Making Personas More Powerful: Details to Drive Strategic and Tactical Design

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“Alan Cooper popularized personas as a valuable design tool, but many people who adopted them failed to take into account the context of Cooper’s practice, which had fairly specific needs.”

How can something that feels so right be so wrong? Personas ought to be one of the defining techniques in user-focused design. Lots of professionals create them, yet too often the personas end up being too vague to guide a product’s focus. They often lack the detail to be useful in guiding low-level design trade-offs. And, as typically done, personas have been too narrowly focused. They often aren’t helpful in identifying the information a user needs or creates. Nor do they have much to say about the sensory and emotional aspects of user experience–the sorts of factors that cause consumers to lust after products like Apple’s iPod.

As a result, personas have unfortunately become more of a check-off item than a useful tool, and many personas get put on the shelf once they are written. So how did we get here? Continue reading Making Personas More Powerful: Details to Drive Strategic and Tactical Design

Expanding the Approaches to User Experience

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“I’m looking beyond the web to a model that handles a broader context, including software, interactive CD-ROMs (for those who remember them from the early 1990s), video games, and other interactive products. But even within the web alone, ignoring the “experiential” elements of user experience seems to be a serious omission.”Jesse James Garrett’s “The Elements of User Experience” diagram (17kb PDF) has become rightly famous as a clear and simple model for the sorts of things that user experience professionals do. But as a model of user experience it presents an incomplete picture with some serious omissions—omissions I’ll try address with a more holistic model. Continue reading Expanding the Approaches to User Experience

The New R&D: Relevant & Desirable

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“I’ve heard people argue we don’t know anything about designing for users except that which we learn through usability testing.” Somewhere in the process of evangelizing user-centered design, user experience professionals seem to have forgotten the value of vision-driven design.

User-centered design has been a useful antidote to prevailing software and web development attitudes, which are reminiscent of early 20th century production-driven marketing approaches. As Henry Ford put it, you could buy a Model T in any color as long as it was black. Likewise, the dot-bomb implosion showed the risks of basing the success of your business on a wild (and often bad) idea.

But it’s an equally big mistake to focus our attention solely on users (which is one reason I’ve never particularly liked the term “user-centered design”). At worst, I’ve heard people argue we don’t know anything about designing for users except that which we learn through usability testing. Continue reading The New R&D: Relevant & Desirable

Building the Beast: Talking with Peter Morville

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Back in 1998 Peter Morville and co-author Louis Rosenfeld wrote what many considered to be the book on the subject “Information Architecture for the World Wide Web,” which helped make information architect into a new job title. Morville and Rosenfeld also helped spearhead the field during the seven years they headed Argus Associates, one of the leading IA consultancies. As the “Polar Bear” book, as it’s affectionately known, goes into its second edition, Boxes and Arrows asked Morville about the making of the new release and his thoughts about how the field has changed since the book was first published. Continue reading Building the Beast: Talking with Peter Morville

Lessons to be Learned

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Ivy-covered halls are filling up again with eager students of the user experience fields ready to change the world (or at least to study out the recession). But are these programs really teaching them what they need to know?

There are serious problems with the way user experience-related programs are being taught. Don’t get me wrong, I’m not against academic degrees. My father was a professor and I’ve been an instructor myself. But that experience makes me worry that current academic programs aren’t well-suited to serving the needs of their students, nor our professions. Let me count the ways… Continue reading Lessons to be Learned