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Doing User Research When You Have No Access to Your Users

For the 12+ years that I have worked at my company I have had extremely limited access to users. I’ve only made 3 branch visits over that time and what little access I have had, has been reserved for usability testing the applications I was working on. And, when branch visits are set up UX is usually the last person considered as a candidate to go. But when you are starting a project you need to know who you are designing for. What do you do? Covert user research! Believe it or not there are a lot of ways for you to find out about people without talking to them directly. Find User Representatives User representatives are people who are not the user, but may have been the user at some point in their career. Sometimes your business representatives can be user representatives if they did the job. I would give a word of caution here. While your business representative may have worked “in operations”, they are also heavily invested in the business goals of the company. So, you really don…
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37 Questions to Ask When You're Interviewing for a UX Design Position

Interviews are supposed to be conversations. As the interviewee, you’re supposed to be able to decide whether you want the job equally as much as the company decides whether to hire you. The problem is, in my experience on the interviewer side of the table, people don’t really ask good questions about what they’re coming into. You should know enough about your own discipline to ask good questions about the work you would be doing and the environment in which you would be working. This way you can decide on your end, if you would be happy at a new company. The following questions are grouped based on areas of issues within the enterprise environment. Many of them could be used for interviewing in a customer UX situation, too. The State of UX at the Company Knowing where the company is at in their journey towards user-centered design will tell you how well you will be supported in your job role and whether or how much you will have to fight to do the entire spectrum your job, i.e. doin…

Stop Using the Word Delight in Enterprise UX

Last week I participated in on UXPin’s Enterprise Summit (2017). On the last day there was a panel discussion by UX gurus on the state of enterprise UX with Jeff Veen of True Ventures, Lou Rosenfeld, and Marcin Treder of UXPin and Sunita Redd of UXPin. Over and over and over I kept hearing them use the word delight. So here’s what I want to say:


Dear Enterprise UX Gurus:
STOP! Please stop using the word “delight” in the context of enterprise UX. Just stop. I’m not the only one who wants this.

Delight is creating an emotional bond with a user through pleasurable experiences IN ORDER TO SELL THEM SOMETHING. This is wholly a consumer-side idea. Enterprise users have absolutely no choice in whether they get to use our product. It’s already been decided by management.

I’m up for a replacement. I personally say I want to give the user a good day, but more importantly I’m trying to make users more efficient. I’m trying to create human capacity for the company. Yeah, it’s still using people …

Font Sizes for Dense Applications

Recently one of our UX designers floated the idea of going with a font size smaller than our standard because they needed the extra space. Being the avid researcher I am I went out and started hunting for information on best practice font size on the web or in applications. I mean it's been years. Someone must have done a study. I came across someone else on Stackflow asking the same question, but none of the answers were anything supported. Just unsupported tribal knowledge. To make a long story short I managed to find a great study, The Uncrowded Window of Object Recognition, done by Denis G Pellli and Katharine A. Tillman, 2008. It comes down to this. Letters in a word are an object and must be recognizable by the brain. As you reduce a font, you need to add a little space around the letters so they can be recognized. It really doesn't have anything to do with size. Here's an example in the standard Verdana/Helvetica at 13 pixels:
"You saved my life," he repli…

Don't Fall in Love with Your Product

I don’t know what your calendar is like, but at my company at the beginning of the year business and upper level IT managers will prioritize their needs and I’m assigned to different projects depending on priority. Sometimes at this time of the year the air feels electric. It's almost like going on a first date. Will the project be exciting? Will it match my skills? It may sound silly to compare working on a new project to a first date. But, it's far more relevant than you might guess. While we want our users to fall in love with our products, it's wrong for us as technologists to fall in love with them. If we do, we lose the objectivity we need to keep our biases out of our work and we lose the ability to clearly see and measure the results of our work. Psychology of Attraction First, let's learn a little about how falling in love works. There are three stages: Craving or lust - is used to filter all our options into a group of what we desire in some way. Attraction …

5 Ways to Handle the Design-directing Business Rep

I was reading a blog article, "9 do’s and don’ts of UX design", this evening and found this particular section concerning: "...sometimes too much corporate oversight can limit the design process, as many clients, who obviously aren’t designers themselves, don’t exactly know what looks and functions best on the web. While they surely have the best intentions, sometimes UX design is best left to the designers—they’re the ones with experience in the field after all." Coming from a corporate environment, this was really more of a whine since it didn't contain any constructive suggestions to handle the situation. So I thought I would share some things I've learned through the years about working with business reps. 1. Everybody is visual. Go with it. While you may have a business analyst to elicit business rules and process and to define the problem, when the solution is a UI it's easier for someone to draw out what they're thinking than to explicitly…

Evaluating Your User's English-as-a-Second-Language Ability

At my company we've been dreaming of being able to localize our UIs since I started working there. While we have localized here and there for the most part it just doesn't happen. There simply aren't the resources or knowledge.Instead our employees in all branches are required to speak English. I have no idea how branches determine whether a person's ability is up to standard to be hired. I've never seen any guidelines for branch management to follow and admittedly our industry is one where you have to learn a lot of jargon, too. I imagine that may other global enterprises are the same way. This means that your users may struggle to understand your UI, especially those newly hired employees. So part of your user research should be pointed at determining at what level your users can understand written English. Here are guidelines you can use based on the European Framework of Reference for Languages. (See Chapter 9 for more information.) I assigned the reading leve…