Userfocus Usability Newsletter, March 2017

Welcome to the March edition of the Userfocus usability and user experience newsletter!

Message from the Editor

Recently, I've been watching a documentary series on Netflix titled 'Abstract'. It's billed as a documentary series that lets you 'step inside the minds of the most innovative designers'. I've enjoyed the series, especially the ones on topics I know little about, such as architecture and stage design. But as each episode finished I felt a little unfulfilled. It was like I had gone to see a movie and instead sat through a trailer.

As I thought more about this, I realised that I was reacting to the idea that great design ideas spring fully-formed from the minds of 'genius designers'. These are highly talented individuals like the people in this series. Since most design teams don't have (or can't afford) the talent on display here, it's tempting to throw in the towel. Let's just accept that whatever our team comes up with will never be innovative but instead be cumbersome, impractical and unstylish.

For me, the series missed the opportunity to emphasise that design is a process rather than an event. Innovative ideas don't hatch only from the minds of genius designers. They also emerge from design teams that create an environment for innovation to happen.

You may think that this wouldn't make very good television, but if you get the chance hunt down the BBC's 'Big Life Fix'. Here you'll see design teams solving big problems by focusing on real users. In fact, here's a great double bill to stimulate discussion amongst your team. Watch 'Abstract' episode 7 (about the photographer Platon) alongside 'Big Life Fix' episode 1 (where the design team attempt to help a terminally ill photographer who can no longer use his hands to operate a camera).

If nothing else, Netflix got me thinking about innovation, so that's what I decided to write about this month. I hope you find the article useful.

David Travis

Why iterative design isn't enough to create innovative products

Iterative design is a proven approach for optimising the usability of a product or service. Teams create prototypes, test them with users, find problems and fix them. But iterative design does not guarantee innovation. To develop innovative designs, we need to question the way we have framed the problem and instead focus on our users' underlying needs. Read the article in full: Why iterative design isn't enough to create innovative products

From our archives: Evangelising user research

User experience professionals often complain that design teams fail to take action on the findings from user research. But researchers need to shoulder some of the blame: research reports are often too wordy, arrive too late and fail to engage teams with the data. Dressed-down personas, customer journey maps, photo-ethnographies, affinity diagramming, screenshot forensics and hallway evangelism provide 6 alternatives. Read the article in full: Evangelising user research.

What we’re reading

Some interesting usability-related articles that got our attention over the last month:

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User Experience quotation of the month

"In character, in manner, in style, in all things, the supreme excellence is simplicity." Henry Wadsworth Longfellow.

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