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May 2014 Issue

By Baruch Sachs

Published: May 19, 2014

“Simply managing anything seems to be just taking care of the basics. When you merely manage something, more often than not you are treading water. Transforming something is the real way to progress.”

Here is a confession: I have never been a real fan of anything with the word management in it. Why? Well, because simply managing anything seems to be just taking care of the basics. When you merely manage something, more often than not you are treading water. Transforming something is the real way to progress. Transforming, growing, shaping—these are the fun and most challenging parts of leadership. This idea is not applicable just to what we might think of as conventional people management; it has a wide range of applications and is definitely part of user experience.

No one ever embarks on a redesign by stating that their primary goal is to better manage the user experience. Almost always, the word that is associated with a big project has something to do with transformation. If you had the chance to transform a series of disparate systems and user interfaces into a single, elegant, omnichannel user experience, why would you settle for just managing that? Sadly, it’s what many enterprise software projects end up doing. Read moreRead More>

By Janet M. Six

Published: May 19, 2014

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 deal with very long field names in forms and some ways to analyze users’ tasks.

Each month in 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 Ronnie Battista

Published: May 19, 2014

How should we define UX strategy today? Where is it going? As UX professionals, how can we better develop ourselves and those who have yet to find their home in this field?

Welcome to Strategy Matters, my new column on UXmatters, which will focus on answering these essential questions: How should we define UX strategy today? Where is it going? As UX professionals, how can we better develop ourselves and those who have yet to find their home in this field?¬†Building on that premise, I’d like to put out a few disclaimers as I kick off this column:

  • I think I’m a UX Strategist… This is how I have chosen to define myself and what I can offer to the field of User Experience. I share this self-affixed title with many others, but there’s really no saying who is or who isn’t a UX Strategist, because there’s no accepted definition or criteria for the role. How anyone can claim to be a UX Strategist without feeling some degree of Imposter Syndrome escapes me. But if I look at my peers who I feel most closely affiliated with—and the things that interest us and the types of work that we seek and do for clients—I’m an Experience Strategist. (I’ll take the U out for now and explain that in an upcoming column.) However, like many or even most others with this title, there are deficiencies in my skillset and experience that some could argue disqualify me from making this assertion. And that’s because…

Read moreRead More>

By Cory Lebson

Published: May 19, 2014

Creating a UX certification program would be a huge and expensive undertaking, and it is unclear what the cost justification for such a program would be.

I frequently receive email messages from recruiters, asking whether they can submit my name to their client for some UX job or other. I always like reading the job descriptions because they help me to stay current on what skills are most in demand in the field of user experience. However, one thing that is always a cause for concern is when UX job postings say “UX certification preferred” or, even worse, “UX certification required.”

While, at least here in the United States, project managers have their well-established PMP certification and, a bit closer to User Experience, ergonomists can be board certified in professional ergonomics (BCPE)—there’s even a UX component of this certification—there is no broadly accepted UX certification. I understand that hiring managers want an easy litmus test to determine whether someone is a qualified UX professional. User Experience covers such a wide range of skills that it may be difficult for them to fully assess whether a candidate is a good fit for a job—particularly if managers are not immersed in User Experience themselves Read moreRead More>

By Roy Man

Published: May 19, 2014

“Everyone speaks of meeting the needs of users as the single most important thing. But when it’s time to put together a budget, many managers think of hiring a UX professional as a nice-to-have….”

Has anyone ever had to publish a list of companies that hire coders or marketers? Of course not. Everyone hires coders and marketers. Companies that hire UX professionals, on the other hand, are harder to come by. This has always been mind boggling to me. Everyone speaks of meeting the needs of users as the single most important thing. But when it’s time to put together a budget, many managers think of hiring a UX professional as a nice-to-have and leave it out of their budget. Unless, of course, a manager is in the gaming industry.

Gamers are unforgiving and vocal. The competition in gaming is fierce. And on top of everything, games must actually be complete when they’re released. This is probably why game developers pay extra attention to user experience, and the leading gaming companies always have UX professionals on board. Read moreRead More>

By Steven Hoober

Published: May 5, 2014

“We all have to work with others to get our products built. Good collaboration is a critical feature of ensuring that your UX design solutions add value and are successful.”

Hardly any of us toil away in a mountain cabin or lonely basement. We all have to work with others to get our products built. Good collaboration is a critical feature of ensuring that your UX design solutions add value and are successful. Working collaboratively is more efficient, but most importantly, it helps to ensure that your designs meet the needs of both users and your clients.

As someone who has worked in the field of user experience for decades, received training on half a dozen development methodologies, and completed over 150 agile projects, one thing that I am quite confused about these days is the term waterfall. In pre-agile times, I never worked in any organization that claimed they were doing waterfall development. If I did hear terms like “toss it over the wall”—and they were as derisive back then as they are now. Product development—at least for products that anyone expects to be successful—has always been iterative, incremental, and collaborative. Read moreRead More>

By Jim Ross

Published: May 5, 2014

“TurboTax takes some of the sting out of doing your taxes by proactively offering suggestions to help you avoid owing money next year. So you end up feeling that you’ve learned something and are in control of the situation.”

We all have to do things that we don’t like doing. For me, there’s one day of the month that I dread far more than any other: the day that I have to update our family finances in Quicken and pay bills. This involves downloading checking and credit-card transactions and matching up receipts to make sure that everything is accurate before I pay the bills. Besides the physical drudgery of entering receipts, paying bills brings up almost every kind of negative emotion—regret, irritation, anger, resentment, anxiety, fear, and depression. Unless it’s a particularly good month, I usually end up worrying about questions like these: Why did I spend money on that? Why did my wife spend money on that? Did we really need that? Are we saving enough for retirement? How are we going to pay for the kids’ college? Am I going to end up living in a refrigerator box in an alley?

While Quicken has some design and usability problems, its user interface isn’t really the problem. The task itself is extremely unpleasant, regardless of the technology I’m using to do it or even doing it manually. No matter what improvements Intuit makes to Quicken, paying bills will never be a pleasant experience. But the design of Quicken could at least make the task a little more bearable. Read moreRead More>

By Daniel Szuc and Josephine Wong

Published: May 5, 2014

We need to pay more attention to why we are conducting specific research and design activities. We need to ask how our learnings can impact people and the business for which we’re working, in positive, holistic ways.

Have you ever been on a project where you conducted user interviews and got some answers, but didn't know why you were asking specific questions, what the answers meant, or how they really related to a business? Have you felt like you were checking off questions, but not gaining any real value?

We have. Many times, sadly.

As UX professionals, we need to pay more attention to why we are conducting specific research and design activities. We need to ask how our learnings can impact people and the business for which we’re working, in positive, holistic ways. We need to know how our research activities integrate with the bigger program of user research and how they fit into product and business roadmaps. Read moreRead More>

By Nathaniel Davis

Published: May 5, 2014

“I’ll provide a simple reference guide that summarizes … the information architecture value chain….”

In my last column, I described how an information architecture (IA) compass is useful in grounding your approach to solving IA challenges and offers a perspective that is good to have when explaining the value of information architecture to business stakeholders. However, while the IA compass provides useful guidance for approaching your information architecture work, you may need to do even more to improve the chances that a business will consider information architecture an essential task on your next project.

In this column, I’ll provide a simple reference guide that summarizes what the DSIA Research Initiative refers to as the information architecture value chain and offer a fresh perspective on a range of IA activities and the value they bring to a broader audience. Read moreRead More>

By Jeff Johnson

Published: May 5, 2014

This is a sample chapter from the Second Edition of Jeff Johnson’s book, Designing with the Mind in Mind: Simple Guide to Understanding User Interface Design Guidelines. 2014 Morgan Kaufmann.

Chapter 11: Many Factors Affect Learning

“This chapter explains and demonstrates factors that affect how quickly people can learn to use interactive systems so proficiently that operating the system is handled largely by automatic cognitive processes.”

Chapter 10 contrasted system one, the automatic processes our brain uses to carry out well-learned activities and make quick judgments, with system two, the conscious, highly monitored, controlled processes that we use to solve novel problems, make rational choices, and perform calculations. Automatic processes (system one) consume little or no short-term memory (attention) resources and can operate in parallel with each other, while controlled processes (system two) place high demands on short-term memory and operate one at a time (Schneider and Shiffrin, 1977; Kahneman, 2011; Eagleman, 2012). Read moreRead More>