Archive for the ‘UX’ Category

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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Outta sight! The next Google Glass looks nothing like glasses

Photo courtesy of Flickr Creative Commons

Photo courtesy of Flickr Creative Commons

Remember Google Glass? That head-mounted computer resembling a pair of glassless eyeglasses?

You are forgiven if you have forgotten. Google’s first attempt at ubiquitous computing sure had cachet when it went to market in the spring of 2014 and was dubbed the natural next step in digital-first design. That cachet disappeared less than a year later, and Glass did soon after, as Google insisted those first publicly available headsets were just prototypes.

Exactly when the next Glass prototype will become available is not known, but several tech journals that had been skimming through the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office’s public records found that Google was granted a patent this week for single-lens eye wear described as an electronic device affixed with a form-fitting “band” that clings to one side of the wearer’s scalp.

The display portion is suspended in front of the wearer’s left eye and, according to the patent’s illustrations, looks more like a prism than a conventional lens.

Google Glass dropped out of the consumer market in January amid promises it would be reincarnated soon, though only for enterprise use. The project upgrade turned up at Google under the name Aura in September two months after a Google job posting called for manufacturing engineers in its Glass division.

Italian eyewear maker Luxottica is also involved, company CEO Massimo Vian told the Wall Street Journal in April.

“What you saw was Version 1,” Vian said. “We’re now working on Version 2, which is now in preparation,” he said.

The 5th P of marketing – people

5th P of Marketing

Part 2 of 2

We are rapidly moving into the holiday shopping season and retailers are in for a rubber meets the road experience. The tried and true sales gimmicks they’ve relied on in season’s past may not work so well this November and December. Consumers have become accustomed to receiving free shipping, price matching and other price-related perks. And while some of those tactics work in the short term, as author Denise Lee Yohn has found, “Competing on price produces less of an advantage now.” Competing on price, product, placement and promotion is the classic marketing template for how organizations compete (i.e., the 4Ps of Marketing). It still has value today, but it’s no longer solely relevant to attracting and retaining consumers. I believe there is an additional “P” of marketing products and services that matters more in the marketplace of today, and that is people (aka, customers, consumers). So how will retailers compete to gain consumers’ wallets this season?

I am putting my money on those retailers who will compete on delivering a superior customer experience, and who invest in delighting their customer.

I agree with Yohn when she says, “They [meaning retailers] know that people make shopping decisions not only on product, price, offers, convenience, or even service, but rather…the way they make people feel.” Successful retailing is about getting into the hearts and minds of customers and prospective customers. 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 »

You’re smart if you can ‘dummy’ it down.

Dummy it down 1It may seem odd that I would discuss an article from academia (A new movement strives for simplicity), but hear me out. Most of us are moderately or highly literate on our respective areas of expertise. But guess what? Our colleagues and clients may not be at the same level of know-how. I could make the case that as the holder of an MBA, with a concentration in IT, that I should easily understand my colleagues’ technical lingo. Sad to say, I’m often nodding my head, “Yeah, I get that,” when my brain is saying, “Huh?”

So let’s have a come clean moment. At times and in certain contexts, we are all illiterate in some situations. At a recent UxPA conference, I heard this phenomenon referred to as “situational illiteracy.”  For instance, reading my healthcare provider’s full policies on what’s covered and what’s not typically sends me to the phone to hash it out with someone who understands what the jargon means. This is unfortunate and frustrating. It simply doesn’t have to be this way and the fix isn’t complicated: just use plain language. I know that it can be challenging to drop the jargon, and to distill complex ideas down to simple sentences. But we can do it! 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 »

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 »

The too familiar persona

Too familiar persona

Design personas are user research models employed in various fields of design. Software design teams have been embracing personas in their work since roughly 1999, following Alan Cooper’s published work on goal-directed personas in his “Asylum” and “About Face” texts. They’ve become a user research staple, and the must-do-method for most of the products and services we design. We love personas and so do our clients; these handy models are visual and enticing, and useful at kick starting conversations between clients and design teams. And, unlike other forms of design research I find we encounter minimal to no resistance including them as a research deliverable. With all that is positive about personas my growing impression is that – dare I say – traditional personas are now a bit overfamiliar through overuse, and this familiarity has certainly clouded my perspective.

This familiarity is problematic.

Clients have trailed behind in understanding personas and how best to use them. At times the meaning and intent of design personas are lost in translation as other parts of organizations use them to represent such things as market segments. You may have encountered this at one time, “We’ve created personas. Let me check if marketing can send them over.” As a result development teams miss out on much needed behavioral insights. Along with this Dr. David Travis recently noted in his blog that by bringing personas to life we inadvertently turned them into parodies,” enlarged and printed on posters then cemented into a brand’s identity. Also, project constraints such as time and budget limit going beyond “good enough for now” to employ personas in a more meaningful way. Perhaps my experiences with personas are singular, but I must say I have had few opportunities to refresh a brand’s personas once the research phase was completed and signed off. Read the rest of this post »

The Benefits of a Sound Taxomony

shutterstock_144197983_350Grace Lau, lead business consultant, Perficient XD, recently wrote an article for Boxes and Arrows on building the case for taxonomy. In the piece, she explores concerns surrounding ill-defined site redesign projects and the ROI of taxonomy. She also breaks down taxonomy  and compares it to her personal task of organizing spices in her kitchen to make sense for all users in her family.

The benefits of a sound taxomony?

“…in the long run will improve your content’s findability, support social sharing, and improve your site’s search engine optimization.”

“Helping the business understand the underlying concepts is one of the challenges I’ve faced with developing a solid taxonomy. We’re not just talking about tagging but breaking down the content by its attributes and metadata as well as by its potential usage and relation to other content. The biggest challenge is building the consensus and understanding around that taxonomy—taxonomy governance—and keeping the system you’ve designed well-seasoned!”

To read Grace’s full post on the Boxes and Arrows site, click here.