Archive — User experience
UX Scotland 2018 write up
My colleagues and I have gathered together our thoughts on our highlights of the UX Scotland conference.
I am also in the process of writing up some further thoughts on most of the other sessions, which I will publish to the University Website Programme blog soon.
But in the meantime, find out about my top three sessions, and the things I intend to put into practice as a result of attending the conference.
How context is bridging the gap between UX and service design
Interesting on the similarities and differences between user experience and service design.
Service Designers generally approach digital as one of a number of interconnected touch points. They will usually figure out how all these touch-points work together as a cohesive ecosystem, before handing the design of the specific touch points over to experts.
UX Designers usually approach the problem from the other direction. They start with the core digital experience before exploring the connective tissue that joins their touch-points together. Service Designers tend to have a broader but shallower focus, while UX designers go narrower but deeper.
The problem of zero and one
Excellent piece by Wojtek Kutyla on why UX needs to get out of its comfort zone, and an excessive focus on technology — and the temptation to make binary declarations.
We are all reasonable creatures and we know how to seek rationale when we’re dealing with daily tasks. If we’re hungry, we’ll ask ourselves: “What do I want to eat? Eggs? Avocado? Or a burger?”. If we’re planning to buy a new car, we’ll consider it carefully, basing our ultimate choice on how functional the vehicle is and whether we can afford it.
Yet, when faced with a design problem in a professional setting we’d often go for a solution that does nothing else but fulfils a set of requirements based on assumed values communicated by stakeholders. All too seldom we’re doubting their choices and ask “what’s the rationale — where did this come from?”. Perhaps we should start doing that?
Note — 2018-06-13
After the hiccup
Most customer relationships don’t stumble because something went wrong. Your best customers know that mistakes happen.
It’s what happens next that can cripple the relationship.
I would be tempted to agree with Seth Godin here. But it actually reminded me of the recent incident with Ghostery.
Ghostery is a browser plugin that is supposed to protect your privacy online. But on Friday, when attempting to email its users about GDPR, they accidentally leaked the email addresses of hundreds of their users by CCing them into the email — the most basic and facepalm-worthy data breach of all.
I once briefly used Ghostery. But I uninstalled it after I found it kept on crashing my browser.
My response in this case was to find it deeply ironic that Ghostery should fail at the one thing they were meant to do. It’s true “you had one job” stuff, this. So I deleted my Ghostery account entirely.
Perhaps if my prior experience with Ghostery had been more positive, I would have been more lenient.
Your employees’ user experience should be a strategic priority
Enterprise software is notoriously bad — and that’s bad for business.
A poor user interface sends a message to employees that their time and commitment have little value, and that — just as my engineer colleague believed — the problem is their own fault. Then leaders wonder why their people don’t innovate or embrace change…
There’s a lot of good stuff here, so I had some trouble picking just one thing to highlight. Read on to see why actually watching people try to use your design is vital.
User research myth busting
Bringing focus to our findings: continued user research for the API Service
This is the final blog post in my short series about the user research I led on for the API Service at the University of Edinburgh.
This post covers the second half of the research, where we brought focus to the detailed picture developed in the first phase, and began to prioritise the issues to help the API Service team direct their ongoing work.
Design flaws in electronic health records can harm patients, study finds
We know that poor usability can lead to disastrous consequences. Think to the recent case of the accidental missile alert in Hawaii.
This is a more rigorous, academic investigation into the negative consequences of poor usability in electronic health records. The study even suggests that bad usability may have caused deaths.
Some 557 (0.03 percent) reports had “language explicitly suggesting EHR usability contributed to possible patient harm,” and among those, 80 caused temporary harm, seven may have caused permanent harm and two may have been fatal.
The information architecture of libraries part 1: Dewey Decimal Classification
This article is a bit of a sales pitch, but I enjoyed this research into how intuitive the Dewey Decimal Classification is.
Crying over spilt milk: An empathy map example
I have recently been involved in a project with the University of Edinburgh UX Service to conduct user research for the API Service.
In one of the workshops we ran, we wanted participants to work with empathy maps to give us an insight into their experiences.
This post on the University Website Programme blog outlines how I introduced workshop participants to the concept of empathy maps, with an example around my own experience of buying milk.
Buying milk is a simple task that most of us carry out on a regular basis. But this example showed how using an empathy map can reveal a surprising amount of detail about the behaviours and feelings someone goes through when completing a task.
When user-centred design of public services is a risk
An exploration of the risks surrounding undertaking user-centred design. For me, the lesson is to put the same sort of effort into designing your research and your interactions with your users as you would into the product your research is for.
User experience research for the University of Edinburgh’s API Service
I have been leading some user research for a project at the University of Edinburgh to develop API Service. This post on the University Website Programme blog outlines the steps we went through in the first phase of the research. This included interviewing developers, running workshops, and developing personas and journey maps.
This has been a successful and rewarding project. It has been particularly interesting for me to do some UX work that wasn’t necessarily to do with a website. There will be a couple more blog posts about it to come.
Twitter gets message order wrong
Philip Hunt on how bad Twitter’s user interface has become.
When Twitter started out, it was such a simple concept. Just straightforward status updates; no real interaction. (When I joined Twitter, @ replies didn’t even exist yet.)
Over time it has added more and more features — replies, retweets, quote retweets, threads. Seemingly it has not been thought through properly.
If you spend a lot of time on Twitter, you catch onto these user interface quirks pretty quickly. But new users must find it so intimidating. So it is little wonder Twitter struggles to attract and retain new users.
The secret cost of research
A belter of an article on why it is difficult to persuade people to undertake user research:
Research is simply asking questions about how the world works. And asking questions about how the world works threatens established authority.
I especially love the section “Bad research is good theatre”:
Focus groups look like how people imagine research looks. In a special room, controlled. But just because you have a 2-way mirror doesn’t make it anything more than a tea party. Actual ethnographic research happens where the people you’re studying do the thing you want to learn about. It’s often unsatisfyingly messy and low tech.
Fake research makes people money, and it makes people in charge feel good, but it’s useless and potentially dangerous to a design project.
So how do you get decision-makers to see the light? Understand them as people, like a good UXer should!
Facebook, please just hire one normal person
Unsexy fundamentals focus: User experiences that print money
An extraordinary example of someone trying to give a publisher a lot of money — and the publisher making that experience as difficult as possible.
I’ve said before that I don’t have much sympathy for most publishers who are struggling. This is one example of exactly why many of their struggles are largely their own fault.
It beggars belief that a publisher should make it so hard to buy their product online. Many of them have a long hill to climb.
A powerful explanation of how beliefs are formed, and what little resemblance they have to reality.
Your beliefs form the fundamental model that you use to navigate the world, to think about things, to decide what to do and what to avoid, like a map. We form a lot of these beliefs by middle childhood.
And since you’re the one who built the map, it’s natural to believe that it corresponds to the territory that you are navigating. After all, most of the time, your map gets you where you want to go. So much so that when the map doesn’t get you where you want to go, the first thing you question is not the map but reality.
The 9 rules of design research
One of the hardest things about design or user research is convincing people that it actually needs to take place. That is especially maddening when working for an research organisation.
(Researchers themselves are sometimes the most reluctant to undertake user research before spending serious amounts of money on ineffective websites.)
So this snippet, among a series of useful rules of thumb, made me cheer. 🙌
If you’ve ever worked with a leader who was resistant to doing qualitative research as part of a million dollar project, ask yourself whether they would skip doing their own research before buying a $50,000 car.
Satisfying fundamental human needs
Make me think!
A provocative piece on “the problem with “user centered” design”.
Whenever we are about to substitute a laborious activity such as learning a language, cooking a meal, or tending to plants with a — deceptively — simple solution, we might always ask ourselves: Should the technology grow — or the person using it?
A good companion to the idea that “computers are setting us up for disaster”.
As designers have gradually become more senior (or perhaps more experienced), their role in organisations has evolved. But it’s not necessarily a good thing.
Products will always be made through compromise. But in a world where Designers are focused on balancing business needs against user needs, while other stakeholders are focused exclusively on business needs, these compromises will almost always favor the business.
What is design ethnography?
A useful overview of how you can apply principles from ethnography when designing. You are unlikely to be able to use a fully ethnographic approach. But that doesn’t mean you can’t incorporate elements of it.
Our view is that, if we liken traditional ethnography to a prize heavyweight boxer, then design ethnography is more akin to a street fighter. It doesn’t follow all of the rules but it gets the job done.
The power of ‘so that?’
A lot of UX and business process related work is about uncovering the true motivations behind a behaviour, not just accepting what people say at face value.
I like this idea of ‘so that?’. It is a bit like the five whys, another technique to help you get to the root cause.
Level up your user interviews: lessons from the master, Louis Theroux
How following Louis Theroux’s techniques can improve your interviews as a UX researcher.
An entertaining post with some good advice as well.
Five user research rules of thumb
Then and now: The Bauhaus and 21st century design
Don Norman assesses the Bauhaus movement, and its relevance to design today. He notes that despite its widespread cultural influence, it failed to produce a single object that significantly improved people’s lives.
Consider the “Curriculum Wheel”… developed by Walter Gropius in 1922… It contains three years of study, starting with form and materials, moving to advanced topics in materials, composition, and construction. Never a mention of people. Never a mention of usage. It was all about form.
Elements of this remind me of contemporary debates around flat design and other superficial user interface decisions. This form or that form isn’t right or wrong, unless you know you are meeting people’s needs.
Net promoter score considered harmful (and what UX professionals can do about it)
You have probably been asked in a customer satisfaction survey how likely you would be to recommend a company to a friend or colleague. This is used to measure the net promoter score, and it has become very popular.
Here, Jared Spool has comprehensively outlined why net promoter score is not as valuable as businesses hope.
As usual, the problem is that net promoter score is a tool that has been sold as a silver bullet — “This number is the one number you need to grow. It’s that simple and that profound.” And businesses looking for a silver bullet have lapped it up.
But of course, reality is much more complex than that. Net promoter score, when applied consistently by a business, probably does have some value. But it should be used as just one tool of many that you should be using to ensure you are meeting your customers’ needs.
Hooked and booked
Following on from an article I linked to a few weeks ago about the dark patterns used by Booking.com to pressurise its users into making decisions, Jeremy Keith follows up with this reflection on why A/B testing used badly makes things worse.
A/B testing is a great way of finding out what happens when you introduce a change. But it can’t tell you why.
Part of this is also about a narrow focus on the wrong metrics. If a business decides it simply wants to increase the percentage of people hitting a partiuclar call to action on a webpage, this is the path they will end up on.
If, however, they can find a more sophisticated way to measure long-term customer satisfaction, surely users will feel less stressed, and the business will improve more in the long run.
Don’t “validate” designs; test them
Brutalism and antidesign
Nielsen Norman Group look into brutalist web design.
I have written about this before: Can web design really learn from brutalist architecture?
How Netflix started the UX revolution
The Netflix v Blockbuster case study is familiar to most by now. Even so, this article contains some interesting insights.
Troubleshooting group ideation: 10 fixes for more and better UX ideas
Useful tips for dealing with strange dynamics in ideation workshops, including when a senior voice is inhibiting the rest of the group.
How booking.com uses stress to rush your decisions
I was vaguely aware of the dark patterns used by Booking.com, but I didn’t realise quite how pervasive it is across the website.
Making the case for ‘boring’ UX design
When something works fluently and fluidly, users do not tend to notice ‘boring’. They do, however, see annoying and intrusive.
I have argued previously that web design should be boring. I am an undesigner as much as a designer.
Trends that exclude
Don’t let your brain deceive you: Avoiding bias in your UX feedback
Tips on avoiding four big biases in user research.
Getting titles wrong: what you can learn from our mistake
Getting the title of your content right is vital. When you get it right, users can find it and use it. When you get it wrong, it can really cause problems.
Talking with users in a usability test
A brief rant on the future of interaction design
Translating UX goals into analytics measurement plans
Integrating agile and UX design
Air travel – Simple solutions lay in assistive technology
Molly Watt, who is deafblind, compares her experiences travelling with different airlines.
Dashboards: Making charts and graphs easier to understand
Publishers find Google AMP loads too fast for ad views
For an insight into just how much of a mess publishers find themselves in, look no further than this article.
In effect, the user experience is almost too good, with content loading so fast that people scroll past the ads before they’ve been able to load, resulting in ads that aren’t deemed viewable…
“There are a variety of issues around AMP with ads, and the fact that AMP [editorial content] loads ‘too fast’ is definitely among them,” said a publishing exec.
For too many years, publishers have been actively making the user experience bad. When your business model is to make things harder for your customers, it’s time to radically rethink.
Designing better organisations: Why internal user experience matters to delivering better services
Internal-facing systems are often pushed to the back of the queue in an organisation’s priorities. But good internal systems are normally essential to improving your external-facing experiences.