Archive — User experience

The secret cost of research

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!

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Unsexy fundamentals focus: User experiences that print money

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.

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Liminal thinking

Liminal thinking

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.

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The 9 rules of design research

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.

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Make me think!

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”.

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Subverted design

Subverted design

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.

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What is design ethnography?

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.

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Then and now: The Bauhaus and 21st century design

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.

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Net promoter score considered harmful (and what UX professionals can do about it)

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.

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Hooked and booked

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.

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Publishers find Google AMP loads too fast for ad views

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.

Quality counts.

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