User Experience Magazine: Volume 9, Issue 4, 2010
Featured Articles: World Usability Day
UX is all about communication. In order to be successful at what they are doing, UX professionals must be excellent communicators. However, there is more to communication than making sure that the words come out right. While engaging in the field, UX professionals fall into many “communication traps” – some rather inconspicuous, and therefore even more dangerous. Communication can make or break a UX design project and have significant impact on professional development. It is therefore essential for the UX professional to be aware of potential communication pitfalls in order to successfully avoid them.
The article discusses several important facets of communication in the field of UX design and is in part based on an Idea Market that was conducted by the author at UPA 2010 in Munich, during which the topic was discussed with fellow practitioners.
It is essential to distinguish whether communication takes place within the UX community or whether outside parties are involved. When dealing with the “outside world”, the role of critical argumentation can be much more crucial than discussions with peers.
A usability script can be a key communication tool between the moderator and participants, but researchers should not use it as a crutch. Rather, the script should be used to impart important information to test participants in a consistent way and as a tool moderators can use to guide respondents through the test session. A good moderator uses a script to support the conversation with the participant. When used well, it allows the moderator to respect and learn from the participant’s freedom, while still providing the necessary controlled environment.
This article outlines the author’s perspective on using the script as a communication tool that guides both moderator and respondent through the conversation that takes place during a usability test. Included is a discussion of situations in which using scripted language isn’t feasible, along with the importance of maintaining a balance between being rigid and being flexible.
By Craig Tomlin
Search engine optimization (SEO) is a technique for improving the ranking of a website in search engine results. For websites, SEO and usability are critical for success. That’s because SEO helps make it easier for sites to be found by search engines (and thus people). Once found, usability helps people complete tasks on those sites. The six common elements shared by SEO and usability are:
- Information architecture
- Site mapping
By understanding the impact each of these six common elements has on SEO and usability, website designers can manipulate each element to optimize the site’s identity to search engines while improving usability for the humans that ultimately interact on the site.
This article is about desktop virtualization and the implications for the PC as we all have known it for the better part of 30 years. When we say “desktop,” we mean a category of graphical user interfaces which has its origin in Xerox PARC. Windows, icons, menus and a pointing device are essential to GUI-driven desktop systems like Mac OS, Windows, and Gnome. The desktop is a metaphor for providing a familiar environment to the user. To that extent, the desktop is virtual already, and we have to pay attention to the words we use to describe the shift toward cloud computing and to desktop virtualization, where the physical hardware on your desk or lap is less important. Early usability issues have been addressed to make the virtual desktop infrastructure (VDI) a reasonable alternative for enterprises with hundreds or even thousands of seats, or companies who want to provide “desktops” as a service.
Users value tutorials. Tutorials help users take advantage of the functionality behind your user interface. That users value tutorials so highly is amazing because so many tutorials are useless. Creating a tutorial that users will actually find useful requires thinking like users—which is easy since you are a user. You need to recognize what users actually expect from a tutorial and how users (like you) actually take advantage of a tutorial that works.
It’s hard to believe that user-generated content (or “UGC”) has only been a mainstream phenomenon since 2005. Even by Internet standards, its proliferation and growing cultural impact have been astonishing. Through personal blogs, social networks, online communities and discussion boards, product reviews, wikis, news sites, travel sites, video and photo-sharing sites, average citizens are exerting an increasingly profound influence over our economy and culture.
However, this rapid success has produced some growing pains, and with them some critical challenges for the UX community. Chief among them:
- Quantity. The growing mass of UGC is starting to overwhelm users.
- Quality. When everyone has a voice, which voices should we listen to?
If UGC is to achieve it promise, UX practitioners must do more than help people to participate in the UGC revolution. We must now make it more manageable and meaningful for them as well. Unless this happens, our growing body of UGC faces the prospect of becoming a collection of noise that users no longer bother to rely upon in the future.
By Suneet Kheterpal
Ubiquitous outreach of technology has taken over all aspects of human communication. The world has evolved from rare households with black-and-white televisions, giant radio sets, or the simple index-finger-dialed landline phones, to rare homes without the thumb-ruled cell phones, high-speed webcam-enabled home PCs, laptops, palmtops, iPods, web-TVs, and other types of gadgetry. The more avant-garde the lifestyle products, the more caught up it seems people are in using them--and the time spent without these widgets shrinks. The thin line separating at-home time from at-work time is also disappearing as the pervasive technology encroaches on the rapidly diminishing family space and time.
The rapidly converging world leaves little scope for family-oriented indulgences common to the yesteryears. Spending time with family and friends, at leisure and without nagging deadlines looming over the head, is almost unheard of these days. In the closely-knit Indian society, where regular communication between the family and friends is given great importance, online social networking has come to the rescue of this time-crunched tribe. Social networking offers numerous benefits to the contemporary Indian female professional, especially those working in Information Technology (IT).
A recent survey was conducted to understand the patterns, styles and reasons of accessing online networks by married Indian women working in IT. The survey revealed that even though hard-pressed for time, these women access online social networks to remain in touch with their colleagues, family and friends. Though technical reasons to network outweigh personal ones, data gathered from the survey indicates that with the emerging portrait of the new Indian woman, this scenario might change soon.
The National Cancer Institute (NCI) conducted user research in 2009 to better understand the online health information needs of underserved audiences such as Latinos and the healthcare professionals who serve them. Using a broad-based approach, we hired a recruiting firm with onsite bilingual-bicultural staff to recruit Latino healthcare professionals in Los Angeles, California with different levels of acculturation. While searching for participants, we found a new user group called “promotoras de salud” (promoters of health) which had not been visible during previous research.
Unlike mainstream U.S. audiences who are interested in health content and information that is direct and geared toward the perspective of the individual, this group requires something more than just translated content. Instead, they require content that has been adapted or “transcreated” to meet their linguistic and cultural needs.
This article discusses the following findings and design principles that demonstrate the needs of this group:
- Cultural values: respect, family, trust, and personal connections
- Health beliefs: fatalism, frequently asked myths and beliefs questions
- Audio and video preferences: increasing comprehension, downloadable, language pronunciation guides, authoritative voices
- Basic understanding of disease: first level content and second level for more technical information
- Language access: parallel English and Spanish versions with toggles
- Plain language: simple to read for people with low literacy in either language
- Images: consistent with strong oral traditions and reflecting diverse ancestries
The topic of social competence becomes increasingly important as the UX consulting business matures. There is a huge amount of literature on professional knowledge about the methods of usability and user experience itself. Several excellent books also cover the topic of how to become an effective consultant. In contrast, there is far less literature on social aspects of usability consulting. You will find hardly any written knowledge about social skills for being a successful UX consultant.
This situation prompted us to do some “project mining” within our long-standing experience in conducting large scale UX consulting projects in many different industries. As a result, we present nine social skills UX consultants need, and should practice, in order to withstand heavy storms in any UX project. By writing about this neglected aspect we want to share tacit knowledge and start a lively discussion within the UX community. No matter if you are working in large-scale IT projects or as a subject matter expert (SME), the user experience profession will benefit from a “Social Skills Guide” for successful UX consultants or teams.