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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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Personas vs. Archetypes

Summary: Archetypes and personas used for UX work contain similar insights, are based on similar kinds of data, and differ mainly in presentation. Personas are presented as a single human character, whereas archetypes are not tied to specific names or faces

Personas are a big source of confusion in the UX world. The core idea behind the concept is periodically reinvented and renamed. (This sort of vocabulary inflation is only too common in UX). I regularly see blog posts, talks, or articles purporting that personas are dead and advocating instead for a new technique. Nearly every time, the critique of personas is based on a misunderstanding of personas and the author’s “superior” innovation is a slightly different spin on the core idea. 

Read the article (4 min read)
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Two Tips for Better UX Storytelling

Summary: Effective storytelling involves both engaging the audience and structuring stories in a concise, yet effective manner. You can improve your user stories by taking advantage of the concept of story triangle and of the story-mountain template.

“We need a story that starts with an earthquake and works up to a climax.” This is a quote attributed to Sam Goldwyn, a Hollywood movie producer. Even though most UX professionals are not working on a scenario for the next blockbuster, they do need to capture other people’s attention and interest, to share insights in a memorable way, and to get everybody else in the organization to support their endeavors. Storytelling is a powerful tool that can accomplish all of these. 

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Design Guidelines for Selling Products with Multiple Variants

Summary: Different products should have different listings; product variations should be displayed under a single listing.

In our most recent ecommerce-research study for the 5th edition of our report series on ecommerce user experience, we observed that users sometimes encounter difficulties when shopping for products that are offered in multiple variants (i.e., different sizes, colors, prints, materials).

The usability problems we identified came about when ecommerce sites incorrectly represented product variants as different products and vice versa — when they represented different products as product variants. Let’s discuss the difference.

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UX Roadmaps: Who, When, and How Much Time?

Summary: While roadmaps differ in scope, their main benefit is building alignment. We address some of the common questions asked about the topic by practitioners.

A UX roadmap is a strategic, living artifact that aligns, prioritizes, and communicates a UX team’s future work and problems to solve. In this article, we answer the most frequently asked questions we receive about roadmaps in our full-day course, UX Roadmaps

1. How Do Roadmaps and Project Plans Differ? 

Roadmaps should be the bridge between a company’s UX vision and project-tracking artifacts. Thus, roadmaps are strategic, vision-oriented documents, while project-management plans focus on execution and output tracking. 

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Recruiting High-Income Participants: Challenges and Tips

Summary: Users who have plenty of money can be hard to motivate to participate in research. Word-of-mouth networking, flexibility in scheduling, and remote studies might help you recruit them.

It’s typically fairly easy to recruit for a study with a general user profile — research-recruitment services and platforms (like User Interviews, UserZoom, and Askable, just to name a few) provide quick access to millions of potential participants. Unfortunately, it’s often much harder to find high-income participants through these services. 

This is due to a selection bias — those most likely to register with recruitment panels tend to be looking for some extra cash. People in higher tax brackets are often hard to find and unwilling to participate in a study. Specifically, these individuals tend to be:

  • Difficult to contact
  • Busy
  • Not enticed by typical incentives
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Ink Thinking Improves UX-Decision Making

Summary: Ink thinking is a method of journaling your decisions and their subsequent outcomes to reveal patterns in your intuitive decision making.

UX professionals make a lot of decisions. Some decisions are easy to make when there's lots of time or information. But occasionally we're forced to make a difficult choice with what's available due to resource or time constraints. That means drawing upon past experiences, expertise, and intuition. (And no, it's usually not a solution to defer the decision until more data is available, because that itself is a decision to continue with the status quo.)

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Size Guides and Product Measurements for International Shoppers

Summary: When they shop for apparel items on global sites, users are concerned about sizing. Ease their concerns by providing corresponding local sizes, comprehensive size charts, and supplemental measurements.

In recent user research, one of the biggest concerns we heard from international shoppers using global ecommerce sites was whether the size of an apparel item would fit them. Study participants were particularly concerned about sizing when they knew international returns would be challenging or impossible.In recent user research, one of the biggest concerns we heard from international shoppers using global ecommerce sites was whether the size of an apparel item would fit them. Study participants were particularly concerned about sizing when they knew international returns would be challenging or impossible.

Read the article (5 min read)
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Best Font for Online Reading: No Single Answer

Summary: Among high-legibility fonts, a study found 35% difference in reading speeds between the best and the worst. People read 11% slower for every 20 years they age.

A large new study of the best fonts for online reading is ultimately disappointing, because it doesn’t answer the most burning question: what font should you use for your website? But it still provides many intriguing findings, including the striking conclusion that there is no single answer to this question.

The Research Study

Shaun Wallace from Adobe and colleagues conducted a reading-speed study with 352 participants. The participants were asked to read several short passages of text; each passage had 300–500 words each (by comparison, this article contains 2,623 words and the average web page contains 593 words). The test stimuli were at an approximate 8th grade reading level, which matches our recommendation for web content targeted at a broad consumer audience. (This article is written at a 12th grade reading level, but it targets professionals, not the general public.)

Read the article (6 min read)
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Three Methods to Increase User Autonomy in UX Design

Summary: Designers should help people use interfaces in ways that align with personal preferences and priorities.

Autonomy = Choices

Wars have been waged over autonomy. Having the freedom to do things in your own way is considered by some to be one of the three fundamental human needs. The irony is that all too often users are forced to complete tasks in narrowly defined ways that do not reflect their priorities or preferences. This lack of freedom can make users feel a bit like cattle that are forced into cattle chutes, which are used to examine animals or load them onto trucks.

Man loading cow into cattle chute
Cows are often put into cattle chutes to restrict their movements and control their behavior.
Read the article (5 min read)
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DesignOps: 5 Common Team Structures

Summary: The structure of a DesignOps team should be derived from the team’s specific challenges and needs. These types of team structures illustrate the varied approaches that can support and enable DesignOps teams.

DesignOps is vast landscape of opportunity, because there are many elements related to enabling consistent, quality design. What an organization chooses to focus on in a DesignOps practice should reflect the needs and objectives of that organization, and so, too, should the structure of that practice when it comes to DesignOps teams or roles.

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Information Architecture: Study Guide

Summary: Unsure where to start? Use this collection of links to our articles and videos to learn about what information architecture (IA) is, how to run an IA research study, and how to design navigation effectively.

Information Architecture: Study Guide

Summary: Unsure where to start? Use this collection of links to our articles and videos to learn about what information architecture (IA) is, how to run an IA research study, and how to design navigation effectively. 

This article is a compilation of our articles and videos on topics related to information architecture. Resources cover specific types of information-architecture principles, navigation design choices for the UI — such as desktop-specific options, mobile-specific options — as well as research methods, such as card sorting and tree testing, which are commonly used in information architecture. 

Within each category, the resources are shown in recommended reading order. 

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How to Conduct a Cognitive Walkthrough Workshop

Summary: Step-by-step directions for running a cognitive-walkthrough workshop with examples and templates included

A cognitive walkthrough is a technique used to evaluate the learnability of a system. Unlike user testing, it does not involve users (and, thus, it can be relatively cheap to implement). Like heuristic evaluations, expert reviews, and PURE evaluations, it relies on the expertise of a set of reviewers to assess the interface.

Although cognitive walkthroughs can be conducted by an individual, they are designed to be done as part of a group in a workshop setting where evaluators walk through a task in a highly structured manner from a new user’s point of view.

Preparing for a Cognitive Walkthrough Workshop

Before you start the evaluation, there are a number of decisions to be made up front.

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Creating Engaging Reports & Asynchronous Presentations

Summary: To keep your stakeholders and team members engaged, incorporate storytelling techniques such as writing for your audience, adding anecdotes, and using analogies in your asynchronous research deliverables.

There is a misconception in the UX world that research data speaks for itself and shouldn’t need the addition of a narrative or extra polish to convince others. We often think that by laying out all the facts in front of our teams and stakeholders, they will come to the same conclusions that we did. Unfortunately, that doesn’t always happen.

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Data Tables: Four Major User Tasks

Summary: Table design should support four common user tasks: find records that fit specific criteria, compare data, view/edit/add a single row’s data, and take actions on records.

If you have lots of data, there’s a strong likelihood that you will end up displaying it in a table. Tables are present in many workplace applications precisely because they are a compact way of showing a large multivariate dataset. However, big tables present challenges to both designers and users.

This article is part of a series that covers various aspects of designing usable tables:

Read the article (5 min read)
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Support Recall Instead of Recognition in UI Design

Summary: To strengthen people’s memory skills, we should design interfaces that help users practice recall.

Since 1994, one of the 10 usability heuristics has been that user-interface design should support recognition rather than recall. The argument used to be that it’s easier for people to recognize that something shown by the computer is what they want (say, a command in a menu) than to dredge out of memory the name of that something.

Today we are announcing that this guideline should be reversed for modern user-interface design. Now, recall is better than recognition. It’s not so bad to have to change one of our 10 heuristics after 28 years. 90% of the heuristics still remain valid, which is the same as we have found in past analyses of old usability guidelines.

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6 Tips for Improving Language Switchers on Ecommerce Sites

Summary: The language-switching feature on ecommerce sites should be placed in the top corners on desktop sites and above the fold on mobile, with enough details and flexibility to satisfy user needs.

Many international customers want to shop on global sites, but they often aren’t comfortable shopping in another language — even when they can speak that language. An increasing number of sites are offering multiple language versions to meet global audiences' needs and expand their customer base.

Offering Multiple Language Versions

During an ecommerce study in China, we found that offering a translated Chinese version or a dedicated Chinese site was a big plus for international brands. Once they entered a site written in a foreign language, users’ first instinct was to look for a Chinese version. Some preferred Chinese sites because of their unfamiliarity with specific category and product names –- for example, on pharmaceutical websites.

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