Taking Research out of the Lab

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To date, usability testing has been largely confined to usability labs. This ensures a controlled environment where users can interact with products or designs and researchers can field questions. The downside of this is not being able to get the context of use of what you are testing. But a recent project for a life science organization cemented the idea that taking user research out of the usability lab yields the best results.

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Focus on Usage Maturity: Part II

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Meet Users Where They Are, Draw Them Deeper In

If we want users to remain our users, we ought to entice them deeper into our design ecosystem.

Attempts to extend or expand users’ usage, frequently results in designs complicated by added features, and functions. My user experience research has informed digital and physical designs often with an emphasis on correcting the usability of such complexities. Users interact with the things we design at varying levels of usage maturity. Usage maturity is a measure of users’ comfort and familiarity with, and degree of use of a product, process, or place. 

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Information Architecture Expert Panel – Part One

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The Structure of Complexity

Wikimedia Commons

With the 2020 events for World IA Day (est. 2012) and the IA Conference (est. as IA Summit in 2000) approaching, the team here at Boxes and Arrows is taking this opportunity to highlight the importance of Information Architecture (IA). We reached out to some pillars of the IA community to ask them for their thoughts on, where information architecture is today, and where it’s going. Their response was so enthusiastic that we will be breaking this into multiple posts.

My thanks to the generosity of Abby Covert, Peter Morville, Jorge Arango, Donna Spencer, Madonnalisa Chan, Dan Klyn, Andy Fitzgerald, Grace Lau, Dan Brown, Andrew Hinton, Lou Rosenfeld, and Boxes and Arrows patron saint, Christina Wodtke. The time and insights they provided to bring this post together are very appreciated.

“IA is all around us and is mostly practiced by people who don’t even know they are doing it.”

– Abby Covert

If you’re unfamiliar with IA, Abby Covert, information architect, teacher, and author of How to Make Sense of Any Mess: Information Architecture for Everybody, has a straightforward description of it:

“Information architecture is the way we arrange the parts of something to make sense as a whole, whether that be arranging screens in a mobile application or arranging various pieces of signage at a baseball stadium. IA involves the careful consideration of the language you use and the structures you enable for users to understand something. So IA is all around us and is mostly practiced by people who don’t even know they are doing it.”

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An Out of the Box Rebranding

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Just before the 2020 new year, we decided it was a good time to refresh the Boxes and Arrows brand identity, a time to start a fresh decade with a fresh logo. And, after a few weeks at the drawing board, we’re liking the results. 

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To us, the new, dynamic, and pleasingly symmetrical icon—a box made of arrows—represents the emerging dimensions of information spaces, greater interconnected continuity between people, and an ever-expanding collection of knowledge which we hope to bring to our readers. 

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Focus on Usage Maturity: Part I

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Designing for All Users by Starting at the Beginning

Photo by Amélie Mourichon on Unsplash

Far too often, products are designed to meet the needs of the typical user. As a user experience researcher, I’m always cautious about defining the “typical user” for any of the digital or physical products I work on. My UX research has included work on business processes, websites, services, software platforms, digital games, physical products,  and physical properties.

I prefer to use a usage maturity matrix and design to meet the range of functional priorities of our users.

  • Usage maturity is a measure of users’ comfort and familiarity with and degree of use of a product.
  • A usage maturity matrix defines the functional priorities at each level of usage maturity.
  • The matrix lists beginning, proficient, and advanced level functional priorities and can expand to include novice and expert levels to account for greater complexity.
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