I enjoy, use and recommend Rosenfeld Media for learning the skills used in the usability and user interface/experience design profession. Here is a unique opportunity to listen to usability thought leaders without the need to pack, board the pets and sit in cramped planes.
UX Futures is a one day event is held on November 5 and features a day of keynotes from some of the hottest thinkers and doers in the biz. I had to re-read the fee five times. It’s incredibly affordable for the caliber of information they will be providing that day.
Once in a while, it’s good to put down your wireframes and stylesheets, step back, and consider what’s next.
What might design work—and the designed world—look like in 10, 20 or 50 years? What role will we have in shaping that world? And when we look back at the impact of UX, will it be with pride or regret?
We’ve asked six brilliant thought leaders—each from very different corners of the UX world—to consider the future. Steve Krug, Jesse James Garrett, Nathan Shedroff, Abby Covert,Andy Polaine, and Margot Bloomstein will take you back and forth in time. They’ll inspire you to design for the future, and to design the future itself.
The term usability has suffered from an image problem that grows worse as time goes on while the demand for the work increases.
For us, there was no way to know in advance what the actual flavor of the neighborhood would be like, or what our relationship to it might be.
Try selling a methodology that has no strict standards conformance, is practiced a million different ways to Sunday, and has no concrete end product other than hope. When a CEO demands to know what possible good a usability audit will provide, the answer is not a sure thing because for starters, the action items have to be completed first.
And there as many of them as there are stars in the sky. Fortunately, there are strategies in place like Agile and Lean, or good old heuristics and cognitive walkthroughs with a dash of user testing. The scope of a usability project always starts with a plan and ends with more plans. Why?
Because a product, website or software application is never finished. It isn’t even about the fast pace of technology and the need to keep up with it to stay ahead of competitors. This is, however, as far as many companies bother to look. The CEO with investors dreams of being ahead of the pack but for most of them, once they come up with a new idea, 10 other top brands have already developed and marketed it. Never forget the dot.com crash.
Every innovation results in changes and consequences that were not expected. Facebook, in its inception, never planned on how it would make a mark in human society because there was no way of knowing how the Facebook experiment would work. It could not be tested before launch. Amazon burst into its own planet by making online purchasing easy for everyone. To do this, they reinvent themselves constantly. I can’t think of any other online business that works so hard to be the place that customers WANT to go first when looking for great deals. They nailed desire. Their website is busy as hell but who cares? They know what we want to buy, what we are willing to pay, and how to create the need to return for more.
This is not usability. It is not customer experience, or conversions or user experience or any of the other terms used to make website that work. This is YOUsability -the ability of a company to know you, your desires, your impulses, your loves, your habits, your devices, your dreams and your needs.
Usability is Not Ability for Everyone
There is no usability methodology that I am aware of that can prepare a company to do business with you, though by golly they do try. They design and test how you react. They create user personas and mental models. They hire user testing with people who may never use your site and get eye tracking and gaze studies to determine where some people look on a page and where they click. They track research and data to make business decisions. They scope out every nook and cranny of a plan that is locked into a business requirements document – an exercise that in reality is more than likely completely ignored. Most companies refuse to pay for any of what I just mentioned. They don’t see the return on this investment.
They don’t see the relationship between what they want to produce and its place among the masses of people they hope will use it. It’s as if you don’t exist but they are making something for some of you anyway. Every company I enter into a contract with has no interest in building a product that everyone can use. It would cost them too much. They narrow it down to:
First time user
Specific user categories like B2B, B2C
These are users.
The usability industry has been attempting to define itself for as long as I can remember (which for me would be 14 years). How do we use one word to define a mish-mish of solutions all attempting to assist with one central problem? Why did we drop the “Email the webmaster” link that existed in website footers in the 1990’s so we could find out what was not working?
You Are Not Part of the Plan
A map does not include unknown possibilities and outcomes.
My husband and I recently moved into a new house in a new development. We bought early, grabbing a prime lot. All we had to look at were house plans and a map of the finished development of 90 homes. One day I asked our saleswoman if she could give me an idea of what our neighbors were like. She was not allowed to divulge that information but said it was diverse and she knew us enough to know we would be happy with the mixture of young families, retired people and those in-between. For us, there was no way to know in advance what the actual flavor of the neighborhood would be like, or what our relationship to it might be.
Your website, software and product are mapped out but your customers don’t know each other. You don’t know them either. They could create something together that you never ever dreamed possible. That companies are not willing to even invest in considering this is contributing to their failure.
Examining the experience beyond the whiteboard is not tangible so it is not considered. For all the hype about being “experience” oriented, the fact is that your experience is unknown and you are out of the loop because you don’t exist. You are a user. A piece of data.
It can cost millions to build a website product that does not work for the people who really need it. Healthcare.gov comes to mind. Clearly, running a successful website is no easy endeavor. There is never enough information to predict the outcome. But a company has to start somewhere and you can tell those that will invest in usability, user experience, customer experience, performance testing, software testing, information architecture, persuasive design, conversions, information architecture, user interface, user personas, user testing, gaze and click tracking, eye tracking, remote testing, focus groups, findability, accessibility, readability, searchability, human factors, and neuroscience vs those what will not spend a dime on anything but marketing strategies.
Convincing stakeholders to invest in usability is like asking them to purchase a who-done-it mystery novel. They are not interested in the adventure of the journey.
We need to find a way to convince them to open the book.
If you are a newcomer to SEO and read a recent article on the future of SEO you would discover there are 16 “expert, industry veterans” in SEO and they are men.
The article, Expert Insights On The Future Of SEO, Part 1, is taking some heat for its featuring men.
For me, the issue isn’t about gender. That was the trigger. The red balloon that escaped into the sky to make us all look up and take notice. The real pain point is the imbalance. The lack of leadership needed in an industry with boundless talent that continues to be represented by the same people slapping the same backs, beating the same drums.
According to some comments left in Part 1, several of the women who were contacted had specific reasons for not participating. For example,
“I’ve been asked to provide detailed answers as quickly as possible “within 48 hours” so “businesses planning their 2015 budgets can use my input to lay foundations for future results”.
Another woman wrote,
“My first thought was they wanted me to lay out, in detail, what companies pay me to lay out.”
She is absolutely 100% correct in her assessment here. I no longer accept requests for these types of articles for the exact same reason. If a company needs expert advice, they should pay for the expert. A smart businessperson keeps the very best and valuable advice private, for use with paying clients.
The series, in my opinion, was an opinion fluff piece rather than an expert advice series. From now until the end of the year and into next year the topic of looking into crystal balls will be popular. What is the purpose of these articles?
Again, the balance is off. What would drive a CEO, Founder or VIP to take the time to share expert advice? Do they need the traffic and sales, brand reminder, and links? They are already famous. Was there no value in finding newcomers?
Clearly, Danny Sullivan is appalled at what has happened with the article. He already knows and understands the hurt women in SEO feel on a regular basis as they strive to find a seat in a male dominated industry. No doubt he will do whatever he can to fix this wrong. But will he be working on repairing the correct wrong?
How many times a year do we have to see evidence of gender imbalance in a technical industry? It’s an old fight that for most women in the SEO industry isn’t even the point. What matters is finding leaders who make a difference.
Well written, authoritative articles boost the credibility and brand of the site that runs them. The strategy is to find skilled columnists who are not afraid to research and get quotes from experienced professionals. However, we see the same people interviewed over and over again.
Is there any interest in asking SEO professionals, who are not experts and veterans, how they may see the future of SEO? They may have a different set of expectations or perspectives not influenced by past practices. Perhaps they have invented their own strategies and have something new to teach us. It is an honor to be asked to participate in a series and it helps new people with their new companies to attract business. Networking can be done in many ways, and one of them is by inviting a wide variety of people to participate in interviews and articles that feature various opinions and advice.
The best leaders are generous. They are not vain, egotistical, greedy or unjust. They know the value of providing all perspectives. They listen with an open mind to all opinions, not just the elite, famous, well to do and successful people. They value the skills brought to their industry by both genders.
When people don’t like something, they form their own group. In the SEO industry there have been gatherings at conferences that are for women only. There have been websites that feature just women in SEO. This signal went ignored by anyone in a leadership position but it provided a much needed way for the women in the SEO industry to meet and support each other. It opened up new business opportunities. This new group divided from the greater group because it felt ignored and undervalued. These women wanted balance. It was never about inequality or a battle of the sexes.
To me the fault of the article could be felt by anyone who values leadership and centered, balanced and unbiased information.
Finally, a usability testing suite with all the goodies packed into one application has arrived. Called HotJar, it is brand new and looking for you.
HotJar Insights has heatmap, polls, surveys, user testing, chat, and more. If you test websites and gather data from them, you likely are using at least 10 different tools. The top testing systems can be expensive, hard to learn, and take up lots of space on your computer. Add it up. It is long past time there is one platform, one price, one system to learn.
HotJar is in beta, looking for people to try it out. Here is one perk:
Funnel & Form Analysis:
Find the biggest opportunities for improvement and testing by identifying on which page and at which step most visitors are leaving your site. Improve online form completion rates by discovering which fields take too long to ﬁll, which are left blank, and why your visitors abandon your form and page.
Sign up right now and get in on this incredible opportunity.
Ads placement remains a necessary evil for the user experience, threat to Google and marketing revenue darling.
One of my favorite tasks for my old Cre8pc site was bringing attention to good works by people in the SEO and Usability industries. Continuing with that tradition, here is one of my favorite finds.
An SEO Guide to Adsense, Ads and Placement was written in 2011 by Cyrus Shepard and featured on MOZ. When the article came out, it was helpful for many people struggling with ad placement and Google slaps for banners placed above content. Shepard includes mockups of ads placement for “Panda Friendly” page layouts.
I continue to see news and directory sites plastered with banners. That they don’t appear to be punished by Google is curious. And not only from the SEO perspective, since the user experience suffers when content is broken up with ads. The day we all come to web pages for the sole purpose of finding and clicking on ads is the day I retire on a remote island with my own “girly drink” hunky waiter to serve me.
Is there an update to this article? If so, let me know. We all want to earn money and placing ads on pages is not an act of treachery. Do we have the right to place them wherever we want to?
What are your findings?
Web site usability and information architecture are still my drug of choice.
Whenever I feel close to quitting, I find others who not only believe in the value of UX work, but explain its value better than I can.
UX is the New SEO
UX is the new way to optimize sites for search engines because Google said so. Yes, that benign search giant has decided that links are no longer as important as they once thought. Out of deep concern for its users that click on the search ads, Google has decided that user experience (UX) is a much better determinant of relevance. This left the entire SEO is gob-smacked and floundering, at least those that have not already stepped off the ledge are.
Google’s help is not really helping. As their search engine has gotten smarter with personalization and query revision, we’ve gotten dumber at searching.
From How do we solve the Enterprise UX skills gap?
Sommer used the example of abandoned shopping carts, which are not just a metric but may reflect an emotional breach of trust with a web site that bombards the user with additional offers and promotions, causing potential buyers to flee the scene.
Yen added the importance of facilitators/requirements gatherers who know how to ask the ‘why’ questions, determining the key parts of the user’s role versus ‘chores’ that are not core to the user’s role but must get done (e.g. timesheet processing).
Few designers possess the range of UX skills needed, which include:
User profiling and research, informed by industrial psychology
interaction design: translating use cases into information architecture and screen elements
low and high fidelity mockup creation
user testing and prototyping
emotional design elements, branding, and verbiage
engineers to build the design
Towards a New Information Architecture: The Rise and Fall and Rise of a Necessary Discipline
This is the most incredible article I have read in months.
…I call this new breed of talented thinkers Information Architects and this book was created to help celebrate and understand the importance of their work—a work which inspires hope that as we expand our capabilities to inform and communicate that we will value, with equal enthusiasm, the design of understanding.
~Richard Saul Wurman in Information Architects
Dan Brown, in his talk on Designing Rules, points toward a new relevance for the information architect in a post-Google world. Just as furniture makers had to choose between making patterns for IKEA or continuing to hand craft furniture for a shrinking?—?but appreciative— market, so IAs must decide if they will handcraft bestbets or create the rules for making them. Peter Morville, one of the “my two dads” of Information Architecture moved on to search. Search is far from solved. It and recommendation engines— the push to search’s pull —provide more than enough of a fun rule space to keep IAs busy for many years to come.
This just about caused me to have a heart attack, die, and go to UX Heaven, from Choosing the Right Metrics for User Experience.
Although most organizations are tracking metrics like conversion rate or engagement time, often they do not tie these metrics back to design decisions. The reason? Their metrics are too high level. A change in your conversion rate could relate to a design change, a promotion, or something that a competitor has done. Time on site could mean anything.
I am told that site owners want me to prove why they should hire me. All they want is to rank in search engines. Their sites are fine. From 5 Questions to Ask Your Next UX Design Agency
Smart UX design provides value to your consumers. Value, in turn, influences purchasing decisions and brand loyalty. A great UX firm should understand your users better than you do. That understanding, translated into positive daily user experiences over the long-term, can be a competitive advantage. UX design has the power to set your brand apart. Pick the agency that can best articulate how their UX skills will contribute to your brand’s success.
The next time you see a web page with a big form covering up the page, forcing you to give them your email address first, before you are allowed to enter the site or see what what it is about, just know that a marketer had the final say – not a usability professional or conversions expert.