3 must read articles on user experience and product development

Martin Belam by Martin Belam, 16 April 2012

I stopped keeping a linklog on here a while back, but in the space of a couple of hours today I saw three absolutely must read posts about user experience and product development which I thought worth passing along.

“Defining good” - Marty Cagan

A short but sweet blog post in which Marty Cagan takes apart the arguments of people who look at the products and services of the dominant players on the web, and suggest they aren’t good because they don’t meet their personal taste. He makes this brilliant point:

“Too many people focus on what’s right in front of them, which is typically usability issues. I’m a huge advocate for removing friction cause by poor design, however, I also know that it’s mostly about value. If you focus on providing real and sustained value, that will overcome a lot of sins. If you don’t provide that value, I really don’t care how usable the product is.”

Read the full post: “Defining good” - Marty Cagan

“User experience is the heart of any company. How do you make it top priority?” - Mary Ellen Muckerman

“Usefulness is best achieved by thinking about everything as user experience. If you start with ‘useful’ as a first principle, then you automatically place customer need and experience first. And you’re less inclined to get lost in your own jargon, product-development silos, or legacy.”

In this lengthy piece on Co.Design site, Mary Ellen Muckerman drives home the point that products have to create value for the user. It is an incredibly harsh light to shine on everything you do in a product or on every piece of content that you produce. The question isn’t whether this achieves a business goal, or fulfils a quota, the question is “is this useful for the user?”

She goes on to extol the virtues of building and launching fast.

“The principles and theories of UX have created a new normal in terms of brand delivery and interaction. They state that how people actually use your product is much more important than how it was intended to be used. So engaging your consumer in ongoing, iterative product development is more valuable than holding out for a ‘perfect’ product launch. It is far better to get started in a live environment and be prepared to change fast around the needs of the user.”

Read the full post: “User experience is the heart of any company. How do you make it top priority?” - Mary Ellen Muckerman

“Sometimes” - Alex Morris

Alex Morris wrote a short Tumblr entry asking whether user experience designers can really design for all the contexts of use a user might have.

“I could just as easily be browsing an airline site on my phone, sat on my sofa with a 30mb broadband hookup, as running through a crowded street in a foreign country trying not to bankrupt myself with data roaming fees. And of course conversely I could be using my macbook air on a train with the shoddiest of connections.

Instead of running around trying to pre-empt and second guess the best way to hit this moving target, why not put the power back in the users hands. Let them tell us the context instead of trying to guess it, let them set contextual profiles to kill graphics, switch off webfonts, let them view the version they like - and then use better detection to make helpful suggestions regardless of device and help people learn...”

This is an issue I’ll be addressing in the “Responsive IA” masterclass I’m teaching in a couple of weeks.

Read the full post: “Sometimes” - Alex Morris

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