Welcome to the March edition of the Userfocus usability and user experience newsletter!
- Message from the Editor
- Why iterative design isn't enough to create innovative products
- From our archives: Evangelising user research
- What we're reading
- Upcoming user experience training courses
- User experience quotation of the month
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.
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
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.
Some interesting usability-related articles that got our attention over the last month:
- Excellent review of faceted navigation.
- In 2017, how does an error message like this still find its way into software? It's fine for debugging but not for end users.
- Ever wanted a smorgasbord of design principles on one page?
- A beginners guide to drawing icons.
- An interesting design pattern for an appointment booking form.
- An Abridged History of UI (includes some interesting screenshots and photos).
- Tips for becoming a design leader.
- The essential qualities of a UX leader: Part 1, Part 2.
- How to describe usability problems so teams take action. From 2004, but still relevant. [PDF].
Foundation Certificate in User Experience, July 20-22 2017, London.
Gain the BCS Foundation Certificate in User Experience in this fun and hands-on training course. You'll practice in all the key areas of UX — from interviewing your users through to prototyping and usability testing your designs — while you prepare for and take the exam.
More information about this training course: Foundation Certificate in User Experience.
"In character, in manner, in style, in all things, the supreme excellence is simplicity." Henry Wadsworth Longfellow.