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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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How to Film and Photograph Online Content for Usability: UX Details for Videos and Images

Summary: Consider how your audience will be using the visuals to determine the optimal camera angle, set the right tone, choose the right props, and maintain attention.

In our study of how images, GIFs, and videos assist learning, we observed that small details in those visuals can impact users’ perception of the content and even their success. Sometimes, seemingly minor details disrupted focus and sparked a short rant. Other times, it was only when asked what they thought about an image or video at the end of the task that participants mentioned the background music, the intonation of the narrator’s voice, or the style of the prop as reasons for finding the video boring or overly promotional.

In this article, we discuss such minutiae of multimedia as part of the broader message that graphics and videos should be helpful and meaningful instead of purely decorative.

Read the article (7 min read)
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UX Workshops vs. Meetings: What's the Difference?

Summary: Meetings are for sharing information; workshops are for solving a problem or reaching an actionable goal. We compare the differences in purpose, scope, length, structure, and preparation time for workshops and meetings.

Misused Workshops Are a Waste of Time

Have you ever attended a workshop that was a complete waste of time? Maybe the goal wasn’t clear, the activities seemed meaningless, or it just didn’t feel like anything was getting accomplished. Or, have you ever been asked to facilitate a workshop you felt was unnecessary? Perhaps you felt like you were arbitrarily filling in the hours as you structured the agenda.

Read the article (7 min read)
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Executing UX Animations: Duration and Motion Characteristics

Summary: Define a trigger, transformations, duration, and easing of the animation, and be mindful of accessibility issues and annoying the user.

Animations in user experience can help by providing feedback and preventing disorientation or can be distracting, annoying, and dizzying. There are two dimensions for making animations a positive aspect of the user experience: their purpose and their execution.

In a previous article, we reviewed the first dimension — how animations can be used to make feedback noticeable and build the right mental models for a system. In this article, we explore the second dimension: how to execute motion in a way that is natural, smooth, and visible, without causing frustration, discomfort, or significant delays for users.

Read the article (8 min read)
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How to Maximize Insights in User Testing: Stepped User Tasks

Summary: You can learn the right kind of things and much more in user tests if you start with broad tasks instead of immediately leading to areas of interest. Prepare additional, focused tasks that can be used to direct users.

When writing usability-testing tasks, you must walk the thin line between telling users too much and too little. Too often usability tasks direct users straight to the site area in which the team is interested, whether it’s a redesigned website or a new piece of content. This approach will usually reap some information about the feature’s usability, but it leaves on the table the potential to learn about the important topics of discoverability and findability. It’s also the reason why some companies are doing lots of testing but still producing unhelpful designs. You can learn more if you start users off with broad instructions before directing them to what you are interested in. Prepare directed tasks that target your points of interest, but give them to participants only if the broad tasks don’t give you the insights that you need.

Read the article (12 min read)
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Dark Mode vs. Light Mode: Which Is Better?

Summary: In people with normal vision (or corrected-to-normal vision), visual performance tends to be better with light mode, whereas some people with cataract and related disorders may perform better with dark mode. On the flip side, long-term reading in light mode may be associated with myopia.

Recently, spurred by the introduction of dark mode in IOS 13, a reporter asked me to comment on the usability of dark mode and its popularity as a design trend. It’s a question that I also got several times from attendees to our UX Conference.

iOS 13: Light mode (left) vs. dark mode (right)
Read the article (9 min read)
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Information Scent: How Users Decide Where to Go Next

Summary: When deciding which links to click on the web, users choose those with the highest information scent — which is a mix of cues that they get from the link label, the context in which the link is shown, and their prior experiences.

The web is all about hyperlinks. But, you may wonder, when presented with a bunch of links, how do users decide which link to click on and which to ignore? The answer is: information scent. Like food scent guides animals to their meals, information scent guides people to those webpages that are likely to contain the content they’re looking for.

Read the article (11 min read)
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The Critical Incident Technique in UX

Summary: The CIT is a research method for systematically obtaining recalled observations of significant events or behaviors from people who have first-hand experience.

The critical incident technique (CIT) is a systematic procedure for obtaining rich, qualitative information about significant incidents from observers with firsthand experience, which in turn helps researchers understand the critical requirements for individuals, processes or systems.

Definition: The critical incident technique (CIT) is a research method in which the research participant is asked to recall and describe a time when a behavior, action, or occurrence impacted (either positively or negatively) a specified outcome (for example, the accomplishment of a given task).

Read the article (5 min read)
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How Information-Seeking Behavior Has Changed in 22 Years

Summary: The internet is increasingly used to gain knowledge and understanding of a topic. This knowledge is often acquired accidentally, as a byproduct of browsing. Critical internet use is becoming social.

The web has changed dramatically over the last two decades. To understand how user behavior has been affected by these changes, we replicated a 1997 study conducted at Xerox PARC. We asked people to describe a situation where online information significantly impacted their decisions or actions

We found that, compared to 22 years ago, a larger proportion of current critical internet activities involved finding answers and gathering information in order to better understand a topic. A fair amount of information was acquired in a passive way, without looking for it, during browsing. And often, during critical activities, users turned to other people, asking for their help or opinion.

Read the article (14 min read)
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Videos as Instructional Content: User Behaviors and UX Guidelines

Summary: Instructional video content is helpful as supplementary information, though not all users will watch it. Videos should be easily discoverable, consistent in style across the site, and with thumbnails that accurately represent the type of content they provide.

When you need to learn how to do something — whether it’s caulking a sink, troubleshooting a new piece of software or learning a new hobby — where do you look? While written instructions and graphics often work well for users, increasingly people are turning to videos to learn a new procedure or even new content.

Read the article (9 min read)
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The Risks of Imitating Designs (Even from Successful Companies)

Summary: Even great companies make mistakes. Don’t risk your UX by assuming it’s safe to follow a design pattern just because it’s used by a successful company.

It’s natural to look to tech giants like Google, Amazon, and Apple for design inspiration. These companies are clearly successful and popular with customers, so why not copy their solutions to common design problems?

It’s actually a great idea to take a look around at your industry’s leading companies for inspiration about how to solve your own problems. But it’s not advisable to blindly copy a design just because another, bigger company did it first. Aside from the fact that giant companies operate in a completely different brand context, the truth is that just because a company is successful does not mean you can assume everything about its design is well-executed.

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Just-Right Personas: How to Choose the Scope of Your Personas

Summary: Narrow- and broad-scope personas achieve different goals. Success depends upon knowing the tradeoffs and structuring your personas’ scope based on what you are trying to achieve.

Personas are not one-size-fits all research artifacts: you can’t just create general user archetypes without first deciding what they are for and what the scope of their influences should be.
Personas can have a broad or narrow scope. Consider a financial company that has multiple lines of business such as retirement savings, banking, and mutual-fund investment. The company could have personas with:

Read the article (6 min read)
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The Role of Animation and Motion in UX

Summary: Animation in UX must be unobtrusive, brief, and subtle. Use it for feedback, state-change and navigation metaphors, and to enhance signifiers.

In UX, motion and animation can be helpful and communicative, if used with restraint. Motion is most often appropriate as a form of subtle feedback for microinteractions, rather than to induce delight or entertain users. In this article, we explore the purposes of useful, unobtrusive feedback animation. In a second (forthcoming) article, we will discuss the details in timing and movement to make these animations appear smooth and natural.

Read the article (8 min read)
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User-Experience Quiz: 2019 UX Year in Review

Summary: Test your usability knowledge by taking our quiz. All questions and answers are based on articles that we published last year.

All the answers can be found in articles that we published in 2019.

  1. The recommended dimensions for touch targets are:
    1. 0.5 cm x 0.5 cm
    2. 0.75 cm x 0.75 cm
    3. 1 cm x 1 cm
    4. 1.25 cm x 1.25 cm
  2. Which of the following is most likely to NOT be a mobile microsession:
    1. Reading and dismissing a notification
    2. Glancing at the phone to get the time
    3. Checking your calendar for the day
    4. Reading a movie review and buying movie tickets
Read the article (3 min read)