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The AYCL Blog

Learn about what’s new, what’s coming, and find blasts from the past.

Unearthing Themes In Research Data

January 14, 2017
by Adam Churchill

Cyd Harrell tells us that user research data often contains metaphors that describe the overall experience that participants have. Researchers can surface these metaphors in data, and in their notes, by taking a closer look at the language that participants use to describe their experience. Language that falls within the following thematic groups is particularly interesting, because it represents powerful human desires and needs, and can provide insights into the overall user experience.

  • Attraction: Love, sex, and friendship. Participants might express emotion in these areas toward a product or concept. Attraction represents deep human needs, but it can also represent repulsion — for example, participants who feel discomfort with a product or experience.
  • Food and Shelter: Language that describes the feeling of home and safety, or lack thereof.
  • Status & Competition: This is another deep human connection that can result in the use of interesting metaphors. What kind of competition are people trying to win? What is important to them?
  • Places: Language that describes a place or context.
  • Animals: What creatures show similar behavior?

Know Your RACI

January 7, 2017
by Adam Churchill

Stakeholders can be incredibly helpful to teams—or problematic, depending on how you look at them. As Kim Goodwin says, we can’t expect busy stakeholders to bend to our way of working and communicating, but we can create a constructive environment for their feedback and the way we respond to it.

A good place to begin is with a team meeting that explores the roles and responsibilities of everyone involved: who will be responsible for doing the work, who will be accountable (the people who will approve the work), who should be consulted, and who should be kept informed. The acronym for this approach is called RACI and seasoned project managers are familiar with the process.

Streamline Your Design Efforts

December 17, 2016
by Adam Churchill

When in the thick of a project, the small, day-to-day decisions we make as designers can get away from us. As Dan Mall tells us, that’s when an interface inventory can make a difference.

If you take an inventory of button styles, for example, on your project or site, you may find a variety of styles, typography, and subtle design variations that were not intentional. Design teams can review an inventory, and all of the decisions that were made, and use that information to create an overall style guide that streamlines design decisions and can be applied in the future. This approach will result in cleaner code, and reduce the cognitive load on users.

Crafting Product Stories That Engage

December 13, 2016
by Adam Churchill

Your product must communicate its unique value to stand out in a competitive marketplace. Stories shape the way customers interact with products, and provide purpose and meaning to their experience. When customers respond well to product stories, they attribute value and desirability to the product and brand.

Begin by asking yourself what the story of your product is.

  • Who is the hero?
  • What is the hero’s goal?
  • What is getting in the way of that goal?
  • How will your product meet the hero’s goal? What is its value?
  • How will you get your hero to use the product?
  • How will you sustain interest in the product?

Our goal, says Donna Lichaw, is to create the best product stories that we can for customers. Successful product stories shape the way customers interact with the product. We create a world in which customers can see how our products enrich their lives.

Forming A Relationship With Forms

December 5, 2016
by Adam Churchill

With a little care and tough love, you can improve the form completion rates on your site. You might even make them fun. How? As Adam Gustafson tells us, start by humanizing the language in your forms. Approach the content as a conversation you would like to have with your audience, and use language they would use.

Eliminate the clutter and noise of multiple fields and focus your user’s attention on the information you need to gather. Make every field fight for its existence. This can be hard, as forms often represent an amalgamation of “asks” from across an organization. You’ll need to fight the good fight and argue for clarity, precision, and laser-like focus. Pare-down fields to the bare minimum and remove anything that isn’t required.

Make sure it’s clear to your users what they need to be doing, and why it benefits them to share their information with you.

Responsive Images and Site Performance

November 18, 2016
by Adam Churchill

Images and content are a powerful duo when matched appropriately. Images compel us to act, convey emotion, and communicate the overall art direction of a project. Images help people understand content better. Choosing the wrong image to represent your content can make a big difference in the way users interact with it.

As Jenn Lukas tells us, we have 10 seconds to engage users on our sites before they lose interest. Forty percent of people will abandon a website if it takes longer than three seconds to load. Every second of your page load-time counts, and the culprit behind growing page sizes and slow rendering is the lofty and powerful image, particularly on e-commerce sites.

As we look at page load times and our brand experience across devices, we need to ask whether the image we use in one experience fits the needs of all devices. We should not only consider strategies like optimizing images, loading images lazily, but also choosing the right image and size for the right device, particularly in responsive designs. We want our sites to perform well and we should be shooting for page load-times of one second.