Designing for Human Experience Paperback on Amazon

This book about what I have done for a living since 1989 in Designing for Human Experience. Here have put together an anthology of my life and my passion for designing for human experience. I describe what I do as designing for human experience because you can’t design experience as it resides in the emotions of others. But you can design environments and psychological cues that trigger emotional responses and appropriation by attribution of past experience on the current one.

Thank you, Robert Powell and Patrick Neeman, for framing this conversation, Designing for Humans remains for me the most fantastic amalgamation of the complex to create the simple, useable and nascent components and artefacts that support human experiences. I’ll apologise in advance while I try to use simple English I often fail because someone came up with a word that covers off the complexity I’m trying to express. I use dictionary’s often when writing, not least because I’m dyslexic and can’t see letters, I was taught to read the gaps between them in primary school by a special teacher, so my perspective is often quite different from others.

Fundamental to my work in designing for human experience is my early experiences of human augmentation in supporting what the world describes as disability. When I was eight (1970’s) my father was involved in setting up a respite centre for the families of disabled children. It was the first time I’d seen technologies that support people in doing what I take for granted and it changed my perspective on technology and what it means to be human. Looking back, it was clear from an early age that I accepted all people, recognised individuals and gained the realisation that everyone had strengths and limitations. Through my design training at school, college and then university I was able to frame questions about; what does it mean to be human? Ergonomics and Anthropometrics is what started me on questioning why technologies were not measurable against who uses them and their physical, emotional and intelligence limitations. If that’s offensive think about it, everyone has limitations they also have strengths, certainly I have benefited by having to work harder with reading and writing than others through being able to make connections others cannot see, I’m not special just different.

Canada https://www.amazon.ca/dp/1838237011
Japan https://www.amazon.co.jp/dp/1838237011
Italy https://www.amazon.it/dp/1838237011
Spain https://www.amazon.es/dp/1838237011
France https://www.amazon.fr/Designing-Human-Experience-Karl-Smith/dp/1838237011
Germany https://www.amazon.de/Designing-Human-Experience-Polymath-Band/dp/1838237011
USA https://www.amazon.com/Designing-Human-Experience-Polymath-Smith/dp/1838237011
UK https://www.amazon.co.uk/dp/1838237011/ref=cm_sw_r_cp_api_i_zGXMFbME0P72Q

Karl Smith has been named in the Top 100 Thought Leaders and Influencers to follow in 2020 by The Awards Magazine and is currently ranked number One Globally by Thinkers360 as the Thought Leaders and Influencer for Digital Transformation, Customer Experience, Customer Loyalty, Big Data, Predictive Analytics and second in The Future of Work and Agile. LinkedIn https://www.linkedin.com/in/karlsmith2/ Twitter https://twitter.com/UserExperienceU

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#Alive and Present #Everywhere open #IoT3 Ecosystems #SmartLiving

Introduction

The IoT is a much marketed term as the future of all things;

the IoT is interconnected landscape of life experiences and transactions

What is the IoT, how is it intended to work and how does that relate to how it currently works. What are the real business opportunities and how will they be measured as a success? How can your business gain an advantage or benefit? Finally, are there any risks associated with the IoT, either foreseen or not and how might they be mitigated?

What is the IoT and where does it come from?

The IoT is problematic as a description for Ubiquity a concept that has been around for a long time.

Ubiquity is a synonym for omnipresence, the property of being present everywhere

Defence Ubiquity

The technology that underpins ubiquity comes from defence, specifically battlefield command and control (CnC) and has been evolving since the second world war. At that time, it was essential to coordinate and protect allied forces during the war. This strategic view of the battlefield as it changed was provided first through telephone communications (easily intercepted), radio communications (also easily intercepted) and then later RADAR (Radio Detection and Ranging).

The second part of the technology that underpins ubiquity is security, the interception of communications in the second world war made it essential to provide proof of authenticity and to encode or encrypt important messages. While this was a common practice off the battlefield by people with the time to do this, the speed of change and the danger on the battlefield made this impossible, although the USA did use native american indian code talkers this security was not embedded across all battlefields as it had also been used in the World War I but German anthropologists had attempted to learn the languages.

Post the second world war, beacon technology (encrypted identifiers) with satellite uplinks provided oversight on large assets. However, until beacons could be miniaturised while maintaining a secure satellite uplink true battlefield ubiquity could not exist. This problem was overcome during the 1990’s enabling complex CnC of navy task groups, air forces, missiles, ground force vehicles and individual soldiers. The defence industry now has access to a fully ubiquitous battlefield command and control system, however it is still controlled by human choice based upon interpretation of sometimes confusing data. This interpretation and ownership of Meaning still resides with human control.

What is the IoT now and what will it become?

Commercial Ubiquity

The IoT is a stepping stone to Ubiquity. The commercialisation of ubiquity has been going on for a long time. It has included white goods requesting a service without customer involvement to fridges asking for milk, cars contacting the garage and customers monitoring their devices remotely.

However, it is yet to deliver the promise of true ubiquitous ecosystems talking to each other and creating a ubiquitous living environment by augmenting human existence, through simplification and service revolution.

Ubiquity is a network of negotiated connections, contracts with policies and attributes that are always present and open

In ubiquity the CIO once again comes to the forefront of the information exchange, management and security around products, services and things as they don’t require marketing to acquire each other’s benefits.

In open IoT Ecosystems there is an emergent human cognition language

This is devoid of the current marketing paradigm of using images to entice rather

Open IoT Ecosystems focus people on avatars in a new and more disruptive way

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#Situational #awareness drives open #IoT #Ecosystems not #visual #interfaces

The foundation for this thinking goes back to a notion of the ‘social life of things’. If things themselves exist and have a number of trajectories and states then those things also potentially have accessible and useful human touch points in the IoT.

Much of the interactions we humans have become used to are in fact simple touch-points to hidden and complex interactions within dispersed and non-interlinked (at the core) technology systems. This simplification process of creating a directed visual presentation layer enables us to maintain a simplified mental model around our interactions. However in IoT technologies the additional integration of voice, touch and thought require a full understanding of the primary cognitive models for each IoT device and an associated and integrated cognitive model, possible clashes or drop outs and load descriptions (for each constantly changing eco-system) by Thing and Cognitive Group. Only then can an interface be defined.

Situational networks with IoT devices services and humans

Situational networks with IoT devices services and humans

Above is a visual description of a set of Things available with a person walking through them projecting themselves, a simple human journey. However working in a local model gets the notion of Things and Cognitive Groups across. Each colour group represents a Thing, attempting to get our attention, each Thing does something different, a different set of interactions, activities, behaviours and outcomes. They can talk to each other or ignore each other. The person traversing the real world and IoT ecosystem walks through several fields of interaction, each time they enter a new field it communicates to them, availability, interaction, messaging (branding, cries for attention, warnings etc.). The first position P1 three touch-points seek engagement, by P2 it’s six touch-points, in P3 five touch-points seeking engagement.

There is no requirement for visual interfaces, in fact audio, smell or touch (vibration or texture) are more likely and in fact desirable to create the ambience for localised interaction and mental association.

Further the current cognitive models associated with the digital existence of tangibles may need to be reconsidered in the context of the IoT as it amalgamates previously separate constructs. It could simply be that the detailed component view we have constructed around daily interactions is no longer valid and we can simplify not only our interactive behaviour but also our descriptors by moving them to high level (directional and instructional avatar) understood constructs rather than the detailed process models we tend to use to live.

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5 User Experience (Customer Journey) 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 user experience.

User experience is a solution capability based upon usability principles and research findings not design aspirations

User experience is a solution 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, elicit 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, 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 Agile DevOps, 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 and change, 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 increased transactions, interactions and communications towards relationship building.

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Interview with a #User #Experience #Guru part 2

User Experience (UX) why is it important?

User experience is so important because it enables client companies to get to the heart of their relationship with their customers without the marketing glamor that hides how they really feel and what they really experience. Client companies spend a great deal of money creating myths about what they do and their relationship to their customers but they also need the reality that user experience research brings.

Ultimately user experience is about the ability to make decisions based upon re-creatable rigorous scientific research (avoiding one person’s view) involving real customers to create actionable information for design and the businesses strategic and tactical objectives.

Real user experience should be at the heart of the client company making the alignment between them, their products and their customers. User experience can also be the starting point to create new business opportunities changing the client company’s future or creating entire new companies.

So you can change the future of a company or create new ones with User Experience (UX)?

Yes, in some way because user experience is seen as something new or an add-on many people are missing the point. User experience picks up on that entrepreneurial aspect that few people have by enabling client companies to rapidly test and distill (through user requirements) the few great ideas from the thousands of ideas that enable them to engage with and transact with their customers, build trust and establish relationships or become iconic service or product supplier.

So User Requirements are the critical bit?

Yes, if you can work out what does the customer want to do and how do they expect to acquire products or services then the market is predefined and ready for engagement.

Are User Requirements hard to find?

Ha, ha, you mean is there an easy way to find them? One of my sayings is ‘something new for the sake of something great’ some requirements seem obvious, but when tested with real customers are worthless. Other user requirements are only revealed in user research; I often find killer requirements in user research that make projects from a basic fix into a game changer. In one project I found 12 user requirements that would have made the software system better than the market leader ($150m to install) but not all the requirements made it into the build.

So not all User Requirements make it into the project, why?

Partly it’s business and partly it’s personality. The business part is cost and time, there may only be a specific remit of the project defined by a static cost and a static delivery date. In these circumstances un-used requirements are allocated to later phases in a logical way so that they add value. The second part personality goes to the expert culture, where people in a project team purposefully ignore or seek to limit user requirements because they want control, be seen to lead or be the expert. It’s quite sad as the expert culture is responsible for the 70/30 (though I think it’s more 90/10) where 70% of all technology projects fail. If people could be more objective and listen to the two expert groups the client company and the customers then we could change that ratio significantly. Unfortunately the expert culture will do almost anything to protect itself from be relegated to a mediator, even if that is it’s most effective and beneficial role.

When User Requirements don’t make it into a project does it affect the client outcomes?

Yes always, sometimes quite dramatically.

I worked with a digital agency (on another project) where they built a social network for a huge multinational. It was filled with lots of fun flash games based around a well-known household product. The client remit was we need to be involved in social media, the agency did no user research and the client company never asked for any. The result was a £1m spend on a social media system that had 88 (44 from the project team) people sign up.

The best way to understand this problem is to ask clients;

  • Do they want to have a go?
  • Do they want to fill a gap?
  • Do they want to capture a market?
  • Do they want to be iconic?

The 90% attitude is to have a go and they fail their original outcomes (but usually change the outcome to get something), 7% will fill a gap (because it’s new territory and they can’t qualify success), 2% will capture a market (but not hold it long, because they rest when they should push on to iconic) and 1% iconic because they got everything aligned before going to market.

What happens to the people who reduce the client outcomes and limit User Requirements effect on a project?

This depends on what the client company expectation was. Many people go on as if it’s normal to not deliver advantage then wonder why clients move to new service providers. I have provided consultancy at both ends of this spectrum. I offer vendor consultancy to see if the consultants who make the pitches actually have a considered (around the client) process or are just shoveling the same stuff for everyone. And looking at delivery divisions to see if they are fit for purpose in that area I have had people promoted and other fired for incompetence.

When working with developers my question is always ‘your changing the user requirement now embed in a design (for whatever reason) if the project fails because of this change, you will be fired, do you still want to make the change?’

This goes to the heart of requirements they are not opinions they are instructions, changing them should be at the peril of the person who changes them, there should always be a risk associated with a single perspective change.

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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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An interview with a #User #Experience #Guru

User Experience (UX) looks pretty simple can anyone do it?

No it’s a skill and knowledge based activity, I look for communicators with formal science qualifications (BSc, MSc or PhD), standards knowledge, creativity and genius level intelligence.

Wow you need to be a genius to do User Experience (UX)?

Not exactly, but it helps. User Experience is a complex translation process, requirements are tested with users and transformed. These user requirements are then filtered through standards and then transformed again into concepts. The concepts are then transformed into functional and non functional specification (mostly as user stories) which are transformed again into wireframes, annotations and models. Finally developers build UIs supported by User Experience which are then tested by User Experience.

All of this must be conducted under strict scientific rigour and be repeatable by another User Experience practitioner. Most people who say they do User Experience simply can’t do this process.

But everyone’s opinion is important?

No they are not. Think about it why are companies looking for User Experience (UX)? It’s because they recognise that they need to build experiences that their customers want to have in order to have an active and continuing relationship. If you recognise this is a relationship between a business (that is the brand, ethos or product capability, not people) and end users or customers then they should be given equal priority in the project. Business requirements plus User requirements become project requirements.

How do you get this equal priority?

The business will have clear objective and sometimes an overarching strategy so usually that is clear. But end users and customers require user research by an experienced non partisan User Experience practitioner. Ultimately the level of risk on non adoption, training required or out right ridicule (by the public on social media) has a direct inverse relationship to the amount user research conducted. Projects with User Experience people on them but no user research have a 70% failure chance compared to projects with scientific rigour having a 30% failure chance. The 30% comes from stakeholders or other project team members changing things to fit their opinion after UX has completed their work.

So are UX people always right and other people on a project team are wrong?

No not at all, User Experience people are not speaking for themselves or protecting their design, they speak for users and the best alignment of the users experience with the business.

More of the interview to follow in Part 2.

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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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#Holistic #UX #Customers don’t think or interact along #channels

Business management does not reflect customer (users) activity

The management of a businesses online presence is broken up into various channels in order to simplify the management, responsibility and accountability for overall effectiveness and value. However customers (users) are unaware of these business rules and are only focused on their task or tasks, which will cut across several channels.

Holistic customer (user) experience is cross channel

Given the behaviour of customers (users) it is clear that effectual user experience is cross channel as well. This creates some problems for business, however with the advent of Agile, user stories it may be time for businesses to at last really focus on their customers (users) by changing their online management to reflect key user pathways rather than holding on to legacy notions of management.

Customer experience an example (not everything)

1. Engagement > 2. On boarding > 3. Payments > 4. Servicing > 5. Supporting > 6. Retention > 7. Up/Cross Selling

  1. Engagement – how the customer finds out about the company, where their expectations are set (also includes brand identification) and they self filter based upon personal tasks and objectives
  2. On boarding – agreement that the company provides the service required, through written and visual material, social media, personal recommendations, reviews, sign up routes
  3. Payments – payment or funding pathways related to e-commerce, m-commerce (including micro payments)
  4. Servicing – providing the goods or services, delivery and tracking
  5. Supporting – providing help and support both online and telephony (can complete servicing)
  6. Retention – managing potential loss of customers, analytics, advanced planning
  7. Up/Cross selling – data mining existing customers to up or cross sell other products and services to existing customers

For a customer this process can take hours, days, weeks, months or years and contains three key user experiences;

  1. A transaction (engagement, on boarding, payment, servicing, support)
  2. Customer relationship management (on boarding, payment, servicing, support, retention)
  3. Marketing (engagement, on boarding, retention, up/cross selling)

These experiences cross relate as can be seen by their components.

Managing the web in a holistic manner reduces risk and lowers cost

The problem remains at present that the customers (users) experience is supported by multiple sub-systems with owners and their own agendas.

Digital channel management costs a huge amount of time and money and creates a great deal of risk that valuable customer activity will become secondary to internal politics

There needs to be an importance given to the customers overall experience and the need to join it up in terms of user experience, visual appearance and standard interactions across multiple platforms and systems.

Related

 

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Mobile is now Slowbile, mobile experience is destroying user experience (UX)

I like many other people love to use my mobile phone to view the web, contact friends through mobile applications and keep up to date. But recent changes by companies are driving me nuts; it’s so bad that I’m considering not using their services.

So what’s the problem with mobile?

When the World Wide Web started to go mobile, the complex problem of screen size and control had many solutions, some worked some did not. I remember writing my first WEP site; it worked but was an awful user experience. Then CSS took over as the solution of choice, now it’s purpose built applications (less functionality, one for each device and a rather expensive route) or the responsive web (resizes with same functionality, the direction I’m taking). However it’s the change in user choice that’s driving me nuts, as a user I used to be able to choose to have an application or not, now I’m being forced into an experience I don’t want.

A recent forced bad user experience with LinkedIn

I really like the concept of LinkedIn but they have really lost contact with users and the following experience really expresses this detachment better;

I was using my iPhone and I wanted to manage one of the groups I run on LinkedIn, so I used Safari on the phone to access LinkedIn. I had to do this as the LinkedIn iPhone application does not support group management. So through Google I went to LinkedIn and I was given an interstitial page about the iPhone application. Great they are clever enough to know I have an iPhone, but not clever enough to know I already have the mobile app but am not using it!! maybe there is a reason, I can’t cancel this (never see again checkbox, a feature I put on all interstitial pages as its just good user experience) so every time I try I get this bad experience.

I get to the website, great I put my email address and password in (really not easy on an iPhone, that’s an easy fix, but just look at all the sites and companies who can’t be bothered to make it easy for users) and click login — I’m expecting to get into my account, but no I’m forced into their (very slow) mobile site.

At this point I’ve already been asked if I want a mobile version and said NO, I’ve logged in and now I get asked to login again. This is because their credential store is not set up to pass my credentials to their mobile site version; this is really poor, even in the most basic WordPress system that is integrated.

Anyway as I don’t want the mobile version as it does not have the functionality I require, I click on the go to desktop version. I’m back at the desktop version but I have to login again, at this point I want to throw the iPhone under a car.

It took 25 minutes to login to LinkedIn, Mobile is now Slowbile

At this point I’ve arrive in the office and decide never to bother with this again, way to go LinkedIn forcing me to hate your thinking and technology when your concept is such a good one.

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#Information #Architecture (IA) is not another name for #User #Experience (UX)

IA is not another name for UX

User experience (UX) and Information Architecture (IA) are very different and have separate skill sets, processes and outputs.

I often talk to people who add IA on the their CV as if it’s some simple skill;

IA is actually more complex and difficult than UX

IA is also hundreds of years old as an activity while UX is less than twenty in it’s current form.

  • Information architecture is involved in the classification and structure of information.
  • User experience is involved in; defining who the audience is, what they can do, how they can do it and matching the aspiration of the content provider with the desires of the audience.

Related

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Getting #UX done the UX #engagement #process

UX is a highly complex set of research tools and outputs, the use of which is dependant upon time, cost and the clients willingness to accept them.

Question 1, why are you there?

If the client were to think in best practice terms which for them would deliver exactly what they require then everyone would have a great experience of the process. Unfortunately it is pretty much a given that clients want to prove themselves knowledgable about well everything, in control and this is one of the main problems. I often hear clients say “I understand our users” or “I built this company so I know what users want” maybe they did or used to, but the fact they have called in an agency or consultancy means they don’t anymore. What clients mostly mean is I have my agenda and I want you to listen to it and agree with me. That way is the road to mediocrity.

What does the client really want?

It’s worth at this point asking the client what they want out of the process. If they only want a pat on the head and to be told they are great, best to give them that, do the job get paid and don’t put it on your CV.

If the client (really) wants their products or services to have higher impact, increased transactions, market share and gain advantage, then explain what your doing, how they gain and that great ux will fundamentally change how they work.

Question 2, what does your client understand about what your doing there?

UX is not UI, the experience is not only the interface, it’s what you can do with the interface, what tasks can be completed, what data can be inputted, transformed or called into the UI.

The real pitch for real UX.

The pitch to a new client is not we can make your product or service like your competitors it’s “we can make your offering stand out from the crowd”. Great ux is about shouting over the noise and changing the rules, “don’t catch up – great ux creates the opportunity to jump ahead”.

Question 3, how will your client know they have succeeded?

This is not a KPI hunt, clients are not really interested in you proving success, they already have their own success metrics, strategic plans and objectives they need to report up the chain. They may not be able to directly tell you as these things are highly confidential the important thing from an engagement perspective is can you work them out? Then can you articulate these back to the client in ux terms.

The real job of ux, find out about the users.

The real job of ux is to align the business with the users, from the user perspective. Users ask “what’s in it for me”, “what do I personally gain”. This means that user research is required by the clients customers, in order to work out what they want for from the business in order to take up their services or buy their products, how they will want to interact and what they will give the business for a relationship.

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Microsoft is the new Apple

Win8 is a game changer, but why the new strategy?

Any knowledgeable IT and digital stratagist who understands the technology will tell you that Win8 is a game changer, but what is more significant is the way Microsoft is acting, they are thinking the way Apple used to, while Apple has moved to a 1970-80’s Microsoft!

Screen view of Windows 8
Windows 8 screen shot

Win8 is a cultural change as much as anything else, the user is not driven to the desktop or forced into an office the devices and Win8 travel with them. I recognise that Apple users (I have both, I’m platform agnostic) will just see this as Microsoft catching up, but the key thing is business. Business IT users already trust Microsoft, think Microsoft and pretty much won’t let Apple devices on their networks. By making a multi device, touch screen software offering, Microsoft secure their market and as a defacto standard for OEM software on new devices they can start pushing Apple out of their markets.

Microsoft Win8 is enterprise focused, it’s been designed for home, mobile, office and enterprise specifically in mind a truly holistic attitude to servicing user needs.

So what next?

Microsoft metro apps market of course.

By the way I’m looking for a Metro developer for my app’s contact me on Linkedin

 

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UX Triangle becomes Bermuda Triangle

The UX Triangle

The UX triangle is supposed to focus a project on the relationships involved in a project and how everything is centred upon the users.

The UX Triangle shows the key relationships and participants in a user experience project. The outer participants are the Business (strategic and corporate), IT services (design, delivery and infrastructure) and Marketing (driving relationships, market knowledge and acquisition). Centred on User Experience (UX) and focused on the User.

User Experience Triangle Failure

It’s almost as if User Experience needs to start from the beginning again, because the essential component is missing in so many critical projects because there is ‘No Budget’.

If you don’t have the budget to do;

  • user requirements gathering
  • user concept testing
  • user prototype testing
  • usability testing

then your not working on a User Experience project.

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How to #Hire a #Director of #User #Experience

Like my last post How to Hire a Head of User Experience this post is not intended to supersede the experience of a really good HR or employment agency person but to bring clarity around the differences in the roles.

A Director of User Experience is not really the next level on the business ladder for a Head of UX or a lead user experience or senior user experience person.

The reason is that it’s a business role with little or no actual practical activity in the UX domain. A Director of UX is someone with an extra level of expertise related to management, finance and corporate control. Not for the faint hearted, or someone with their own start-up looking to add a title, they simply won’t last, because they don’t know how to deliver. Nor in fact is it for an MBA because they just don’t get UX, they tend to think it’s an IT or design thing and that is the sort of incomplete view that makes UX fail to deliver.

If Director of UX is not about UX what is it about?

A Director of UX is a public speaker, advocate, able to compromise to see the business succeed, set the standards, deal with the flack and drive the business into a higher level of intimacy with their customers. A lot of these things are unpalatable for a fervent practitioner, but are daily life for a Director.

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How to Hire a Head of User Experience

Head of anything is evocative of responsibility, power and knowledge, but what does Head of User Experience (UX) really mean and how do you know if your getting one?

User experience in its value and effectiveness is geographical and sector based, that is to say it means different things to different people by country, by business and by route to the role (in-house HR or agency service). With this many variants how can anyone be sure that they have hired a Head of User Experience?

One of my colleagues in a recent contract described User Experience as turning the turd (poo) into a piece of glitter covered turd. If this is the expectation it’s not really surprising if the wrong people get senior roles, then the incompetent lead.

What I want to show is some basic indicators about hiring a Head of User Experience;

Please don’t be offended if it’s what you do for a living (recruitment or employment agent), glean what you can and discard anything you don’t need. 🙂

Who, What, When, Where, Why.

Who do they know and how do they deal with them?

They must know users; understand user drivers and perspective for every project just as they must know the client stakeholders and leaders with the environment that they are working in. The level of knowledge will vary, as much of the information is second hand from Lead and Senior designers or researchers. But the Head of UX will have both their own knowledgebase and be able to elicit extra business and strategic information not visible to other ux practitioners.

Can they let their team work or do they micro-manage? It’s really important when working with a new (to the Head of UX) team that the teams strengths are encouraged and supported. UX is one of those skill sets where diversity of experience is critical in evolving multiple parallel project solutions within a team of peers. Giving the team rights over the group output is critical to maintain quality and to challenge narrow thinking. How they manage, mentor and train people is key to the future of the team? How will they deal with internal applicants for the job they have just got? Conflict is a given in any location where people are, what are their stratagies for conflict? Watch out for people with an ‘I problem’ if it’s all about them they cannot see other people. Get references from colleagues as well as employers, you can find them as connections on Linkedin.

What do they do for a living, how do they describe themselves, their ux work and their colleagues?

How do they describe what they do for a living, a couple of years ago recruitment agencies where told by someone that ux people only focus on the user and that should be their response when ask who they focus their efforts on. Wrong, ux is a service that is based on creating a meeting point between people, organisations/businesses > providers and products/services > content. Any Head of User Experience who does not know this is not a Head of User Experience, it’s a business. It’s a great business that gives an audience access to the content they are looking for, makes it easy to interact with and enables communication with the content provider, but it’s still a business. Watch out for divas they upset clients and stakeholders alike a Head of UX is a savvy business person and knows which things to fight for and which things to mitigate as a risk.

Do they have a process? Can they describe the process and where it came from, how it has evolved through their experiences and which projects made the most change or option routes for it.

When did they acquire their skills?

People involved in user experience who have the kind of experience to be a Head of User Experience come from diverse backgrounds. A colleague of mine started in the US DoD (in the 1980’s) designing graphic manuals for troop training and another NATO information systems. Find out what else they have done and how they evaluate their experiences, because their experience underwrites their other skills and gives them a breadth of understanding about various sectors that may not be on their CV’s. For instance I have had lots of experience setting up business banking accounts, some really lousy (maybe for another post), some grossly inefficient (some excuses of epic proportions) and others utterly fabulous. Ask them to describe an experience, evaluate it and provide a solution to any problem they have encountered. For people like us it’s easy, for example I’ve had a fix for the supermarket self checkout bottleneck for years, it’s obvious.

User Experience in its current form is a fairly recent naming when I meet practitioners with experience before 2005 described as user experience, I know there is something wrong depending on where in the world they say they got their experience.

Where and with whom do they associate?

Confirming the professional level of a person is now quite easy with Linkedin, connect with them and have a look at their connections, if they don’t know any senior people outside of ux they are not senior themselves. It’s a cultural thing we tend to mix with people at or above our own level when thinking professionally, occasionally people come on the radar where they a worth following to see where their career goes. Yes, Linkedin again, if you don’t use it, you won’t know what your missing.

Why do they think they fit?

Based upon their research, they should know enough about the role, the people, the ethos and the clients or stakeholders to be able to pitch a reason why they fit in.

Don’t ask a Head of User Experience;

Don’t ask for a portfolio asks for a presentation. Presentation ability is required when working the board of directors, client stakeholders and when conducting pitches with new business or internal advocacy. Look for the narrative, a really good ux presentation has a story that it’s telling ‘What is UX?’, ‘How can UX help my business?’, ‘Project name UX concepts’, ‘Project name user stories’ etc. Also look for substance over style, the presentation must be meaningful and hint at critical thinking and creative talent, really flashy presentations make me concerned when they lack any real information, interpretation of data or concepts that have a provable pathway from researched insights.

Finally get references

I mean get real references, as if your job depended upon it, because it and your future reputation do. User Experience is still a small field, when someone with little or no experience gets a Head of User Experience role the first question we all ask is what was the agency that did this? When I am really unsure of an applicant (due diligence is critical in client services) I use a private detective, just give them the CV and ask for verification.

 

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#Subsistence #UX #Resolution UX #Gain UX or #Advantage UX what results do you get?

Subsistence UX, Resolution UX, Gain UX or Advantage UX ?

What do clients require, what are clients getting and can they tell the difference in the level of UX or do they just not call again?

There is a major problem with user experience UX as it evolves, many projects are not underwriting their solutions with recent and client specific UX research but are relying on past patterns. In turn this has caused the creation of streams or levels of UX capability and delivery; Subsistence UX, Resolution UX, Gain UX or Advantage UX.

Pattern based UX has been added to major software by companies who build static interaction libraries for front end development tools, as if everything in user experience and interactive systems can be or should be limited to the same interactive behaviours as every other system!

When I commission a digital system for a client, I would want to know what has been used already and who else has the same thing.

Subsistence UX

Pattern based user experience, where the person (interaction designer, visual designer, UI developer) providing the service has not conducted UX requirements gathering and UX research. The result of this type of UX is survival but it does not support growth as it was not conceived by understanding targeted users. Many practitioners would not consider this UX at all, but it is what lots of clients are being sold as UX.

Resolution UX

Fixing basic problems with a user experience would at first glance appear easy, but in fact it’s more difficult than working on a green field project, because no matter how bad the experience is, people have become use to it. With existing users involved projects are not a fix problem, it’s becomes a fix and migration problem. UX people should be asking themselves ‘how do I in UX facilitate users moving from one experience to another?’ This requires a mixture of analytics and user workshops (group work) to rapidly find a common interactive language for the systems target audience.

Gain UX

Understanding the motivation, desires and needs of targeted users in defining UX requirements (changing the project/business requirements) enable gain type UX. This type of UX is front loaded (quick wins) on to projects to establish clarity of focus that enables the adoption and rapid integration of complex interactive systems.

Advantage UX

Advantage based UX, is like Gain in that the focus is the user, but at a strategic and architectural level. Almost everyone you ask at the strategic level will say ‘yes we focus on the user’ but they don’t think like the user, they think like someone selling or engaging with the user and are not objective.

Advantage based UX has the rights to questions the reason for projects, by asking ‘what benefit does the user get from this? does this reduce our trusted brand status? etc.’ Advantage is always set by being where there market is often before they know that where they are themselves. How? By modelling user logic, user behaviours, user interaction, external factors upon personas and target markets it’s really complex, that’s why so few people and companies do it.

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#Getting into #User #Experience Part 2

Doing user experience

The first step in user experience needs to be the recognition that every problem is different and will require a separate solution. Because if they are not, then every business is the same which they are clearly not.

In effect there is no quick fix or standard solution method but rather there is an armoury of methods each with associated risks, limitations and plus points. Anyone offering a standardise method for user experience without flexibility should be ask to leave as they about to cost you a fortune.

I have worked with very well known agencies who are unable to get their clients to understand the importance of user experience – research, testing and design as they focus on the design component without proper understanding that it is only one part of a three stage process. The reason that clients give for not paying for research and testing is the assumption that user experience people a such great experts that they can do their job in total isolation from the business and the end users. Maybe ‘Super User Experience Person’ does exist but I doubt it, more importantly users change.

Some process steps for user experience

This process list is based on personal experience and is open to reduction or extension based upon just how savvy the client is and how must they really want to be successful rather than just being seen to be doing something.

PART A
1. Understand the problem (better to appear to be stupid, than to actually be so) UX reserves the right to ask stupid question to avoid doing stupid things.
When trying to find out what the problem is try to get an associative answer, what else that they see is it like.
What other businesses and systems are they similar to them? What works for these other people?
What insights do the clients have to the problem and where do they want to end up?
What are their perceived expectations and what are the levels they see as Resolution, Gain or Advantage.
Don’t skew or try to influence the client in what’s wrong or imply the solution is simple (that’s just rude).

2. Do research find out what the problem means, don’t assume that your understanding is the correct one.
Language is fascinating in how it drives understanding, but understanding is also a derivative of culture and personal experience. If you grew up in the same family, house and town as your client you would have many cultural touch points in understanding ‘what things really mean’. But you may still be wrong as you can’t see through someone else’s eyes or fully understand their motivation without taliking to them.

3. Analyse of research with an open mind, again don’t fix the results to fit an easy answer. To analyse research in any area you need to define expected or hoped for results and outliers that reflect a diverse perspective. Combining and noting these variants enable a true view of the research that does not hide inconvenient perspectives.

I come across a lot of trite analysis with recommendations that reads as though the practitioner has not done any research at all.

For example the client wants to assure users that they are important to them. A trite recommendation is to;

  • Enable users to complete a feedback form

Well that just tells the user the company quite insecure and most people unless they have a problem won’t respond.

How about providing;

  • Confirmations
  • Expected timelines
  • Tracking

These are things that assure users that their issues are important to the company and therefore they are also.

4. Get validation
5. Compose concepts
6. Create buy-in

PART B
7. Define the audience (actors)
8. Create personas
8.1 Research
9. Define critical tasks
9.1 Research
10. Define key pathways
10.1 Main pathway
10.2 Alternative pathways
10.3 Failure pathways
10.4 Build sitemap (iterative process)
10.5 Select pages / interactions / responses that will be wireframed

PART C
11. Set the tone of voice
11.1 Type of language
11.2 Level of formality
11.3 Use of jargon, brand identity or subject specific words
11.4 Content style
11.4.1 Meta standards
11.4.2 Content object model
11.5 SEO if web based

12: Wireframes (iterative process)
12.1 Selection of type and method of production
12.1 Wireframe Concepts
12.1.1 User testing
12.2 Wireframe sketches – Client sign off
12.3 Wireframe prototypes
12.3.1 User testing – Client review
12.4 Wireframe and Visual design integration (template definition)

13. Functional specification and analytics specification – Pass to development

PART D
14. Usability Test plan
15. Accessibility Test plan
16. Functional and Content Test plan

17. Testing handover with participant screening document
18. Review testing results

PART E
19. Modify labels,  interactions and structure in line with findings

PART F to Z and A
20. Done, until …..
21. Check interactions based upon analytics and more user testing.
22. Offer enhancements to clients.

Related

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#User #Experience #UX #Process

Process thinking in User Experience (UX)

The first step in user experience needs to be the recognition that every problem is different and will require a separate solution. Because if they are not, then every business is the same which they are clearly not.

In effect there is no quick fix or single standard method but rather there is an armoury of methods each with associated risks, limitations and plus points. Anyone offering a standardise method without flexibility should be asked to leave as they about to cost you a fortune.

Karl Smith User Experience Research Testing 200711

Offering user experience services is a bit like dungeons and dragons in that you role your 12 sided dice and hope the business does not throw some trolls at you.

I have worked with very well known agencies who are unable to get their clients to understand the importance of user experience – research, testing and solutions as they focus on the solutions component without proper understanding that it is only one part of a three stage process. The reason that clients give for not paying for research and testing is the assumption that user experience people a such great experts that they can do their job in total isolation from the business and the end users.Maybe ‘Super User Experience Person’ does exist but I doubt it, most importantly users change over time, in what they want and mean by their actions.

Some process steps for user experience

This process list is based on personal experience and is open to reduction or extension based upon just how savvy the client is and how much they really want to be successful rather than just being seen to be doing something.

Understand the problem (concurrent with 2.)

  1. Do research
  2. Analyse research
  3. Get validation of what has been discovered by Target Users and Stakeholders

Define the audience (actors) this is the detail level the Target Users

  1. Create personas a tool used by the entire project team BA’s, PM’s and Developers to be acquainted with who will use the systemResearch persona types, activities, attitudes etc.
  2. Define critical tasks Research tasks ecosystem and review engagement strategy
  3. Define key pathways Main pathway
  4. Alternative pathways
  5. Failure pathways

Compose concepts

  1. Create buy-in with Stakeholders

Set the tone of voice

  1. Type of language
  2. Level of formality
  3. Use of jargon, brand identity or subject specific words
  4. Content style
  5. Meta standards
  6. Content object model
  7. SEO if web based

Wireframes

  1. Selection of type & method
  2. Wireframe Concepts
  3. User testing of Wireframe Concepts
  4. Wireframe sketches

Client sign off

Wireframe prototypes

  1. User testing of Wireframe prototypes

Client review

Wireframe & Visual design integration (prior to this point the use of high fidelity images are counter productive)

Functional specification & analytics specification

  1. Instruct development
  2. Usability Test plan
  3. Accessibility Test plan
  4. Functional & Content Test plan

Testing with participant screening document

  1. Review testing results
  2. Modify labels, interactions & structure in line with findings

Done, until …..

Check interactions based upon analytics and more user testing

Offer enhancements to clients

Some people will look at this list and think it takes years, depending on the project complexity it can take days or weeks for simple web or mobile applications and only months on complex software systems.

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#Getting #User #Experience #UX to work with #Clients

Setting the scene for user experience to work

I have over the last few months had several rants about people claiming to be involved in user experience who are not regardless of their job titles.

I came across a great blog post by Whitney Hess (I don’t want to steal her traffic so here is just a link) about what shows your not a user experience person, but I though maybe I should point to what does show your are one to get some balance here.

Training clients what to expect

Does your client know what they want, this sounds obvious, but user experience is unlike a purely functional activity (asking developers to make sign in work), most clients just want better, but don’t know how to quantify better. This is not the time to set KPI’s except in the broadest terms, but clients do need to know where they ARE in a quantifiable way, ‘things are bad now and we want better‘ is not a good starting point.

What things, set against what standards or targets based upon what business or research rules (who wrote them and why) are BAD and what level of better is better, just to get a transaction, getting a reuse or becoming friend for life type of BETTER?

If you don’t set your clients expectations in a realistic manner they will come up with unrealistic expectations that you will never be able to meet. But to do that you’ll need a starting point, mid point and end point, that uses your clients own language and the only way to establish these things is through research.

Does your client understand that user experience involves thinking as well as making things?

User experience is not a headless chicken activity, involving lots of running around, thousands of meetings about meetings, it requires complex thought and strategy. I like many other user experience people find going for a walk while thinking about the complex interactive and logic of use in the initial part of a project very useful, either that or people can watch my head explode.

User experience is not a production exercise;

  • User experience leads
  • User experience finds out
  • User experience tests
  • User experience communicates

so trying to cost plan it or manage it in the same way as development does not work very well.

Does your client understand that there is a set of formal methods that will make the user experience work?

For some reason everyone focuses on wireframes. Wireframes are of the least importance in user experience and are the culmination (after a lot of versions) of the user experience research. Wireframes are low quality pictures for the most part (or should be, prototypes are something else) and should be as sketchy as possible to allow stakeholders to focus on signing off the interactions rather than focusing on pixel level graphics and colour.

I have previously mentioned about the avoidance of research by clients on the bases that they cannot see its value in the final deliverable. This stems from clients being misinformed by business journals (I have read some great howlers by highly reputable journals) and sales people not understanding that the user experience research is the deliverable and that wireframes or functional specifications are the communication tool.

Related

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Supporting #Users with #HCD principals

Human Centered design (HCD)

Human centered design (HCD) is a project approach that puts the intended users (audience) of a product or piece of technology at the centre of its research, design and development. It does this by talking directly to the user at key points in the project to make sure the product or piece of technology will deliver upon their perceived requirements and align the client with their users or consumers.

Supporting general interactive behaviours

New systems must comply with but not limited to the following provisions;

Provide context and orientation information

Provide context and orientation information to help users understand;

  • Where they are
  • What it’s for
  • How to use

the complex pages or elements that they are viewing.

Provide location indication that consistent across all interfaces, which is not part of navigation. This is to help users know explicitly where they are and what data is shown so that they can be confident about their activities.

Grouping elements and providing contextual information about the relationships between elements can be useful for all users. Complex relationships between parts of a page may be difficult for people with any type of cognitive disability and people with visual disabilities to interpret.  Regardless of the working environment no two people think exactly the same way this divergence is based upon the various inputs and experience they have. Recognising variance and synergy in knowledge is a key finding from pilot studies that support the creation of personas and user scenarios.

Provide clear navigation mechanisms

Provide clear and consistent navigation mechanisms;

  • Orientation information
  • Navigation schema
    • Sub navigation
    • In app/widget controls
  • Site map
  • Help
    • Glossaries
  • Comparable experiences (to their other business or outside work experiences)

Interactive behaviours to increase the likelihood that a person will find what they are looking for and be able to interact with it.

Clear and consistent navigation mechanisms are important to people with cognitive disabilities or blindness, but fundamentally benefit all users and enable rapid adoption, reuse and buy-in.

Provide explicit interactive behaviours

Users require an absolute learning environment in order to quickly review and adopt new technologies.

The interactive behaviours of any system they use should make logical and emotional sense.

Interactive logic is driven by expectation, in that if a user clicks on text that is underlined they expect to go to another page related to that text (a hyperlink) therefore if text is blue and underlined but does not take the user to a new page, a user will doubt the technology and themselves as it creates insecurities. Other considerations related to interactive logic are about an expectation of delivery in that if a user clicks on a chart they expect to see the data behind it.

Interactive emotion was touched on in the previous point and is related to confusion, insecurities, doubt and conflicting emotions driven by unexpected interactions. Users when arriving at the wrong location in software expect the back button (if web service) to take them to the previous screen. In software they expect a link or return to last page. If the developer had locked pages or not considered a user wanting to go backwards or sideways in a planned pathway, the user will feel trapped, this is an interactive emotion. The users invested (time, knowledge) activity (purpose, task) has been trapped (voided, considered worthless) in a process and their perception is that they are unimportant.

The more users’ expectations prove right, the more users will feel in control of the system and the more they will like it. And the more the system breaks users’ expectations, the more they will feel insecure.

Ensure that text is clear and simple

Ensure that text is clear and simple so they may be more easily understood. Consistent title location, page layout, recognisable icons and easy to understand language benefit all users. However where users require subject specific language based upon their activities a glossary is advised to support the constant churn in user involvement.

Opening New Windows

Opening up new window is like a polluting a user screen it creates a loss of focus and no matter how great a mind a user has they will still lose their place when checking where they are in a process or task across multiple partially visible or hidden screens.

Designers open new windows on the theory that it keeps users focused on their system or it delineates separate activity. This creates a user hostile message and is self defeating since it breaks any trust in the delivery of technology that make users life better.

Non-Standard use of GUI Widgets

Consistency is one of the most powerful best practice principles. When things always behave the same, users don’t have to worry about what will happen. Instead, they know what will happen base upon their earlier experience.

The worst consistency violations in technology are found in the use of GUI widgets such as radio buttons and checkboxes. The appropriate behaviour of these design elements is defined in the Windows Vista User Experience standard, the Macintosh human interface standard, and the Java UI standard. Which of these standards to follow depends on the platform used by the majority of your users, but it hardly matters for the most basic widgets since all the standards have close-to-identical rules.

Slow Server Response Times

Slow response times are the worst offender against user expectations.

Users don’t care why response times are slow. All they know is that the technology doesn’t offer good service. Slow response times often translate directly into a reduced level of trust and they always cause a loss of use and adoption as users find a work around.

Use of colour

Ensure that text and graphics are understandable when viewed without colour. If colour alone is used to convey information, people who cannot differentiate between certain colours and users with devices that have non-colour or non-visual displays will not receive the information.

When foreground and background colours are too close to the same hue, they may not provide sufficient contrast when viewed using monochrome displays or by people with different types of colour deficits.

Ensure user control of time sensitive content changes

Ensure that content that changes does so in a manner that is obvious or had a secondary advisory so that users are made aware of that change.

Design for device independence

Use features that enable activation of page elements via a variety of input devices.

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#Retail #banks need their #customers

Retail banks would like to live in the

  • past
  • future

anything but the present

The 90/00’s marketing gimmicks of creating a relationship with your bank are long gone in people’s minds. The problem for the banks is they now for the first time mean it, but have lost a lot of credibility and the confidence of the public.

A breach of trust ‘Sub Prime’

There are several reasons why ‘Sub Prime’ was so important for the banks and I think they need to be stated to understand why the banks need their customers more than ever. Before ‘Sub Prime’ the banks had an attitude of expansion, ever increasing targets and scared executives doing anything they could to reach their targets. The problem we all know is there is a limited number of people, across a lot of banks.

Regulation was a serious problem limiting investment options, however Chancellor Gordon Brown removed regulations to support competitiveness in British banking he opened the door to new more risky opportunities. The stage now set and an opportunity arises ‘Sub Prime’ I often wonder if someone had said “that means less than best, I don’t think so” things might have been hugely different today. ‘Sub Prime’ in effect was an opportunity for a number of US institutions to offset their huge risk across the world. To British bankers a way to quickly meet the huge growth targets they were expected to reach. And yes, a lot of people made a lot of money but then again they already were so this is nothing new.

The problem with all this goes to confidence, it has been said that the Wall Street crash (1920’s) was caused by the New York Times questioning the strength of the economy because they could not fill their advertising quota. If you question an investment loud enough it scares people and scared people run for safety, in investments that’s low risk, low yield like Gold, Silver (except if everyone jumps in) and Government backed bonds. People follow a crowd, mentality if the see people running in a direction instinctively they follow, it’s completely normal. It was very embarrassing to hear people talk about “a house not being an investment anymore” but “just a place to live” again some people have made huge sums of money from property investment (good on them) but for most people a house is a home.

Retail banks need their customers

The background set retail banks now have to take on board basic marketing concepts of cross selling and up-selling into a market that trusts them less than ever before. I suppose I have the same question as other customers “what’s in it for me?” I get that the banks think they have a captive market, but they don’t. It would be a hassle to change banks, but if I get less un-targeted marketing materials it might be worth it. I understand the call to action and take advantage of the user experience lifecycle but it may take quite a few years for that to apply to customers. Maybe what banks need to focus on at this point is servicing existing customers with what they already have to a level of satisfaction before assuming they can cross sell and up-sell.

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