If you compare the UX research methods we use today with the methods we used 16 years ago, something interesting emerges. We see that UX research is becoming increasingly remote and increasingly unmoderated. In other words, we're moving to a world where UX research is becoming automated. We can learn a lot from automated research. But it comes at the price of understanding our users.
We're familiar with awarding prizes for excellence, from the Oscars to The International Design Awards. But what if we started giving prizes to shame bad examples of design? Enter the Procrustes Awards.
Everyday consumer products continue to frustrate people. The failure of companies to fully embrace UX is partly to blame, but there is also another reason — one that is seldom discussed. Consumer product companies pay too much heed to their retail customers and, in so doing, they prevent the development team from getting first-hand knowledge of end users.
Some of the problems we work on as UX researchers are simple and are easily solved by getting users in front of our product. But other problems can be complex and it's hard to know how to start solving them. In situations like that, a simple 2x2 diagram can cut through the "what ifs", the "how abouts" and the edge cases and provide a simple way of looking at the problem. Here are 10 examples of 2x2 diagrams to simplify UX research discussions.
The concept of strength of evidence plays an important role in all fields of research, but is seldom discussed in the context of user research. We take a closer look at what it means for user experience research, and suggest a taxonomy of research methods based on the strength of the data they return.
This workshop is one of 20 UX Strategy Workshops to take your business idea from concept to validation. In this workshop, we create a user journey map from data collected during field visits. A user journey map describes the entire user experience when people are achieving their goals. It's the first step in coming up with design solutions that are truly innovative.
One challenge faced by teams new to user research is simply getting started. Enthusiasm quickly gives way to frustration as teams don't know where to begin—especially when their product is aimed at 'everyone'. A practical solution is to identify a group of users that is easiest to get to and that provides the best opportunity for validated learning.
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.
A UX practitioner demonstrates 8 core competencies: User needs research; Usability evaluation; Information architecture; Interaction design; Visual design; Technical writing; User interface prototyping; and User experience leadership. By assessing each team member's 'signature' in these eight areas, managers can build a fully rounded user experience team. This approach also helps identify the roles for which each team member is most suited alongside areas for individual development.
As winter begins to approach, there's not much to beat a pint at the local pub in front of a roaring fire. So Philip Hodgson, Todd Zazelenchuk and I headed to a pub in Staffordshire for a drink. Over three pints of fine ale, we relaxed into a discussion about user experience leadership. Like most discussions in the pub, I realised this one would be lost in the mists of time by morning, so I decided to turn on a voice recorder…
The "where" (at your desk) and the "when" (at the beginning of your project) are easy questions to answer. But what is it, why do you need to to do it, and how should you go about doing desk research to make sure it adds value to your project?
13 years ago this month I sent my book, 'E-Commerce Usability', to the publishers. I found myself flicking through a copy this week and re-discovered a 'Usability Maturity' quiz that I created for the book. These questions are just as relevant today as they were 13 years ago.
We're seeing a sea-change in our industry as firms scramble to build fledgling user experience (UX) teams. While this is a sure sign of a maturing discipline, it is not without its teething problems. In particular, the voice of the UX team can sometimes sound more like a whisper. Why do some UX teams fail to achieve the impact expected of them? Here are 6 mistakes we've seen in UX teams that prevent them from having boardroom influence.
I'll admit it: when I used to hear people advocate professional certification in user experience, I was dismissive. Since we can't even agree on what 'UX' is, how can we certify it? I wondered. I saw certification as a way of creating a closed shop to exclude dissenting voices. This is the story of how I changed my mind.
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.
There are few things more likely to make your design or UX project difficult than a poorly conducted stakeholder meeting. Structuring your stakeholder interview around a few simple techniques will ensure you get off to a good start and set you up for success.
Over 40 years ago, comedy duo Morecambe & Wise filmed a now legendary sketch for a television Christmas special. Scratch below the surface of this sketch and you'll discover an important lesson for user experience teams.
"Design is easy," writes branding expert Marty Neumeier. "All you do is stare at the screen until drops of blood form on your forehead." One element that makes design difficult is a lack of constraints. Focusing on your product's red routes provides the key constraint you need to ship a high value product from version 1.
Design teams often experience a common set of growing pains. They design for themselves; don't know how to choose between design alternatives; accept poor quality design research; prioritise what users say over what users do; and focus on usability and not on the user experience. Adding an experimental psychologist to your team can help fix these problems.
UX debrief meetings are sometimes viewed as little more than a way to wrap-up a project. This is a mistake. A UX debrief meeting can accomplish much more than just tie a bow on the project. But it's easier to get a debrief meeting wrong than it is to get it right — as I painfully discovered during the debrief meeting from hell.
Many companies think of themselves as user focused but this judgement is often based on anecdotal or biased data. To truly deliver a superior customer experience, companies need to progress through four stages of maturity, finally arriving at a point where feedback is not simply welcomed or solicited — but demanded.
The Usability Test Plan is a critical document to help you manage and organise a usability test. But it can sometimes appear too documentation-heavy in agile environments. What would a usability test plan look like if it was re-envisioned as a single page?
Most new products fail within the first few months after launch. This article describes 10 critical thinking tools that can be used to flag concerns about the project you are working on. These rules can be used by all team members to help save — or in some cases, kill off — struggling projects.
The Michelin-starred chef and restaurant troubleshooter can teach us a thing or two about providing design criticism, although some of it you may wish to avoid.
Making user experience happen within an organisation requires development teams to start involving users. This can be a difficult prospect for teams who have not engaged with users in the past. Here are 10 suggestions to help you make that first all-important contact with users.
To be an effective representative of both the user and the designer, and to help steer decision-making, usability practitioners must find a way to influence retailers of consumer products. That means building a new partnership with marketing.
It won’t have escaped your notice that despite many companies investing in user experience, everyday consumer products still have the ability to frustrate the living daylights out of people. I argue this is because marketing teams, influenced by big retailers, unwittingly block the design team’s view of the end user.
What's the difference between information architecture, interaction design, visual design and usability engineering? I argue that each of these areas is critical in a design project but that they need to be co-ordinated by a User Experience Designer to ensure the end user's experience is a satisfying one.
Without a clear understanding of a research problem one cannot expect customer or user research to deliver useful findings. Here are five things you can do to help better define a research problem and sharpen your research question.
Heard these before? ‘Market research uses hundreds of people. How come you can get answers with just 5?’ ‘Our product is aimed at everyone, so we can use ourselves as users.’ ‘Users don‘t know what they want’ ‘Apple doesn‘t do user research so why should we?’ ‘Our agency does all of this for us.’ Here's how to successfully counter each of these objections.
In ‘The Lean Startup’, Eric Ries describes a design process to help manage risk when developing new products and services under conditions of extreme uncertainty. This article describes three established user experience techniques we can use to support this design process: narrative storyboarding; paper prototyping; and the Wizard of Oz.
Most of the work on user experience (UX) competency focuses on an individual’s ability to show evidence of technical skills. But technical skill is just one sphere of expertise required by UX practitioners. A fully-rounded UX practitioner also needs competence in two additional spheres of practice: process and marketing.
User experience metrics are measures that help you assess how your design stacks up against the needs of your customers and the needs of your business. Lab-based methods of collecting UX metrics are too slow and expensive to be part of most design projects, especially those using agile methodologies. But with online usability testing tools, regular user experience benchmarking is now cheap and quick to carry out.
The parallels between good research and good detective work are striking. In this article we take a close look at what user experience researchers can learn from the investigative methods used by detectives. And, in the spirit of all the best detective stories, we draw an important conclusion: if you want to become a better researcher you should learn to think like a detective.
Trying to recruit a single individual with all of the skills needed to create great user experiences is like trying to hire a modern-day Leonardo da Vinci. A better strategy is to build a multidisciplinary team with people specialised in the following areas: Management, Research, Information Architecture, Information Design, Visual Design, Technical Writing and Prototyping.
In spite of a proliferation of books, articles and blogs explaining how to measure usability, few companies seem to put their usability metrics to good use. In this article we show how you can link the numbers from usability tests to the numbers that steer business decisions — and in the process, influence your company's busines
Many design teams launch into development without a shared vision of the user experience. Without this shared vision, the team lacks direction, challenge and focus. This article describes 3 ways to develop a user experience vision: telling a short story; drawing a cartoon showing the experience; and creating a video to illustrate the future.
We're increasingly asked by organisations for advice on building a user experience competency. Our advice is to start at the top and get the right person for that first critical leadership role. User experience leaders demonstrate 3 core competencies: they understand research; they follow user experience methods and standards; and they are great communicators.
Do you spend so much time firefighting that you forget to think about your career? January is as good a time as any to think about improving your career prospects so here are some tips to help you get more from your job — or even get a better job. Presented as 12 bite-sized, monthly activities, do just one a month and watch your career take off this year.
Follow a young man's journey as he discovers the three secrets of user-centred design. After reading this 40-page fable, you'll understand the framework of user-centred design and know how to apply it to your own design project. It's a small book that has big results.
When trying to communicate the process of user centred design to senior managers it helps to convey the idea as concisely as possible. This infographic conveys the various steps and phases of user centred design on a single page.
There's no shortage of software that will record videos from usability tests, but how do you put the clips together in a way that will convince management and the design team to take action on your results? Our solution is to use the rule of 5: Create 5 separate highlights videos each focusing on one usability issue, with each issue comprising 5 clips and with each video lasting 5 minutes or less.
Two measures commonly taken in a usability test — success rate and time on task — are the critical numbers you need to prove the benefits of almost any potential design change. These values can be re-expressed in the language that managers understand: the expected financial benefit.
We're often told that senior managers don't have the time to read a detailed report describing the findings from a usability test. This means our thoroughly argued, carefully analysed and clearly presented 60-page report could have no effect on improving the product or changing the culture. How can we better engage managers with our data?
It's easy to get caught up in the promise of new technologies and lose sight of the fundamental issues that make a product successful. By listening to the questions venture capitalists pose when reviewing new products we can develop a checklist to assess the viability of a new product idea.
Until usability gets embedded in the processes of your company, you'll probably find you need to justify the investment. Fortunately, usability initiatives deliver a major return on investment: it's not unusual for usability projects to return benefits of 5-10 times their cost in the first year alone.
Before you can implement a usability initiative in your organisation, you'll need to convince your manager it's worthwhile. The obvious approach is to use a cost-benefit argument, but experience shows that this approach often fails because many managers find the data unconvincing. An alternative approach is to tailor your argument based on your manager's MBTI personality type. This approach generates many different ideas for selling usability within your organisation and is much more persuasive.
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.
This Excel spreadsheet provides a test to help you measure the "customer-centredness" of your organisation.
These stencils will help you communicate user-centered design activities and proposals to clients and development teams.
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User Experience Articles
Our most recent articles
- Sep 2: The minimalist field researcher: What's in my bag?
- Aug 5: The future of UX research is automated, and that's a problem
- Jul 1: Talking to computers (part 2): VUI as an error recovery system
- Jun 3: Talking to computers (part 1): Why is speech recognition so difficult?
- May 6: The Principle of Least Surprise