A List Apart

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Topic: User Experience

What do the people who use your website actually want? Making web content accessible. Designing and testing interfaces and the systems that support them. Talking to users and considering real-world use cases. Testing on the cheap. Design, architecture, research, benchmarking, usability, analytics, studies, interviews, surveys, focus groups.

  • Awaken the Champion A/B Tester Within

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    Athletes capture and analyze data to optimize their performance. A/B testing can produce winners the same way: with data that goes beyond best guesses via behavioral analysis to extract deeper insights.

  • Let Emotion Be Your Guide

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    There is no separate digital experience for human emotions. In the realm of feelings, it’s all real life. Hana Schank and Jana Sedivy learned from their surprising and transformative encounters with users of a hospital website that you gain deeper insights when you let emotion take the wheel once in a while.

  • Why We Should All Be Data Literate

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    Design to the data. That’s the mantra of modern, research-driven web designers. But blindly accepting statistics and studies at face value is delusional at best, irresponsible at worst. Former journalist and current design specialist Dan Turner says be a skeptic. And don’t let fear of math, or innumeracy, stop you from running the numbers. Unexamined data can lead to costly mistakes. (Hint: Tripling your page views doesn’t mean much if you started with one visitor.)

  • Resurrecting Dead Personas

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    You spent a lot of time and money putting a human face on your market research. You created a dream-user and pledged to design with this persona in mind. But something happened. Now, your user persona is dying a lingering death. Meg Dickey-Kurdziolek explains that user personas—those darlings of user-centered design—require care and feeding to remain vital, and valid.

  • Adapting to Input

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    The rise of mobile devices made us confront the reality that we can’t control the size of the viewport, and we adapted. Now it’s time to face up to another reality: web input modes are proliferating and we have no control over which ones a user has and prefers. Seasoned developer Jason Grigsby has some advice on adapting to the way the web is now.

  • Never Show A Design You Haven’t Tested On Users

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    User testing doesn’t have to be expensive or time-consuming—and it should never be skipped entirely if you don’t have “permission” to do it. Injecting real feedback early and often affects how we design our work, communicate, and even present concepts to the client. Testing should be a habit, even when it doesn’t seem possible. It just requires a little ingenuity.

  • OOUX: A Foundation for Interaction Design

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    Pivoting smoothly from action to action is all well and good, but when interactions seem abstract to users, a sense of context is probably missing. In this follow-up to Object-Oriented UX, Sophia Voychehovski takes us from big-picture OOUX frameworks to confidently targeting actions that meet the needs of users.

  • Looking for “Trouble”

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    Venting isn’t exactly an innocent activity. Rolling our eyes at a struggling client—no matter how justified we may think we are—hints at a skewed sense of entitlement. It means we’ve forgotten that our experience working with others reflects their experience working with us. Orr Shtuhl shares how the team at Blenderbox changed their “venting culture” to proactively hunt for subtle flags of distress and take responsibility for their clients’ side of the experience.

  • The User’s Journey

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    We’re hardwired to respond to stories—to parse them, to invent them, to translate our world into landscapes and characters. Applying a twist to “narrative architecture,” Donna Lichaw deconstructs how we weave stories into our products. The real trick, she says, is to do more than tell stories; it’s to design our products to be the story.

  • Design for Real Life

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    We say we’re crafting personas to fit the needs of “real” people—yet we easily revert to abstractions when raw emotions enter the picture. Common human experiences aren’t “edge” cases; we don’t get to dismiss what seems uncomfortable or different to us. In this excerpt from Design for Real Life, Eric Meyer and Sara Wachter-Boettcher take on the elephant in the room—the tendency to look the other way.

  • Design for Real Life: An Interview with Sara Wachter-Boettcher

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    Good intentions can easily blind us to bad ideas—accidentally awful outcomes that alienate and distress our users. It’s time to take a hard look at our processes, to recognize and work through our biases toward idealized users in ideal situations. In this interview with managing editor Mica McPheeters, Sara Wachter-Boettcher talks about what she learned while writing Design for Real Life.

  • Web Animation Past, Present, and Future

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    Despite the rise and fall of Flash on the web, designing with animation has fiercely stirred us for decades. And yet nothing compares to its latest surge of evolution. Rachel Nabors lays out the array of tools and techniques that are fundamentally reframing our ideas about animation, and looks ahead to see where this path is taking us.

  • Designing the Conversational UI

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    In the second of a two-part series, Matty Mariansky turns to the practical aspects of designing conversational interfaces. He discusses some of the challenges that he and his team encountered along the way and offers guidelines for translating specific design patterns into a conversational form. These guidelines are loose principles rather than hard-and-fast rules; best practices for designing conversations will form, break, and form again. It’s an exciting time to be a pioneer.

  • All Talk and No Buttons: The Conversational UI

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    Conversational interfaces have been around for a while, but they’ve only recently begun to spread into the mainstream. The entire field of visual interface design—everything we know about placing controls, handling mouse and touch interaction, even picking colors—will be affected by the switch to conversational form, or will go away altogether. In the first of two parts, Matty Mariansky sketches out a road map for this brave new world.

  • Validating Product Ideas

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    In this excerpt from Validating Product Ideas, Tomer Sharon provides a treasure chest of fundamentals, step-by-step guidance, and concrete tactical advice for interviewing users. It’s for product developers who want to get up to speed or get a solid grounding in the techniques of lean user research, and for anyone who needs to understand their customers but doesn’t have a researcher on staff.

  • Privacy is UX

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    Alex Schmidt argues that in a world full of security breaches, snooping, and third-party data aggregators, you should know where your users’ data goes. In this article, she explains why it’s time we make privacy part of our product design process—and helps us figure out how to build it into our requirements and skillsets.

  • Designing for Post-Connected Users — Part 2, the Recommendations

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    Post-connected users don’t want to be in thrall to their communication tools all day (and then there’s the never-ending loop of updates, upgrades, and trending technologies to try). They want stable communication tools that work on their terms and adapt to their preferences. Antoine Lefeuvre urges us to see the web experience through their eyes and think about how classic, basic internet tech can be reimagined in fresh, user-pleasing ways.

  • Instant Web

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    For some, Facebook’s Instant Articles is a sign that the traditional web stack is incapable of giving users a first-class reading experience. But the sluggish performance of the web isn’t due to an inherent flaw in the technology. That particular problem originates between the seat and the keyboard, where builders make choices that bloat their sites. For Mark Llobrera, Instant Articles is a sign that we need to prioritize performance like we actually mean it.

  • Meta-Moments: Thoughtfulness by Design

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    Does the internet ever stop you in your tracks? Does it sometimes make you pause and think about what you’re doing? Andrew Grimes calls such moments meta-moments. He walks us through why meta-moments are occasionally necessary and how we might build them into the experiences we design.

  • Do Androids Dream in Free Verse?

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    From ATMs to Siri to the button text in an application user interface, we “talk” to our tech—and our tech talks back. Often this exchange is purely transactional, but newer technologies have renegotiated this relationship. Joscelin Cooper reflects on how we can design successful human-machine conversations that are neither cloying nor overly mechanical.