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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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Using “How Might We” Questions to Ideate on the Right Problems

Summary: Constructing How might we questions generates creative solutions while keeping teams focused on the right problems to solve.

In our course on discoveries at our UX Conference, we talk about the importance of solving the right problem. Discovery research commonly results in learning about the problem space. This knowledge should be used to generate solutions that solve real user problems.

At the end of a discovery, the team should come together, agree on the top things it found out, and use this knowledge to frame design challenges. To prevent individuals from suggesting their pet solutions, which might have little resemblance to the problems found, construct How might we questions that frame the problem(s) for ideation.

A How might we (HMW) question can generate lots of creative ideas. Here are some examples of How might we questions:

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Visual Hierarchy in UX: Definition

Summary: A clear visual hierarchy guides the eye to the most important elements on the page. It can be created through variations in color and contrast, scale, and grouping.

Have you ever encountered a webpage that was so busy with various design elements that you had no idea where to even begin to look? If you struggle to find focus on a screen, it’s likely that the layout is missing a clear visual hierarchy. 

The page’s visual hierarchy controls the delivery of information from the system to the end user — it lets users know where to focus their attention.

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Maintain Consistency and Adhere to Standards (Usability Heuristic #4)

Summary: Users should not have to wonder whether different words, situations, or actions mean the same thing. Follow platform and industry conventions.

Download a free poster of Jakob’s Usability Heuristic #4 at the bottom of this article.

The fourth of Jakob Nielsen’s ten heuristics — consistency and standards — is key to creating applications that make sense for users. Think about the websites and applications you use: they all rely on well-established conventions. Blue underlined text is clickable, the shopping-cart icon shows the items you plan to purchase, the site logo is in the top left corner, a magnifier-glass icon stands for search — these are all examples of conventions that are used all the time in digital products and that make users’ lives easier.

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Design Thinking: The Learner’s Journey

Summary: As an individual learns design thinking, they go through 4 learning phases: newcomer, adopter, leader, and grandmaster.

Two years ago, we began a long-term research project to better understand design thinking: how practitioners incorporate it into everyday work and its effects on project outcomes.

In setting out to define a design-thinking maturity model, we realized that the maturity of the individual team members and their experience, exposure, and mastery of design thinking were essential to the overall team’s (or organization’s) ability to effectively utilize design-thinking methodologies. To better understand this relationship between individual abilities and team performance, we identified catalysts—individual practitioners whose design-thinking mastery positively influenced design-thinking practices in their teams or organizations. Based on our conversations with these catalysts about their experience (and the experience of those they teach and guide), we hypothesized that design-thinking practitioners share roughly the same learning journey, despite different backgrounds and contexts. 

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The State of Design Teams: Structure, Alignment and Impact

Summary: A survey of 557 UX and design professionals reveals themes in the structure, size, alignment, and impact of design teams.

In a recent survey, we asked 557 UX and design professionals questions about the state of their teams, including:

  • Design-team size, relative to overall company size
  • Team structure and alignment
  • Where design reports within the organization
  • The team’s ability to impact key metrics

This article summarizes their responses and presents themes across design team variables.

Research Method and Participants

Data was collected via a digital survey over the last quarter of 2019. Some highlights of participant characteristics include:

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User-Experience Quiz: 2020 UX Year in Review

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

  1. Which of the following is NOT an example of accelerator?
    1. A keyboard shortcut like Ctrl-S to save
    2. A Siri shortcut
    3. A menu
    4. A gesture like swipe to delete in iOS
  2. Compared with emails without animated GIFs, emails with animated GIFS are perceived by users:
    1. As more trustworthy
    2. Less positively
    3. As more valuable
    4. As less dull
  3. Good abandonment describes a user behavior on what kind of page:
    1. Search-results page
    2. Product-detail page
    3. Product-list page
    4. Homepage
  4. Compared with users who skip a mobile-app walkthrough tutorial, users who sit through the tutorial will:
    1. Be faster to perform a task within the app
    2. Be less likely to successfully complete a task within the app
    3. Perceive a task within the app as more difficult
    4. Enjoy the app more
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Help and Documentation: The 10th Usability Heuristic

Summary: Interface help comes in two forms: proactive and reactive. Proactive help is intended to get users familiar with an interface while reactive help is meant for troubleshooting and gaining system proficiency.

Download a free poster of Jakob’s Usability Heuristic #10 at the bottom of this article.

The 10th usability heuristic states:

Even though it is better if the system can be used without documentation, it may be necessary to provide help and documentation. Any such information should be easy to search, focused on the user’s task, list concrete steps to be carried out, and not be too large.

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The Lawn Mower Eyetracking Pattern for Scanning Comparison Tables

Summary: Users are likely to methodically scan comparison tables row by row, from right to left and back again.

On pages with distinct cells of content, people often scan those cells in a lawn mower pattern: they begin in the top left cell, move to right until the end of the row, then drop down to last cell of the next row and move back to the left until the end of the row; and so on. In our eyetracking research, we observed this pattern on many types of pages and tables (especially zigzag layouts) but most frequently on comparison tables. This article focuses on how the lawn mower pattern applies to comparison tables.

In a lawn mower pattern, the user’s gaze moves from left to right, then down, then from right to left, then down. 
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UX Guidelines for Augmented-Reality Shopping Tools

Summary: Ecommerce AR tools are relatively new, so must be highly discoverable and easy to learn. Calibration issues run rampant, and users must dedicate focused attention to interact with this unfamiliar feature.

Augmented reality (AR) is slowly yet surely becoming mainstream as a wide range of companies incorporate AR features into their websites and apps. Once you’ve decided that an AR tool would be useful, you must thoughtfully design it to ensure that it can be used successfully.

To uncover usability issues surrounding augmented-reality shopping features, we conducted a mobile remote moderated study with 10 participants. For this study, we looked specifically at ecommerce AR features geared toward informing purchase decisions. The study included a variety of mobile websites and apps, including virtual try-on AR tools that augment the user’s appearance (typically using the device’s forward-facing camera or a webcam) and ‘view in room’ AR tools that augment the user’s surroundings to place items within their environment. While these features are slightly different use cases, the majority of our findings apply to both types of AR tools.

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Contextual Inquiry: Inspire Design by Observing and Interviewing Users in Their Context

Summary: Through observation and collaborative interpretation, contextual inquiry uncovers hidden insights about customer’s work that may not be available through other research methods

In our collection of UX-research methodologies, contextual inquiry is essential.

Contextual inquiry is a type of ethnographic field study that involves in-depth observation and interviews of a small sample of users to gain a robust understanding of work practices and behaviors. Its name describes exactly what makes it valuable — inquiry in context:

  • Context: The research takes place in the users’ natural environment as they conduct their activities the way they normally would. The context could be in their home, office, or somewhere else entirely.
  • Inquiry: The researcher watches the user as she performs her task and asks for information to understand how and why users do what they do.
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User Control and Freedom (Usability Heuristic #3)

Summary: Users often make mistakes or change their minds. Allow them to exit a flow or undo their last action and go back to the system’s previous state.

Download a free poster of Jakob’s Usability Heuristic #3 at the bottom of this article.

Jakob Nielsen’s third usability heuristic for user interface design is user control and freedom. This principle states:

Users often choose system functions by mistake and will need a clearly marked “emergency exit” to leave the unwanted state without having to go through an extended dialogue. Support undo and redo.

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The 6 Steps to Roadmapping

Summary: To create a roadmap, inputs are gathered and clustered into themes, then prioritized and visualized. This article covers 6 key steps to roadmapping that can be applied to any scope or industry.

UX roadmap is a strategic, living artifact that aligns, prioritizes, and communicates a UX team’s future work and the problems it needs to solve. Roadmaps are successful when they make realistic promises, value functionality over pretty visuals, or are strategic documents instead of feature-specific release plans. 

Successful roadmapping include 6 key high-level steps:

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Imagery Helps International Shoppers Navigate Ecommerce Sites

Summary: Nonnative speakers rely on visual cues to navigate the international sites presented in an unfamiliar language. Use imagery to support text and help these shoppers.

Targeting international shoppers can be challenging due to language and cultural barriers. In some multilingual countries, it can be particularly difficult to predict the primary language of users. 

In these cases, offering content translations for every possible language may not be practical. When catering to a wide range of languages, visual cues become critical for providing necessary information and helping shoppers make decisions. When international users browse a site that is not in their own language, they depend heavily on visuals. 

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Flexibility and Efficiency of Use: The 7th Usability Heuristic Explained

Summary: Shortcuts— unseen by the novice user — speed up the interaction for the expert users such that the system can cater to both inexperienced and experienced users.

Download a free poster of Jakob’s Usability Heuristic #7 at the bottom of this article.

I am not an accomplished cook. I can follow a recipe and get reasonably edible results, but it takes me a long time and a lot of concentration. If I don’t prepare for cooking by reading through a full, detailed recipe, laying out all of the ingredients beforehand in groups that will be used together, and googling a few advanced techniques, I’ll be left with a burned dinner. I have a few friends that know what they’re doing in the kitchen and I’m always amazed at all the little shortcuts they take when cooking.

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Typical Designer–to–Developer and Researcher–to–Designer Ratios

Summary: In 2020, the most typical researcher–to–designer–to–developer ratio reported was 1:5:50. Beware, however, of using role ratios alone to measure teams’ maturity or impact.

As part of a recent survey to understand the state of UX and design teams, we asked UX and design professionals about the ratio of researchers to designers and developers at their organizations. Though the survey had 557 respondents, only 377 people responded to questions about the number of researchers, designers, and developers at their companies; this article is based on their answers. (These questions were optional.) Survey respondents were design-community members (80% identified design or research as their primary role) from a variety of industries, working at companies of various sizes.

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