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March 2014 Issue

By Janet M. Six

Published: March 25, 2014

Send your questions to Ask UXmatters and get answers from our experts—some of the top professionals in UX.

In this edition of Ask UXmatters, our experts discuss why companies have so much difficulty finding good—let alone great—UX people; what makes a UX professional good or great; and what it takes for a company to deserve a good UX professional.

In my monthly column Ask UXmatters, our UX experts provide answers to our 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 Lis Hubert and Donna Lichaw

Published: March 25, 2014

“We’ll take a deeper dive into the research behind the narrative, storymapping approach, provide further insights into why we chose this approach, and provide details about how we used this approach with our client.”

In Part 1 of this series on using a storymapping approach to content strategy, we told you about how a local nonprofit, Urban Arts Partnership, brought us a frequent client problem: their need to better understand, organize, and maintain the content for their EASE Program. We explained that, even though there are tried-and-true methods that we could have used to solve this problem—specifically, conducting stakeholder and user interviews during a typical discovery phase, leading to the creation of personas and a content inventory—they wouldn’t have worked for this project. We had realized that, given the short amount of time they had allotted for the project and the small budget that was available for our time, we needed to figure out a new way to help our clients get their heads around their content. So, we introduced our idea of adapting an old approach, storymapping, to solve Urban Arts’ problem on time and on budget.

Now, in Part 2 of our series, we’ll take a deeper dive into the research behind the narrative, storymapping approach, provide further insights into why we chose this approach, and provide details about how we used this approach with our client. Read moreRead More>

By Traci Lepore

Published: March 25, 2014

“How do you take user experience to the next level? … Stop tweaking those wireframes, editing those annotations, and pushing those pixels, because, if you don’t, you’ll never figure out how to move beyond the details and see the bigger picture.”

How do you take user experience to the next level? Simple. Forget about the design! Stop tweaking those wireframes, editing those annotations, and pushing those pixels, because, if you don’t, you’ll never figure out how to move beyond the details and see the bigger picture.

Five years ago, I couldn’t have imagined saying that my role included facilitating and storytelling. And if you’d asked me what my role was, I’d likely have said that the core of my work was creating wireframes and documentation.

These days, the core of my role as a UX professional is much different. Today, my role is to be the design storyteller and the vision facilitator—not just the wireframe maker. And it’s my foundation in theatre that gives me the confidence that this move was the right one. Read moreRead More>

By Bartosz Olchówka

Published: March 25, 2014

“According to an interesting psychological concept called the paradox of choice, the more choices we have, the less happy we are with the choices that we make. If we were to apply this concept to an application user experience, it just might be that the more options a product offers, the less satisfied users will be.”

Many popular applications from the 90s are not available on the market anymore. New Internet users will never hear about RealPlayer or ICQ—products that millions were using just ten years ago. One reason they’re gone is that a plethora of new features turned those simple, usable applications into hulking space stations, resulting in a bad user experience.

The Paradox of Choice

According to an interesting psychological concept called the paradox of choice, the more choices we have, the less happy we are with the choices that we make. If we were to apply this concept to an application user experience, it just might be that the more options a product offers, the less satisfied users will be. Some companies have never understood this. Read moreRead More>

By Baruch Sachs

Published: March 25, 2014

“Most people have heard of user experience, everyone has experienced good and bad user experiences, and you’ll find more people who actually know someone who has a job in user experience. However, in general, people’s depth of knowledge about user experience is still pretty low.”

When you work in user experience or one of its many subsets, you tend to hear questions about what you do a lot. UX professionals often get this inquiry from parents, prospects, neighbors, friends, or casual acquaintances. Inevitably, the topic of conversation goes to what your job is. When I get asked this question, I usually say that I am involved in the design of software. People are suitably impressed. But when I say “user experience,” I get asked, “What is it that you do exactly?” By now, in 2014, most people have heard of user experience, everyone has experienced good and bad user experiences, and you’ll find more people who actually know someone who has a job in user experience. However, in general, people’s depth of knowledge about user experience is still pretty low.

I subscribe to Google Alerts on a variety of topics as one of the ways that I keep abreast of the goings on in various industries. Not surprisingly, one of my keywords is user experience. But what is surprising is the number of articles that use that term in their title. It seems that the concept of user experience is everywhere these days, and people want to apply that idea to everything. If you just followed the Google Alerts on this keyword, you might tend to believe that companies are improving the user experience of everything from traditional technology products to the Easy Bake Oven every day. Furthermore, more companies seem to be opening User Experience Centers of Excellence as McDonald’s has done. This development would seem to alleviate the need for this inquiry that people always make of UX professionals and perhaps might do away with it completely. Read moreRead More>

By Pabini Gabriel-Petit

Published: March 10, 2014

“Over the last few years, I’ve been noticing a disturbing trend in UX design: changes in the design of successful software user interfaces that actually degrade rather than enhance the user experience.”

Over the last few years, I’ve been noticing a disturbing trend in UX design: changes in the design of successful software user interfaces that actually degrade rather than enhance the user experience. This seems to happen for a variety of reasons—for example, because of

  • designers conforming slavishly to current design trends such as minimalism or flat design rather than focusing on meeting users’ needs
  • companies’ leaders wanting their UX designers to create “cool” rather than usable user interfaces
  • UX teams not doing usability testing or other user research that would validate a new design approach rather than being committed to doing user-centered design
  • designers disregarding the power of users’ kinesthetic memory when rethinking application layouts rather than giving it the respect that it warrants
  • designers succumbing to the egotistical desire to put their personal stamp on the design of software user interfaces rather than recognizing and preserving the value that products have long provided to users
  • designers making changes for the sake of change alone rather than strategically driving change to deliver greater value to users
  • companies engaging in feature wars with their competitors—causing their software user interfaces to become bloated with unnecessary features—rather than striving to differentiate their offerings in the marketplace
  • companies crafting user experiences that selfishly further their business goals rather than deriving business value by meeting users’ needs better
  • companies releasing software whose quality is not up to snuff because they’ve rushed it to market without adequate testing and debugging

Read moreRead More>

By Tyler Tate

Published: March 10, 2014

“How can we make ever-growing volumes of information accessible and useful to people without overwhelming them?”

How can we make ever-growing volumes of information accessible and useful to people without overwhelming them?

That is the question I want to consider in this third and final installment of my series on information wayfinding. In Part 1, I argued that we must move beyond thinking of information architecture as designing wayfinding for a book of pages and, instead, think in terms of a spatial environment. In Part 2, I compared interacting with information to the process of finding one’s way through a city, then defined three elements of the information environment, shown in Figure 1: districts, layers, and nodes. Read moreRead More>

By Jim Ross

Published: March 10, 2014

“An internship is a great way to get into the field of user experience, but internships are often failures—for both the intern and the hiring company.”

An internship is a great way to get into the field of user experience, but internships are often failures—for both the intern and the hiring company. Why? The hiring companies often don’t have a plan for how to use their interns, and interns often don’t know how they can contribute or where they fit in.

Whose fault is this? Both the intern and the hiring company are responsible for ensuring that an internship is meaningful and rewarding. Yet many companies hire interns without any plan for how to use them. They may think, We have a lot to do around here. We could use an intern. They then hire an intern without planning how to use that person and realize that it’s difficult to find things for the intern to do. So the intern either sits around underused or does a lot of busywork. Thus, the internship becomes a bad experience for both parties, and the company may think twice about ever hiring an intern again. Read moreRead More>

By Steven Hoober

Published: March 10, 2014

“We know far too little about most types of users, so we work off anecdotes, popular-media portrayals, and gut instinct all too often. … There’s one huge segment of the population that is a total cipher: the teenaged digital user.”

These days, everyone nods and agrees when I talk about the need to design for every type of user. But, as UX professionals, we know far too little about most types of users, so we work off anecdotes, popular-media portrayals, and gut instinct all too often. Recently, I participated in some great discussions about designing for inclusiveness, and I’ve seen good examples of the actual issues that people living with vision or mobility challenges encounter. Nevertheless, there’s one huge segment of the population that is a total cipher: the teenaged digital user.

Teens as digital users are the subject of much discussion, but almost everything that we think we know about their usage of devices and their preferences is completely anecdotal. The vast majority of articles that dig into teen motivations and usage trends rely on an interview with a single teenager—usually one who is related to the author, is moderately or even very affluent, and is surrounded by technology. I don’t much care how those kids work, in the same way that you wouldn’t care how my kids work. I care how all teenagers work. Read moreRead More>

By Cory Lebson

Published: March 10, 2014

“Proper disaster preparedness, and disaster response and the subsequent recovery all depended on people having a good user experience with Web and mobile information resources.”

When the life-threatening catastrophe Hurricane Sandy hit the Northeastern United States, proper disaster preparedness and disaster response and the subsequent recovery all depended on people having a good user experience with Web and mobile information resources. These resources provided information that helped people to prepare for the disaster and, subsequently, let them apply for recovery assistance during the aftermath of the disaster. In disastrous situations like this, the right information needs to be immediately available to people because there may not be time for a second chance to obtain it.

Over a number of years, I have had the opportunity to do user experience research and evaluation work relating to natural disasters. In that time, the poignancy of what I have seen and heard regarding the impacts of negative and positive Web or mobile experiences on disaster recovery has made these experiences some of the most meaningful of my UX career. While user experience is important for any Web site or application, my seeing how user experience directly affected survivors’ ability to get through a disaster and get help when they needed it showed me the value of a quality user experience and the importance of user research. Read moreRead More>