The user interview is a deep conversation, start treating it that way.

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The greatest tool a UX researcher has is observation. The ability to be objective in the face of collecting qualitative, sometimes subjective data. We’ve heard much about the importance of talking to users: Stop designing based on conjecture, stop seeking comfort in statistics. Start getting out of the building and talk to real users. Start using statistics as an add-on to your thinking process.

However, it isn’t possible to observe everything that is going through users’ minds without having conversations about their thoughts and behaviors. These insightful conversation, where the researcher wants to get to the heart of the user’s motivations, can result in a marathon of ‘whys’. …


Tipping can be an emotional experience for users, design should embrace that.

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People are naturally self-interested, especially during times of crises. Some may need to be reminded of who’s putting their health at risk to allow them to #stayhome. Demand for grocery delivery is surging amid the COVID-19 pandemic, and many customers are struggling to get the items they want or even a time slot for a delivery.

On Instacart, some customers are dealing with this by offering big tips, as high as $50 or more, to entice workers to pick up their orders. Since the Instacart app allows customers to change a tip for up to three days, some of those people have used a bait-and-switch, offering a big tip and then taking it away when the worker, who risked their health to get them their groceries, has made the delivery. …


Think differently about what constitutes a persona and reevaluate their purpose

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Perceptions of user personas, a frequently used tool in the world of UX design, need to evolve to help UX professionals discover and solve design problems more effectively — and more inclusively — than ever.

Evolution is a good thing. Alan Cooper, the originator of personas, has said as much. His 1998 book, The Inmates Are Running the Asylum, was never meant to be a “how-to” book.

Personas were always meant to evolve and adapt, because the most important result is discovering a “common set of end states” between users.

He believes the lack of focus on this and an over-reliance on statistics, demographics, and treating users themselves as personas is what has led to a wide misinterpretation in the field. According to Cooper, “logic is a powerful and effective programming tool, [but] it is a pathetically weak and inappropriate interaction design tool.” …


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UX designers use personas to bring their understanding of users into their design work. A persona is an amalgam of people seen in design research, an amalgam of a type of potential user seen in the field, fictionalized and abstracted enough that the designers don’t get too hung up on the irrelevant idiosyncrasies of particular individuals.

But an oversimplification nullifies the purpose of using personas.

“Everything should be made as simple as possible, but not simpler” — Albert Einstein

One part of that practice we don’t talk about enough is how to build out a set of personas to describe the shape of the user population when we have found varying types of people. As Einstein would have it, we aim to limit ourselves to as few personas as possible — but no fewer than we need. …


8 of Pixar’s creative storytelling rules can help communicate user findings and solutions.

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Why must I ‘resort’ to storytelling to present my work? A developer wouldn’t have to tell a story to sell their system architecture to the CEO, so why should a UX designer?

Storytelling is in itself UX work. A UX role is about more than just designing a product. It’s about being a facilitator of design, helping your team visualize a dream, uniting stakeholders and igniting their passion for the product. Telling a story helps you do this.

In 2011, a former Pixar employee, Emma Coats (who now works on personality design of Google Assistant), tweeted a series of storytelling aphorisms that were then widely circulated as “Pixar’s 22 Rules Of Storytelling.” She characterized them as “a mix of things learned from directors & coworkers at Pixar, listening to writers & directors talk about their craft, and via trial and error in the making of my own films.” …


Understanding how motivation and personalized learning can drive education innovation

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As a new technology, the full capabilities of AI have yet to emerge. As they improve and become more accessible, it will have many applications for online education. At the forefront of this innovation is personalized learning.

The important advantage to personalized learning is that all learners have different abilities and experiences and respond in unique ways to learning opportunities. An enormous challenge faced in our education system is properly recognizing these differences and developing learning approaches that help all learners achieve. …


Tone of voice is an important factor in designing better conversation.

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What if the focus of voice-enabled assistants like Alexa and Google Assistant was less about what is said — but how it is said?

Voice User Interfaces (VUI) not only introduce a change in the way people interact with technology, but they also raise the bar for the quality of those conversations.

When people interact with visible interfaces and experience trouble with them, they often blame themselves. But when people interact with VUIs and are unable to complete a task, they’ll blame the system.

This is because talking is the most natural and convenient way for people to communicate, and people are natural communicators. This affects user satisfaction and can have a direct influence on the retention rate. Voice interfaces should also take user emotions into account. People appreciate friendliness from others, and that translates to an affinity for friendly computers. Different tasks, like when someone wants to book a ticket for a flight and provides information about a trip, the system responding ‘sounds like a fun trip!’ …


How my psychology background helps understand users and create better design

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Two of the greatest skills a researcher in a social psychology lab can have are observation and listening. I’m describing myself since these skills have served me well in my psychology degree — and very well in both UX research and design. Observation gives us objective data about users’ behavior. And listening to users, while much more subjective, can contextualize and deepen our findings. Creating design from our insights is a test to find out how well we are understanding our users. Is it solving the problem? Is it intuitive? …


A new redesign suggests designing for accessibility is inevitable

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Mobile apps like Snapchat and TikTok relish in breaking design guidelines and best practice. When you open up TikTok, a random video of an amateur lip-syncing pre-teen immediately starts playing. You open Snapchat, and the camera opens by default, immediately ready to engage with. Since these apps are mobile first, navigation is primarily based on methods like swipes and gestures over more desktop-friendly buttons and menus. These are design choices that make decisions for you and make the app’s value proposition clear.

“Snapchat is about creation first, consumption comes later.”

As Snap has added more and more features to its namesake app, navigation to different screens became increasingly obfuscated. The value proposition of Snap Maps and its original content becomes less and less clear when they’re buried in undiscoverable places. Though it may be tempting to think Snapchat users can get accustomed to new and rule-breaking design, the Snap redesign heard around the world in 2018 means they aren’t always willing to accept an interface that is harder to use. And those kinds of redesigns certainly don’t win over any new users. …


What Pixar can teach us about creative team management

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“Creativity involves a large number of people from different disciplines working effectively together to solve a great many problems.” In the midst of Pixar’s Golden Age (1995–2010, give or take an Inside Out), Ed Catmull attributed Pixar’s streak of successful films to introspection and the sustainable management of creative talent.

The manager’s role is to safeguard the dynamics of her or his team, to sit back and really look at what’s going on in the room, how people interact, and how the culture can optimize true expression of creativity.

Contrast that to the philosophy of Henry J. Waternoose III, the CEO of Monsters Incorporated in Pixar’s Monsters, Inc. Mr. Waternoose would not consider abandoning human screams as an energy source, dangerous as he purports the work to be for his employees (if you haven’t seen the film, yes — screams are the main energy source in this universe). Though the human children are widely understood to be toxic for monsters, Waternoose views scream production as the only way for his company to survive. His main strategy to promote more energy production is to pit his workers against each other in a competition to rise through the ranks, displayed on a large scoreboard hanging over the ‘scare floor’. …

About

Matt Gramcko

UX Researcher & Designer | mattgramcko.com

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