All posts by Danforth Media

Danforth Media is a design strategy firm offering software product planning, user research, and user centered design (UCD). We provide credible insights and creative solutions that allow our clients to deliver successful, customer-focused products. Danforth Media specializes in leveraging user experience design (UXD), design strategy, and design research methodologies to optimize complex multi-platform products for the people who use them.

User Experience Design Myths

This article attempts to dispel some common myths you may have heard about adopting user research or a user-centered design approach.

We Don’t Need UXD Because…

  • Our users are early adopters, or are our employees…
  • We are just trying to create a technical proof of concept…
  • We work iteratively in an Agile development environment…

Whatever the reason, consider this, there is no demographic that likes a poorly designed product. UXD foundations are arguably the most direct and efficient means to a well designed product. They can be adapted to any type of application or product lifecycle stage. Therefore, while your product may not need a complex UXD process or a specialized UXD team, the basics of user-centric design are always appropriate and will unilaterally result in a better product when appropriately applied.

UXD is Too Expensive

UXD methods can easily be modified to fit your budget. Each research method in this guide can be adapted to be implemented inexpensively and with very meager resources. In fact, an appropriately defined research plan should reduce costs by getting you much closer to what your end users want with far fewer problems post release. Maintenance costs related to unmet or unforeseen user needs can be as high as 80% of the overall development lifecycle costs. (Pressman, 1992) There is good reason why UXD is a growing field within software design; it shows a strong ROI.[1]

UXD Slows Down the Development Cycle

UXD can reduce and simplify the product development process. A common misconception about user-centric design is that it adds to, and slows down the development cycle. And yes, UXD can be incorporated in such a way that it needlessly adds time to the process. However, it does not have to. In fact, as early as 1991, a study found that usability engineering demonstrated reductions in the product development cycle by 33 to 50%. (Bosert, 1991) A well integrated, process-appropriate UXD effort will not only produce a more successful product, but will reduce development time and costs.

UXD is mostly useful for Consumer Products

Some form of UXD is useful for any system a user can interact with. Can users easily find what they need? Are common tasks simplified and not an unnecessary drudgery? Are the labels clear and do they use commonly accepted terms? All these UX related questions are as relevant to a consumer-focused e-commerce site as they would be to a billing operations system. UX Methods can be adapted and applied to information/marketing interfaces as well as transactional applications. The main difference is the goal, i.e. successful UXD on a consumer product usually drives more sales; while success in an operations system usually takes the form of higher adoption rates and increased productivity.

UXD Only Affects the Presentation Layer

UXD is more than skin deep. Don’t get me wrong, with a background in the arts; I see the value in making things look good, and most people respond to a pleasing visual design. But thinking of UXD as a presentation layer process will substantively limit its ability to improve your product. A good example of how UXD has an impact on functionality is in the case of faceted categorization for parametric searches[1]. User Research can not only help you determine how these fields should be laid-out, but how to categorize the data, what to name categories, and what kind of search groupings users want.

User Research will help us Define the Right User Experience

Well, you can try. But it is important to understand that there is no single “correct” user experience for a product. The process of interpreting the results of User Research and deciding how the resultant insights should be translated into final designs is probably best considered an art informed by science. It’s quite possible (and common) to have two totally different, yet viable, directions that both address the same user goals and requirements. (In these cases, additional criteria can be used to determine what direction to take i.e. budget, time, brand alignment, other features etc.) Despite its inherent lack of absolutes, User Research can, however, give you the best educated-guess possible regarding your users behavior, addressing upwards of 80% of issues before taking a product to market.

User Research is Market Research

User research is not market research. While there is a strong brand/marketing component to user experience design, the research methods are distinct with different methodologies, considerations and results. Unlike market research, UX research is less concerned with what features are available, or what the marketing messages are, as it is with how successful a specific design is in articulating its features and how usable and accessible the product is for the end user.

Market research is business-centric; it uses the analysis of data in an attempt to move people to action. While user research is (you guessed it) user-centric, its goal is to analyze user behaviors and preference to better design for them. Often, these two are means to the same end. Sometimes however, there is a conflict. An e-commerce website could have a promotional pop up screen that most users find annoying, despite the fact that it generates a good deal of revenue. The UXD practitioner should be free to advocate for the users’ goals, and the marketer for the business’ goals. Any resulting compromises should be considered in the broader context of the company’s brand.

User Research is only useful During Requirements Gathering

While very useful during requirements gathering, there are real benefits of incorporating this research throughout the software development lifecycle. Validation is a big part of user research. What in the design phase sounded like a good idea and tested well, might not work as well in its final implementation. There are a number of inevitable changes and revisions that occur during development. It’s important to retest and validate your release after all the pieces of the puzzle have been put together. This can be achieved with participant-based user testing or by providing structured feedback mechanisms in a beta or limited pilot program.

Here are some sample User Research methods for each phase of the software development lifecycle:

  • High-Level Requirements

o    Ethnographic Studies

o    Concept Prototypes & Testing

o    Surveys with a Broad Focus

o    Competitive Reviews

  • Detailed Requirements

o    Validation Tests for Screen and Workflows

o    Tactical Surveys

o    Graphic Design Reviews

  • Development & QA Testing

o    Validate Changes and Workarounds

  • Release/Deployment

o    Feedback Forms

o    User-centric Beta or Pilot Testing

  • Maintenance

o    A/B Split Testing

The Politics of the Artichoke: Selling your ideas in an organization, one stakeholder at a time

PHILADELPHIA, May 3, 2010 – Software Strategist, Dorothy M. Danforth will give a presentation May 5 at 1 p.m. on “The Politics of the Artichoke: Selling Your Ideas in a Large Organization, One Stakeholder at a Time” at J. Boye Philadelphia 2010, the premiere Northeast conference for online professionals both inside and outside the firewall, March 4-6.

“The politics of the artichoke (or ”la politica del carciofo”) is an Italian expression referring to a savvy strategy that deals with your opponents one at a time,” Danforth said. “In this case study, I’ll discuss how—as a consultant to Comcast working with a small internal team—our group was able to successfully give our interactive design ideas a broad, far-reaching life of their own.”

Success lies in a group’s ability to evangelize a plan, socialize it throughout an organization, evolve the plan, and allow others to take the ownership needed to see it to fruition, said Danforth. “As we look at this case study, we’ll go over the details of how we made that happen, step by step.”

Danforth will also be hosting a discussion on “Delivering on Your Brand’s Promise through User Experience Design”. The roundtable will focus on how to develop on-brand user experiences across multiple platforms and how UXD as a practice can promote better brand alignment through its methodologies.

The conference is organized by J. Boye, an international, independent networking and knowledge-sharing firm with more than 250 member organizations. For more information about the conference, go to http://www.jboye.com/conferences/Philadelphia2010.

About Danforth Media
Danforth Media is a Philadelphia-based software design consultancy specializing in User Experience Design (UXD) for desktop, Web, mobile, and set top devices. Services include user-centered research and design strategy. Dorothy M. Danforth, the company’s founder and principal, has fifteen years experience with software usability design and research working with Fortune 500 and emerging technology companies. For more information, go to www.danforthmedia.com

Easy-to-Read Guide Turns User Experience Research into Practical Tool for Any Business New Book Gives Comprehensive Overview, How-To Tips

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE

CONTACT:

Dorothy M. Danforth
Danforth Media
215-439-8173
dorothy@danforthmedia.com

Easy-to-Read Guide Turns User Experience Research into Practical Tool for Any Business
New Book Gives Comprehensive Overview, How-To Tips

PHILADELPHIA, PA, Dec. 17, 2009 – For software professionals who want to dip their toe in user experience research, Dorothy M. Danforth has produced a comprehensive, yet highly readable guide that relies on real-world examples from Fortune 500 companies to highlight key concepts and outline practical applications.

Written in plain English, User Experience Research: Stories from the Field uses examples, anecdotes, resources, and practical templates from completed and on-going research efforts to provide an easy-to-understand overview of the field and its usefulness in software design.

“Professionals can read this on a plane or in a day or so and come away with not only a foundational understanding of the methods, but also ideas, tips and tricks to help them start using these techniques in their own organizations,” said Danforth.

The easy-to-read guide provides a framework for using multiple types of insight-generating research that will reveal a more holistic and realistic view of how users will likely respond to a system. It includes an overview of the most common user experience research methods. Each overview is supplemented with context for when and how to use each method, and what insights that method might offer.

Software developers, graphic designers, information architects, product managers, and other information-technology professionals who produce, design, or develop software can purchase the eBook, published by the IEEE Computer Society, at http://www.computer.org/portal/web/readynotes.

So far, the guide has garnered good reviews. One independent reviewer called the guide, “A very interesting read with well-presented positions.” Another wrote that, “There’s a lot of good content in there, and I really like that [it summarizes] each technique with strengths, weaknesses, and further references.”

About Danforth Media

Danforth Media is a Philadelphia based software design consultancy specializing in User Experience Design (UXD) for desktop, Web, mobile, kiosk, and set top devices. Services include user centric research, interface design, prototyping, and software vendor analysis. Dorothy M. Danforth, founder and principal consultant for Danforth Media, has fourteen years’ experience in software design and usability research for Fortune 500 and emerging technology companies. An experienced speaker and UX evangelist, Dorothy has authored an eBook on user research methods through the IEEE Computer Society. In addition to research methods, the guide offers a number of vital tips and tricks for fostering UX best practices within an organization. For more information, go to www.danforthmedia.com.

International User Experience Conference Draws 316, Showcases 47 Speakers

Philadelphia, PA (PRWEB) November 25, 2009

More than 300 programmers, information architects and designers from around the globe met in Moscow to discuss emerging trends and best practices in User Experience Design, an approach that gives the needs, wants, and limitations of end users top priority at each stage of the design process.

“It was interesting to see the complementary approaches taken by different designers around the world,” said Dorothy M. Danforth, a keynote speaker at the conference. “The Russian presentations tended to focus on hard data points, while U.S. designers look a bit more at accounting for intangibles.”

Danforth spoke at the conference on the foundational elements of user focused research strategies for new products and ventures. She outlined various low-cost, high-impact methods available to Web designers and UX professionals when creating new products, scenarios for when and how to use these methods, as well as insights on how to get the most out of early state R&D processes.

Other speakers included Bill Buxton, Microsoft; Dmitry Satin, UsabilityLab, Russia; Silvia Zimmermann, UPA International; Andrew Sebrant, Yandex; Theo Mandel, Consultant, Thyra Rauch, IBM; and Alexander Oboznov, Russian Academy of Science Institute of Psychology.

Moscow hosted UPA Europe, the 3rd annual User Experience Russia on Oct. 26-28. With a theme of “User experience design: the journey from discovery to advocacy”, the conference drew 316 attendees to the main conference sessions and 44 participants in specialty workshops that were transmitted as webinars.

“The conference pulled in top names from around the world to assess the current state of User Experience Design and talk about the future possibilities of focusing on the user,” said Danforth. “While still a growing field, over the past ten years or so user-centered design has emerged as the predominant approach to software design. With a user-focused approach, we are able to maximize ease-of-use when we roll out new products, reducing transition time and increasing productivity.”

About Danforth Media
Danforth Media is a Philadelphia-based software design consultancy specializing in User Experience Design (UXD) for desktop, Web, mobile, kiosk, and set top devices. Services include user centric research, interface design, prototyping, and software vendor analysis. Dorothy M. Danforth is founder and principal consultant for Danforth Media. An experienced speaker and UX evangelist, Dorothy is currently authoring an eBook on user research methods through the IEEE Computer Society. In addition to research methods, the guide will offer a number of vital tips and tricks for fostering UX best practices within an organization. For more information, go to http://www.danforthmedia.com/about.

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PhillyCHI March Meeting – Dorothy Danforth

WHEN: Thursday, March 26, 2009, 6:00-8:00 PM
* Meet & Greet from 6:00 – 6:30 PM *

WHERE: Tyler School of Art, Room B089
Temple University
2001 N. 13th Street
Philadelphia, PA 19122

RSVP: Please let us know you are coming at phillychi@gmail.com.

ABOUT THE PRESENTATION

Dorothy M. Danforth will discuss various low overhead, high-impact research methods available to Web Designers and UX professionals when creating new products, scenarios for when and how to use these methods, as well as general insights on how to get the most out of early stage R&D processes. Some illustrative examples and ideas from past product-concept research efforts will be provided. Talking points to include:
• considerations when developing a UX focused research plan for a new product or concept
• how brand and corporate culture can impact and possibly drive interface decisions
• how the research process can identify organizational knowledge gaps (and vice versa)
• integrating UX research within the creative (visual design) and engineering processes

The presentation is open to anyone with interest, but could be particularly helpful for…
• Web & Graphic designers who find themselves in the “accidental” UX consultant role
• Product managers who would like some ideas on how to better integrate UX research into their product development lifecycles
• Early and mid-level career UXD professionals

ABOUT THE SPEAKER

Dorothy M. Danforth is founder and principal consultant for Danforth Media. http://danforthmedia.com

ABOUT OUR SPONSORS

Graphic and Interactive Design Program at Tyler School of Art
http://www.temple.edu/tyler/gaid.html

Aquent http://www.aquent.com

PhillyCHI http://phillychi.acm.org/.