When starting a new career in UX, having a great portfolio is the best way to really set you apart from your peers. Once you have had a chance to start putting together work experience, here are some key tips to develop a portfolio:
Select the right platform for your portfolio.
When creating a new website there are so many options. Do you start from scratch with a GoDaddy Account? How about a WordPress site? What template to use, or should you use one at all? Sites like Squarespace, Carbonmade and Cargo Collective are great places to start. Here’s an article that compares the different sites available.
Develop an online brand for yourself.
In today’s digital environment, your online presence is what people see most often. I read countless articles about people who don’t get a job because of something on Facebook, or other social media sites. This doesn’t directly relate to building a portfolio, but I think it’s just as important. Before you begin your job search, Google stalk yourself. If you see things you wouldn’t want your employer to see, make sure to get rid of them right away. A gorgeous portfolio cannot save a disaster photo from someone’s bachelor party.
Create a logo and theme for yourself.
Whether you choose a pre-made template or create one from scratch, having a beautiful logo and design will impress those who visit your site. Work with a mentor to see what works best for your brand, and keep it consistent.
Make sure your site is well-categorized and shows a depth of experience.
When we recruit an applicant, we want to see how diverse their work experience is. Do you have prototyping experience? Wireframing? Design experience? Usability Testing? Including these types of categories in your website will diversify you. Also, make sure to highlight specific industry experience. When we have a new client that is looking for someone with experience in that respective industry, it is very helpful to be able to call it out.
Make sure your website is optimized for the User Experience.
I know this sounds like a no-brainer, but it is really important. Since the potential employers are experts in the UX industry, if there is a usability fail in your website, it would be the difference between getting hired or not, despite how great everything else is. When Key Lime Interactive updated their website, we actually ran a few lean UX tests to obtain feedback on the changes we made. This allows for another great opportunity to network with people in your community, and let them know you are serious about your career in UX. Once you have these pieces set up, you are ready to get out into the community and start interviewing. With a great portfolio set up, you should have the confidence to land your dream job.
Wearables are fun and cool, but aren’t always useful or usable
An exciting array of new smart wearable devices are available to consumers, but very few have proven to be useful enough to become a staple of our daily lives.
The wearables experience is very different from that of any other portable device. In the morning a smartwatch might vibrate to get your attention to look at it because you have a meeting in 10 minutes. The device might alert you that you have reached your target heart rate while exercising. The user might then swipe the screen a few times to change to a different song track.
Samsung Gear S2 used during a workout routine. Image courtesy of Samsung.
User experience teams have been able to collect lots of data about usage habits through diary studies and run usability tests to understand if users can use these devices. While informative, these methods are unable to capture the subtle, yet critical behavior of visual attentiveness.
Improving the user experience of wearables
Eye tracking can help researchers to better understand how users are viewing wearables and to identify usability issues that might not be detected by direct observation of participants in a usability test. At Key Lime Interactive, we have been working on new methods for analyzing eye tracking data that are most applicable for studying wearables.
Our goal is to establish benchmark metrics for a variety of wearable devices and apps so that we can help our clients understand how their products compare and to make suggestions for improving the user’s experience.
Visual attentiveness is key to understanding the UX of wearables
Visual attention is still the primary way for users to obtain information from and interact with wearable devices. Users stop, check the device display, interact easily and quickly, and then move on. They spend only seconds in an app at any given time, rather than minutes. By providing just the right information, at just the right time, users can get back to focusing on the real world more quickly.
A poorly designed app requires the user to spend significantly more time looking at the wearable device which then disrupts the user from their primary task and reduces the overall utility of wearing the device.
The user’s interest in engaging with the device can be measured by the frequency with which they look at it. A useful wearable device should be frequently glanced at for short amounts of time, providing bite-sized amounts of information, similar to quick glances at a regular analog watch.
The word taxonomy is essentially defined as the study of general principles of scientific classification, or the orderly classification of things according to their presumed relationships. In other words, taxonomy is the process of describing how things are related by putting them in groups. So what does taxonomy have to do with user experience? Well, for plenty of organizations, it’s everything.
Let’s imagine you were planning a little get together and your plan was to have some friends over for an arts & crafts night where you’d be doing some knitting, sewing, quilting, etc. You hop on your computer and go to the website of your favorite local arts & crafts store to shop for supplies. The first thing you need to get is yarn, you aren’t too sure what kind, but you know you need some yarn. If you look at this example below, you clearly have a decision to make. Within which of these menu categories would you expect to find yarn? Is it ‘Crafts & Hobbies’? Is it ‘Knitting & Crochet’? Is it ‘Sewing & Fabric’? Or is it something else entirely?
While some items on a website are easier to find than others, such as this one, something like yarn may be a bit more difficult. Therefore, it’s up to the company to devote the time and necessary resources to improve the findability of all the products on their website.
Nothing frustrates web users more than poor navigation and confusing content structure. Per recent data from Google’s Consumer Barometer, the majority of consumers are looking for something specific when they search a website [Figure 1]. Additionally, while we can see that price is often the most important purchase influencer [Figure 2], consumers are incapable of seeing the price of the product they’re looking for if they aren’t able to find it on the website. The principal concern businesses have is the fact that if consumers come to their website to find something and they fail repeatedly trying to find it, they will simply leave the site and go somewhere else.
Source: Consumer Barometer with Google – The Connected Consumer Survey 2014 / 2015
So how can navigation and content structure problems be avoided? Well, the best and most fundamental tactic used to improve site navigation and content structure is to conduct a tree test of your site content. Tree testing is a usability technique for evaluating the findability of products and information on a website.
Take the aforementioned arts & crafts website example – you have a website that is organized into a hierarchy (a “tree”) of primary categories and within each of those are sub-categories. A well-organized website is one that makes it easy for the user to navigate through the categories and any sub-categories that follow in order to find what they are looking for. The tree shown in this example below would look something like: Beads & Jewelry > Beads > Strung Beads
How to Conduct a Tree Test
A typical tree test involves several tasks for study participants to complete. Just to give you a quick look at what a tree test would look like, I’ve built out an actual task scenario using the aforementioned arts & crafts website. However, before we look at the example, here’s some general information explaining how tree tests are set up.
Users are shown a welcome message thanking them for taking the time to participate in the study.
Users are often told the expected length of the study (how long it will take them to complete it), which is typically 15-20 minutes at the most.
Lastly, it’s good practice to let users know that their answers are very valuable in helping to organize the content on your website and that there are no right or wrong answers, as it’s the content being tested, not their ability.
Users are presented with a list of links and they are asked to find a certain item.
The user will click through the links in the tree until they feel they have reached a point where they feel confident they would find the item they were asked to find.
Users are informed that if they want to go back for any reason, they can simply click on the link above where they currently are in the process.
Thank You Message
After users complete the task(s) they should be presented with a thank you message thanking them, again, for their participation and letting them know they’re finished and it’s safe to close the browser.
Tree Test Example
As you can see with the above example, users are given a task to find a specific item and then they are shown a set of options to choose from. Within each of those initial options is a set of sub-options and within those sub-options are more sub-options. Depending on the item they are being asked to find, and also depending on how deep the content structure of the site is built out, the number of sub-options and categories will vary.
So, once you’re finished collecting the data from your tree test study, how do you analyze the results? Well, it’s quite simple and it’s fascinating how much you can learn. You would be able to observe and analyze key data points such as:
Number of Direct Successes – The number of participants that were able to locate the item on their first try without having to go back at any point.
Number of Indirect Successes – The number of participants that successfully located the item, but in doing so they navigated back at some point, then ultimately found the correct path.
Number of Direct Fails – The number of participants that went down the wrong path and selected an option other than where the item they were looking for was located.
Number of Indirect Fails – The number of participants that navigated back at some point, then ultimately selected an option other than where the item they were looking for was located.
Time on Task Metrics
You can obtain the mean (average), median, and mode as it relates to the time it took each participant to complete any of the tasks in the study.
If you wanted to, when building your tree test study you could add a question after specific tasks asking users to provide qualitative feedback, such as why they selected the option that they chose or you could ask them if they had any suggestions for how the process overall could be made easier.
Now that you’re equipped with some knowledge on tree testing and have some fresh examples to reference, take a look at your website and ask yourself if your site’s content is organized in a way that it’s providing the best possible experience for your users. Provide your customers with a pleasant user experience, help them find what they’re looking for quickly and easily, and you’ll be on your way to reaping countless benefits.
With one fifth of the world’s population, China’s market is divided into Mainland China, Hong Kong, and Taiwan. Hong Kong and Taiwan are considered distinct markets within Greater China, as each have their own spoken and written language. Therefore, products looking to meet the needs of these two markets will have different creative, design, and language considerations. How these customers interact with your products or services from end-to-end can vary quite significantly between these populations and the majority that resides within Mainland China.
When choosing customers to sample from in Mainland China, four city tiers are often considered alongside other demographic, psychographic, and behavioral variables. Most brands choose to conduct research in Tier 1 cities like Shanghai and Beijing, so they get a sample of the largest and wealthiest cities; plus the cultural, political and, technology center of China. However, if the goal is to understand user experience across China and build customer personas, you might consider sampling from China’s other 10 megacities[i] to validate learnings from Beijing and Shanghai. Research on the competitive landscape and how it impacts the user experience must account for different distribution channels and customer access to products across urban cities.
Brands that want to be successful in China have been doing research in Tier 2 and 3 cities. Combined, these tiers have 6x the number of households in Tier 1 cities. In the last decade, many brands have also gone in Tier 4 and even Tier 5 cities to better grasp and map the customer journey.
Appreciating cultural and linguistic diversity is critical to successful data collection in China. There are five major dialectical groups that are mutually unintelligible and covers 200 individual dialects. Experienced Chinese moderators and translators will likely be fluent in two dialects and have no problems distinguishing between local access and comprehending native expressions (common Chinese idioms). For example, a southern Chinese person from Shanghai may often have problems understanding a northerner in Beijing when one speaks too quickly or vice versa. Participants can also be more sarcastic in certain cities over others. Use local moderators and translators whenever possible, particularly as you move beyond testing in Beijing and Shanghai only.
Allowing more time between interviews for mini-debriefs with moderators and translators is also helpful. Often, there is hidden meaning beyond the literal translation, so don’t be afraid to pause between sessions and ask if there is an alternative explanation. An experienced researcher in China will be able to explain the differences in expression, and identify if there is double meaning. Example, use of sarcasm versus someone politely “giving face” and avoiding direct criticism.
Finally, with analysis and recommendations, researchers need to consider that foreign companies are not allowed to wholly own companies in China, which then has an impact on product development and services. Global and regional stakeholders may have limited visibility and control over local implementation. So, whether you’re conducting a study to inform a product launch or market positioning, spend more time in understanding where the research needs are coming from. Particularly with multinational companies, understanding the makeup of your local, regional, and global stakeholder groups will help inform the types of recommendations that have impact and at which level. Otherwise, your recommendations may be interesting but fail in being “actionable”.
Partnering with a larger research agency can help to assure a sense of quality and a more familiar level of service for “new-to-China” companies. As a young industry in China, however, smaller research agencies are often more agile and able to produce research at a lower cost. Fortunately, a number of competitive options have increased dramatically over the last few years.
To identify potential partners, start by joining UXPA China (http://www.upachina.org/en/), which is formerly known as UPA China. Since 2004, this organization has early roots in user experience and can provide a rich network for global companies seeking local partners. The industry is still young and growing in China, providing greater resources for all companies looking to improve their experiences with Chinese customers.
Key Lime Interactive is a global partner with UX Fellows. For more information on conducting global UX testing with our team, email us at firstname.lastname@example.org. Not looking for a usability partner at this time? Email us to say hi, anyways.
[i] China’s megacities range from population sizes of 5-20+ million each
This blog post is an introduction to Participatory Design (PD) and the methodologies that encompass PD. This is the first in a series of PD themed blog posts, so stay tuned for the next installment!
Participatory Design, User-Centered Design, and Human-Centered Design, all refer to methods which involve users and stakeholders during the iterative design process in hopes of meeting the wants, needs, and affordances of end-users. Participatory Design can be implemented in a variety of ways depending on what type of information the team is trying to capture– from design requirements to usability, the choice is yours.
Participatory Design was initially used in the design and development of computer applications and systems in Scandinavia and was referred to as Cooperative Design (Bødker et al., 2004). As the theory moved westward to the US, the term Participatory replaced Cooperative due to the nature of the first applications in business and the need to stress the vested interest of the participants.
The primary goal of PD is to help provide greater consideration and understanding of the needs and wants of system users. Participatory Design can be used to carefully integrate the needs, perspectives, and contexts of stakeholders, therefore, increasing the likelihood of diffusion, adoption, and impact of the resulting user-centered system.
For example, the design of a new mobile yellow page application created to target certain populations and connect users with providers. Wouldn’t it make sense to involve the end-users of this application from the onset of the project? Absolutely! Again, PD can be implemented in a variety of forms, for this example let’s assume we begin by asking our end-users to participate in a design needs session where the design team meets with end-users and fleshes out the necessary design requirements for the mobile app. From the beginning of the project, the users will have their voice heard and incorporated into the design of the final system.
Iterative Usability Testing is paramount to the success of any system, and this is another point where users can assist the design team in shaping the usability of the system. By conducting iterative usability tests, perhaps as short weekly lean UX sprints, the design team and engineers can quickly test and iterate the design of a new system- and be agile in the process.
IDEO has put together its own version of a ‘Human Centered Design Toolkit’. Check it out. Lots of cool techniques, tips, and more to get yourself in the HCD head space.
Remember: by incorporating your users feedback throughout the creation of your system, you are moving towards a better design and adopted system for all stakeholders.
Have you ever heard the expression ‘failing to plan is planning to fail’? Well, as true as the expression may be, you’ll often find yourself in situations where things such as time or budget constraints are preventing you from being able to adequately plan and prepare. In the UX world, research and planning are king, and neglecting either of those can be disastrous for your organization. So, what do you do when you find yourself faced with some sort of roadblock and traditional research methods are simply not an option? Well, the answer is guerilla research.
Guerilla research is faster, cheaper, and less formal than traditional research methods. It can provide you with quick, effective insight that can save you and your organization a great deal of time and money in the long run. With guerilla usability testing you will not incur any large costs associated with things like travel, lab rentals, expensive recording equipment, etc. As for saving time, guerilla research is extremely quick and you can get insight in as little as a few hours. With this type of research you’ll be operating from the standpoint that some insight is better than no insight. So, even if the testing you conduct is short and sweet, it’s worth it.
Here is an example of a guerilla usability test I conducted in the past. The objective of this quick test was to learn whether or not users were able to intuitively use some newly proposed icons within a mobile banking app. The bank featured in this example had recently made the transition from a left-hand navigation menu in their mobile app to a more simplistic layout that featured a dock (shown below) of four icons on the bottom of the mobile app’s interface. I tested with 10 participants and tasked each of them with selecting which icon they felt they would use if they wanted to access a list of FAQs. I then watched and listened as users attempted the task, and also shared with me what they felt each of the icons represented and what options they would expect to see within each one.
When tasked with finding a list of FAQs, users were split between tapping on the 3rd icon (the icon with the “?”) and the 4th icon (the cogwheel).
Seven out of the ten users initially tapped on the cogwheel, stating that the icon with the “?” looked like it was where they would go to chat or initiate a communication with customer service, since the “?” was within what appeared to be a chat bubble.
In speaking further with users, they said the confusion stemmed from the bubble in which the “?” was located. Participants said that if this were simply a circle, the confusion would likely be alleviated, however, they said the point at the bottom left of the icon made it look far too close to an icon used to represent a ‘Chat’ or ‘Messaging’ feature.
Change the “FAQs” icon to have only a plain circle around the “?” in order to avoid confusion.
Quick Tips for Guerilla Usability Tests
Test with 5-10 participants, but typically no more than 10
Test in a decently quiet, trafficked location like a coffee shop or a cafeteria
Have each participant do only 1-2 tasks in order to keep each session short and sweet
Use very basic screening criteria (i.e. In the above example I shared, I would ask each participant whether or not they currently used a mobile banking app of some sort)
Thank each participant for their time and feedback
The above is just one good example of a guerilla usability test. It might not have been a colossal amount of research and data I gathered, but it was extremely valuable and it only took me a couple hours to get. Now that you have an idea of what a guerilla usability test is and you’ve seen what one looks like, you can get out there and conduct one on your own!