All posts from
February 2016

Figuring out content strategy

Better this realization now than never.

“The biggest change in my understanding of design after joining Capital One, by far, is how I understand the importance and nature of content strategy in my design work. It just makes logical sense that when someone interacts with something you’ve designed, a lot of what they see and what colors their understanding of the experience as a whole is word-based! I honestly can’t understand how I’ve gone as long as I have without really digging into content strategy; it just seems so obvious now. This realization was made a lot easier through the similarities between how Adaptive Path thinks about design and how our director of content strategy, Steph Hay and her team think about content. They aren’t lone poets just winging it; it’s actually a very rigorous process around understanding the purpose and context of the product, and using natural language. Because of these similarities, our methodologies around generative research and non-arbitrary design decisions work together seamlessly.”

Scott Sullivan a.k.a. /scottsullivanli | @scotsullivan ~ Adaptive Path

The Post-Mac Interface

HCI giants on whose shoulders we stand.

“In 1996 Don Gentner and Jakob Nielsen published a thought experiment, The Anti-Mac Interface. It’s worth a read. By violating the design principles of the entrenched Mac desktop interface, G and N propose that more powerful interfaces could exceed the aging model and define the Internet desktop. It’s been almost 20 years since the Anti-Mac design principles were proposed, and almost 30 since the original Apple Human Interface Guidelines were published. Did the Anti-Mac principles supersede those of the Mac? Here I reflect on the Mac design principles of 1986, the Anti-Mac design principles of 1996, and what I observe as apparent (and cheekily named) Post-Mac design principles of 2016… er, 2015.”

Adam Baker a.k.a. @twomonthsoff

Designing future-friendly content: Modeling structure for every user interface

Applying a systematic modeling approach to content is half the work.

“Design is about relationships. Whether digital, print, or physical artifacts, designers manage and structure the relationship between form, material, and content. As UX designers, we manage the relationships of content, navigation, and user journeys within the confines of a user interface. Increasingly, the content we want to publish must exist across many interfaces at once and be ready for platforms and devices yet to come. We need a way of making our content ready for anything the future will bring.”

Mike Atherton a.k.a. @mikeatherton | Carrie Hane a.k.a. @carriehd ~ UXPA Magazine

Stop admiring the problem: Getting traction with your content strategy

Forgetting your content at a strategic level is a major UX sin.

“Kristina Halvorson, one of the pioneers of the content strategy movement, once wrote that content strategy is essentially content planning, or not treating content as an afterthought. Most of the time at the large corporations in which I’ve worked, working on projects first involves mapping out an experience based on business requirements and what IT can support, then garnishing that experience with piecemeal content: a product description here, a headline there; intro copy for one page, a button label for another. Done and done. The problem with that approach is that it creates a disjointed narrative that’s not really focused on dealing with real customer needs. So how do you know what your customers really need? How can you be sure your content is prioritized appropriately? How do you know how much content is too much, and how much isn’t enough? Our organization had always addressed design from a customer perspective. Now it was time to focus on how to use content strategy to enrich our content and make it more customer-centric.”

Kelly Turner a.k.a. /kelly-turner | @KellyRTurner ~ UXPA Magazine

Unlocking the power of the practical service blueprint

Customer journey and service bliueprint, the lorem ipsum artifacts of service design.

“There are a lot of artifacts and methods out there for mapping experiences. I had a great need that none of what existed could meet, so I took from all around me and came up with something new. That’s what is great about design and the creative process. We don’t have to be stuck with what we’re given, and we don’t have to stay idle and hope that someone else will come up with something to solve our problems first.”

Erik Flowers a.k.a. /erikflowers | @erik_flowers ~ Practical Service Design

Bridging the gap between content and design

Words and numbers as design material.

“Everything around us is designed on some level. There are decisions made about both the function and the form. This does not mean that everything is good design and that everyone should be a designer – just as every piece of content is not good content and everyone should not become a content manager or copywriter.”

Renata Barros a.k.a. /renatabarros | @rjmbarros ~ Gather Content

The rise of design systems

Design systems, not destinations.

“A fundamental shift is happening in the approach to designing cross-platform applications. Designers are moving away from focusing on individual styles, restricted grids and fixed components for singular platforms. Instead, we are focusing on sharing flexible design systems. These easily accessible online repositories include design principles to follow, responsive grid systems, reusable components and style guides with examples of what and what not to do.”

Andy McDonald ~ Electronic Ink

The pain with no name

Language is infrastructure for sense-making and place-making. Language is a medium for making. And, as RSW once said: “Language generates structure.”

“Twenty-five years into designing and developing for the web and we still collectively suck at information architecture. We are taught to be innovative, creative, agile, and iterative, but where and when are we taught how to make complex things clear? In my opinion, the most important thing we can do to make the world a clearer place is teach people how to think critically about structure and language.”

Abby Covert a.k.a. /abbytheia | @Abby_the_IA ~ A List Apart

Running contextual design research for service strategy

Service design discovers other established design research fields, like contextual inquiry.

“One of the first places to start when you want to improve your service is to look to your customer feedback and data. But what do you do when no one in the room understands how people are using your service, and the data you have is limited to high-level usage analytics? This is the perfect time to introduce ethnographic research into the mix to better understand how your service is perceived, used, and experienced. (…) In this post, I wanted to share my process for running this research—how I went from one step to the next, what tools I used and why, and the realities of what the day-to-day looks like running a research project of this kind—in the hopes that it might be helpful for those considering running similar research.”

Megan Erin Miller a.k.a. /meganerinmiller | @meganerinmiller ~ Practical Service Design

How cybernetics connects computing, counterculture, and design

Some really deep and historical thinking on design and systems.

“Beginning in the decade before World War II and accelerating through the war and after, scientists designed increasingly sophisticated mechanical and electrical systems that acted as if they had a purpose. This work intersected other work on cognition in animals as well as early work on computing. What emerged was a new way of looking at systems – not just mechanical and electrical systems, but also biological and social systems: a unifying theory of systems and their relation to their environment. This turn toward ‘whole systems’ and ‘systems thinking’ became known as cybernetics. Cybernetics frames the world in terms of systems and their goals. This approach led to unexpected outcomes.”

Hugh Dubberly a.k.a. /hughdubberly ~ Dubberly Design Office

Reality check: High-fidelity content enhances the design process

Professional UX organizations have discovered content and content strategy. Phew!

“As devices have proliferated, design patterns have matured, and user interfaces have evolved, user experience designers have kept pace with high fidelity prototypes. By employing high fidelity content, content strategists can keep pace too. We can evaluate, ideate, and gather feedback about our content approach much sooner than we ever could before. High fidelity content also affords a unique way to instill content strategy rigor in projects that might not think they need it. And last, but by no means least, high fidelity content helps everyone involved in the digital design process deliver flexible, meaningful content capable of creating relevant, engaging user experiences. Now that’s a reality worth embracing.”

Lisa Moore a.k.a. @writebyteUK ~ The Magazine of the User Experience Professionals Association 16.1

User Experience Librarians: User Advocates, User Researchers, Usability Evaluators, or All of the Above? (.pdf)

Libraries and UX, a perfect match for information architects.

“User Experience (UX) is gaining momentum as a critical
success factor across all industries and sectors, including libraries. While usability studies of library websites and related digital interfaces are commonplace, UX is becoming an increasingly popular topic of discussion in the
community and is emerging as a new specialization for library professionals. To better understand this phenomenon, this paper reports the results of a qualitative study involving interviews with 16 librarians who have ‘User Experience’ in their official job titles. The results show that UX Librarians share a user-centered mindset and many common responsibilities, including user research, usability testing, and space/service assessments, but each individual UX Librarian is also somewhat unique in how they approach and describe their work. As a whole, the research sheds light on an emerging library specialization and provides a valuable snapshot of the current state of UX Librarianship.”

Craig M. MacDonald a.k.a. @CraigMMacDonald ~ Proceedings of the 78th ASIS&T Annual Meeting, vol. 51