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10 Most Common Misconceptions About User Experience Design

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Here's the presentation I gave at Pittsburgh Web Design Day ( based on my article on Mashable (

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10 Most Common Misconceptions About User Experience Design

  1. 10 Most Common Misconceptions About User Experience Design Whitney Hess @whitneyhess
  2. 1 User experience design is NOT User interface design. Whitney Hess @whitneyhess
  3. “User experience isn't a layer or component of a product or service. It's really about the design of whole systems and their interconnections.” Andrew Hinton Senior information architect at Vanguard Whitney Hess @whitneyhess
  5. 2 User experience design is NOT A step in the process. Whitney Hess @whitneyhess
  6. “User experience design isn't a checkbox. You don't do it and then move on. It needs to be integrated into everything you do.” Liz Danzico Chair, MFA in Interaction Design School of Visual Arts in NYC Whitney Hess @whitneyhess
  7. SOLUTIONS Future state Current state Write user-centered requirements specifications It stands almost complete and finished in my mind so ABSTRACTION that I can survey it like a fine Research user interface topics picture or a beautiful statue. Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart, from Create user interface style guides Information Design, edited by Robert Jacobson Conceptual and detailed design CONCEPTUAL An ounce of action is worth of user interfaces MODEL a ton of theory. Friedrich Engels (1820 - 1895) Review and test usability Information architecture USE CASES for large bodies of content “An architect is defined as Write and edit documentation someone who forgets to put in the staircase.” Gustave Flaubert, French novelist (1821-80), Dictionnaire des idées reçues (1881). CONCEPTUAL DESIGN Dilbert: “Your user require- ments include four hundred features. Do you realize that no human would be able to use a product with that level of complexity?” “Rules are sparse; we forget Feature Creep: “Good point. them. Stories, being rich in I’d better add ‘easy to use’ “If you want to know what details, are multiply index- to the list.” happens when you throw able...Moreover, if a rule fails, a stone into a pond, it is infi- Dilbert as quoted in Paper it can be reassessed only nitely better to make a trial Prototyping, Carolyn Snyder with great difficulty because and film it than to attempt rules hang in the air, unat- to theorize about it.” tached to experience. But if “Igloo: an indigenous home René Thom, Physicist the lesson attached to a spe- constructed of local building cific story fails, the events of materials. Bavarian castle: MOCK-UP the story can be reassessed a home constructed to impress to figure out why the lesson the neighbours. Space station: failed and what other lesson a mobile home with a view.” SCENARIOS might have been drawn.” Donald C. Gause & Gerald M. Weinberg, USER OF USE Tell Me a Story, Roger C. Schank Exploring Requirements: Quality Before Design REQUIREMENTS FUTURE STATE USABILITY I’m going to kill myself. I should go to Paris and jump TEST “Just wait, Gretel, until the off the Eiffel Tower. I’ll be CONTENT “I write scripts to serve as moon rises, and then we shall PROTOCOL dead. You know, in fact, if skeletons awaiting the flesh see the crumbs of bread INVENTORY I get the Concorde, I could and sinew of images.” which I have strewn about; TAXONOMY be dead three hours earlier, they will show us our way Ingmar Bergman, NY Times 22 Jan 78 which would be perfect. Or SCENARIOS AND METADATA home again.” “Our burgeoning digital cul- wait a minute. It – with the ture is heading for oblivion, OF USE time change, I could be alive Hansel and Gretel and fast…future anthropolo- for six hours in New York but CURRENT STATE gists will find our pottery but dead three hours in Paris. INFORMATION not our e-mail.” I could get things done, and ARCHITECTURE I could also be dead. James Gleick, Faster: the Acceleration of Just about Woody Allen (one of the greatest Everything personas of the 20th century… good thing he didn’t take the plane to Paris) USABILITY “Technical work needs “Break it, stretch it, bend it, “Regulations [are] written for reviewing for the same crush it, crack it, fold it.” the obedience of fools and TEST reason that pencils need the guidance of wise men.” Bruce Mau, Lifestyle erasers: to err is human.” Anonymous. Featured in the film Freedman and Weinberg, Handbook EXPERT Reach for the Sky (UK, 1956). of Walkthroughs, Inspections and GRAPHIC PERSONAS Technical Reviews REVIEW STYLE DESIGN GUIDE “Those things that hurt, TEST instruct.” REPORT Ben Franklin COMMUNICATION PLAN “Sight, even though used by all of us so naturally, has not yet produced its civilization. Sight is swift, comprehensive, simultaneously analytic and RESEARCH DETAILED synthetic. It requires so little REPORT energy to function, as it does, SPECIFICATION DOCUMENTATION FIELD at the speed of light, that it permits our minds to receive STUDIES and hold an infinite number of items of information in a fraction of a second. With Observation The men of experiment are “First, the taking in of scat- “He who every morning plans “To determine whether or not sight infinities are given at like the ant, they only collect tered particulars under one the transaction of the day a spark is being delivered to “A little manure on the boots once; wealth is its description.” and use; the reasoners Idea, so that everyone and follows out that plan, the spark plug, hold a spark may disturb city folks, but in Caleb Gattegno, Toward a Visual resemble spiders, who make understands what is being carries a thread that will plug wire approximately 1/4 requirements work, you learn Culture cobwebs out of their own talked about…Second, the guide him through the maze inch away from the cylinder not to mistake appearance substance. But the bee takes separation of the Idea into of the most busy life. But head as the engine is cranked for value.” the middle course: it gathers parts, by dividing it at the where no plan is laid, where with the starting motor…If a Donald C. Gause & Gerald M. its material from the flowers joints, as nature directs, the disposal of time is surren- spark is noted from each of Weinberg, Exploring Requirements: of the garden and field, but not breaking any limb in dered merely to the chance the wires, the trouble is not Quality Before Design transforms and digests it by half as a bad carver might.” of incidence, chaos will soon likely to be with the ignition a power of its own. Not unlike reign.” system.” Plato, Phaedrus, 265D this is the true business of Victor Hugo (1802 - 1885) from Ford’s 1941 Deluxe and Super philosophy (science). Deluxe Reference Book (Ford did not caution the reader against getting Francis Bacon shocked or performing this quick-fix Current state while standing in a puddle.). Future state hoto credits: Geert Allegaert, Joannes Vandermeulen and Karolien Taverniers - Thanks to Alain Schiffeleers and Andreea Chelaru TIME COMMUNICATION PLAN CONCEPTUAL MODEL DETAILED SPECIFICATION FIELD STUDIES INFORMATION ARCHITECTURE PERSONAS STYLE GUIDE USABILITY TEST USE CASES A document describing the scope and the The concepts that the design must communicate A detailed specification describes the compo- Observing users in the environment in which Document describing the information architec- Personas are lively descriptions of typical users. A document describing the formal conventions A method by which users of a product are asked A use case defines a set of use-case instances planning of the communication project: what in order for the user to understand and operate nents and behaviour of the user experience they will work with the digital product that is ture of a digital product. In some cases, the They are based on patterns and findings to be followed within a family of digital prod- to perform tasks in an effort to measure the in which each instance is a sequence of actions is to be communicated, for whom and how; the product. The conceptual model in sufficient detail for the developer, and may being designed. information architecture specification offers gathered during field studies. Using personas ucts. Conventions can be lexical (what are the product’s ease-of-use, task time, and the user’s a system performs that yields an observable where the challenges and opportunities lie. differs from the technical model, which is the include the design rationale. two perspectives: prevents designers from drifting towards an codes, both visual and linguistic) and syntacti- perception of the product. result of value to a particular actor, often a user. GRAPHIC DESIGN way the developer understands the product. • User’s side: what the user sees —the taxonomy idealized view of users that lacks nuance. cal (how the codes can be assembled to form CONCEPTUAL DESIGN DOCUMENTATION USABILITY TEST PROTOCOL USER REQUIREMENTS It also differs from the mental model, which is The design of the look and feel of the digital and structuring of the information on the pages. practical wholes). Whitney Hess @whitneyhess RESEARCH REPORT A set of sketches illustrating the main interaction the concept that an individual user develops The final deliverables of a documentation product. The graphical design usually consists • Authoring/Storage side: describing the author- The protocol describes scope, goals, settings, User requirements are a formal expression TAXONOMY AND METADATA concept of a digital product. The conceptual in order to understand the product. project. Usually the writing process of docu- of a specification of standard colours, icons, the ing and storage of the information, workflows, A document that expresses the findings of a instructions and tasks to be performed by of the desired functions and qualities of the design starts with paper and pencil. mentation takes three iterations: draft version, location of graphical elements and typography. metadata, topics and information types. research project. Creative and rational at the Design of the information structure, the labelling a test participant. future digital product. Not only product features, CONTENT INVENTORY pre-final version, and final version. same time, it provides insight into murky territory. and the terminology that will be applied to the but also non-functional requirements, such MOCK-UP A structured list of all content (documents, digital content of a digital product. The information as reliability and usability, are included. EXPERT REVIEW SCENARIOS OF USE assets, information chunks, etc.) that must be A more or less realistic simulation of the user structure is usually a tree or a matrix (faceted [current state/future state] considered for publication in a digital product. During expert reviews, a number of experts interface that combines the scenarios of use classification).
  8. “Most clients expect experience design to be a discrete activity, solving all their problems with a single functional specification or a single research study. It must be an ongoing effort, a process of continually learning about users, responding to their behaviors, and evolving the product or service.” Dan Brown Co-founder and principal at EightShapes Whitney Hess @whitneyhess
  9. 3 User experience design is NOT Just about technology. Whitney Hess @whitneyhess
  10. “User experience design is not limited to the confines of the computer. It doesn't even need a screen... User experience is any interaction with any product, any artifact, any system.” Bill DeRouchey Director of interaction design at Ziba Design Whitney Hess @whitneyhess
  11. Carelman’s teapot from Don Norman’s ﬔe Design of Everyday ﬔings Whitney Hess @whitneyhess
  12. 4 User experience design is NOT Just about usability. Whitney Hess @whitneyhess
  13. “While usability is important, its focus on efficiency and effectiveness seems to blur the other important factors in UX, which include learnability and visceral and behavioral emotional responses to the products and services we use.” David Malouf Professor of interaction design Savannah College of Art & Design Whitney Hess @whitneyhess
  14. Whitney Hess @whitneyhess
  15. 5 User experience design is NOT Just about the user. Whitney Hess @whitneyhess
  16. “We just can’t always do what is best for the users. ﬔere are a set of business objectives that are needing to be met—and we’re designing to that, as well.” Russ Unger Director of Experience Planning, DraFCB Whitney Hess @whitneyhess
  17. Whitney Hess @whitneyhess
  18. Whitney Hess @whitneyhess
  19. 6 User experience design is NOT Expensive. Whitney Hess @whitneyhess
  20. “Sometimes a fully-fledged, formal UCD process may not be the best thing to try first time. It’s extremely important–and totally possible no matter where you’re working or when you arrive on a project–to make small improvements to both the project and the product by introducing some user experience design techniques.” Steve Baty Principal and UX strategist, Meld Consulting Whitney Hess @whitneyhess
  21. Whitney Hess @whitneyhess
  22. “People cling to things like personas, user research, drawing comics, etc. In reality the best designers have a toolbox of options, picking and choosing methods for each project what makes sense for that particular project.” Dan Saffer Founder and principal, Kicker Studio Whitney Hess @whitneyhess
  23. 7 User experience design is NOT Easy. Whitney Hess @whitneyhess
  24. Whitney Hess @whitneyhess
  25. Cutting corners All assumption, no validation One-size-fits-all solutions Feature creep Design during development Whitney Hess @whitneyhess
  26. 8 User experience design is NOT ﬔe role of one person or department. Whitney Hess @whitneyhess
  27. “User experience isn’t just the responsibility of a department or a person. ﬔat compartmentalist view of UX is evidence that it is not part of the organizational culture and hints to teams not having a common goal or vision for the experience they should deliver collectively.” Livia Labate Principal, UX, Comcast Interactive Media Whitney Hess @whitneyhess
  28. Whitney Hess @whitneyhess
  29. journey-to-the-center-of-design
  30. 9 User experience design is NOT A single discipline. Whitney Hess @whitneyhess
  31. “User experience may not even be a community just yet. At best, it’s a common awareness, a thread that ties together people from different disciplines who care about good design, and who realize that today’s increasingly complex design challenges require the synthesis of different varieties of design expertise.” Lou Rosenfeld UX book publisher at Rosenfeld Media Whitney Hess @whitneyhess
  32. Whitney Hess @whitneyhess
  34. 10 User experience design is NOT A choice. Whitney Hess @whitneyhess
  35. “ﬔe biggest misconception is that companies have a choice to invest in their user’s experience. To survive, they don’t.” Joshua Porter Principal at Bokardo Design Whitney Hess @whitneyhess
  36. Experiences happen, whether or not you plan them. When not intentionally designed, there’s a much higher likelihood of the experience being poor. Whitney Hess @whitneyhess
  37. User experience design is NOT... 1. User interface design It is the system 2. A step in the process It is the process 3. Just about technology It is about behavior 4. Just about usability It is about value 5. Just about the user It is about context 6. Expensive It is flexible 7. Easy It is a balancing act 8. ﬔe role of one person or dept It is a culture 9. A single discipline It is a collaboration 10. A choice It is a means of survival Whitney Hess @whitneyhess
  38. ﬔank you. Whitney Hess @whitneyhess
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Here's the presentation I gave at Pittsburgh Web Design Day ( based on my article on Mashable (


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