By Jim Ross

Prototyping is the best way to explore a design, determine how well it works, effectively communicate the design to others, and test the design with users. Over the past few years, we’ve seen an explosion in new prototyping tools that allow you to simulate sophisticated interactions quickly and easily. Yet, despite these technological advances—and sometimes because of them—UX designers still make the same common mistakes when creating prototypes. In this column, I’ll discuss some of the most common prototyping mistakes designers make and how to avoid them.

Jumping Too Soon into Prototyping

One of the most common mistakes is jumping too soon into creating a prototype before sufficiently thinking through and planning out a design. This problem is especially common among those of us who aren’t very comfortable with the messiness of sketching. It can be tempting to open up a prototyping tool, assuming that it would be easier to work out the design on the screen. Read More

By Steven Hoober

While many people still talk about the constraints of mobile devices—how they have small screens and are hard to type on—I focus on the value they bring by not making users type and by doing things that no other devices can do.

Sensors are the real key to the magical appeal of mobile devices—and location is one of the first and best of these sensing technologies. Knowing where a mobile device is works very well as a proxy for knowing the location of the user—and very often, what someone needs or wants to do next.

Therefore, knowing users’ location is an excellent way to tie their reality to the digital experience you’re designing. Read More

By Gábor Ugray

Competition for the attention of customers is fiercer than ever. In such a highly competitive marketplace, a flawless user experience is not a luxury. It is central to your product’s adoption and success. We invest heavily in optimizing our products’ design and work to squeeze the last bit of efficiency out of Web forms, microcopy, and the color of that proverbial Check Out button. We explore, test, and measure every possible improvement to our user experiences.

Then, the day comes when it’s time to enter a new, non-English-speaking market. Many businesses realize too late that a naive approach to localization can instantly cancel out all your hard-won gains in user experience.

After helping dozens of companies foster a successful localization process—and reduce expenses along the way—I have collected seven common pitfalls of localization. Read More

By Vignesh Ramesh

In my previous article, “Empathy and the Art of Product Design,” I explored the notion that empathy should be at the core of design. I talked about how product design is not just a mechanical procedure for solving a problem. The process is more complex than meets the eye. Creating products and services that delight the customer requires a combination of fact-based expertise and creativity. Solving problems and creating workable solutions also demands the ability to empathize with the user. It is a given that companies want to employ product designers with a certain level of expertise, but creating the most effective designs also requires soft skills such as empathy and emotional intelligence. Continuing that discussion in this article, let’s turn our attention to empathy in the individual product designer.

What is empathy exactly—a personality trait or an acquired skill? What does it mean to show empathy for the user? How can we infuse empathy into the design process? Let’s take a closer look at how we can use empathy in the design process to connect on a deeper level, improving the product design and, thus, the customer experience. Read More

By Peter Morville

This is a sample chapter from Peter Morville’s new book Planning for Everything: The Design of Paths and Goals. 2018 Semantic Studios.

Chapter 2: Framing

“I will show you fear in a handful of dust.”—T.S. Eliot

At 14,259 feet, Longs Peak is the highest summit in Colorado’s Rocky Mountain National Park. In summer, day hikers can reach the top without climbing gear. The 15 mile trek takes 10 to 15 hours. The views are breathtaking. In 2016, lured by its siren song, I arrived at the trailhead of the Keyhole route with backpack and headlamp at 4 a.m. The night sky was beautiful. A few hours later, I made it over a boulder field to the keyhole which serves as a gateway to narrow ledges and steep inclines. The wind was fierce. I began to have doubts, resolved to forge ahead, but on the threshold, I froze in fear. After a moment of abject terror, I crept to safety and began my untimely descent.

It didn’t take long to conclude I was happy with the outcome. I’m a hiker not a climber. The decision to try was made lightly. It’s my habit to value grit, but in planning this book and this trip, I’d chosen to experiment with commitment. So why risk my life for an unforced goal? Also, the summit was actually a subgoal. Each year I choose a quest, be it a mountain or a marathon,...

By Janet M. Six

In this edition of Ask UXmatters, our experts consider what it takes to stand out in the growing field of User Experience. As more and more companies realize the importance of good UX design and hire more designers, many people outside the field of User Experience are attracted to the opportunities this field offers and becoming UX designers. While some have the necessary education and talent to become good UX designers, others do not. Unfortunately, the field of UX design is becoming commoditized because some weak UX designers are willing to work for ridiculously low wages, and companies that aren’t able to discriminate between great, good, and poor designers just go with the least expensive option.

Our expert panel explores how to make yourself stand out in the current competitive environment, making specific recommendations for how and what you should communicate about not only your skills, but also about how your design work can fit within a company’s goals. Because it is important to balance business goals and design goals in our work, we need to consider how our work will affect a company—and maybe society at large—over the long term. Our panelists also encourage designers who are working for companies that do not value them to look for other opportunities. Of course, this discussion could be applied to many fields. Read More

By Dirk Knemeyer and Jonathan Follett

In this column on the future of computing, we’ve examined how a handful of advances in technology, including the Internet of Things (IoT); along with sciences of human understanding such as neuroscience and genomics; and emerging delivery platforms such as 3D printers and virtual-reality (VR) headsets will together transform software and hardware into something new that we’re calling smartware.

Smartware are computing systems that require little active user input, integrate the digital and physical worlds, and continually learn on their own. Now, in this, the final edition of our column on smartware, we’ll consider how the powerful capabilities of smartware will enable new interactions and user experiences that, over time, will become seamlessly integrated into our digital lives. Read More

By Meghan Wenzel

Maybe you’re excitedly reviewing research questions for your upcoming study on internal communication and messaging, and your manager asks how your work will impact the product team’s larger communication strategy. While you’d thought about the larger communication strategy at the beginning of the project, its importance has slowly waned as you focused on creating your interview guide. Or worse, you’re presenting your research findings on improving the usability of a tool in wide use, and your main stakeholder asks how this will improve awareness and adoption of the tool overall. Somehow, that initial goal faded during the research planning discussions.

These sorts of things can happen all too easily. Sometimes we throw ourselves into planning and executing our user research, getting caught up in the details, until someone barges in and asks a simple question: Why? Why are we doing this? What is the overall goal of the research? Read More

By Lassi A. Liikkanen

There are a number of technological drivers that are affecting the way interaction design is currently evolving. Even more than artificial intelligence and virtual and augmented reality, cloud computing has become the new norm for information technology (IT) in all kinds of companies. What does this mean for interaction designers?

In this article, I’ll explain what cloud computing is and its four major benefits for designers and users:

  1. Democratized innovation
  2. Seamless, personalized experiences
  3. Native collaboration
  4. Robust user experiences

I’ll also explain a few common misconceptions about cloud computing, as well some concerns and misconceptions that people have about computing in the cloud. Read More

By Dave Gray

This is an excerpt from Dave Gray’s book Liminal Thinking: Create the Change You Want by Changing the Way You Think. 2016, Two Waves Books, an imprint of Rosenfeld Media.

Principle 2: Beliefs Are Created

Around noon on August 9, 2014, a hot summer day in Ferguson, Missouri, a young black man named Michael Brown was shot and killed by a white police officer named Darren Wilson.

Although there were several witnesses to the shooting, their stories about what happened varied widely.

In the following days and weeks, the mostly black population clashed with the mostly white police force of Ferguson in an escalating series of protests, riots, and police clamp-downs.

This is not a new pattern in the United States. It is a recurring one that has been happening for years. Even as I write this, a similar pattern is unfolding in Baltimore, after a young black man named Freddie Gray died of a broken neck while in police custody. Read More

By Burcu S. Bakioglu, Ben Basilan and JonDelina ‘JD’ Buckley

To stay relevant and avoid disruption through advances in technology or globalization, more and more organizations have embraced user-centered design and UX research methods. Thus, after years of fighting for a seat at the decision-making table, it is becoming more common for UX professionals to find one there. Still, executives often ask UX teams to quantify the value and return on investment (ROI) of their UX efforts. While calculating the ROI of User Experience can be challenging for consumer products and services, it can be truly daunting in enterprise organizations.

This series of articles will describe our journey of discovery in learning how to measure the ROI of User Experience at a large, Fortune-500 company that develops human capital management software and services.

The company had made the decision to invest in several innovation centers throughout the US. Observing the adoption of User Experience in other large enterprises such as IBM, General Electric, Capital One, Honeywell, Philips, and JPL, they came to believe that user-centered design was an essential component of the innovation equation. Therefore, they established our UX team just over three years ago. Read More

By Tim Dixon

What do I mean by value? The value of a UX design or digital project equates with the impact the project makes.

Impact is the tangible change that research provides—be it in policy, business, industry, or society.”—Oxford University e-Research Centre

Given the ubiquity of technology in our lives, there has, until recently, been a surprising lack of work to assess the digital impact of User Experience. To determine the success of a Web site, we turn to data on conversions and analytics that indicate user behavior, but what about the wider impact? What is its lasting value? This kind of value is impossible to describe in purely quantitative terms.

In this article, I’ll present a robust approach to measuring the digital impact of projects, using a framework that I developed: the Digital Impact Framework (DIF). The DIF can answer specific questions about a project’s impact. It is also a strategic tool that decision makers can use in planning and prioritizing the appropriate goals and objectives, which can actually generate the identified impacts. Read More

By Pabini Gabriel-Petit and Krispian Emert

The overarching theme of the second annual O’Reilly Design Conference was “Prepare to Design the Future.” The conference convened March 20–22, 2017, at the historic Westin St. Francis Hotel, on Union Square in San Francisco. Monday, March 20, provided a full day of tutorials, while the main conference took place on March 21 and 22. O’Reilly Media delivered a better conference experience than in 2016 and again provided very high-quality content.

In Part 1 of this review, I’ll cover the following aspects of the conference experience:

  • Organization
  • Content and Presenters
  • Proceedings
  • Venue
  • Hospitality and Events
  • Community
  • Tutorials Read More

By Justin Wear

Everyone’s a design strategist these days—and that’s a problem.

Beginning in the late 2000s, companies decided that design thinking was the next Six Sigma, and executives rushed to the promised land of creativity for the business masses. In the aftermath, businesses lost sight of the benefits of real design strategy, preferring instead to accept design thinking’s perceived limitations—which are outlined in Bruce Nussbaum’s “Design Thinking Is a Failed Experiment. So What’s Next?” In doing so, many people, including those in our own UX industry, seem to have lost the true meaning of design strategy. I’m on a quest to find it.

Over the years, I have heard countless descriptions of design strategy. It’s branding or graphic design or good packaging. It’s applying user-centered design. It’s “whatever Apple is doing.” It’s using some combination of a good / better / best or razor / razor blade model. All of these definitions are wrong—or at least not holistic enough to define the field. I’ve come to realize that there are actually two types of design strategy, which is probably contributing to the confusion. While each type can exist independently within a company, they work more effectively as two parts of a concerted whole. Read More

By Atefeh ‘Anna’ Farzindar and Diana Inkpen

This is an excerpt from Atefeh Farzindar and Diana Inkpen’s book Natural Language Processing for Social Media, Second Edition. 2017 Morgan & Claypool Publishers.

Discount for UXmatters Readers—Buy Natural Language Processing for Social Media from Morgan & Claypool Publishers, using the discount code uxreader, and save 20% off the retail price.

Chapter 3: Semantic Analysis of Social Media Texts

In this chapter, we discuss current NLP methods for social media applications that aim at extracting useful information from social media data. Examples of such applications are geo-location detection, opinion mining, emotion analysis, event and topic detection, summarization, and machine translation. We survey the current techniques, and we briefly define the evaluation measures used for each application, followed by examples of results. Read More

By Janet M. Six

In this edition of Ask UXmatters, our experts discuss whether they are seeing companies’ business models change from being engineering driven to being design driven. In addition, our experts explore what it means to be a design-driven organization and how all members of a product team can impact a product’s UX design.

While some of our experts believe that we are seeing a shift to design-driven organizations, others on our expert panel think we’re actually observing a very different phenomenon. Several of our panelists encourage UX designers to acknowledge the equally important roles of Engineering, Design, and Business, or Product Management, in designing optimal product user experiences. Read More

By Angelita Rogers

As a result of the rapid evolution of technological products and services, a growing population of older adults is now facing the challenges of learning new, advanced technologies. How should product organizations tackle this challenge? How can designers and developers reduce or eliminate age-related design issues?

To get answers to these questions and more, I turned to Jeff Johnson and Kate Finn, coauthors of the book Designing User Interfaces for an Aging Population: Towards Universal Design. We discussed inclusivity and guidelines for designing for older adults. In this interview, Jeff and Kate offer their knowledge and expertise on how we can successfully design digital products and services that provide congenial user interactions for everyone, including the aging population. Read More

By Dirk Knemeyer and Jonathan Follett

The push for education in STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering, and Mathematics) by governments and in business is now more than a decade old. Over this period of time, society has embraced intelligence and welcomed geekdom—at least on the surface. We see this in aspects of popular culture that demonize bullying, glorify inclusivity, and make it admirable, if not cool, to be smart.

At the same time, scientific research is experiencing a golden age. One reason for this boom: the ubiquity of the Internet, which revolutionized communication and information dissemination in the 1990s and has fostered greater cross-disciplinary involvement among researchers in disparate fields. New tools and technologies have galvanized the cross-pollination of ideas and revealed the intricacies and secrets of the human animal as never before. Over just the last two decades, we have developed plausible solutions for questions that have beguiled us for all of human history. This is an incredible time for scientific discovery and insight—one that will also have profound impacts on the everyday technologies that will surround us in the 2020s. Read More

By Joanna Proulx

The experience of a UX conference starts with its mise en place. You won’t find Paul Bryan’s UX STRAT in the nondescript caverns of a Javits Center or amidst the carpeted horrors of your local Marriott. While this is partly a matter of scale—this intimate conference is unlike the massive SXSW—UX STRAT’s organizers have an awareness that the built environment affects the human interactions that foster learning and that these human interactions are of paramount importance.

This single-track conference attracts a tight-knit audience, has a humanistic feel, and provides a bracing alternative to the many à la carte, multitrack, mega-conferences. UX STRAT was one of the first conferences to focus on UX strategy and is the most in-depth conference of its kind—though various others have now copied it with mixed results. There are no perfunctory conversations. Everyone is engaged. The sense of community is powerful. Yet the conference isn’t cliquish. Read More

By Daniel Schwarz

This is a sample chapter from Daniel Schwarz’s book Jump Start Adobe XD. 2017 SitePoint.

Chapter 3 continues a tutorial that began in Chapter 2, “Learning the Basics with Low-Fidelity Prototyping.”

Chapter 3: Prototyping User Flows and Receiving Feedback

Now we have two screens in our design—a welcome screen with a search function and a location-filter screen with a list of recently selected locations. Let’s demonstrate how the user would flow from one screen to the other. This is the first time we’ll be switching to the prototype workspace, but it won’t be the last.

So we have more screens to work with, I’ve once again added another low-fidelity screen to the design. This is the screen that the user sees after selecting a type of food and a location where they’d like to eat—the Search Results screen. I’ve also downloaded and copied some temporary icons into the mockup. (We’ll learn about using vectors and iconography in Chapter 6.) Read More