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User Experience Debt: Why, What, and How? (Part 2)

shutterstock_307219181_350Part 1 of this post shared some ways that I’ve seen user experience debt burgeon from projects. This includes all manner of usability flaws and poor experiences. Here, Part 2 offers a strategic framework for addressing those problems. It’s divided into the following 3 sections as “Why”, “What” and “How.”

  1. Purpose. Why do we want to improve our designs?
  2. Assessment. What needs to be done to improve them?
  3. Design Principles. How will we do it?


1. Purpose 

Strategy must begin with genuine purpose. As the business philosopher Jim Rohn said, your success in life will be measured by your impact on other people. What is the purpose of your design? How will improving your user experience help the world in some small way? Read the rest of this post »

The Year in Review | Top 10 Spark Posts of 2015

Top 10 Spark Posts of 2015

 

Without any further ado, let’s count down the top 10 posts from 2015:

 

Ten | Why You Should Really Put Down Your Cell Phone at Lunch (Really)

Cell phones are inserting themselves into our lives, perhaps in places that they just don’t belong.

 

Nine | Part 2 – What to do about “the too familiar persona?”

Tips on how to stretch personas by using them into later stages of the design process.

 

Eight | A bright future in digital: Perficient acquires Enlighten

This year, we acquired digital marketing agency, Enlighten which will further accelerate our capacity to help companies with digital transformation.

 

Seven | The dangers of listening to customers too closely

Always listen to customers, but don’t expect them to perfectly express what they want.

 

Six | Gamification: UX strategy increases results and retention

What is gamification? What is the science behind it? How can use integrate it into your UX strategy?

 

Five | 5 ways learning to code can improve your life

Five benefits that you can receive by learning to code.

 

Four | A left hook from your client doesn’t have to derail your meeting

When you are under attack, the first step is to listen.

 

Three | 6 Tips for Staying Fit at Your Desk Job

With busy schedules, it can be hard to keep up with your fitness. Here are six quick tips to help you stay active.

 

Two | Take the Plunge. Get Up to Speed with Front-End Build Tools

How to get started using front-end build tools.

 

One | The too familiar persona

What do you do when traditional personas become too familiar due to overuse?

 

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Hear that? A big boom from the Internet of Things

Internet of Things ImageExpect spending on the “Internet of Things” to soar over the next three years, with the majority of that spending to occur in Asia and the Pacific.

That is the forecast from market researcher International Data Corp., which has announced the findings of its most recent Internet of Things Spending Guide. By 2019, IDC says, IoT outlay will approach $1.3 trillion, up about 17 percent from $699 billion in 2015.

Asia/Pacific will grab the largest volume of that growth because of the region’s need to keep pace with IT development in North America and Europe, IDC says. For the same reason, Latin America and Eastern Europe are also likely to make large leaps forward – larger than even the United States.

At present, manufacturing and transportation are where IoT has made its primary industry gains, such as with connected vehicles – a broad category that includes emergency, security, and vehicle-to-vehicle and vehicle-to-infrastructure applications. But IDC’s forecast predicts a major shift toward consumer services, particularly in areas related to insurance, healthcare, and “smart” buildings that measure and monitor usage patterns.

The Internet of Things refers to the network of physical objects with embedded electronics, software, sensors, and network connectivity so that the objects can collect and exchange data. IDC’s semiannual guide examines how IoT spending occurs across more than 40 use cases including automated public transit, remote health monitoring, digital signage, connected vehicles, smart appliances, and air traffic monitoring, among others.

A bright future in digital: Perficient acquires Enlighten

Last week, we announced that Perficient has acquired Enlighten, a digital marketing agency with great expertise and experience delivering digital strategy, user experience, marketing technology, digital media, and marketing analytics solutions. Adding Enlighten to Perficient further accelerates our capacity to help the world’s leading enterprises digitally transform, and we’re thrilled to add another team that couples excellent creative capabilities with a deep understanding of the enabling technologies.

digital2

Forrester recently reported that many companies are seeking a partner to help them with digital marketing and other digital solutions because 57% report that they lack agility — a crucial test to delivering digital experiences to customers before the competition does — and 61% cite lack of resources.

Companies need a partner with breadth – experience in customer experience strategy, creative design, user experience, custom development, mobile applications, and custom integrations.

We’ve been doing a lot of this for many years. We are proud and excited to announce our news about Enlighten, which broadens our team and experience in these areas.

“Perficient’s digital transformation expertise and experience are well-known and highly-regarded. We’re thrilled to join a firm with a reputation for excellence and a distinguished track record of delivering outstanding digital experience, business optimization and industry solutions to the world’s leading enterprises.” – Enlighten’s Chief Executive Officer Steve Glauberman

Digital strategy services: a $97 billion opportunity by 2019

IDC logoDigital strategy services firms can expect both their business and the demand for their skills to grow rapidly through the rest of this decade, according to IDC Research.

The global market research and analysis company released its findings from a study that predicts digital-related consulting will be central to 80 percent of all business and information technology consulting and consequently drive a market for digital strategy services approaching $97 billion by 2019.

The study, titled Worldwide and U.S. Digital Strategy Services Forecast, says such discussions currently constitute only about 50 percent of similar engagements. But as more companies demand measurable business value outcomes from a combination of social, mobile, analytics, security, and cloud technologies, their need for comprehensive digital strategy services will increase.

These services are crucial to establishing the leadership, vision, goals, talent requirements, and data and technology priorities in successful digital enterprise and digital transformation initiatives. Read the rest of this post »

User Experience Debt: Why, What and How? (Part 1)

shutterstock_289434728_350As a user experience designer, I used to think that the worst designed websites were the best candidates for improvement. Symptoms of user experience debt may sound familiar to you – confusing navigation, excess clicks, accessibility violations, and painful load times. I applied to jobs thinking the larger the UX debt, the greater the opportunity. Perversely, however, the opposite is true.

Why? Because a good site already has the resources – money, labor, and knowledge capital – to improve. A bad site doesn’t.

We may be seduced to believe otherwise when so many elements of web design are free. Responsive frameworks like Bootstrap? Free. jQuery libraries? Free. Stock photography? Free. So it should cost little to transform a bad website into a fully responsive, whizzy experience.

Unfortunately UX debt can’t always be paid with free templates, or extra people or refactored code. This is because UX debt represents more than a lack of resources. It represents the existence of exacerbating conditions. Some examples:

Lack of executive support. Rightly or wrongly, organization leaders may prioritize other activities (e.g., developing new functions) over user experience. You can’t improve UX simply by hiring more designers. The decision-makers in your organization are still there!

Hero mentality. Some designers want recognition as creative geniuses, and tackle every project with visual brainstorming. However, standard UX processes today – including research, usability testing, analytics and multivariate testing – are all about user data and iteration. Brainstorming is an activity, not a strategy. Your designers may be actively generating UX debt by focusing on artistry instead of usability.

Overdesign. Often a design doesn’t lack resources. On the contrary, it may suffer from excess people and ideas. A common scenario is a new feature that could potentially work like X or Y. Stakeholders disagree, then compromise by making X and Y a user setting. The final settings menu has 67 items that’s impossible to navigate. Bigger is not always better. Good design has boundaries. You can actually incur UX debt through addition, not subtraction. Read the rest of this post »

Platform ambassador: The new title in media management

Platform ambassador graphic

Take a guess: How many virtual communities exist online, right now?

The answer is complex. If you count only those sites with 100 million members or more, the list is about a dozen names long. If you count those considered “major” and “active” at the same time, the list has about 400 members.

But if you try counting every community, right down to the tiny sites serving only a few devotees or the sites with barely any attention paid to them, expect to spend days, maybe even weeks just counting.

Now, apparently, major media companies are assigning someone to do exactly that. The latest trend in media administration incorporates a role called “platform ambassador,” or something similar. Simply put, these ambassadors determine which new or existing social platforms are worth bringing aboard as partners.

Their choices are crucial: Media outlets realize (or most do, anyway) that they need to go where potential audiences are, instead of expecting audiences to come find them – an expectation the oldest outlets embraced for 80 years. For example, Facebook and Twitter together garner 1.8 billion users among their active accounts, and of those users more than half get their news directly through the two platforms instead of through traditional media outlets. Read the rest of this post »

The dangers of listening to customers too closely

Part 1 of 2

How do you excite the imagination of your team to devise new ways of solving design problems, to create new ideas and better user experiences? Where do you start? Design firms, and those invested in design thinking and innovation, start by asking customers what they want. I’ll be the first to admit that I relish talking to customers, getting inside their heads to the point where I can “see” their needs and aspirations (i.e., empathy). But user research can be problematic if it’s not handled right. When firms expect customers to know what they want, and have accurate insight into how to solve their own problems, they are in for a surprise because customers are often unable to express what they want if they are even good at identifying it. Without a doubt, customers know what rubs them the wrong way and what brings them delight. However, customers are mostly clueless about how to come up with solutions to fix their issues. In some cases, lead users (e.g., die-hard, I’m never leaving this brand, customers) are able to express what they want due to their extensive and intimate experience with a brand, but that’s not typical.

Rev-up your firm's imagination, ask customers about outcomes.

Rev-up your firm’s imagination, ask customers about outcomes.

How do we resolve this challenge? If you want to release, say a blockbuster app, “Stop asking customers what they want. Start asking what they want your products to do for them,” advises Anthony W. Ulwick, CEO of Strategyn, a consulting firm based in San Francisco, and frequent contributor to Harvard Business Review. As a researcher, it’s tempting to give serious consideration to the solutions that customers suggest, but it’s imperative to distinguish between outcomes and solutions. Why? Read the rest of this post »

Your Digital Afterlife

our_digital_afterlife_featured_imageFor centuries, humans have been obsessed with solving the problem that is mortality, even dreaming up mythical creatures like vampires and zombies that are based on the idea of living forever. The once elusive immortality is very much a reality in today’s world except in a digital form. What are you leaving behind from your Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, or any other type of online account when you are gone? We now have a digital afterlife that very few people think about, but as unfortunate as the topic is, we have to determine what we want to do with it.

What happens to your online accounts after you die? What are your options? You cannot delete accounts when you have already passed away, so what can you do then? The social media giant, Facebook, has come up with a solution for it’s over 100 million active users. It now offers the option of memorializing an account. In order to memorialize someone’s account, the profile must be reported directly to Facebook. This setting then makes it impossible for any one else to log into that deceased person’s account. In addition, Facebook allows beneficiaries to be appointed through your account settings. Google has also made strides in creating Inactive Account Manager where users can set a trustee who will have the ability to obtain your data or content if the account hasn’t been active in awhile.

Read the rest of this post »

Part 2 – What to do about “the too familiar persona?”

Read part 1: The too familiar persona

The all too familiar persona

I imagine we’ve all used Cooper’s personas to routinely “engage the empathy of the design and development toward the human target of the design.” Nothing wrong in using goal directed personas, however one user profile model isn’t the best fit for every brand or its users’ motivations and unmet needs. So if we are going to hinge a design’s behavior on a handful of personas they better be the ‘right’ ones. As Dr. Lene Nielsen suggests we need to create a vivid and realistic description of fictitious people and treat personas as more than stereotypes. This is the greatest challenge I’ve encountered – to keep personas relevant, fleshed out, authentic, and alive to team members; another challenge, to not see them as an exercise that must be completed to move on with design.

By no coincidence I stumbled upon an article by Laura Klein that shares a similar sentiment. “We can do better. Frankly, most teams can improve their process for creating personas in a lot of ways, but there’s one problem that’s inherent in even decently researched and constructed personas: even the best personas tend to be descriptive, but not predictive.” Klein makes a good point. To recap in my words, I’ve conducted user interviews and constructed some form of a persona, could be proto-personas or goal directed personas, sometimes user profiles. In one case I created a narrative of a user who makes a perfect stand-in for a group of users. I did this for a transportation client and had a blast talking with the young and hip “bus queen.” I’m not making this up; it’s what her NYC friends call her. These are reliable research models, but I wanted to go further so I researched other methods to extend persona’s shelf life and include them in the entire design process. Read the rest of this post »