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Remember Clippy?

Clippy, the Microsoft Office assistant

In my latest article on UXmatters, Five Degrees of User Assistance, I bring up a character that people love to hate – Clippy, of course! Although I do have sort of a soft spot for the little guy, he is a great example of unwanted user assistance.

Poor Clippy! It really wasn’t his fault, he came along at a time when computers were too stupid to accurately predict when people needed help. Programmed to jump out when certain events occurred, to enthusiastically offer his assistance, instead he came across as an unwanted interruption and annoyance.

Today, as technology becomes increasingly intelligent, computers are smart enough to provide more appropriate and more accurate user assistance. In my latest article I describe these five levels of user assistance:

  • Passively providing online Help content. Here’s help if you need it.
  • Asking if the user needs help. Can I help you?
  • Proactively offering suggestions that users can accept or ignore. Is this what you want, or do you want to correct this?
  • Alerting the user that it’s going to take an action automatically, unless the user says not to. I’m going to do this, unless you tell me not to.
  • Automatically taking an action for the user, without asking for permission. I’ve got this for you. Don’t worry about it.

 

Check it out at UXmatters: Five Degrees of User Assistance

Image source: Clippy, created by J. Albert Bowden II and licensed under CC BY 2.0

More UX Analogies

I just published an article on UXmatters today, “Why So Many UX Analogies?” It’s an investigation into why there are so many articles that compare UX to other things and whether these UX analogies have any value. I mentioned some examples in my article, but here are links to many more UX Analogies. Trust me, this doesn’t even scratch the surface.

Professions


Other Fields


Pop Culture

 

Hobbies/Activities

 

History

 

Miscellaneous

UX Career Advice

Today I published a new article in UXmatters, “What to Consider When Choosing a UX Job.” It details the questions you should ask and consider when contemplating a new job in the UX field.

I’ve written several UX career advice articles over the years. I link to them on my Publications page, but here they are compiled for easy reference. I don’t claim to be a career expert, but these are just some of the things I’ve learned (sometimes the hard way) in my 15 years in UX.

What to Consider When Choosing a UX Job
UXmatters – January 4, 2016
Lately, it seems like there are more jobs in User Experience than ever before. Deciding whether to accept a particular position is always an important decision, but in a hot job market like this, with so many opportunities, choosing the right company to work for is more important than ever. As with any other job opportunity, there are typical criteria to consider such as salary, benefits, company culture, and the commute. But, in this article, I’ll focus on the special considerations when you’re contemplating a new UX job.

UX Generalists or Specialists?
UXmatters – September 7, 2015
This is a question that every UX professional faces at some point: is it better to be a UX generalist, or is it better to specialize? Companies often question whether a team of UX generalists or a mix of specialists is best. In this column, I’ll discuss the advantages and disadvantages of generalization and specialization for UX professionals and the companies that hire them.

Better UX Internships
UXmatters – March 10, 2014
An internship is a great way to get into the field of user experience, but internships are often failures—for both the intern and the hiring company. Why? The hiring companies often don’t have a plan for how to use their interns, and interns often don’t know how they can contribute or where they fit in. In this column, I’ll discuss what interns and companies can do to ensure a better internship experience.

Career Advice for User Researchers
UXmatters – December 5, 2011
Eleven years seems like a good point at which to reflect back on the things I’ve learned over my career and pass on some advice to those who are just getting started in the field of user research.

Publishing and Presenting, Part 1: Yes, You Can!
UXmatters – November 12, 2012
In Part 1, I’ll discuss the benefits of publishing and presenting, as well as explore the excuses that prevent people from doing either. Publishing and presenting is a lot of work, especially when you’re already a busy UX professional. So why bother? Here are a few reasons you should.

Publishing and Presenting, Part 2: Publishing
UXmatters – December 10, 2012
Perhaps Part 1 of this series convinced you of the benefits of publishing, dispelled your fears, and defeated the excuses that have prevented you from publishing in the past. But how do you get started writing, and how do you get your writing published? These are the questions I’ll answer in Part 2.

Publishing and Presenting, Part 3: Presenting
UXmatters – January 7, 2013
In part 3 of this of this series, I’ll discuss how to generate ideas for conference topics, find the right conference at which to present, submit a proposal, and create a presentation, and what to do during a conference where you’re presenting.

This One Goes to 11

I just published an article on UXmatters, 10 User Research Myths and Misconceptions. It addresses common misunderstandings about user research that I’ve encountered over the years.

Here’s a bonus outtake from the article, Myth 11…

Myth 11: Field Research Is Better Than Usability Testing

On the other end of the spectrum from those who don’t understand the difference between user research and usability testing, are the user research elitists who think up-front, generative user research methods are far superior to usability testing. In this view, field studies take researchers out of the lab to observe people in their natural environments performing their usual activities, while usability testing takes place in the sterile, artificial environment of a usability lab and asks people to perform a limited set of artificial tasks. Instead of learning about people and what they really do, usability testing provides the limited value of learning whether people can perform your artificial tasks.

The Truth: Both Field Research and Usability Testing Have Their Places

Field studies and usability testing are two different methods used for different, but equally important, purposes. Field studies provide information to inform design, while usability testing evaluates a design. You have to make interpretations and conclusions from the user research and apply that to a design. Even after very thorough user research, you’re never completely sure that what you’ve designed will work well for the users. Usability testing is the evaluation that either confirms your decisions or points you to refinements. Both user research and usability testing are important and necessary. There’s no reason we can’t appreciate the value of both methods.

Analysis Is Cool

Affinity diagram

Analyzing the data is the most interesting part of user research. That’s where you see the trends, spot insights, and make conclusions. It’s where all the work comes together and you get the answers to your questions.

Why, then, did I publish an article in UXmatters – Analysis Isn’t Cool? All too often I’ve realized that clients, management, and project stakeholders underestimate the analysis phase and just want to get to the answers. People like to say that they did user research, but they don’t like to spend the time to analyze the data. They like the deliverables, whether they read them or not, but they don’t want to spend a lot of time on the analysis to produce those deliverables.

In this article, I discuss what analysis involves, methods for individual and group analysis, and ways to speed up the analysis process.

 

Photo by Josh Evnin on Flickr

User Experience in Bulgaria

Me presenting at UXify

I’m happy to report that user experience is alive and well in Bulgaria. I just got back a week ago from attending and presenting at UXify 2015 in Sofia, Bulgaria. A very enthusiastic audience of over 300 people attended a day of presentations, followed by a day of in-depth workshops. UXify was the end of a month of user experience events – UX Month Sofia.

On Friday, June 19th, I presented User Research in the Wild, a presentation about visiting people in their natural environments to observe their tasks. In addition to being a how-to guide, I covered common problems you face in conducting field studies and how to solve them, and how to overcome obstacles to field research.

On Saturday, June 20th, I gave a workshop on Paper Prototyping to about 20 attendees. After an introduction to creating paper prototypes and how to test them, the participants divided into groups to create their own paper prototypes. We only had a limited time to create them (about 40 minutes), so I was very surprised by how detailed and creative their prototypes turned out in such a short period of time. Each group of two people then joined with another group to take turns conducting usability testing on their paper prototypes. Each group did four rounds of tests, switching roles, so that each person was able to experience the role of the facilitator, “the computer,” and the participant twice. The attendees really seemed to have a good time, with a lot of laughing and joking around.

Me presenting at the workshop

In between my own presentations, I attended several interesting presentations about dashboard design, gamification, socially responsible design, and ecommerce user experience.

It was a fun trip, and it was nice to meet a lot of similar people, in another culture, who are similarly committed and enthusiastic about user experience.

Another Feedback Loop

I recently wrote an article in UXmatters about how the information displays in my Prius changed my driving behavior. Seeing the miles per gallon (MPG) I was getting in real time, acted like a feedback loop, causing me to make a connection between my driving actions and how they affected my gas mileage.

Something I didn’t write about, however, was another type of feedback that you get as a Prius driver – the drivers behind you. When someone drives up behind you and tailgates, that’s feedback to go faster or get out of the way. However, that feedback conflicts with the feedback from your Prius to drive economically.

To drive economically and get good gas mileage requires a steady pace and slow acceleration. That doesn’t necessarily mean slow driving. I drive 65 to 75 miles-per-hour to work, while getting about 60 miles per gallon. But it does mean that you need to avoid quickly accelerating. So being a Prius driver sometimes puts your gas-saving goals in conflict with the drive-fast goals of other drivers. There’s a reason some drivers get annoyed by Prius drivers.

Although I always drive in the right hand or middle lanes when I’m driving economically, I’ve found that the best way to drive economically is to ride along behind someone else. If there’s no one in front of you, and another driver comes up from behind, you feel pressure to go faster. If you have another driver in front of you, you have an excuse to drive economically. It’s that guy’s fault, you’re just driving behind him at a reasonable distance. So you don’t feel the pressure to speed up.

I’ve gotten my highest MPG records from driving (at a safe distance) behind a truck that was going a steady, reasonable speed (maybe 70 MPH). That allows you to ignore the feedback from drivers behind you and pay attention to the MPG display.

Sounds like I’ve put too much thought into this gas mileage thing with my Prius. Maybe, but I save money and it’s fun.