would evolve healthily over time and help the company produce amazing user experiences.”

Making a fresh start with a new organization is always an exciting time, isn’t it? Especially when that organization is a startup. During your interviews with the startup, you didn’t just tell them about your approach to user experience and your past work experiences, you were already evaluating the problem they were working to solve, trying to decide what potential the company really has. Before you even began working in the startup, you were thinking about the customers and what their current experience is or could be. You were already sold on the startup’s vision and their product’s market potential—and the whole company was growing.

The startup had made it this far without a dedicated UX professional, but it was time for someone to step in—to begin creating a process framework that would evolve healthily over time and help the company produce amazing user experiences. Read moreRead More>

By Baruch Sachs

Published: February 4, 2013

“A big part of understanding what makes a great UX consultant great is understanding what deficiencies hinder greatness.”

I have been a UX consultant, in one form or another, for about 15 years now. After 15 years of doing the same thing, I have a decent amount of experience to look back and reflect on, so it seems a good time to examine where I’ve been and where I might want to go as a UX consultant.

If I were honest with myself, I would have to say that, out of those 15 years, I’ve considered myself to be a great UX consultant in maybe only the past five years or so. Admitting that makes me realize that I would also like to explore and articulate how UX consultants go from good to great. This is a question that I get a lot from others. So, over my next few columns, I’ll explore this topic in greater depth. In Part 1 of this series, I’ll discuss some myths about what makes a UX consultant great. A big part of understanding what makes a great UX consultant great is understanding what deficiencies hinder greatness. Read moreRead More>

By Eric Reiss

Published: February 4, 2013

Design dissonance occurs when a product or service sends out cognitive signals that run counter to the desired effect.”

Dissonance is a musical term. It means things are not in harmony. Design dissonance occurs when a product or service sends out cognitive signals that run counter to the desired effect.

In the strictest sense of the term, design dissonance often relates to usability—when a design somehow pushes a user in the wrong direction, in terms of both understanding and action. But in a broader sense, design dissonance can create disappointment, particularly when it occurs in relation to a service.

Personally, I define user experience as the perceptive sum of a series of interactions. Therefore, my goal in sharing my thoughts on design dissonance is to help you avoid creating negative interactions that would harm the overall experience. Read moreRead More>

By Toby Biddle

Published: February 4, 2013

“One important aspect of user experience that traditional testing does not address is assessing the path to a Web site.”

Usability testing is a common approach for assessing the performance of Web sites and applications. However, one important aspect of user experience that traditional testing does not address is assessing the path to a Web site. Responsibility for this has typically fallen into the domain of search engine optimization (SEO) and search engine marketing (SEM)—and often, the person who looks after those concerns is not the same person who is ultimately responsible for a site’s or application’s user experience.

Recently, Jeff Sauro wrote an article titled “How to Measure Findability.” His article explains a process for measuring the findability of items on a Web site. In contrast, search engine findability is about measuring the ease with which people can find your Web site, as well as understanding the paths they take to it. Read moreRead More>