Why and how to evaluate design using the right criteria for the job

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Image by Tumisu, via Pixabay

Most UX designers and researchers are familiar with heuristic evaluations, where an ‘expert’ reviewer combs a design, feature, or product to assess how well it meets a set of defined criteria. These criteria are usually aimed at ensuring the design meets acceptable standards of usability, and there are a few well-accepted sets of heuristic criteria that are appropriate for most situations.

The most well-known of these sets is probably Nielsen’s Heuristics, which are widely used and taught as standard, and which do a great job of covering the essentials of usability in software design. …


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Image by Geralt, via Pixabay

How and why to consider the larger context of product decisions

Over the past several years, some serious work has been done to define User Experience as a field. As with any good definition, part of the discussion has focused on what UX is not:

In the spirit of these alliterative decrees, I would like to add another:

UX is not only about Users

User experience is more than just the user

User experience is not just about a product’s users — or at least, it shouldn’t be. From a purist perspective, it is entirely possible for a UX designer or…


Sometimes there isn’t time for research… but that doesn’t mean there isn’t data.

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Image adapted from Geralt, via Pixabay

Even in organizations with dedicated UX researchers, there is often not a lot of time for research up front ahead of product development. This can result in designers scrambling to create something great, without a lot of input on what is really most important to their users. In most cases, even a little research could greatly improve initial product designs. But even when there is no time or budget for dedicated UX research, there is often still UX data — you just have to get creative to find it.

What is UX data?

UX data is basically any information from which you can derive…


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Usability testing is often the first thing people think of when asked about UX research. But testing a completed product, design, or prototype for usability issues can only occur after some design work has been completed, and there are many types of research activities that can contribute to a design’s success before it even begins.

Pre-design research to ensure product success

It is convenient to think of design research occurring across three phases of product development — pre-design, pre-development, and post-development. In any stage of product development, all research activities should be motivated by a specific research goal. While research…


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Combining qualitative and quantitative approaches

The goal of most design research is to understand a problem better, so that we can design a better solution. The specifics of the problem, and what we already know or don’t know about it, are different for each project. But if the problem is worth solving, there are always people affected by it who don’t yet have a great solution. Understanding who these people are, and why they need a better solution, is the first goal of most research projects. Knowing how to design a better solution is the next goal. A thoughtful approach to research allows these goals…


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Image by monicore (via Pexels)

There has been a fair amount of discussion recently on design challenges i the UX hiring process, from how hiring teams can best use them to evaluate candidates, to how job seekers should best approach their execution.

Time to kill the take-home design test

Homework sucks: why at-home design challenges are useless

Hiring a (product) designer? Don’t use design exercises!

Working through design challenges in product design job interviews

There is no doubt that giving a hands-on pseudo-assignment can be an effective way to determine how a potential employee works, thinks, and approaches challenges, how they leverage potential collaborations, if…


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Science… or design? (image by Geralt via pixabay)

These are the steps (dialed up to 11):

1. Find a problem that needs to be solved.

2. Make sure that the problem is important, find out who it is important to, and determine who is affected by it (sometimes the same people, but not always).

3. Learn the ways that other people have tried to solve this problem, and why they were not able to solve it, or why they have not solved it completely.

4. Think about what you could do differently, or additionally, to solve this problem.

5. Come up with a few solutions to the problem, consider the pros and cons of each, and…


Adjusting notifications shouldn’t be a hassle

(Originally posted 11.19.17)

A mobile operating system is a simpler beast than its full-size counterparts, but the Android OS is still a complex entity. Most of the OS works very well, but some features have a lot of options for improvement. On my Samsung Galaxy S8 (Android Version 7), on feature in particular takes up too much of my time. Of the 19 sections of the Settings menu, I spend the most time in the Notifications section. Notifications, who’s subtitle boasts the ability to “Block, allow, prioritize”, is the section that allows me to make my phone a less obnoxious…


Lessons on sorting and finding from library science

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(originally posted 11.16.17)

Information architecture, the logical organization of information, is usually associated with classification of digital information. However the most famous information architect may be Melvil Dewey, who published the Dewey Decimal Classification system in 1876. The Dewey Decimal system works on the premise that by using a single sorting characteristic, the topic of the book, one knows exactly where to sort any book, and exactly how to find it. …

Alison Berent-Spillson

Design researcher, product strategist, and cognitive scientist with a PhD in neuroscience. See my work at: www.berentspillson.com

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