Triangle User Experience Professionals Association (TriUXPA)

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  • 13 Oct 2005 5:00 PM | Richard Phelps

    We've got two events coming up next week:

    * **TriUPA** is meeting on Monday, October 17th at 6:30; we're meeting at the Quorum in the Raddisson hotel. Get Directions »
    * **TriUX/IA Meeting/IxDG F2F** is Tuesday, October 18th from 6:00-7:30; we're meeting at Johnny Carino's in SouthPoint. Get Directions »

    Hope to see you at one of these great events!

  • 12 Oct 2005 5:00 PM | Richard Phelps
    Its official! We've got our first sponsor: Blue Cross Blue Shield of North Carolina. Thank you, Amanda, Anita, and Kim!
  • 05 Oct 2005 5:00 PM | Richard Phelps

    We're so close to several really interesting announcements about the Triangle's celebration of World Usability Day. I don't want to reveal anything before it's been finalized, so this post is really just to let you know that we've made some great progress these past couple of weeks. Particularly, we've

    * **almost found space for the event**. This has been my top priority over the past couple of weeks, and I'm glad to say that the search has nearly come to a close. I found a great space that's centrally located and has plenty of parking. I should have everything finalized sometime next week.
    * **been working on a list of sponsorship benefits** (thanks, Kim!) that will help us communicate the value of donating money to the event. I'll post the benefits here either tomorrow or sometime next week. If you think your company might be interested in donating to the event, please let me know.

    There's still much to do before November 3! We're recruiting teams for the interactionary, we're recruiting judges and panelists, and we've still got to promote the event. My goal is to get 150 people to attend! It's a lot of people, I know. With your help, though, I know we can do it.

  • 01 Oct 2005 5:00 PM | Richard Phelps

    We are moving forward with our plans to host a local World Usability Day event here in the Triangle. For those that did not attend the meeting, read more about World Usability Day here. Our event will consist of the following agenda:

    * **Interactionary** - "The idea is to explode the process of design by forcing insane time constraints, and asking teams of designers to work together in front of a live audience." We'll give 2-5 teams a design problem in which they will have one hour to come up with a solution 2 teams 20 minutes to solve a design problem. For more information on this, see Scott Berkun's Web site in which he documents several interactionaries.
    * **Usability Ticketing** - UX experts will "ticket" usability violations, take a picture of the ticket and post it on Flickr under a common tag. People can participate in this event anywhere in the triangle. We will create a "ticket" that you can print and use.

  • 25 Sep 2005 5:00 PM | Richard Phelps

    The last Triangle UX meeting (Tuesday 9/20, hosted by the Council for Entrepreneurial Development) focused on designing ecommerce interfaces for mobile devices. Wendy Fischer (Motricity) gave a presentation entitled Selling Content and Building Trust using Mobile Devices. Slides are available on the Yahoo! Group.

    Wendy emphasized the critical role of trust in encouraging people to buy content and services using mobile devices such as cell phones. Trust has long been recognized as a central part of ecommerce, with researchers demonstrating that many aspects of user experience designundefinedincluding visual design and usabilityundefinedaffect trust. Wendy's talk highlighted how trust issues can be even more pervasive and important on mobile devices. Design plays a key role in developing trust by enabling customers to feel comfortable and secure when making a purchase.

    One key element in building trust is designing effective support for browsing. Some guidelines for supporting browsing include:

    • Minimize clicks ("a click is a terrible thing to waste")
    • Provide rich previews of content, or direct access to content
    • Provide easy comparison of different items
    • Provide help and assistance, especially for novice users
    • Personalize views to match device capabilities
    • Make all costs and fees clear
    • Make it easy to cancel a purchase or return an unwanted item

    One company that implemented a "browse and buy" interface following these guidelines increased its returning customers from 18% to 46%.

    The guidelines are in accord with research on credibility and trust, HCI guidelines, and browsing, suggesting that effective mobile design can build upon lessons learned in Web design and HCI.
    At the same time, mobile devices, with their small screens and limited input options, make for a unique design platform. Exploring the tradeoff between simplicity and functionality on these devices, and finding innovative ways to support exploration and purchasing, will provide many challenges for mobile designers.

    -- Abe Crystal

  • 03 Jul 2005 5:00 PM | Richard Phelps

    The last Triangle IA/UX meeting (Tuesday 6/21, hosted by Hesketh.com) focused on the challenge of selling user experience work to colleagues and clients. Kim Ashley (Dialog) and Stephanie Perun (BlueCross BlueShield) led a lively discussion on this perennially interesting topic.

    Selling UX work is much like selling any service: one has to persuade customers of the service's value. That means making the benefits of the service clear, compelling and relevant to customers. So what's the problem? The customers of UX work--particularly executives and other decision-makers in organizations--may not see things quite the way usability professionals do. As Kim put it, we often face resistance from people familiar with older media. Maria, an IA with Lenovo (formerly IBM's PC division) described the challenges of having a visually intense and somewhat user-hostile color scheme imposed by marketing, regardless of its implications for usability.

    Marketing and communications (marcom) specialists are often particularly skeptical of "user-centered" design approaches and user research. Stephanie pointed out that attempting to introduce user-centered approaches can be viewed as insulting by marcom folks, who see it as their job to know and communicate with the customer. The problem is that marketing research rarely provides a good foundation for design: that's why user experience work often involves fieldwork, contextual inquiry, usability tests, and other research methods that provide different insights than focus groups and surveys. (Peter Merholz has an excellent example of the problems with trying to apply survey research to design).

    How can UX folk overcome this divide? A key idea that emerged from our discussion is emphasizing collaboration and problem-solving when working with marcom (or other non-usability professionals). One can complement existing marketing research, for example, then begin to introduce the idea of using other research methods as well. Here, salesmanship becomes critical. It can be valuable to humanize usability work, by emphasizing techniques such as personas (see this excellent case study of persona use at Microsoft, which integrates market research and user research) and scenarios. Just making usability methods concrete and visible can make a huge difference--Kim reported that executives thought card sorting was "so cool," and user tests are often eye-opening experiences for executives and developers alike. Finally, Stephanie argued that UX professionals must "overeducate" others in the organization on the value of user-centered research and design. For example, one effective tactic is to regularly distribute case studies, articles from the trade press, and other readable, compelling examples of UX work in practice throughout the organization (via listservs, bulletin boards, blogs, etc.).

    Perhaps the most controversial issue in selling UX work is measuring its value. Stephanie argued that "we're getting better at metrics" by emphasizing before-and-after studies of user-centered designs, and combining quantitative and qualitative data. Many authors (like Eric Schaffer of HFI) argue that we should cost-justify usability by making explicit return on investment (ROI) calculations. But at a panel at CHI'05, senior usability managers (from SAP, Microsoft, and IBM) argued forcefully that quantitative measures of ROI are misleading and harmful. Instead, they claimed, usability professionals should focus on partnering with management and selling "strategic" rather than "tactical" improvements. As one person pointed out, since when do advertising executives justify their work with ROI
    calculations?

    To dig deeper into the challenges of selling, measuring, and justifying UX work, I recommend the following:

    --Abe Crystal

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