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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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Dot Coding: An Activity to Elicit Perspectives in UX Workshops

Summary: By placing colored dots on items, participants in UX workshops or group sessions can manage the collaborative discussion of research findings, design ideas, goals, or anything else.

Unstructured and unconstrained discussion has its place in a UX workshop, but it is difficult to manage, especially if topics are potentially sensitive (e.g., insights from stakeholder interviews), there is a wide breadth of roles and perspectives present, or workshop attendees are hesitant to speak out loud openly due to the presence of dominating participants.

Dot coding is an effective workshop technique to use for driving collaborative, focused discussion around a wide set of items, that could otherwise be difficult to manage in a group session.

Definition: In dot coding, individuals react to a set of items by placing colored dots with preassigned meanings on each item in the set.

Read the article (4 min read)
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Accidental Dismissal of Overlays: A Common Mobile Usability Problem

Summary: Overlays often need to be dismissed in a manner that goes against users’ expectations.

Overlays have become a ubiquitous UI element on mobile: beyond the annoying popups for cookie permissions, chat bubbles, coupons offerings, and marketing-subscription offers, you will also find them used for navigation menus, bottom sheets, product-detail pages, or in-app browsers.

While many mobile overlays take up only a section of the page (partial overlays), allowing some content to be visible in the background, others occupy the full screen and are practically indistinguishable from a regular page or view.

Read the article (6 min read)
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The Context CUEs Framework in Field Studies

Summary: Distributed cognition theory explains how thinking involves not only one’s mind but also other people and external artifacts. A framework rooted in this theory can guide consistent and in-depth observations of users’ physical and social settings, processes, habits, and workflows.

Distributed Cognition and User Experience 

In the 1998 article called “The Extended Mind,” philosophers Andy Clark and David Chalmers wrote about the active role of the environment in cognitive processes. The idea that “cognitive processes ain’t (all) in the head!” has become foundational for the distributed cognition theory (DCog). The critical point of that theory is that thinking is not confined to the limits of one person and their brain but occurs when people interact with each other and with material artifacts. 

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Antipersonas: What, How, Who, and Why?

Summary: Antipersonas help anticipate how products can be misused in ways that can harm users and the business.

What Is an Antipersona?

Imagine a safe-manufacturing company. Such a company would need to design safes that:

  1. are easy to use and satisfy the needs of its target customers, and
  2. are hard to break into by burglars.

To address the first of these two requirements, the company has to research its target customers and understand their needs. But to address the second, it must study the burglars’ behaviors, methods, and tools — even though burglars are not among the company’s target audience.

Definition: An antipersona is a representation of a user group that could misuse a product in ways that negatively impact target users and the business.

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Maintaining the Privacy and Security of Research Participants’ Data

Summary: Maintaining participants’ data privacy and security before, during, and after data collection is critical to the user-research process. It protects participants from data breaches and cyber threats.

With the rise of global action around data privacy and protection laws, researchers need to think about how participant privacy is maintained before, during, and after a research study. While the data collected is valuable to researchers, it is even more important to the participants in a research study. It is our responsibility to make sure we do not violate research- ethics principles and we respect participant involvement every step of the way.

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Infinite Scrolling: When to Use It, When to Avoid It

Summary: Infinite scrolling minimizes interaction costs and increases user engagement, but it isn’t a good fit for every website. For some, pagination or a Load More button will be a better solution.

Infinite scrolling is a listing-page design approach which loads content continuously as the user scrolls down. It eliminates the need for pagination — breaking content up into multiple pages. 

A picture of the Adidas listing page, highlighting the pagination at the bottom of the page.
Adidas.com: For its listing pages, Adidas uses pagination to display its selection of products to its users.
Nike.com: In comparison to its competitor Adidas, Nike is using infinite scroll to display its products on its listing pages.
Read the article (5 min read)
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Guidelines for Testing Mobile Augmented-Reality Apps

Summary: Whether you’re running in-person or remote research on AR apps, ensure that the test is safe for study participants, the task wording is easy to understand, participants know what to expect in advance of the session, and your recording equipment can capture the participant’s screen and their movements.

The number of mobile augmented-reality (AR) applications and their popularity are rapidly increasing. It is only a matter of time until companies in various domains, including health, ecommerce, education, and gaming, incorporate AR features into their mobile apps.

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Day-0 Calls: Avoid UX-Workshop Disasters by Aligning on the Basics in Advance

Summary: A lack of agreement on goals and other basics can derail an entire workshop. Hold a call prior to the workshop to establish these basics in advance.

A large financial institution once hired a UX agency to facilitate a 5-day UX-design workshop. Due to a recent change in the institution’s policies, it was now able to accept a new type of banking customer, dramatically increasing and broadening its pool of potential customers. The goal of this workshop was to redesign the institution’s primary banking-application flow to appeal to this broader audience.

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Enriched Site-Search Suggestions: Rarely Used

Summary: Enriched search suggestions are expanded content recommendations related to a user’s search query on a website. While they can be useful, they are rarely utilized due to a range of implementation issues.

Basic site-search suggestions — recommended queries that appear in a dropdown as users type in a search box — are a sign of a thoughtful search design and a feature that users have come to expect as part of website-search features. They have a host of benefits, from helping users avoid typos and misspellings to decreasing interaction cost (because users can type less if they use them).

etsy.com's site search: The search field contains the query "koal" and suggested text-based queries are revealed in a list below the search bar. The first one is "koala."
 Etsy.com provides suggested text queries as users type in the search box.
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How to Analyze Qualitative Data from UX Research: Thematic Analysis

Summary: Identifying the main themes in data from user studies — such as: interviews, focus groups, diary studies, and field studies — is often done through thematic analysis.

Uncovering themes in qualitative data can be daunting and difficult. Summarizing a quantitative study is relatively clear: you scored 25% better than the competition, let’s say. But how do you summarize a collection of qualitative observations?

In the discovery phase, exploratory research is often carried out. This research often produces a lot of qualitative data, which can include:

Qualitative attitudinal data, such as people’s thoughts, beliefs and self-reported needs obtained from user interviews, focus groups and even diary studies

Qualitative behavioral data, such as observations about people’s behavior collected through contextual inquiry and other ethnographic approaches

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The UX of Phone-Tree Systems: 16 Usability Guidelines

Summary: Users who call organizations often find themselves in frustrating phone trees. Badly designed interactive voice response (IVR) systems violate many of the 10 usability heuristics.

“This call may be monitored or recorded for quality and training purposes. For English, please press 1…”

A phone tree (also called an Interactive Voice-Response [IVR] system) generally consists of prerecorded audio messages that are presented when someone calls a business or organization. In most cases, callers select a number on the phone keypad associated with the recorded option most closely related to their question. In an increasing number of cases, callers can also summarize their question in a short word or phrase that the system will try to recognize in order to connect them with useful information.

Read the article (9 min read)
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How to Build a Participant List for UX Workshops

Summary: A successful UX workshop includes a relatively small number of diverse participants and prioritizes users’ needs.

When well facilitated, UX workshops can be an effective and efficient strategy for solving complex problems collaboratively. Unlike meetings, where the purpose is to disseminate knowledge or share status updates, often about work that has been completed prior to the meeting, workshops are a setting where collaborative work happens in real time. Therefore, it is absolutely critical to have the right people in the room: a workshop is only as valuable as the people that attend them.

The Risk of Not Planning a Participant List

To illustrate the importance of strategically considering and planning who attends a UX workshop, consider the following examples, based on actual workshops.

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Effective Resumes for UX Career Changers

Summary: Generate more UX-job opportunities with a resume that effectively communicates to UX hiring managers how you are making a career change into UX.

One of the nice things about our UX conferences is hearing stories from attendees of how they discovered UX and left their current professions to pursue a fulfilling UX career. That's a good thing because the world needs more UX professionals and, therefore, more UX career changers like them.

But career changes are stressful. Research by Thomas Holmes and Richard Rahe suggests that a career change is about as stressful as a close friend's death! An antidote for this stress is setting goals and dates for yourself and taking incremental steps to progress your career-changing journey. One such step is updating your resume to convey your past through the lens of your future UX career.

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The 10 Best Intranets of 2022: Trends in Design and Process

Summary: Still challenged by the global pandemic but unwavering, intranet-design teams committed to accessibility and inclusion. Empathy and logic prevailed, resulting in winning intranets that are accepting and supportive of all employees equally.

Since 2001, NN/g has selected the 10 best intranets of the year. For 2022, the winning organizations are:

  • Banner Health (US), one of the largest nonprofit healthcare systems in the US
  • BNY Mellon (US), a global investments company
  • DBS Bank (Singapore), a leading financial services group
  • The Estée Lauder Companies Inc. (US), one of the world’s leading manufacturers and marketers of quality skin-care, makeup, fragrance, and hair-care products
  • International Business Machines Corporation (IBM) (US), a technology leader for over 100 years, currently focusing on AI and hybrid cloud technology
Read the article (6 min read)
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Focus Groups 101

Summary: Well-run focus groups help gather some initial feedback from a group of people. However, their bias potential makes them insufficient as a standalone research method. Workshop techniques can help maximize participation and reduce the potential for bias.

It is no secret that the field of user experience often favors objective, observational research methods over subjective, attitudinal methods. After all, when something is observed, with proof that it has actually happened, it can be hard to argue against it. However, it takes more than observational research to truly empathize and understand the full complexity of a person’s experience, which includes emotional experiences, mindsets, values, and belief systems. Since there is no other way to gather this data (at the writing of this article, mind reading with neural implants is not possible) researchers must use attitudinal methods to solicit the thoughts and opinions of target customers. A focus group is one of these methods.

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Fitts's Law and Its Applications in UX

Summary: The movement time to a target depends on the size of the target and the distance to the target.

History

Paul Fitts was one of the first psychologists who understood that human error is attributable to poor design as opposed to just human fallacy. He studied airplane-cockpit design during World War II and argued that many losses that had been attributed to human error were, in fact, due to poor design.

In the 1950s, he became influenced by the Shannon’s famous information theory. Like George Miller, who applied the concept of channel capacity to human memory and, in the process, came up with the famous magical number 7 as the bandwidth of human

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The Funnel Technique in Qualitative User Research

Summary: The funnel technique is used in user interviews and usability tests and ensures you get rich insights while not compromising validity.

The funnel technique has been around since qualitative interviews emerged as a research method. This technique involves asking broad open-ended questions before gradually introducing more narrowly-scoped open-ended questions, as well as closed questions

This idea of starting broad before getting more specific is valuable in other types of studies besides user interviews. This technique can help you organize:

  • Interview questions
  • Followup questions
  • Usability tasks
  • Research in a multimethod study

This article discusses how the funnel technique can be used in user interviews and in moderated usability tests

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Mobile UX: Study Guide

Summary: Unsure where to start? Use this collection of links to our articles and videos to learn how to write and present information that aligns with users’ needs and online behaviors.

Here’s a list of NN/g’s most useful articles and videos about the mobile user experience. Within each section, the resources are in recommended reading order.

The resources here are grouped under the following topics:

Read the article (7 min read)