5 ways to get the most from in-house designers
Increasing numbers of executives want to bring interaction design in-house because they've realised how critical it is to product success. There are plenty of challenges involved in doing this, including hiring and training the right people. One of the challenges companies may not expect, though, is in deciding how to use those resources once they've been found.
7 things to know about building a user experience team
An excerpt from Built for Use: Driving Profitability Through the User Experience, by Karen Donohue.
7 reasons why applications fail
"I’m not one to believe that we’re in a Bubble 2.0 or anything like that, but here are a few ideas about why some of the web apps out there fail."
(Joshua Porter - Bokardo)
10 rules for project managers
In his Weblog, operations management consultant Hal Macomber derides those x-numbered lists of qualities that consultants turn into overpuffed business books. He does, however, have a more-than-usually useful list of his own: 10 Rules for Project Managers.
10 ways to kill design
When design pilot projects fail, it endangers everyone's willingness to adopt design methods. Over the course of doing hundreds of design projects and teaching our methods to more than a thousand people, we've seen that several reasons for failure keep showing up. A discussion of these reasons follows, along with some solutions to consider.
80/20 again--critical architectural junctures
Lou Rosenfeld argues that we should focus our design and architectural efforts on the few options that provide the greatest benefit.
Acting on user research
The good news in user research is that we're building up a massive body of knowledge about user behavior in online systems. The days are long gone when companies had to guess about website and intranet designs. The bad news is that the sheer amount of accumulated research findings can be overwhelming. Even worse? User research won't generate an additional penny of profit unless you understand it and act upon it.
Alternative business models for HCI
"It is easy to be complacent about the future in this climate and to forget the lessons of the dotcom crash of a few years ago. At that time, usability professionals struggled in a market that was dominated by cost-cutting. The problem then was that usability had a limited business offering that focused on optimisation. Critics  pointed to the commonsensical nature of usability research and its antipathy to design. They pointed to a profession that was dominated by a few vocal usability 'gurus' who echoed companies' fears of risk and spending on research and development. Given the excesses of the boom, this made sense in the short term. As a long term strategy for sustainability, optimisation has a limited shelf life: once a product or service is optimised the work is finished. In this light, it is worth considering how usability can be integrated with other business processes and services."
(John Knight - Usabilitynews.com)
Apples and oranges
Usability and design are two fields that collide more often than not. But why is that? Why can’t we all just get along and centre our efforts around delivering a better product, a top-notch website or a user-friendly interface. Everybody would benefit from an open-minded, reciprocal understanding. Right? Designers and user researchers need to communicate effectively, with mutual appreciation, in order to achieve an optimal outcome.
Architecting our profession
"I would like to encourage the community to talk about the need for professional networks within the information architecture field, especially as it relates to creating successful software and information systems. And, I would like to compare our needs in the field of IA with the systems that have been used in other areas to determine if we can develop an appropriate support system in moving towards specialization in our profession."
Are you in control of your website?
A surprising number of websites are not being properly managed. A particular area of concern is content quality. Many managers have not put professional publishing procedures in place. They do not know what is being published on their websites. This is an unacceptable situation.
Building positive team relationships for better usability
"UX professionals can successfully maintain positive team relationships without sacrificing decision-making power. Different viewpoints are inherent in project teams, but should not cause personal offense or harm usability. Working to build positive relationships improves team synergy and leads to the design and development of better user experiences and speedier product rollouts."
Business and design
"As the number of designers interested in owning a seat at the corporate decision-making table grows, the number of business strategies advocating design solutions expands as well. Designers keep asking: 'how can we convince business owners that investments in design processes are money well spent?' Simultaneously, a number of business publications (most notably Fast Company) are telling corporate decision makers that 'design matters.' It's useful for both sides to view the discussion from each other's perspective."
Can collaboration help redefine usability? (PDF)
"There are countless usability blogs, message boards and listservers. But to my knowledge, no one has attempted to integrate all this information into a single, collaborative knowledge space. I believe that creating such a knowledge space would be of immense benefit to the usability profession and would be a wonderful platform on which to refine our understanding of social computing and knowledge management."
(Charlie Kreitzberg - Journal of Usability Studies)
CEOs and usability
"Talking to a CEO about usability can be wonderful or terrifying. The difference between raging success and total failure comes down to understanding exactly what the CEO needs to know and then adjusting your usability message to fit. This article explains how to understand various contexts, and in turn, how to position your usability message."
(John S Rhodes, Daniel Szuc - Apogee)
Collaboration sessions: how to lead multi-disciplinary teams, generate buy-in, and create unified design views in compressed timeframes
"Over the years, I have developed a framework that I call 'Collaboration Sessions'. Collaboration Sessions encourage multidisciplinary collaboration while creating a unified design vision--all within a compressed time frame. The benefits of this tool include increased participation, increased understanding of the value of each discipline, and consequently increased buy-in from the team."
Communicating design concepts without getting skewered
"We need to exercise the ideas we generate by articulating them coherently; chances are high that if we can't describe our "great idea" with clarity, it's not such a great idea, after all. It's amazing how many design ideas seem just dandy on the whiteboard, then deflate like a punctured balloon when poked at with the sharp pencil of design communication."
(Steve Calde - Cooper)
Communication: critical to good design
The most complicated challenge we face during the design process has nothing to do with design techniques, understanding media or incorporating industry-best practices. It is a question of communication. Indeed, a successful solution is often undermined by the poor communication of good ideas that allow individual opinions and subjective biases to misdirect strong work. While we need to be open to other people making strong contributions that improve our work, we must also proactively account for subjective or misguided suggestions. Here are a few simple guidelines to help your communication validate your work.
Corporate usability maturity: stages 1-4
"As their usability approach matures, organizations typically progress through the same sequence of stages, from initial hostility to widespread reliance on user research."
(Jakob Nielsen - Alertbox)
Corporate usability maturity: stages 5-8
"An organization that reaches the managed usability stage still has far to go to reach usability nirvana. Attaining these higher maturity levels requires many years of effort."
(Jakob Nielsen - Alertbox)
Creating a site design plan
"All the books tell me to set goals for my site. OK. They say that those goals need to be measurable and definite. Fine. But asking my client, “What are the site’s goals?” never seemed to get me what I wanted. It occurred to me that a better approach might be to get some background info from the client and then set the goals and present them to the client for approval."
Debunking the myths of UI design
Many powerful myths exist for software developers on the role of design, specifically the design of user interfaces. Drawing on 13 years of experience in the field of user interface design, Paul Smith describes and debunks these myths.
Design for limited resources
Even in an ideal world, designs must optimise both the user experience and the business return. When resources are limited, the design must be optimised to make the best use of all resources as well. To account for this complexity, it is important to have a clear understanding of both sides of the design equation--what you have to work with and what you are trying to build.
Designing customer-centred organisations
Even with the present downturn in the economy, more companies, from new media to established banks, have larger usability and design teams than ever before. Should we be content that we have come so far?
Designing embraceable change
"It's not that people resist change whole-scale. They just hate losing control and feeling stupid. When we make critical changes, we risk putting our users in that position. We must take care to ensure that we've considered the process of change as much as we've considered the technology changes themselves. Only then will we end up with changes that our users embrace."
(Jared M Spool)
Designing products for offshore development
One of the most significant realities about offshore developers is that they will build exactly what you tell them to build. This is both good and bad news. The good news is that they are likely to take your specification very seriously--not merely as a suggestion or starting point from which to improvise. The bad news, of course, is that if you don't clearly plan and articulate every aspect of your product from user interface and product behavior to business logic and algorithms, developers are forced to rely on their own experience and judgement to determine an appropriate solution to an unforeseen problem or vaguely documented feature. The reality with offshore resources, however, is that they are very unlikely to have that experience.
Design rationale research is concerned with developing effective methods and computer-supported representations for capturing, maintaining and re-using records of why designers have made the decisions they have. The challenge is to make the effort of recording rationale worthwhile and not too onerous for the designer, but sufficiently structured and indexed that it is retrievable and understandable to an outsider trying to understand the design at a later date.
Developing the invisible
"Because I mostly work with fast-paced Web companies, I frequently have to create my design documentation under aggressive timelines. This means there is not a lot of time for creating detailed design specifications. Nor is there an opportunity for me to provide templates in HTML and CSS for every part of an application. So I turn over mockups and workflows--in the form of stories or task diagrams--to the development team. What I frequently get back is half of the design."
(Luke Wroblewski - UX Matters)
Dimensions of usability: defining the conversation, driving the process
"Have you ever wondered if your colleagues or clients really understand usability? Too often, standards or guidelines substitute for really engaging our business, technical and design colleagues in a discussion of what usability means. By looking at usability from five dimensions, we can create a consensus around usability goals and use that definition to provide the basis for planning user centered design activities."
(Whitney Quensenbery - UI Garden)
Early and often: How to avoid the design revision death spiral
"A critical component to the success of an interaction design project is close collaboration with clients or stakeholders. Without careful planning and structure this type of collaboration can turn into a significant barrier to project success. Dave Cronin's article, originally presented at the DUX 2005 design conference, discusses the strategies and methods Cooper has adopted to get maximum benefit as a consultancy from clients' feedback and expertise while maintaining creative momentum and achieving deadlines."
(Dave Cronin - Cooper)
Effective UX in a corporate environment: part 1
"In today’s market, user experience is a key differentiator for products. Companies are innovating more creative approaches to product definition and design and rushing to add talent to their existing product design organizations. Many business leaders are struggling with the issue of where to place new UX processes and professionals within their organizations."
(Janet M Six, Chris Anthony - UX Matters)
Effective websites - the responsibility of the whole organisation
"Building an effective website is often seen exclusively as the job of the web team, and viewed as a design or technical issue. However, having worked with many different organisations, we would argue that often what stops them improving their website is the organisation itself. Developing an effective website often requires organisational change: it requires a culture where people at all levels in the organisation adopt behaviours that make a ‘good user experience’ an important goal. If the organisation is not focused on providing a good user experience, then the web team will be unable to build an effective website."
(Sarah Burton-Taylor - UsabilityNews.com)
Evangelizing usability: change your strategy at the halfway point
"The evangelism strategies that help a usability group get established in a company are different from the ones needed to create a full-fledged usability culture."
Examining the role of de facto standards on the web
Just what are the design practices on the web that have the highest frequency? And are there design practices that all (or nearly all) sites employ?
"The "Experience Map" is something I visualized a couple of months ago in an attempt to illustrate what an 'ideal' scenario might look like when planning, architecting and designing an interactive experience. It's a work in progress—but I'm using it internally to help generate discussion and create dialog between different disciplines. Feedback welcome."
- Fifteen tips for remote collaboration
It will always be easier to rally a group of people who work in the same building, but you can accomplish just as much (or more) with a motivated remote team. Getting team members motivated in the first place and holding their interest are your goals. Here are fifteen quick and useful tips to get you started.
Funding enterprise design functions
Enterprise design tasks are typically owned--if addressed at all--by a disjointed collection of business units concerned mostly with their own requirements and politics. The needs of the users of enterprise information and the managers concerned for those users often get left out. That's why I encourage placing enterprise design functions in the hands of a central, stand-alone team or business unit. Such a group has a broad perspective that counterbalances the localised goals of autonomous business units. But our new team will be a cost center; how do we pay for it?
Grand enterprise projects: why are we wasting our time
"There is so much that can be done to improve the daily work of staff throughout the organisation. The technology we have at our disposal is powerful and effective. Yet we do not seem to be putting this technology into practice. Instead, we are spending most of our time (and money) developing grand strategic plans, producing elegant diagrams, and deploying huge enterprise software solutions. This is despite the consistent experience across organisations that few measurable benefits are delivered by these activities. So this is a call to arms: let's start solving the real (and immediate) problems of staff, by delivering practical technology solutions that work. We should keep our eye on the bigger picture, practice good planning and project management, but fundamentally, we should deliver real improvements. We have the technology, now we just need the will to do the work that will make a difference."
(James Robertson - Step Two Designs)
HCI grad schools: are they worth it?
In this article, I look at my view of what the benefits and problems of HCI grad school are based on my experiences both in UCLIC as well as interacting with educators and students from other programs.
How much effort does it take to create a great user experience?
"The purpose of this article is to provide you with a way to measure the level of effort required to successfully complete a project in respect to user experience. This is a powerful merging of project management, user experience, requirements and best practices. And, it is simple enough for a little monkey to use. More accurately, it is simple enough for me to use."
(John Rhodes - Apogee)
How much human support does your website need?
A website should be measured based on the value it creates. What results do you want to get from your website? A 100-percent self-service website may simply not deliver the results you need. The right mix of self-service and human support may in fact deliver the best value.
How to bake usability into your company
"Train your designers and developers to do some of their own usability work. This gets them thinking about users while it frees up usability specialists to focus on your more difficult usability issues. Everyone wins."
(John S Rhodes)
How to be a better customer experience practitioner
To become a good customer experience practitioner, you should find a company that has an organisation and culture that will allow you to grow into that role.
How to become the VP of customer experience
Most of the people running the top websites we've worked with do not have a degree in usability, human factors, or any related field.
How to give and receive criticism
Given the difficultly of creative work, it would seem that giving and receiving useful feedback should be an important part of what designers, writers, programmers and others are taught to do. This essay attempts to serve that purpose.
How to run a brainstorming meeting
The most important thing about a brainstorming session is what happens after it ends. No matter how poorly you run a brainstorming meeting, some decent ideas will surface. But depending on what happens after the session, those ideas may or may not impact anything. So while you can read books and take courses on better brainstorming techniques, the most important thing is figuring out how the brainstorming session fits into the larger decision making process you or your team has. Even if you fix how you run the meeting itself, and get better ideas, if you can’t migrate them into the decision making process for the project, what’s the point? With this central point in mind, the following essay covers how to run brainstorming sessions in a way that is most likely to be effective afterwards.
Identifying the business value of what we do
"Imagine we’re starting work on the user registration functionality of a web site. After conducting a thorough set of user tests, we discover that half of all users who attempt to register can’t successfully complete the process. Those who do register find the process very frustrating. Fixing the registration process to eliminate any frustration would important, right? Not necessarily. How does an improved registration process help the business? How does increasing the number of registrations help the bottom line, either immediately or in the long term? If we can’t answer these questions, why should our organization invest any resources to fix it?"
(Jared M. Spool)
If yuo can raed this yuor brian wroks... Debunking urban legends with usable explanations
"A few years ago, a research study – purportedly from Cambridge University – grabbed a quite a bit of attention. The study said that the order of letters within words was really not so important to reading. Readers were convinced. They could read that sentence. It really didn't feel hard. Have you ever had that same experience in the interface design world? Some sort of a "prevailing wisdom" about what citizens/ consumers/ staff need percolates up. A reasonable-sounding (folk usability) explanation is generated to explain why. Often there is an interesting user anecdote that led to the explanation in the first place. The usability team – sensing a mismatch – tries to push back with explanations and similar examples. But the momentum of folk explanations continues to build..."
(Kath Straub - Human Factors International)
I'll show you mine, if you show me yours: enhancing communication between designers and engineers
Are engineers from Mars, and designers from Venus? Communication between the two groups is famously fraught with difficulty: they speak different vocabularies, often have different cultural values, and may not even have a tremendous amount of respect for each other's chosen profession! However, simply being literate in each other's design deliverables can go a long way towards bridging the gap between these two groups.
Institutionalising usability: 5 ways to embed usability in your company
"Trying to embed usability in an organisation needs more than persuasive, logical arguments. You also need to appeal to managers' emotions and political ambitions. This article describes five successful strategies that we've seen work in companies large and small."
Invest in usability: testing versus training
"Instead of spending so much time and energy on usability testing, usability specialists should spend more time training the designers and developers. Teach designers and developers to better understand usability as both an attribute and a process so that these intelligent folks understand how usability can be added to a product or service."
(John S. Rhodes)
Is usability a functional or non-functional requirement?
"Getting usability considered as a functional requirement is an essential step to getting it built into the project plan, getting time and resources for front-end activities essential to the success of project from the user's perspective."
(Michael Andrews - Modules and Whole)
Keep office politics out of your design
It happens again and again. You spend hours in design meetings debating a point, and then a single word from upper management squashes your decision. Or maybe your design debates just go on for weeks because of office politics. How can you streamline this process? By deriving your conclusions from research instead of just 'experience'.
Key benefits of a single intranet or public website
"A single website is more connected and credible. It is more consistent and cost effective. It is easier to manage and measure. "
Less is more for government websites
Many governments have so far approached the web with a rather crude strategy of getting every service online. This has resulted in a proliferation of often poor quality websites. The strategy should be to identify the most appropriate government services for the web and to do them really well.
Losability vs usability
"Many corporate Web sites are designed or redesigned before the owning organization has signed off on a corporate Web strategy, which should act as the governing document for all Web initiatives."
(G A Buchholz)
Managing the development of a Flash RIA: better practices
I'm currently involved in the development of an ambitious RIA that is coded in Flash. What follows are the "better practices" that we have evolved over time (I have no proof they are "best", but they seem to work for us). Together, these practices make the flash world more accessible to "vanilla" developers, and minimise some of the problems that crop up in a large-scale Flash development effort.
To save costs, some companies are outsourcing web projects to countries with cheap labour. Unfortunately, these countries lack strong usability traditions and their developers have limited access--if any--to good usability data from the target users.
One billion Internet users
"The Internet is growing at an annualized rate of 18% and now has one billion users. A second billion users will follow in the next ten years, bringing a dramatic change in worldwide usability needs."
(Jakob Nielsen - Alertbox)
Open sesame! Selling UX services
"For some UX professionals, selling consulting services is as difficult as opening a magic door without a secret password. There is no simple password that can magically open prospective customers’ minds so they can see what you can do for them. However, there are a few strategies you can use when opening a dialogue with new customers that will lead to your sales success."
(Maura Schreier-Fleming, Janet M Six - UX Matters)
Organisation in the way: how decentralisation hobbles the user experience
Right now, the biggest obstacle to good design is poor organisational structure. The fundamental makeup of most organisations runs contrary to producing quality designs, and as organisations get larger, this becomes increasingly apparent.
Paradigm dissonance: a significant factor in design and business problems
How often do we want to simply make our point, instead of bringing our opinions together to reach consensus? Look at all the PowerPoint presentations and slick brochures: we want to tell our view, instead of listening to others. We want our opinion to be heard. Identifying paradigm dissonance as a source of problems isn't new, but creating a framework for dealing with this problem in a business and design environment moves this idea in a new direction.
A website has two sets of constituents: the customers who use it to get things done, and the employees of the organisation that builds it. As site complexity grows, so does the difficulty of the task each group has to accomplish.
Proving to senior management your website delivers value
"It’s time for public websites and intranets to show clearly how they are delivering value. The first step in doing this is to understand how senior management thinks about value."
Quality control: the importance of website testing
A website should be treated similarly to any other marketing or informational piece and thoroughly reviewed for correct content and functionality through formal quality control procedures.
Raising the perceived value of your website
"As a web manager, what you don't want to occur is to have your website perceived as delivering less value than it actually does. Most senior managers start off with the belief that the Web contributes little to value creation, so you've got some convincing to do. It is up to you to slowly raise their awareness. Senior managers set the value agenda. Get them on your side and you will receive more support and resources, thus allowing you to create even more value."
(Gerry McGovern - New Thinking)
Rational Unified Process and Goal-Directed Design: toward a new development process
Although different, Goal-Directed Design and the Rational Unified Process are both successful ways to manage software product development. Do development organisations need to choose one methodology over the other? Or are the two development strategies complementary?
Rethinking application design
"I’ve learned a lot about application design during my career. I've realized that the basic corporate design model for Web and application design is broken. This article will share some of the conclusions I've drawn and propose some better approaches for designing successful applications."
(Dirk Knemeyer - Digital Web Magazine)
Search engines as leeches on the web
"Search engines extract too much of the Web's value, leaving too little for the websites that actually create the content. Liberation from search dependency is a strategic imperative for both websites and software vendors."
(Jakob Nielsen - Alertbox)
Seven deadly excuses for poor design
When people make excuses for poor design, they reveal a lot about a corporate culture, as well as about their own beliefs and the level of personal responsibility they feel for a product’s success. I’ve chosen to discuss seven of these excuses and the underlying problems they represent.
Six tips for improving your design documentation
Good organisation, complete information, and clear writing are, of course, key to the success of any design document, but there are some other, less-obvious techniques you can use to make your documents more readable and understandable. Here are a few of them.
Stop the presses. User experience owner found!
"The answer to who should own user experience is simple. Everyone should, but no one should own it completely. When interaction designers or usability folks or marketing or anyone else tries to start owning it all, we inevitably move toward one of the bad modes of solution searching and impair our ability to find the best user experience possible."
Strategies for sizing UCD projects (PDF)
"Sizing UCD projects presents special challenges to usability practitioners and consultants. Each project and UCD methodology comes with its own set of variables that makes it difficult to accurately estimate resource requirements and completion times. The goal of this effort is to discover best practices for effectively sizing UCD projects."
(Janice James, Carol Righi and others)
Success with user-centred design management
"At conferences, UX professionals typically hear about the process of user-centered design or how to design a particular type of product or feature, but rarely hear about how to facilitate the inclusion of design management in the product development cycle and successfully ship a well-designed product."
(Jeremy Ashley, Kristin Desmond)
Technology not the answer to every problem
Very few websites I come across are giving enough attention to human interaction. There is an expectation that the website should solve every problem in every situation. This approach is not going to work. There are certain things that people are better at, and organizations need to realize that the human touch, properly applied, is a valuable asset.
Ten steps for cleaning up information pollution
Our knowledge environment is getting ever more contaminated by information pollution . Things we need to know are drowning in irrelevant information. Better prioritisation, fewer interruptions, and concentrated information that's easy to find and manage helps people become more productive and stop wasting their colleagues' time.
The confidence game
How does a user interface designer know that a given design will work? How does anybody develop enough confidence in a design to move it toward the real world? The methods designers use to evaluate user interfaces require training and experience. But the people who need to hire designers are unlikely to have those skills. How do the people who are paying the bills know they are getting good answers?
The constant design balance
"Usability is about understanding your users, and designing and testing with and for those users. However, there are other competing needs that need to be considered to ensure product success. In architectural and technical drawings, different layers or transparencies are often overlaid to assemble the complete design solution. A similar "design transparency" approach can ensure that product teams are working towards a common goal, gaining a balanced view, and increasing the chance of success."
(Daniel Szuc and Gerry Gaffney)
The enterprise user experience: bridging the IT/marketing divide
"In a growing number of cases, corporations are creating new UX positions such as VP, User Experience or User Experience Director. Where this is not the case, tech-savvy marketers or marketing-savvy technologists will likely lead user experience. In either case, enterprise user experience is a cross-discipline practice in a world where old categories are breaking down and agility and dynamism are taking hold."
The evolution of large websites
If you're part of a large organisation, your website will probably have been started by a small group of evangelists. It will have grown in a very ad hoc manner. Gradually, senior management will have become more involved. Finally, the website will have been viewed as just another business tool, and managed as such.
The list of ten (now fourteen) reasons ease of use doesn't happen on engineering projects
Scott Berkun catalogues the different reasons why projects don't result in easy to use designs.
The most important user experience method
Changing the organisation is the most difficult and most important part of user experience work. The dialogue in our community is so fixated on particular usability methods that we've has missed "the elephant in the living room": none of this matters if it doesn't result in the organisation actually making the improvements.
The nine pillars of successful web teams
Every web team has its own take on dividing up roles and responsibilities and implementing processes for design and development. Formal titles, job descriptions, and reporting structures can vary widely. But the best teams I’ve encountered have one important thing in common: their team structure and processes cover a full range of distinct competencies necessary for success.
The one-minute test
"Often, when we meet with design teams, we’ll reserve a few minutes at the tail end of the meeting to do an unusual type of wrap-up. We ask each participant in the meeting to, on a sheet of paper, answer the following three questions with a total time limit of 60-seconds: 1. What was the big idea? (What was the most important thing you heard at the meeting?) 2. What was your big surprise? (What was the thing you saw or heard that surprised you the most?) 3. What’s your big question? (What’s the biggest unanswered question you have at this time?) "
(Jared M Spool - User Interface Engineering)
The power of process, the perils of process
The power of a well-defined process is the creation of order amidst chaos. When it works, it can be like a fine-tuned machine, and our design work is better for it. For all the benefits a well-documented and richly detailed process has, it should also be a framework that is flexible, that can be adjusted at a moment’s notice to fit the situation at hand, and shouldn’t exist for its own sake.
The quiet death of the major relaunch
Re-launches are a thing of the past. There was a time when sites launched in cycles, living from one major redesign to the next. Each new redesign would bring a whole new look, a whole new user experience. Companies would often hire new outside firms to create and execute these new designs, abandoning the firm that made the previous design. The new firms would try to top the existing design with something dramatically different and attention-grabbing. After all, if you can't notice any change, why did it cost so much? However, the best sites have replaced this process of revolution with a new process of subtle evolution. Entire redesigns have quietly faded away with continuous improvements taking their place.
The usable consultant
In the callow days of my career, I held consultants in awe. They drove fancy cars, wore great suits, carried themselves with certain gravity and always had quick answers to our problems. After a few years, their magic lost some luster. Too many were impolite, even brusque. Others didn't understand our business, trying to force our square peg into the round holes of their preordained methodologies. I eventually realized that there are people-centered consultants and process-centered consultants--usable consultants and unusable consultants.
The world is ready for usability. Is usability ready for the world?
" It's time for the world to be usable. People are ready. Executives have discovered the value of usability. You hear the word "usability" in elevators all the time. It's the tipping point usability specialists have been waiting for. But are we ready? Does the field have the tools, and resources, or for that matter the people, to keep up with the need?"
Time to make tech work
The IT industry is maturing. Hopefully, this maturity will result in a slower introduction of new features, which in turn will let companies focus their attention and resources on making existing technology work better for users.
Type mismatch: HCI and programmer communication barriers
A friend of mine once answered, when asked why he joined an MSc program in HCI, "I studied computer science in my undergraduate and I want to become bilingual." The term is interesting because it implies the two roles speak different languages. If that is indeed the case, how can any communication occur? In software, these teams must work closely together. Overcoming communication barriers is not only about understanding each other but also, perhaps more importantly, avoiding misunderstanding each other.
Usability for the masses (PDF)
"The biggest problem facing the usability field is how to scale up massively so that we can impact all the user interface designs in the world. How big is this challenge? As of November 2005, there are about 75 million websites on the Internet. There are also about 30 million intranets inside corporate firewalls. Thus, there are more than 100 million user interface designs, just in the online space."
(Jakob Nielsen - Journal of Usability Studies)
User-centred deliverables: delivering the right things to the right people
As usability professionals working on the web, it is our responsibility to make sure our clients’ sites communicate effectively to their intended audience. We make recommendations about what information the audience needs, how they expect it to be presented and how they’ll need to work with it once they’ve got it. But how often do we consider our own audience, the people we need to make our recommendations happen? Does one set of documentation meet the needs of all members of an interdisciplinary team? Probably not.
User experience strategy
"Much of today's business strategy remains highly analytical. When considering product investments, most companies attempt to derive the attainable market size, the revenue curve, the factors for success, and so on. Every so often a lone voice in the room will ask 'but what does the consumer want?' The standard answer given is 'the best experience possible, of course' and the conversation again turns to analysis. "
Using site evaluations to communicate with clients
How do you prove your worth to clients in today's difficult economy? Performed as part of a sales proposal or the discovery phase of a project, a site assessment can uncover opportunities for improvement and help you speak knowledgeably about solutions to your potential client's problems.
UX in the boardroom: a solid case for investing in UX
"Some think the best way to demonstrate the value of usability in a corporate setting is to emphasize the resulting cost savings. While that may be sage advice in some organizations and industries, following it in the information technology and government arenas would cost you respect and a meeting. For some years, I was guilty of following this tack—before I discovered what really matters to executives, learned how finances and budgets work, and realized the true value of user experience lies not in cost savings at all, but in intangibles."
(Kate Walser - UX Matters)
Web application solutions: a designer's guide
"Web Application Solutions is a guide that helps designers, product managers, and business owners evaluate some of the most popular Web application presentation layer solutions available today. We compare each solution through consistent criteria (deployment and reach, user interactions, processing, interface components and customization, back-end integration, future proofing, staffing and cost, unique features) and provide an overview, set of examples, and references for each."
(Frank Ramirez, Luke Wroblewski)
Web development and business goals
There is no one-size-fits-all "best practices" for web development. Each project needs to adopt a different approach to content, graphics, architecture and experience design. This is because the business goals pertaining to each client situation need to be successfully navigated, both in the big picture and for each individual website.
Websites: easy to start, hard to manage
One of the biggest problems websites face is that they lack proper planning in the design and development phase. Generally, the design of the website tends to overreach, in that what is built requires more staff to professionally manage than are available.
What ever happened to professional ethics?
Most professionally designed websites are not up to the standards any other industry would consider professional. When I visit a professional website to purchase a product, use a service, or read an article, my experience should be as easy and pleasant as possible. Websites that target the average user are poorly made and incredibly frustrating to use.
What happens after customer research?
Direct customer research should be followed by a phase in which the team creates a customer experience strategy which organises all the findings of the labs, and creates, holistically, a much bigger and stronger vision of the improvements to the service.
What if the designer gets hit by a truck? Wrangling digital design artifacts
On a design team, one major challenge is simply keeping track of the design artifacts generated by your designers. Whether you're taking digital photos of a whiteboard or crafting ray-traced buttons in PhotoShop, a few weeks of visual design work can generate hundreds of files, making it difficult to keep track of what the current design is, let alone track progress and changes that have been made, or make sure that critical work isn't lost.
When newer is not better
Redesigning a site has traditionally been a fairly big event. Whether one likes a design or not, one tends to grow accustomed to the design. Any changes made stick out, especially an entire overhaul. When Honda redesigns a car engine, they don't just pray that it's a better engine than their last one. They test it; measuring its acceleration, top speed and dozens of other numbers I can't even begin to comprehend. Yet when sites are redesigned--often with new or different functionality--there seems to be an assumption that newer = better and change = good.
Where do product managers fit?
In the past several years, many companies have started introducing a product management (PM) role into their organisations. The way PMs play out at different companies often varies dramatically in what PMs do day-to-day, in how PMs fit into the organisation, in what skills and background the company expects a PM to have, and so on. But most organisations agree at the most fundamental level about the PM's charter: the PM has responsibility for ensuring a product's success.
Whose profession is design?
"Designing a product requires many skills, and it is the rare individual who has them all. Design is, therefore, an exercise in teamwork, where each team member brings in a different mix of skills, attitudes, and values. Alas, quite often, members think their own set of attributes is the most important."
Whose website is it anyway?
When departments compete for clients' attention, the overall corporate message can become muddled. Multiple, sometimes competing, messages are presented via single website that confuses the clients and creates an improper public image for the organisation. Worse, clients may leave (both the website and corporate account) and encourage others to do the same.
- Why web managers are leaders
"Most websites are only now beginning to develop a clear strategy. That’s because the Web has evolved within most organizations from the ground up. Most websites began as pioneering initiatives by individuals or small groups. Rarely was the Web driven by a senior management that was truly engaged."