Category Archives: Articles

What is User Experience Strategy, Anyway?

What is User Experience Strategy, Anyway?

If you’ve ever struggled with articulating the output of the UX Strategy phase of a project or initiative, you’re not alone.  Almost all UX’ers can agree that defining a User Experience strategy before architecting or designing an experience is critical, but what does “strategy” really mean? What are its components, benefits, and deliverables?

Check out my article “What is User Experience Strategy, Anyway?” on my company’s (The Archer Group) blog and download the full white paper (PDF) for all of my thoughts on this topic.

In this article you’ll learn more about what specific deliverables you can work on to help answer the strategic questions of “Where are you now?”, “Where do you want to be?”, “How will you get there?”, and “How will you measure success?”. I also describe how to explain User Experience Strategy to your clients or business partners, and the value that creating a UX strategy brings to your organization.

UX principles in action: Feedback systems and Ford SYNC

UX principles in action: Feedback systems and Ford SYNC

The importance of providing system feedback

Providing the user feedback during an action is one of the most basic user experience principles that must be considered when designing systems.  Feedback can come in a variety of forms: a confirmation message upon completion of an action, an error message if something goes wrong, a progress indicator while the system is performing an action, or other visual techniques that indicate a system’s state.  Providing feedback in a design helps to minimize errors and gives users confidence while performing tasks or actions.

Read More

Top 6 Help Design Patterns for iPhone Apps

Top 6 Help Design Patterns for iPhone Apps

User Experience Designers usually aim to make application interfaces intuitive and easy to use without relying on help or a manual to guide the user through how to use the app.  However, there are times when an interface is most effective and efficient to use once some initial behaviors are learned.  In these cases, designing an application to be completely intuitive upon first-time use can be impractical or detrimental to repetitive use.  There are also times where a quick introduction on how to use an app simply makes the user feel more comfortable interacting with it for the first time, and is not a reflection of a poorly designed interface.

iPhone applications that introduce new, innovative interaction models or that allow the user to access a wide range of information or complete several tasks often use first-time use help screens to help users learn how an app works.  This help can come in a wide variety of styles: demos, tutorials, single screen overlays, walkthroughs, tips, or short screen summaries.  These first-time help screens are often supplemented by a centralized help or FAQ area within the app.  Below is a look at how different apps have leveraged these help patterns to introduce functionality to their users upon first use.

Read More

Fortune.com compares my ideas to Facebook Groups

Fortune.com compares my ideas to Facebook Groups

Back in May 2010, JP Mangalindan, a reporter from Fortune.com’s online magazine contacted me and asked me for my opinions on how to better redesign Facebook’s privacy settings.  Along with several other UX Designers, I proposed a solution that a) made privacy controls a more integrated part of the user experience, and b) helped users manage their friends better in order to better control who sees what.  You can read more about my ideas in these two blog posts:

Recently, the reporter contacted me again to get my thoughts on the new Facebook Groups feature from a User Experience perspective.  The concept behind Groups extends some of the ideas that I had originally proposed in Fortune’s article, with some important differences.

Check out the new article, “Facebook Groups: You saw it here first” for my thoughts on how Groups still has a ways to go to best meet user privacy needs. Thank you JP and Fortune.com for such a great article!

15 Tips to Help Designers Gain Stakeholder Buy-In

15 Tips to Help Designers Gain Stakeholder Buy-In

Internal buy-in often has to come from multiple groups within an organization: designers, developers, project managers, product managers, business managers, marketing, and executives. Getting everyone to agree on a design direction can be difficult as conflicting opinions and goals often get in the way of reaching consensus.  Without gaining buy-in, however, even a great design can be doomed to failure.

There are several techniques that you can employ as a member of the Design team to reduce the amount of resistance involved in getting buy-in.

Read More

Quality Assurance as Applied to User Experience Design

Quality Assurance as Applied to User Experience Design

Quality Assurance (QA) is a critical part of any web or application development project.  QA helps to verify that a project has met the project’s requirements and technical specifications without bugs or other defects.  The aim is to identify issues prior to product launch.  Most QA initiatives focus on following predefined test cases, which meticulously outline required functionality by stating an input and expected response.  In order for QA to be successful, requirements must be clearly articulated and changes must be communicated effectively.

As User Experience professionals, we often rely on our QA teams to help verify that a design works as intended during development.  However, it should not be assumed that traditional QA can validate that your product is facilitating the desired user experience.  QA is very effective at identifying technical implementation issues (e.g. system errors, incorrect calculations, etc.) and often issues with front-end design implementation (e.g. CSS misalignment, cross browser differences, etc.). However, most QA processes do not focus on the quality of the user experience in regards to usability, affordances, findability, content clarity, or appropriate placements of items within the experience.  Nor should they.  The quality of the User Experience needs to be evaluated separately from technical quality assurance.

Read More