What is a #User in #Professional #UX?

What is a User in Professional UX?

Below is a simple guide to find out if you have users involved in your project.

  1. A person who is part (employed or service team) of a contracted consultancy – IS NOT A USER
  2. A person who is part (employed or service team) of a client company project team including sponsors and stakeholders – IS NOT A USER
  3. A person who does not represent the primary targeted audience (based upon user screening protocols) – IS NOT A USER
  4. A person who does not provide an independent non partisan (providing both positive and negative experiences) view – IS NOT A USER

If your user falls into any one of the above groups of people they are not a user and your not doing user experience.

There are a number of other pointers to work out if your results have been skewed to fit a perspective or project politic.

Everyone said the same thing about their experience

This is statistically impossible, they could say a similar thing, the exact same thing is a fix to match a personal agenda or a perspective.

We got very positive feedback

This is impossible, feedback by it’s very nature is both positive and negative, both are critical to get a balanced view.

We passed usability testing at 95%

This is impossible, usability testing is not a pass or a fail. Usability testing is designed to find faults and is conducted throughout the project not just at the end. If there was a success factor for usability testing it would be to find lots of faults in time for them to be corrected.

Watch out for these and others as you gain experience.

Unfortunately many people are missing the point of USERS.

UX practitioners are not interested in users opinion they are interested in users experiences, filtered through testing scenarios and biographical behavioral templates.

UX practitioners don’t do market research (opinions) they conduct user research for pre-referenced (easily adoptable) psychological design.

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British Airways security update stops ticket sales

I just logged into my BA account to book a ticket, but BA does not want my business because they have implemented new security without thinking about the impact on users.

After making my selection I’m shown the page below instead of a flight selection page. I could understand getting this if I’m not logged in, but I am so I have already authenticated my session. But there is no excuse for sending me to a blank screen, my firewall does not block Captcha, I know this for a fact.

When was this tested or has it gone up today without being tested, who knows?

—- A few minutes of testing later …

I have now managed to get it working and BA have fallen for the classic developer problem, the new security page has been developed on FireFox with Internet Explorer an after thought. The Captcha loads in FireFox but does not in IE.

Now here is a description of one of the worst user experiences possible;

  • In FireFox I first log into my account, I’m in they know who I am.
  • Then I do my search selection.
  • I get the Captcha page fill it out, great I’m in my results
  • Now the clear thing is and everyone who books travel online know is that (sorry back now, I was in Heathrow and had to get my flight, ironic that I was in the BA lounge trying to buy a ticket but being stopped by poor usability) searching and finding are two different experiences.
  1. The British Airways flight search tool has always been bad as it does not cross link results e.g. Date, Location, Tier unless you search again, this is because the person who designed it does not think like a passenger. Potential passengers want to get somewhere, that is their first requirement, not to select class of travel. If you want a good standard look at EasyJet flight search, if you can forget all the other painful experiences and thinking the search is really very good.
  2. Now some bright spark at BA has looked at the log statistics and thought we are getting lots of drop outs and re-searching, this could be a denial of service attack, it’s not, it is in fact the only way to find flights.
  • So my results only show me one class of flight, to see the other ones I have to search again, if I do I get Captcha again and again and again as I try and cross relate the various sets of results to get the best deal, that gets me where I need to get, when I need to get there.
  • Really, really painful experience, oh and I still have not booked a ticket because I was so angry at my treatment, I gave up.

What to do next?

  1. Sack someone, really, they made my evening hell!
  2. Hire a User Experience Architect (must be technical as they will lead the IT part too, so not a graphic designer) who will tell you how to redesign your search results and change how the back end IT works.
British Airways website security upgrade stops ticket sales
British Airways website security upgrade stops ticket sales
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#Agile #User #stories is a #UX #method

User stories is another name for a Cognitive Walkthrough

I have been involved in Agile for a very long time, mainly because it uses methods from the human computer interaction scientific process (CHI/HCI).

I’m surprise no one else has blogged about the use of CHI/HCI processes in Agile before, but though I should say something as I keep getting told that it’s interesting how many CHI/HCI people have embraced Agile. In fact it’s the other way around

Agile has imply appropriated UX techniques that have new Agile names

The main one is User Stories; they are in fact a reuse of the Cognitive Walkthrough, but I’ll let you draw your own conclusion.

Cognitive Walkthrough

Cognitive Walkthrough is a method utilised to express how the system works from a user perspective it exposes potential usability failures and defines happy and unhappy pathways

The method starts with a task analysis that specifies the sequence of steps or actions required by a user to accomplish a specified task. The system response to each action is noted. The designers and developers of the software then walk through the steps as a group this enables an agreed view. They ask themselves a set of defined questions at each step to determine all the potential outcomes. Afterwards a report of potential issues is compiled and the project team has a clear focus on the various user pathways including happy paths, risky paths, error paths and failure paths.

User Stories

User Stories are a quick method to determine the who, the what and the why of a business requirement and are produced in a narrative format as if a user was walking through their use of an interactive system

User stores are written at two levels Epic Stories that define groups of functionality (registration) and User Stories that define a single piece of functionality (sign in).

User stories are written by the product owner (an Agile tile for stakeholder or product manager) a user experience architect or a business project manager (not a scrum master) or the development team when they break down stories that are too large (these are then confirmed by the product owner).

The method starts with defining the Epic stories, then breaking these down into smaller stories that relate to an encapsulated (self standing) component. In design and development these stories can be parcelled to the various specialisations including user research (end user validation, How It Works), visual design, user experience design, back-end development (feature and service delivery), security and front end development. These stories will have their interlinks (to other components) stubbed out until those stories are built and can be integrated.

Agile + CHI/HCI = User Centred Requirements, Human Centered Design and Human Centered Development.

They are not exactly the same but the essential method is,

  1. think like a user
  2. describe what you can do
  3. build the system that enables a user to complete a task or aquire a feature


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5 #UX #lies, damn lies and absolute #myths

1. Anyone can do user experience, nope!

I meet a lot of people claiming to do user experience, process and deliverables aside, they don’t have a usability background so they cannot do real user experience.

User experience is a personal capability (not all usability people can do user experience) based upon the experience of conducting usability testing and user research. Usability testing and user research provides the standards and experience of the user that is needed to understand their perspective, illicit the correct (there are wrong ones) requirements in workshops or testing and represent them in projects.

I met (in 2006) a UX expert, I’m always worried when I meet UX experts I don’t know, because I am a UX expert. Anyway she was moving from Razorfish into the freelance world for the big bucks and working a large project for Honda cars through a digital agency. Unfortunately she did not know how to use any software apart from word, so I checked her out sure enough she was a PA at Razorfish not a UX architect as claimed.

This happens so often it’s shocking, my favourite one has to be the PHd student I met working as an accessibility consultant repackaging W3C guidelines as work for several agencies. What I love about this guy is he does public speaking and has even done UX London and people wonder why I’m not interested in these conferences!

There are loads more fakes some of them milking huge daily rates from major companies, as these companies don’t do any checking it’s their own fault, but it makes me quite sad that clients and employment agencies can’t tell the quality from the junk.

Not only is the user experience world full of fakes, I’d go as far to say that of the people I’ve met in the last 13 years involved in UX;

80% (8 in 10) of UX people are fakes and have no idea what they are doing

These fakes can certainly sell themselves and get work (now in some very senior positions) because the clients did not then and still don’t know what they should be getting out of a user experience professional.

2. User experience can be learned from reading books, nope!

Absolutely read books, but read lots of them, but don’t quote them like the Bible that’s a bit odd. But reading about someone else’s experience does not mean you have any or in fact really understand the context or scope of those experiences.

Do some testing and research, I’m seeing a great deal of roles advertised for UX researcher or UX workshopping this is a great concern as the priority of discovered requirements and their interrelation is almost impossible to communicate in written documents. This critical project information should always be available.

Separating UX research from the UX solution activity may make sense for IT activity but for User Experience Professionals it does not

I assume this was a bright idea of someone who doesn’t actually know anything about UX regardless of their job title.

3. User experience is an IT activity, nope!

User Experience is not an IT process, it starts in the business area before IT is involved

I know a lot of company IT departments have tried to subsume User Experience into their IT process; user experience is considerably less effective this way.

User Experience leads the projects speaking for the End User Stakeholders (customers) as the Business Stakeholders speak for the Business

User Experience fits better into Change Management, Operations or as separate Standards Authority within organizations.

4. User experience is a design activity, nope!

Not exactly no, it sets the project brief and requirements then latterly gets involved in research first before creating solution concepts, user testing concepts then defining the final solution.

If there is no research, user experience solutions are not possible

5. The cost of user experience is going down, nope!

Perhaps a better understanding is that the market is flooded with willing bodies, the quality goes down and so does the price because people find it difficult to sell invisible clothing (the kings new cloths) even to people who like the colour and the cut, so accept a reduced price.

So the value of the job title is going down.

User experience should provide major cost benefits and advancements to companies who wish to stand out from the crowd, provided they find people who know how to do UX correctly.

This is the same problem that Agile is going through, people have picked up the language and use one or two of the activities incorrectly but don’t exceed the current status quo because they don’t know how to.

Great Agile is fast and accurate, flexible and delivers usable software, just as Great User Experience should provide the experience that customers want and allow them to interact with the client, accurately and often.

Great User Experience delivers increases transactions, interactions and communications towards relationship building.

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Karl Smith Fellow of the British Computer Society

I have just been confirmed as a Fellow of the British Computer Society.  Thanks to all my supporters.
Logo of British Computer Society Fellows
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O2 support has awful usability

O2 gets points for trying

I like other users were quite happy when O2 decided to spend some time and money to tie together their various online systems to at least give the appearance of a unified system. You can tell it’s all user experience and no information architecture though, everything links so there are no dead ends, unfortunately the information being sought is missing it’s an annoying merry go round.

Lucy help box in O2O2 fakes live support

The thing that I cannot think of an excuse for is an automated support search tool built to look like live support. Dear Lucy you gave me hope, then you took it away, you made me think O2 cared about me and the business I bring them. But no your not real your a search tool, that’s not really all that good. Changing interactive and interaction metaphors is indeed very brave and extraordinarily stupid as it aggravates users. For users in a support system the normal response is to look for another service supplier or phone up to vent on someone.

Still at least there was a feedback form for me to say how pathetic the experience was. Feedback form for fake live support

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Usability and Accessibility Standards

United States of America

The American National Standard Institute (NSSN, http://www.nssn.org ) provides a national resource for national and international standards. ANSI/HFES-200 is focused on design requirements and recommendations to increase effective usability of software interfaces.


International Standards Organisation (http://www.iso.ch/) ISO/TS 16071:2003, Ergonomics of human-system interaction covers issues associated with designing accessible software for people with the widest range of visual, hearing, motor and cognitive abilities, including those who are elderly and temporarily disabled.

Web Content Accessibility Guidelines (WCAG)

The Web Content Accessibility Guidelines (WCAG) documents explain how to make Web content accessible to people with disabilities. Web “content” generally refers to the information in a Web page or Web application, including text, images, forms, sounds, and such http://www.w3.org/WAI/intro/wcag.php

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Usability and Accessibility Legislation

International projects should be constructed in consideration of the most stringent standards this is expected to be those pertaining to the USA, but also to include ISO9241 guidelines;


Australian Human Rights and Equal Opportunities Commission – http://www.hreoc.gov.au/

The Act provides key legal standards which inform their Disability Discrimination Act 1992 (http://www.austlii.edu.au/au/legis/cth/consol_act/dda1992264).

Their disability standards and guidelines are hosted at http://www.hreoc.gov.au/disability_rights/standards/standards.html.


Canadian Human Rights Act and the Employment Equity Act 1976-1977 (http://laws.justice.gc.ca/en/H-6/relprov.html )

Treasury board of Canada Secretariat

The Equity and Diversity Directorate of the Public Service Commission of Canada (PSC) –  http://commissiondelafonctionpubliqueducanada.com/research/world_ps/canada_e.htm


The Euro Accessibility Consortium, launched in Paris on April 28th 2003 is intended to foster European co-operation toward a harmonised methodology for evaluating the accessibility of Web sites (see http://www.ddm.gouv.fr/dossiers_thematiques/documents/cisi2003f.html). This initiative is a joint undertaking by 23 organisations from all over Europe and the W3C/WAI (http://www.euroaccessibility.org/).

An overview of European legislation, not specific to the Internet, is available at Horizontal European Activities in Rehabilitation Technology (HEART) http://www.w3.org/WAI/EO/heart.html.

New Zealand

New Zealand is served by the New Zealand Disability strategy administered by the Office for Disability issues (http://www.odi.govt.nz/nzds/).

United Kingdom

In the UK, the legislative initiatives are aligned with the Disability Discrimination Act and equal opportunities directives.

Special Educational Needs and Disability Act (2001)http://www.dcs-gb.net/part4dda.html

United States of America

In the United States there is strong governmental support that has led to about 11 pieces of disability legislation. The key legislation, the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA, 1990) which applies to all walks of life was effected in 1992 during the George Bush (Snr) administration.

Report on application of ADA –  http://www.rit.edu/~easi/law/weblaw1.htm

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#Context matters in #Usability

Context matters in usability

While any kind of user testing is better than none, usability testing out of context is like testing a car on water, it gives some basic information and not a lot more. If performance and use are important at all, then testing should take place in an environment standard to the expected users.

Contextual Usability

In practice this means testing children’s games at their homes, schools or clubs. Testing e-commerce websites at work, on mobile phones, PDA’s (on the bus, train, plane), internet cafes and in the home. Testing software in call centres, oil rigs, supermarkets, small shops, banks anywhere that they are designed to be used.

Can anyone honestly say that their environment does not affect what they do and how they do it. An extreme example would be fx traders using complex software, telephones and chatting to their colleagues while working within a constant stream of information that changes their activities, focus and effectiveness. Not only does context define how long things are used but it restricts attention span, acceptance of navigation and take-up.

Intelligent business requires a full understanding the effectiveness of new products and services. By testing in context, clients can get realistic data on the performance of systems. Such data can be valuable to making decisions on changes, or having confidence that the benefits you expect will be realised in practice. By testing real users in context potential problems can be eliminated and new previously unconsidered opportunities developed.

Republished from article of August 07, 2006

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Welcome to my blog

About Karl Smith

Karl Smith works globally with directors, stakeholders and customers of multi-national enterprises across all verticals and technology stacks whose focus is on new concepts and capabilities that drive customer engagement, interaction and retention.

He creates digital companies, strategies and services that drive customer centricity into the core of client companies, that in turn enable them to realise their ambitions to engage with and establish a consistent two-way communication and interaction with their customers.

These new companies and capabilities are underwritten with tailored blue sky work, digital strategy, management consulting and program planning fitting to tight timescales, strategically correct, fully featured, useable, governable, scalable, efficient, end to end business propositions, service designs, applications, integrations and software systems.

Karl Smith Practical Skills

He is a highly competent, personable, creative and motivated person with a keen insight and definition ability. He is a critical thinker and able to rapidly discover the essence of problems then define, communicate, create buy-in and deliver end to end digital and process solutions. He positively motivates those around him and is able to engender a great team dynamic by leading from the front. He has business experience since 1989 at comparable levels in fields including defence, industry, energy, pharmaceutical, biomedical, construction, fashion, finance, banking, FMCG, property, publishing, healthcare, travel, policing, crown office, local and central government. He has specialist banking experience with investment, private, commercial, business, trading, wealth management in Europe, USA, China, Australia, Japan and Russia.

Karl Smith is a Founder and Director of UCD UK Conferences.

Karl has worked with several companies to define for launch or redefine their service offerings, business structures or digital presence including;

  • Avaloq AG – Setting up enterprise wide adoption of design thinking principals, master plan delivered in just two months.
  • Wipro Digital – Launch Wipro Digital, Design Thinking, Service Design, Creative Technology Services, User Experience Strategy, Creative Design Services, M&A Designit – 2014
  • Accenture – Launch of Enterprise User Experience, Digital Services Launch, M&A Fjord – 2012
  • Pearson Publishing – Digital Services Restructuring – 2011
  • Deutsche Bank – Self Service Paradigm Shift – 2011
  • RBS – Risk Management – 2010
  • The Oxford University Press – Mobile First Digital Strategy – 2009

Karl Smith has a wide experience in management consultancy and digital technology including business management, start-up, business strategy, digital strategy, advertising, customer experience, user experience, productisation, governance, change management, project management (waterfall & Agile), enterprise architecture and project definition, design, optimisation, delivery and digital marketing. He has been honoured by the British Computer Society for his eminence and significant contribution to the fields of UCD and User Experience with a Fellowship.

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