Designing for All Users by Starting at the Beginning
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.
In the spring of 2002, Christina Wodtke and David Bloxom had a three-buck-chuck infused afternoon and came up with Boxes and Arrows.
That kid is now 17 and, like a teenager heading off to college, Boxes and Arrows — and, more importantly, its staff of three — is going to take a little time to think about things to come. This means migrating our hosting, adopting a new look, and optimizing our content, along with solving any technical issues of the past.
We’ll be back in January 2020, ready for adulting and ready to make everyone proud.
Looking through my parents’ storage boxes, I found letters that my mother and father sent one another prior to my existence. This unfathomable world was decades away from mobile phones, public internet connectivity, and social networking. Along with explanations of humorous or ordinary everyday episodes and proclamations of love, the letters included doodles, crossed out words, and long postscriptums. I don’t know if my mother or father ever dabbed some perfume on their letters hoping to evoke butterflies in the other’s stomach; it would not have been out of place.
My parents may not have thought about it, but their craftsmanship likely had an impact on the recipient. Perhaps my dad’s use of smiley faces (predating by 45 years when the word “emoji” was selected as Oxford Dictionary’s Word of the Year) made my mom smile. Maybe crooked handwriting or spelling mistakes hinted that one of them was anxious or hurried. The intuitive idea that the recipient of a letter responds not just to the dictionary meaning of the words within but also to the tone, paper, calligraphy, neatness, and presentation would be wrapped up by the behavioral science concept that “context matters.” When my parents customized their letters they were in control of said context. They manipulated the context to amplify their love or neutralize a piece of sad news. Continue reading Don’t Send Personal Messages Through LinkedIn (Unless You Want People to Hate You)
How introverted designers and design leaders can operate successfully in a world where the extrovert ideal is desired.
In Susan Cain’s 2012 Ted Talk, “The Power of Introverts,” she said that we live in a world where the extrovert ideal is desired. As a leader in design, this certainly feels true for me.
When people paint a picture of what a leader looks like, it often looks like this: A leader commands the center of attention. A leader is outgoing, talkative, and dominant. A leader is able to deliver charismatic speeches, rallying large audiences at a drop of a hat. A leader is the ultimate salesman; people hang onto their every word, waiting for their next one with bated breath.
A leader is, in essence, an extrovert. I’m not saying this is a BAD way to lead. I’m saying this is not the ONLY way to lead, and certainly not all the time.
Which begs the question: If we can accept that the world desires extroverts, how can we as introverted designers and design leaders operate successfully within it?
For years, I’ve grappled with my introversion and my desire to lead and thought the solution was an obvious one: Be more extroverted. Yet, every time I tried, it always felt unnatural; I was forcing myself to be someone I was not.
Little did I realize that all this time, the little workarounds, my ways of working I’ve used to achieve the desired outcome my way, were techniques that harnessed my introverted gifts. I was using my introverted ways as a superpower. Continue reading Design Leadership for Introverts
In the world of user research, no idea is a bad idea.
If you have an idea for a great piece of research, act on it. In fact, your first epiphany is the seed from which all great things will grow. Your idea will eventually shape your hypothesis—your very best idea. This is your proposed explanation based on your current and limited evidence, paving the way from your starting point.
The investigation to follow is where your user research comes in.
For far too long, concepts such as Agile and Minimum Viable Product have been used by companies as a way of accelerating their strategy through design and development process. The problem with such concepts is that they allow a team to collect the maximum amount of validated customer research with the least amount of effort. Simply put, customer insight isn’t established until much later in the research piece, if it all. But, if you’re like me, you’ll fall into the camp that believe that at the heart of each and every methodology is learning. Learning should always involve your users. Continue reading The Lessons Learned Running User Research Interviews