I had a personal experience ( in my reading class we would call this a text-to-self connection) recently with user testing. I was invited to be a part of a research and development team for an educational software company we use at our school. They are in the process of developing a more interactive reading program (web-browser and app version). I was given a privacy statement to sign and fax in before I could log in and attend the meeting (which is why I am not mentioning the name of the software). I believe we used Web-Ex to conduct the test and it was of course, recorded. Now that I have read through the material for this course, I realize that I was participating in an interactive prototype. I was asked to log into the software as “Matthew”, a third grader. Then, I was given specific tasks to complete while the host(s) asked me questions as I continued through the process. I was able to offer them feedback such as, detecting language a third grader would not understand or respond well to.
During a follow-up interview I expressed concern that the app was becoming its own “animal”. It was surpassing the browser version of the software and had so many unique features that the students using tablets (that supported the use of the app) had a remarkable advantage over the students using the computers. In this case, it proposed a huge problem, since educators rely on the software’s assessment database for lesson planning and reading intervention planning. My point being, I now understand why the “Story/Test/Story” method works!
One of the articles this week addressed the concept of accessibility in UX design, and for designers the importance of this subject can not be discounted. According to the U.S. Census Bureau (2010), approximately 18.7% of civilian noninstitutionalized U.S. citizens have a disability, and with more than $200 billion in discretionary spending power, they are significant force in the US marketplace. Consequently, accessibility is becoming an increasingly prominent issue for those involved in technical communication and UX design. If anyone is interested in delving deeper into the subject of accessibility, may I suggest Lisa Meloncon’s book titled Rhetorical Accessibility: At the Intersection of Technical Communication and Disability Studies. While many of the early chapters explore accessibility through theoretical concepts, much of the book addresses accessibility from a practical perspective offering concrete examples of the types of users UX designers may need to consider and urges them to consider not only permanent but temporal disabilities in trying to create functional design. Of particular importance for UX designers are the final chapters of the book which focus on web standards, accessibility and legal and financial imperatives which drive the design landscape. However, as the authors of these chapters note, perspectives are not globalized, rather designers must recognize that how disability is defined and understood differs throughout the developed and developing world.
In exploring the legal and policy drivers for accessible web content, not only is the need for document accessibility addressed, but also the standards against which compliance is measured. Further in considering the accessibility of public services, the cost of providing alternatives, and the broader benefits of accessibility included in design, the author is able to focus on the implications, not only for end-users but for the organizations for whom the content is developed. As the authors note accessibility compliance not only affects the public sector, but the private as well and has far reaching consequences in terms of employment, consumer spending and job growth. However it is not only the legal and regulatory drivers, but the ethical question of why we should do it is framed and discussed within the fairness guideline, and it is this guideline which opens up a space for the designers to reflect upon the multiple stakeholders who are affected in accessibility design. While not comprehensive in nature, the final chapter provides information in regards to guidelines and tools which can be used to ensure that are met and the needs of all are considered.
Just wanted to share this article I read about Google’s Android Wear operating system for smart watches. Some of the things they are adding to improve the user experience with the watch screens and make interacting with them a less involving process sounded really interesting. For instance, using the GPS to automatically pull up the features you’ll likely want to use in a certain location (like a shopping list in a grocery store), and then closing it for you once you’ve left the area. Some of the phrasing used by the director of Android Wear, like wanting it to be “glanceable, actionable, and effortless” and have “more information in a single glance,” really reminded me of this class; especially with what we’ve been learning about in regard to setting project goals. It’d be interesting to see what kind of UX research they did to test how exactly to implement those goals. I’m definitely curious as to how well it actually works.
I often find myself explaining what “technical writing” is, but in laymen’s terms. Appropriate considering the intent of technical writing. I have lately found myself explaining to folks what UX design is… and I use these terms:
1) You know when you find a website or a software/program/app you hate? You leave and never come back? Now, you know those websites/software/programs/apps you love and you can’t live without? The difference? They planned it FOR YOU. THAT is UX design.
2) Apple, iPhones, iPads, Steve Jobs… etc. That is when UX design really works. iTunes? I avoid the updates because they never seem to flow – they only mess me up. That is when UX perhaps does NOT work.
The readings this week helped me refine these loose definitions… they helped me frame not just the “what” UX is, but “why” we need it and “how” we do this. I’m interested in your thoughts on my examples for the masses… do you all think I’m missing anything in my captured sight?
I attended a webinar recently (prior to starting this class), in which I learned about some UX/usability tools. All of them are available to use for free with the option to upgrade for more advanced features/functions. I would like to eventually try at least one of them. Does anyone have experience using these, and if so, what did you think of them?
I came across an association this week and I think it would benefit everybody here. It’s called the Triangle UXPA. I know not everybody lives in the triangle area, but those of us who do might want to join or at least look at some of the events they have going on. The association is very similar to the STC (Society of Technical Communication) with job postings, blogs, events and even mentoring. It’s much cheaper to join that the STC and would be and excellent networking opportunity. Signing up was easy for me and it’s only $14.95 for a year since we are students. With your membership, you get access to all the events.
The big thing seems to be events. They have at least one a month and they also have a book club! Coincidentally, their book for the months of June and July will be our textbook, “The User Experience Team of One” by Leah Buley. They are starting an event today called, “How to do Excellent Work Every Single Day.” You can still sign up and it starts at 6:30. UX designer Wren Lanier will be there for a talk. There are more opportunities in June too. I’ve joined and it’s totally worth it in my opinion. I’ll create the links below:
Triangle UXPA Homepage: http://triuxpa.org/
If you end up going tonight, let me know! I’d love to know your thoughts.
Grades will always be posted to Blackboard. Check for them there.
The Growing Field of User Experience
The reason I always assign Leah Buley’s book in this class is that it touches on so many of the different parts of this weird field called user experience. To quote one of you:
User experience refers to the what, when, why, where, and how someone uses a product, as well as who that person is. It is everything that affects a user’s experience with a product.
A lot of folks ask me: why don’t you just say “usability.” And I respond with this infographic (also available on the cover letters page):
As this infographic depicts, usability is now just one small, but important, part of the UX field, a field which encompasses a broad array of skills, proficiencies, attitudes, and considerations, more than any one person can wield. UX professionals work in close collaboration with developers (meaning people who deal mostly with code), writers, graphic designers, marketers, and business managers. Often, they have one or more of these skill sets themselves.
The UX Toolkit
At the center, however, is the user and their needs:
- User advocacy: One of the most important roles of UX professionals is that of the user advocate. The best way to encapsulate this role is that users are also clients or customers. They are people who come to a web or mobile application for something. Sometimes what they come for is free, sometimes it costs money. If they can’t find what they’re looking for, however, they’ll go somewhere else, and the organization behind the application will lose revenue, resources, and engagement.
- Usability testing: We’ll do a whole module on this, but essentially usability testing is one of the main methods for detecting how efficient, memorable, and learnable an application is. That’s all it can really tell you, however. It can’t tell you qualitative things like how users feel about the application or what they like best about it.
- User research: A broader methodology usually grounded in contextual inquiry, user research involves more qualitative interactions with users, such as interviewing them, conducting focus groups with them, and even observing them in their home or office.
- User stories: The goal of user research is always to get stories, which are as valuable as results of usability tests, if not more. Stories tell you about the person behind the user. They tell you about the context they are coming from and what their goals are.
- Validity: In order for an application to be successful, it needs to validate the needs of its users, meaning cater to them.
- Reliability: As a rule, applications have many different types of users, meaning that UX professionals also have to make sure that the application is catering to the needs of a diverse array of individuals.
- Ensuring products are user driven: All of this is a recursive process. Products that don’t keep these goals in mind all the time lose money. I, and anyone deeply trained in UX, encounter applications every day that are unusable or not built for every user type. The cost of bad UX is also increasing as the economy becomes increasingly digital, and now based on smart devices like smartphones and even homes that provide tailored experiences. This means that products of the future will have be increasingly user-driven to satisfy more and more discerning customers who have more and more products to choose from.