Are you in the UX industry? Here are six reasons why it is worth to be grateful

Are you in the UX industry? Here are six reasons why it is worth to be grateful

 

It is a great time to work in the User Experience Industry. More Executives understand what UX is and why it adds value to their organisations. A recent report by Forrester revealed that 93% of executives thought that enhancing the customer experience was ranked as a high strategic priority. So, I get frustrated when I encounter people apathetic about the UX Industry. Have they  forgotten how lucky they are? If you are a UX practitioner and you’ve lost passion for your work, I would suggest to read the following six reasons that describe the joy of working in the UX industry:

1. The opportunity to improve people’s lives

I have a chance to  improve people’s lives whenever I design a product or a service. In the back of your mind, you are probably thinking: ‘hey, that is not true. I deal with clients who don’t understand anything about my job  and at the end, my design work changes for the worse to accommodate their wishes’. Stop overthinking it  and stop playing the victim! If a client doesn’t listen to you, I would advise you to focus on using self-reflection as a tool to identify changes you might need to make. For instance, after your self-reflection exercise, you may consider  improving your communication skills by taking training courses.

2. Working for a vibrant community

UX has a vibrant community of passionate professionals. There are numerous UX conferences and events that are held every year around the world. So, there are lots of opportunities for you to meet like-minded people who are as passionate about UX as you are.  I had been fortunate to attend various UX events in the past. I hope to go to many more events next year. More than 64 UX events are going to be held in the coming year worldwide.

3. Dealing with different people everyday

UX is a job that allows you to interact with different people from various  backgrounds, such as stakeholders, developers and copywriters. However, at times, it can be very challenging to work with colleagues from other disciplines. If you ever come across any difficulties during meetings, I would advise you to sit back and listen to their ideas and suggestions; you may learn a thing or two from them even if they are not experts in the subject matter.  

4. Observing people in the wild

I love observing people in the wild. It always fascinates me when I observe people interact with technology during usability testing and contextual enquiries, especially when they react differently from my expectations. It is very interesting to observe and learn more about what people do and how they think.  

5. The UX field is still evolving

You can contribute to the field immensely. It’s a new field and we are continuously learning and improving our knowledge. At the moment, we can use various UX tools and techniques to address problems but as new issues arise, we may need to develop new tools and strategies that would help us tackle them. 

I find the Service Design and software development fields very interesting. For instance, there’s a lot you can take from the software development field, especially when it comes to Agile and Lean principles. Agile and Lean principles are great toolkits that can help you continuously enhance your products and tailor them to your customers’ needs. I would advise you to research and learn from other disciplines. Your awareness of up-to-date best practices will only make you a better practitioner.

6. UX Designers are in high demand

There are lots of UX jobs out there because various companies started to appreciate the business value of UX. You now have the opportunity to find  UX jobs  worldwide. So, if you don’t like your current job, you can secure another position and leave.

I only found six reasons why it is worth to be grateful to work  in the UX industry. What are your reasons?

 

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Where to place buttons in a form?

Where to place buttons in a form?

This week, I’m finalizing the design of a responsive application form for tablets and desktops. It’s a long form composed of different pages, with input fields organized in 1 to 3 columns.  On the wireframe, I placed the buttons “Next” and “Back” in the centre of the page. The”Next” button, which is labelled in Italian “Continua”, is also the submit button. The “Back” button is displayed on the left-hand side and the “Next” button is placed on the right-hand side, as shown in the following image (Fig.1).

The buttons in the application form
Fig.1 – The buttons in the application form
Our Front-end Developer challenged the solution and proposed to display the “Next” button first (as shown in Fig.2). He also aligned the ‘Next button’ to the left-hand side with the fields on the application form and the “Back” button to the right-hand side. His suggestion concurred with Luke Wroblewski‘s study on forms.

Screen Shot 2015-11-16 at 09.59.49
Fig 2: The Developer proposed solution
In an ideal world, the decision on where to place the buttons should have been driven by user research but as it often happens we don’t have sufficient time to conduct the user research properly. So, we end up searching for best practices that apply to the matter in hand.

Best practices

Numerous people, including Luke Wroblewski, and Caroline Jarrett,  wrote about this subject matter. Having read few articles about this topic, I discovered that the action of the button is as important as the position. Information on best practices differ for the following action buttons:

  • “Next” and “Back” buttons
  • “Submit” and “Cancel” buttons
  • “Cancel” and “OK” buttons in a dialogue modal window

For instance, one of the rules accommodates left to right reading direction and states that a “Previous” button should always be aligned to the left of a “Next” button“. Another rule recommends that the “best place for a primary button is to align it to the left-hand side of text boxes“. The two rules differ. So, what do you do in this case? My suggestion would be to place the buttons either in the centre of the page, on the right or left-hand side as long as you do not separate the primary and secondary buttons, as shown below, in  Caroline Jarrett’s slide (Fig.3).

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Fig.3 -Best place for buttons to be
Fig.3 – Best place for buttons to be
What are buttons for?

Buttons are there for a reason; you want people to click on them to confirm actions. Therefore, it is essential to place the buttons where people can see them. The action of the buttons should also be clear and easy to understand.

It always depends

The lesson we learn here is that it always depends. We cannot just look at a bunch of links and apply rules blindly. It always depends on the context and the situation. Luke Wroblewski’s studies are great examples of this subject matter. He found his niche in the UX world and recommends best practices for the masses like Normal Nielsen. However, the best UX practitioners are the ones that can distinguish when to use the best practices and when to discard them.

If you use best practices, please keep in mind on the points below:

  • Consider if the best practice apply to your context and situation
  • Test your design solution with users
  • Follow your instincts
  • If it looks good, you are on the right track

Let’s conclude with a pearl of wisdom from Gyan Nagpal:

“best practices are useful reference points, but they must come with a warning label: The more you rely on external intelligence, the less you will value an internal idea. And this is the age of the idea”

Infinite Scrolling for Responsive Site

Infinite Scrolling for Responsive Site

I’m working on a responsive intranet where I have suggested using infinite scrolling without hesitation. However, I now realize that I may not have put enough thoughts into it. So I’m embarking into the task of discovering infinite scrolling, when to use it and when not, and how to use it gracefully.

Infinite scrolling is a way of presenting long list of contents by refreshing data every time the user scroll to the bottom of the page rather than using pagination. It has become popular thanks to the raise of social media sites such as Facebook and Twitter. It’s sort of trending features but has its own downfalls and needs to be used mindfully. I have read few blogs about it and I want to summarize here what I’ve learned.

When to use it

  • When the contents in the list have the same level of importance, same granularity, and are short snippets like Twitter.
  • For touch devices, such as smart phone and tablets. Swiping upwards to scroll down is a well-established convention in the touch environment, and requires less precision than tapping on links or buttons.
  • For Higher engagement. Users are potentially more likely to explore content if it’s easier for them to do so, regardless of the device they’re on. If you’ve ever lost track of time perusing a stream of Twitter or Facebook updates, you’ll know what I mean by this.

When not to use it

  • Not recommended for goal oriented finding task such as e-commerce websites, as it may be more difficult to find specific content.
  • Infinite Scrolling requires Javascript, therefore needs to be avoided on devices with limited scripting capabilities such as Consoles, Gaming handhelds.
  • Infinite scrolling make the task of getting to the footer hard, therefore avoid when the footer is an important part of the site.
  • With infinitely long pages, people may feel paralyzed by the sheer volume of content or the number of choices and not click anything. People may view but not act. Infinite scrolling may support browsing behavior, but it can cause inaction and lower conversions, which is the opposite of what most website makers want.

How to use it

To archive a strong infinite scrolling experience the following issues should be considered:

  • Give users immediate access to exclusive data
    When implementing infinite scrolling, identify what data is exclusive to your website and elevate it to the top of the page, and filter less relevant information.
  • Make the users feeling in control.
    Infinite scrolling sabotages that feeling of control. Add a smart progress indicator, a fixed menu or a map.
  • Users often look for landmarks when scrolling
    When scrolling through long lists, users expect to be able to easily distinguish between new and viewed data. Add landmarks along the interface to keep users oriented. Like Facebook:
  • Consider conventional pagination or a hybrid solution
    Good old pagination is always an alternative to infinite scrolling. And if that doesn’t fit the context, then a hybrid solution, using a “load more” button, could greatly enhance the interface.
  • Provide interesting content without an ambiguous interface
    Having to traverse a never-ending list is logical only if the user leaves feeling that it was worthwhile.
  • Users often expect a footer.
    If footer-type information is functional to the interface, then it should appear at the bottom of the page. A fixed footer is usually the way to go with infinite scrolling.
  • An infinite list is still a list
    Infinite scrolling still needs to meet common interface standards. Whether users take their eyes off the screen for a moment or click a link and then click “Back,” they expect to return to the exact point where they left off. Whatever your interface, make sure it meets users’ expectations.
  • Effects are nice to have but not a must
    Many infinitely scrolling interfaces have various effects to show more data (whether by sliding in new content or another method). Be mindful not to focus more on effects than on presenting data in the most effective way possible.
  • Knowing the amount of data
    They should know what the total amount of data is and be able to easily navigate the list. Infinite scrolling has to be implemented in the best possible way so that users can always find their way.
User Experience at the FT Digital Conference 2012

User Experience at the FT Digital Conference 2012

Last week,I had the opportunity to attend the FT Digital 2012 conference. My talented friend Gioia was one of the event organizers. Here are my notes from the event.

Main themes

1. How to profit from the rise of social data?

Social data (data collected by smartphone, social networks and blogs) are used to create better experience and refine solutions rather than generating new ideas.

Chad Hurley of Delicious describes the use of social data as refinement tools, not as a tool that can drive innovation. Google agrees with the idea that user experience is a key tool rather than the data; this reminds us of their motto: ‘focus on the user and the rest will follow’.

Personalization, relevance and transparency are key concepts for social data. Collect relevant and transparent data that help personalize services.

Several questions arose during this conference. How do you make sense of the data? Do companies who acquire more data win? No, companies need help in understanding their data instead of obtaining a large amount of data. For instance, Adobe is hiring several web analysts that use users feedback to improve Adobe’s products.

2. How to deliver value in a multiplatform world?

How to make content available in multiplatform and multi-device? What are the strategies companies are using at the moment?

Most companies mentioned the importance of focusing on user experience rather than on the platform. Disney said that users’s behaviours are important; their behaviours need to be observed and services need to change to accommodate users’ needs.

The trend for mobile platform is growing. Sky said that 60% of its market is now on mobilealthough the use of tablets is growing too.

Few companies mentioned to be platform agnostic such as Disney and BBC. BBC prefers to invest in HTML5; they initially develop for browsers and then change it slightly according to devices.

Companies are aware of the differences among devices, for instance how mobile is more suitable for personal interaction on the go, and how tablets are used for social interactions and family shopping (Ebay). BBC said ‘ we develop an experience relevant to the platform but converge is key’.

Developing for a specific platform is too expensive. What if a new platform or device comes into the market? For instance, Kindle Fire is a booming platform in USA (http://www.geekwire.com/2012/usa-today-app-installs-show-kindle-fires-rapid-r…

It’s also about strategy.  An interesting example is NY Time and Boston Globe, who use different strategies although they are part of a parent company . NYTime develops apps for each product, whereas Boston Globe uses HTML 5 to fulfill the needs of different products.

3. How to make money?

Another problem for the companies is the fragmentation of the market.

Wikipedia introduced the important for giving free and good content to attract consumers, but howis this strategy feasible for other companies?

An emerging way to charge users is micropayment, the app store model –a good example of model that follows the needs of users and allows users to buy items when they want at affordableprices. It’s interesting to note that the introduction of Spotify has increased the number of songs legally sold online rather than support piracy.

4. What about other Medias?

Music

One of the main concerns of the music industry is piracy. The proposed way to solve this issue is by following consumers’ habits; they can provide affordable and accessible music and create the content in ways that appeal to users. They can support the user to pay by impulse (the app model of micropayment) and provide a multiplicity of payment options. Technology has been driving innovation in the last 12 months. Mobile is also an important emerging trend for the music industry.

E-readers

Reading behaviors are changing. People are now using readers and tablets more frequently instead of physical books. Tablets are appropriate for casual readers; e-readers are suitable forbookworms. For example, on the KOBO platform, there are people that read more than 30 books a month. However, although e-readers are popular they are not replacing physical books. People that own e-readers are still buying paperbased books.

TV

People are watching TV online – this provides a big quantity of data for companies in the TV industry so that they can provide a personalized service. Most companies of the TV industry are now investing on digital channels.  At the FT’s Digital Media Conference, Channel 4 reveled a new hybrid TV channel which will be shaped by online social media – 4Seven.

How can you search for TV programs? It might be interesting to have TV search engine tools that allow viewers to find suitable TV programs online.

Social media creates a deeper engagement to TV programs, but the number of people that use social media is still a fraction of the people that watch TV shows.

5. Voices from successful companies

Various companies such as Walt Disney and Dreamworks who attended this conference sharedtheir success stories. Walt Disney described that user experience is a key tool; they want to be where the consumer is and deliver high quality contents. DreamWorks mentioned how to keep a culture of innovation alive. Their secrets are to provide security and a culture that allow failure. They hire a good mix of right and left-brains from artists to scientists. They usually hire graduates and want their animators to have acting skills.

David Jones from Havas delivered an interesting speech. David works for a consulting company. He wrote books such as ‘Who cares win’. He believes that social media will make businesses more responsible because people’s ‘actions are visible to anyone within social media. According to his book, the rules of social media are transparency, authenticity, and speed. Regarding the consulting world; he mentioned the need to be patient with clients who cannot invest in big projects due to the recession.

 6. More thoughts

In general, I heard the world ‘cannibalisation’ frequently during the conference. Does this mean that companies are scared?

User experience was also mentioned many times – the importance of understanding users and learning their behaviours, are key competitive advantages and a way for companies to survive in this competitive market.

Companies are actually aware of current changes in the market due to technology, although they need help in understanding how to make the most of this phenomenon.

Do UX designers need to take improv classes?

Do UX designers need to take improv classes?

How to communicate complex UX experience? – This was my question to Dave Gray at the UPA event. Dave suggested to focus on the design problem rather than tools, experiment with new tools, and improvise the experience. For instance, to improvise a travel experience, a team of designers can act out scenarios: one person playing the user, another the armchair of an aircraft, and others playing important objects and people required in the scenario. Each object-person can reflect on how to improve the experience for the user; for instance the armchair-designer can ask:“ If I were the armchair, how can I improve the journey of this person? Should I be softer, more spacious?” This is similar to Experience Prototyping developed at IDEO. Another possibility is to video the act – like how a group of people started out thinking about how to make Starbucks’ cup more sustainable and videoed the scenario. It evolved from a simple online video posting to a community of users discussing about it which then caught Starbucks’ notice. Now Starbucks is making it one of their goals to develop a recyclable cup solution .

 

Clearly, the tools we use at the moment are not enough; we need better tools to communicate complex user experience. However, the main limitation of using these tools is the company culture. Companies that are used to traditional tools, such as wireframes and sitemaps, are not open to new ways of representing experience. UX designers need to evangelize and use new tools to communicate experience to tackle the design problem, in order to communicate effectively with technologist agnostics. Liz Dinzico, in her talk at UX London argued that designers need to integrate improvisation in UX design processes. Does this mean that UX designers need to take improv classes? It could help. If you are thinking about taking improvisation classes try the Spontaneity shop, It was great fun and a good opportunity to meet new people. You can read more about the benefits of impro classes at Adaptive path’s blog.