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  2. Experiments Cannot Fail

    Whether you are evaluating a new idea, or designing a new solution, or testing different versions of your product, there is always a chance you won’t improve on the existing design.

    And that isn’t a bad thing.


    Being rational isn’t as easy as it sounds.

    Almost every time I have introduced the idea of A/B testing — launching several versions of a design to find the best one — I have seen apprehension in my client’s / boss’s / girlfriend’s eyes.

    They were worried.

    ****

    Many people look at experiments in a glass-half-empty way:

    "You’re going to expose some users to something that is worse?"

    "You’re going to spend time on proving that we suck?"

    "We might not use the new designs at all?!"

    Technically, the answer to all of those is “maybe.”

    I have done tests where every new version is better than the current version.

    And sometimes every new version is worse.

    The thing is: you don’t know which versions are worse until you test them. 

    What if the worst version is the one every user is using right now?

    ****

    Uncertainty is a part of life, and UX. Get comfortable with it.

    We deal with a lot of subjective, “gray area” things, and those are the most valuable things to test. It is hard to guess which subjective thing your particular audience will prefer.

    And that’s a good thing!

    It is a mistake to think that you can “fail” when you do an experiment. 

    You can pick a favorite that doesn’t win. But that isn’t a failure. 

    You can have a hypothesis that turns out to be wrong. That isn’t a failure either.

    And you might prove that all of your ideas are worse than the existing solution. Also not a failure.

    How you feel about the designs you’re testing is irrelevant. 

    ****

    The purpose of an experiment is to find the truth.

    Not to prove that you are right. 

    Huge difference.

    No winners or losers. No right or wrong. No happy or sad. 

    Only true or false. 

    Does Version A perform better than Version B? Yes or no?

    When your favorite design doesn’t “win” the test, you still know that the other version is better, which will benefit you in the long-run. 

    When your hypothesis is wrong, you still know not to follow that path, which will save you a lot of time and resources.

    And when you prove that the existing solution is better than all your new ideas, you save yourself (and your company) from falling in love with something because it is shiny and new — not because it is better.

    Even if all the versions are exactly equal, it probably means that whatever you’re testing isn’t the important part, which is extremely valuable to know.

    ****

    The only way an experiment can fail is if the result teaches you nothing. 

    (i.e. — a shitty experiment.)

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  3. Want to see what UX can do for email?
    Reserve your first email browser on www.tellerapp.com.

  4. Expressing yourself is easy. Try expressing someone else instead.
    You don’t get paid to please yourself. 

  5. A good designer finds an elegant way to put everything you need on a page. A great designer convinces you half that shit is unnecessary.
    Mike Monteiro

  6. Link: To Solve Prison Crowding, Norway Goes Dutch
    http://www.businessweek.com/articles/2014-09-18/norway-exports-inmates-to-netherlands-to-solve-prison-crowding

    Fact: Your goals change your designs. 

    Think about the problem of crime.

    If you had to design a solution to reduce crime, what would it look like?

    In all the countries I am aware of, the solution takes the form of laws, and people that break laws go to prison.

    The question is, how does that reduce crime?

    This question, at the root, is a design question. Specifically, it is a definition of a design goal.

    Every time you design something, your first step is to define a goal. Without it, you will have no direction, and your “gut” will make all the decisions.

    The linked article describes something that might seem crazy to you at first: Norway’s “luxurious” prisons.

    They aren’t going to be on MTV Cribs, but compared to a typical prison, they are basically a resort.

    Flat screen televisions, windows, saunas. Sometimes inmates even get “cottages”.

    Seriously.

    Why, you ask, would anyone design a luxurious prison in the first place?

    Well, let me reverse that on you… why would anyone design a prison that is a terrible place to be?

    A typical, horrible prison is horrible by design, because the real goal is to punish the people that go there. The criminals. The primary goal is to do something bad to them, because they did something bad first. 

    Fair enough.

    The idea is to reduce crime by making people afraid to do anything illegal. Intuitively, this makes sense. It might even make you feel good to think about punishing criminals.

    But what if the goal was to reduce crime by rehabilitating the criminals? So they wouldn’t commit any more crimes.

    How would you design that prison?

    Well, as Norway has demonstrated, the best way to teach criminals how to live a life without crime — a life they want to continue “on the outside” — is to teach them about that life “on the inside”.

    The goal isn’t punishment.

    (We’re talking about lower security prisons mostly. Not serial killers and rapists…)

    They get their own space (a space worth taking care of). They work. They socialize. They learn. They get comfortable with being comfortable.

    Then when the criminals are released, they are more likely (compared to countries with shitty prisons) to continue that productive life.

    Just by changing our goal — our “UX Strategy” if you will — we get two completely opposite design solutions. One terrible. One luxurious.

    So, to arrive at an obvious conclusion: take your design goals very seriously. And HAVE SOME. Before you start designing. Without goals, you might just be doing the thing that makes sense intuitively.

    And you might be wrong.

    ****

    p.s. — The article also describes how prisons are closing in The Netherlands because they don’t have “enough” prisoners. I’ll let you read that for yourself.

    Read it now »

  7. Every time we judge someone, we miss the opportunity to understand them.
    It’s our job to understand the people who are not like us.

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  9. The UX Perspective

    In meetings with UX designers, other people often start sentences with, “from a UX perspective…” And I can’t help but wonder: what is their other perspective?


    This happens all the time.

    Maybe they are asking a question. Maybe they are stating a belief. Maybe they are trying to keep people focused.

    When someone begins with “From a UX Perspective…” their intentions are usually good, but it reveals a deeper assumption.

    As the UX designers, we interpret this as someone asking for our expert opinion. Because we’re humans, and that is the most flattering way to interpret the situation. So we don’t question it.

    But let me ask you this:

    What is the alternative to the “UX Perspective”? If you’re not looking at something from a UX perspective — whether you are the designer or not — how are you looking at it?

    UX includes business.

    It includes design.

    It includes branding.

    It includes functionality and technical concerns.

    It includes solving a real problem and benefiting real users.

    It includes strategy, marketing, and sales.

    It includes past, present, and future.

    It aims to make everyone happier.

    … so what other perspective could you have?

    We are not responsible for all of those things, but if the UX design works against any of those things, it’s just not good work.

    ****

    UX is just the name we use to describe good priorities in a product-based business. Service-based businesses say CX, or customer experience. Same thing. It is not always easy or intuitive to have good priorities though, which is why someone has to focus on it.

    Us.

    UX is the process of defining our perspective.

    The only true alternative to the “UX Perspective” is no perspective. And when you have no perspective you make choices based on laziness.

    ****

    Without perspective, you will…

    …do what you want to do, just because you want to do it.

    …ignore people that disagree, just because they disagree.

    …sacrifice function for beauty.

    …sacrifice quality for speed.

    …sacrifice long-term trust for short-term profit.

    …design something that is cool, but not useful.

    …design something that satisfies your boss but not your users.

    …design something that is hard to sell.

    …design something that will be hard to improve later.

    …design what your users ask for, instead of what they need.

    …design for the users you want, instead of the users you have.

    …add to existing crap, instead of replacing it.

    …avoid testing or measuring, because it might reveal your laziness.

    ****

    None of those things are good UX.

    So:

    What is your perspective?

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  10. Design is creativity with strategy.
    Rob Curedale
    Product Designer