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Jakob Nielsen, Don Norman, Tog, and colleagues: usability advocates offering evidence-based user experience (UX) research, training, consulting.

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Emojis in Email Subject Lines: Advantage or Impediment? 👍 👎

Summary: Our research shows that emojis in subject lines increase negative sentiment toward an email and do not increase the likelihood of an email being opened.

Emojis are small visual representations of an object or a concept. They first started popping up in text messages, but it wasn’t long until they evolved into a set of mainstream and highly recognizable pictographs used across almost every digital channel, including email.

:-) 🙂

Here is an example of text smiley vs. pictograph, or emoji, smiley

Many newsletters and marketing emails from companies include emojis in their subject lines. Various email-marketing groups suggest they be used to draw attention to an organization’s email within a crowded inbox, but there is little research about the effectiveness of emojis in capturing attention or how their usage influences customer’s perceptions.

To explore these questions, we conducted two studies:

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Avoid PDF for On-Screen Reading

Summary: Forcing users to browse PDF files causes frustration and slow task completion, compared to standard webpages. Use PDF only for documents that users will print. In those cases, following 10 basic guidelines will minimize usability problems.

No matter how tempting it is, you should never use a PDF to display content that users need to read online. After 20 years of watching users perform similar tasks on a variety of sites that use either PDFs or regular web pages, one thing remains certain: PDFs degrade the user experience.

Read the article (6 min read)
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3 Persona Types: Lightweight, Qualitative, and Statistical

Summary: For most teams, approaching persona creation qualitatively is the right balance of effort vs. value, but very large or very small organizations might benefit from statistical or lightweight approaches, respectively.

Personas used in UX work are a quick, empathy-inducing shorthand for our users’ context, motivations, needs, and approaches to using our products. They are meant to help us focus on what matters most to our users and put ourselves in their shoes when making design decisions. Because of this, they must always be rooted in a qualitative understanding of users and reflect the what and why that drives them. They should not be based on (often dubious) correlations between different demographic or analytics variables.

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Mobile-App Onboarding: An Analysis of Components and Techniques

Summary: Onboarding is the process of getting users familiar with a new interface. It can involve one or more of the following components: feature promotion, customization, and instructions.

Imagine being dropped into a new job with no explanation of your primary work tasks or how to accomplish them. You probably wouldn’t be very successful (however that’s measured) or stay for very long, right? Having an effective onboarding process is key to enabling new employees to succeed. Further, each time a new process is introduced, onboarding would again be needed to get everyone to adopt it.

The same is true for user interfaces, particularly when the interface is something intended to be used repeatedly. In this article, we’ll focus on mobile-app onboarding.

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Journey-Mapping Approaches: 2 Critical Decisions To Make Before You Begin

Summary: Before beginning any journey-mapping initiative, teams must decide between (1) a current-state or future-state map, and (2) an assumption-first or research-first approach. A hybrid approach for each decision works well for most teams.

Whether you’re attempting to address user-research goals, such as learning about a specific persona’s needs related to your product, or internal business goals, such as addressing lack of ownership over certain parts of the customer experience, journey mapping can be useful activity for bringing teams together to create one shared organization-wide vision for prioritizing design and UX ideas and investments.

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Communicating Changes Throughout the Buyer's Journey: A COVID-19 Case Study

Summary: When emergency situations impact retail operations, stores must inform customers of resulting changes to services with salient communications across all channels.

The current Covid-19 pandemic has impacted almost every facet of our lives. Individuals and businesses alike are forced to adjust to the restrictions brought upon us all by this virus. The pandemic has affected all industries, but its effect on ecommerce is particularly impactful for both retailers and consumers.

Consumers, now sheltering in place, are pressed to get household necessities online, as they limit trips to local stores. As a result, online demand, especially on groceries and household goods, has increased tremendously with no warning, leaving retailers scrambling to adapt supply-chain and fulfillment operations to the new reality.

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DesignOps Maturity: Low in Most Organizations

Summary: In a survey of 557 design and UX practitioners, organizations only did 22% of recommended DesignOps efforts, did not have DesignOps-dedicated roles, and had low DesignOps maturity overall.

Design Operations (DesignOps) refers to the to the orchestration and optimization of people, processes, and craft in order to amplify design’s value and impact at scale.

In order to understand how DesignOps efforts are understood, prioritized, and implemented across organizations, we asked 557 UX and design professionals in a variety of industries about the following:

  • The presence or absence of DesignOps-related activities and artifacts across design teams
  • The presence or absence of DesignOps roles
  • The extent to which DesignOps is valued or understood at their organization

The DesignOps Framework

Our DesignOps framework has 3 core areas:

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Rating Scales in UX Research: Likert or Semantic Differential?

Summary: Likert and semantic differential are instruments used to determine attitudes to products, services, and experiences, but depending on your situation, one may work better than the other.

Likert and semantic differential are two types of rating scales often used in UX surveys. They often get confused because the differences between them are subtle. However, they shed light on attitudes and preferences in slightly different ways.

How UX Professionals Use Rating-Scale Questions

We often measure attitudes, perceptions, beliefs, preferences, and self-reported behavior using rating-scale questions. These types of questions allow for degrees of opinion.

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Journey Mapping for Remote Teams: A Digital Template

Summary: A collaborative spreadsheet is an efficient, effective tool for virtual customer-journey mapping. Because of the format and structure it affords, almost everyone will be able to access and easily use it.

Journey maps visualize the process that a customer goes through to accomplish a goal. They are created by compiling a series of user tasks and actions into a timeline, alongside user thoughts and emotions, in order to create a narrative. This narrative communicates insights that inform the design process.

There are many digital tools that help distributed teams compile journey maps into digital formats. This article provides a simple spreadsheet template for virtual customer-journey mapping. You can also use this template as a first step for digitizing the output from an in-person journey-mapping workshop.

Read the article (3 min read)
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How Search Engines Shape Gaze Patterns During Information Seeking: Google vs. Baidu

Summary: Search-engine design alters users’ gaze patterns on search-engine results pages, but only when users find the information on the page relevant to their current task.

Over decades, the complexity of the search-engine results pages (SERPs) has grown dramatically. In the recent years, interactive and informational features have been added to SERPs.

For example, if you searched for Charles Barkley in 2003, you would get nine organic results and some sponsored links placed at the top of the search results or in the right sidebar. Now, the same query could result in a SERP with many more components, such as a knowledge panel, a People Also Ask element, a video pack, and so forth.

Read the article (6 min read)
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How to Organize COVID-19 Information on Your Intranet

Summary: Interviews with intranet designers and case-study analyses show that designers are positioning COVID-19 content on intranets all in one place and are making it easy to find and consume.

To serve employees and the business in the current environment, intranet designers’ priority is ease of use. It must be straightforward for employees to discover, find, and consume COVID-19 and other information.

I talked with several intranet designers and looked at examples of intranets today, in COVID-19 times. Here are some strategies that intranet teams use for integrating new information about coronavirus into their existing intranet designs:

  • All in one place: putting all or most coronavirus-related information on one page or in a dedicated section on the intranet
  • Integrated COVID-19 content: fitting information about COVID-19 in the information architecture (IA) and the global navigation of the intranet
Read the article (5 min read)
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How Search Engines Shape Gaze Patterns During Information Seeking: Google vs. Baidu

Summary: Search-engine design alters users’ gaze patterns on search-engine results pages, but only when users find the information on the page relevant to their current task.

Over decades, the complexity of the search-engine results pages (SERPs) has grown dramatically. In the recent years, interactive and informational features have been added to SERPs.

For example, if you searched for Charles Barkley in 2003, you would get nine organic results and some sponsored links placed at the top of the search results or in the right sidebar. Now, the same query could result in a SERP with many more components, such as a knowledge panel, a People Also Ask element, a video pack, and so forth.

Read the article (6 min read)
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Journey Mapping for Remote Teams: A Digital Template

Summary: A collaborative spreadsheet is an efficient, effective tool for virtual customer-journey mapping. Because of the format and structure it affords, almost everyone will be able to access and easily use it.

Journey maps visualize the process that a customer goes through to accomplish a goal. They are created by compiling a series of user tasks and actions into a timeline, alongside user thoughts and emotions, in order to create a narrative. This narrative communicates insights that inform the design process.

There are many digital tools that help distributed teams compile journey maps into digital formats. This article provides a simple spreadsheet template for virtual customer-journey mapping. You can also use this template as a first step for digitizing the output from an in-person journey-mapping workshop.

Read the article (3 min read)
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User-Centered Intranet Redesign: Set Up for Success in 11 Steps

Summary: Before designing an intranet, appoint a leader, align with stakeholders, get user feedback, derive an intranet vision, create user-related artifacts, and assemble the right team.

Over the past 20 years I have analyzed the process used by hundreds of teams that have created great intranets. I have learned that a successful intranet-redesign project begins well before sketching, feature selection, or coding. In fact, you can make the redesign process effective, smooth, and user-centered by following the steps in this article. Since every organization has its own culture, needs, and challenges, use these steps as a guide and seek out ways to modify them in ways that will work in your setting.

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DesignOps: What's the Point? How Practitioners Define DesignOps Value

Summary: Practitioners define DesignOps based on the value it provides for their team or organization. Most practitioners think of DesignOps as a way to standardize and optimize processes, enable and support designers, or scale design.

Design Operations (DesignOps) is a relatively recent topic of conversation, and practitioners are still actively defining what it means and how it takes shape within organizations. In an attempt to understand the mental models of DesignOps that exist today within the UX and design community, we collected and analyzed 341 definitions of Design Operations (DesignOps) from design and UX practitioners and managers.

How Were DesignOps Definitions Collected?

Definition collection took place throughout 2019, across three efforts:

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Different Information-Seeking Tasks: Behavior Patterns and User Expectations

Summary: Simple fact-finding tasks were less memorable, with basic user expectations like plain language. Complex research tasks required more effort; users asked for advanced features including comparison tables and chunked content for these tasks.

People have different needs depending on what type of tasks they’re performing. Finding a specific fact (for example, what day is National Ice Cream Day) may only require a few keystrokes.

In contrast, research tasks (like understanding why people have insomnia and ways to treat it) can take several days or even weeks of work.

Three Types of Tasks

In a recent large-scale survey study, we identified three different types of online information-seeking behaviors based on their purpose:

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Biggest Wins and Fails in 25 Years of UX Columns

Summary: From 1995 to 2001 Jakob Nielsen wrote 250 articles with early usability insights that are still true but also contained predictions for aspirational changes that didn’t happen.

I started writing the Alertbox column about user experience in May 1995. Now, 25 years later, we have published 1,330 UX articles — all for free and available to the world-wide UX community. While these numbers average to one article per week, the actual publishing frequency has increased from one per month in the beginning to two per week in recent years.

I thought it was worth looking back at the early articles to see how well they have held up to later developments in the fields of UX, computers, and the Internet. (Early articles focused mainly on web usability, whereas later articles have ranged widely across the UX spectrum.) As a concrete exercise, I reread my 250 first articles, written from May 1995 to December 2001.

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