A UX Glossary

Activities of Daily Living (ADL’s) – Those behaviors which we engage in, on a daily or regular basis, often automatically without much thought. ADL’s are often mapped in successful software interactions. Affinity Diagrams – The grouping of conceptually relevant thoughts, events, artifacts, and other user touchpoints into a cohesive picture. A creative process that helps organize seemingly disparate pieces of the human experience puzzle into a more integrated whole. Sample affinities or maps may include areas such as “work,” “family,” “healthcare,” etc. Artifacts – Initially a "kitchen sink" of tangibles and intangibles obtained during ethnographic, contextual inquiry, or field studies. Artifacts can include almost anythingpieces of paper, photocopies, tokens, photos, audio and video clips, verbatim quotes, printouts, mementos, etc. The ideal artifact is something that eventually takes a tangible form and can be included in an affinity diagram, ultimately contributing to a rich picture or user landscape. Assumptions – Interpretations of the requirements of a project. Pre-requisites needed to undertake a project. What the plan is based on, may include resource constraints (e.g., time, money, people, equipment). Significant external factors which could affect the progress or success of the project, but over which the project team has no control (e.g., weather, holidays, illness). Can be defined at the level of activities, results, and project purpose. Can be formulated as positive inputs and monitored closely as they are critical to the success of the project. Biopsychosocial – When designing for human use, recognition that products, services, and experiences directly impact the human body (“bio”), thoughts and feelings (“psycho”), and the context (“social”) where the user resides and the interaction takes place. Card sorts – A research tool in which where users assemble cards into patterns that are sensible and meaningful to them, given the context, problem and/or task at hand. Sorting is the most common technique used in content affinity analysis research. Proposed features or content for a system are each listed on a card and given to participants to sort or categorize into groups. An example might include a user sorting cards with words written on them, into piles of those they believe to be “animals, minerals, and vegetables.” As it is an older method, there is a large body of research and practice regarding card sorting pros/cons. Catalytic validity – “Credibility, goodness-of-fit, believability” and the capacity for effective design research and subsequent designs to be so correct and meaningful that these designs “propel” and transform users in their daily lives. Though sometimes catching designers by surprise, designs which have the most catalytic potential are usually borne out of quality design research methods and strategic thinking.

Co-discovery learning – Where two users are requested to “work through” a low, medium, or high-fidelity prototype, together. Affords brainstorming and problem-solving on the part of the duo, as well as opportunity for the design team to observe this method of learning. Relevant to situations where co-workers or family members will participate as a small team or supportive network when using the specific product, service, or environment. Cognitive walkthroughs – Assesses the validity and reliability of specific steps a user must perform in order to accomplish a task, while using a product or service. The design team “steps through” the action sequence to check it for potential problems. The main focus tends to establish how easy a design is to learn. More specifically, the focus can be on learning through exploration (a common human process). Competitive Analyses – A critical first step in strategic design-research where past and contemporary state-of-knowledge, best practices and implementations, are obtained and carefully reviewed. Competitive analyses can comprise literature reviews, site visits, current or past product and service successes and failures, etc. Such analyses, alone, can provide significant strategic information, ensuring that a team does not reinvent the wheel (embarrassingly common when attempting to innovate but less common when attempting to refine). Conceptual design – Coupled with concept research, the process of identifying, combining and configuring concepts and symbols to produce hypothetical artifacts (e.g., product, service or environmental offering), projected in sketches, models and other schematics. An experience description of your offering (i.e., what it does, how it fits into one's life, how it empowers, what it feels like). Is it the right product for the right people? Conceptual and Mental models - Your understanding of what it is you’re designing (e.g., an outpatient surgery experience). Conceptual and mental models start out fuzzy and become more clearly defined as you advance through a project. They can be illustrated with diagrams and/or written descriptions. The goal of any design project is to create a conceptual model that will closely match the user’s own conceptual model – and will be economically sound. Such models specify design metaphors and analogies, concepts the design exposes the user to, relationships between these concepts, and the mapping between the concepts and the task-domain the design is meant to support. As always, less is more. Consumer (contrast to user, customer or member) – Consumes the product or service, whether it be fee-based or free. This is common to, for example, editorial, news and information sites. Content matrix – Typically, the content matrix is represented as a spreadsheet or as a table in a MS Word document with each row or column describing a different piece of information on the site. The content matrix suggests and organizes site content needs into logical categories and generally contains a description, dependency information, responsibility information, and due date for each item of content.

Contextual Inquiry – A subset of a Field Study where the design-researcher observes and interacts with a user or users, specifically focusing on a task or flow, problem or opportunity. Such inquiries tend to be more structured than field studies and are significantly more structured than ethnographic studies. Usually indicated in critical work settings (e.g., airline reservations, hardware assembly), they can also be very helpful in understanding daily life “work” (e.g., cooking a large dinner, preparing for a family vacation). Such inquiries lend themselves less to innovation and more to traditional deconstruction-reconstruction with refinement, development of expert work-arounds, and removal of barriers. Holtzblatt & Beyer (1989) are credited with bringing Contextual Inquiry to the business forefront. Customer (contrast to user, consumer or member) – Pays for the product or service to be provided to users. Ideally, also a user. For example, a hospital CFO who authorizes the purchase of a patient registration software product. This executive would benefit from personally, periodically enrolling a new patient via the software. The CFO then knows the primary tool that the frontline staff in the Hospital Registration Department will be using, every day, as well as how that tool touches the lives of the hospital’s new and existing patients. Data mining – Similar to log reports, but generally considered retroactive or post-hoc. That is, company data is sorted via predetermined but usually flexible computer algorithms, in search of common trends. Somewhat like the US Census, mined data may reveal broad patterns in the sample which may be generalized to a population. Forecasting may be possible. Datapoints – Ideally, objective moments in time where a user’s “thinking-feeling-doing” can be replicated at a later time. Best used when a particular sequence of events is largely predictable and does not lend itself to significant subjectivity or opinion. Contrast to touchpoints, which accommodate the sometimes irrational and usually subjective nature of human thinking, feeling, and doing. Datapoints are more precise but narrow, while touchpoints are more rich and potentially applicable to broad, daily human experience. Discovery – An organic, divergent process of learning about users by means of a variety of flexible qualitative and quantitative methods. The goal is to have a clear understanding of the user’s needs, likes, and dislikes, and how they currently accomplish tasks. While discovery remains sensitive to what users say, it places special emphasis on what users actually do. Effectiveness – Percent of desired tasks completed, ratio of subjective success to failure, number of products, services utilized with success. Efficiency – Time to learn, time to complete a task; time spent on errors, percent or number of errors; frequency of need for help or assistance; number of repetition or failed attempts.

Ethnography – A formal method of research often associated with Social and Cultural Anthropology. Abbreviated methods have been successfully employed in business since the early 1920’s. Goals can include discovering personal, family, and community customs, values, beliefs, etc., particularly those deeply embedded (which can have significant impact in business). Variations include Rapid Ethnography (full discovery but 30 days or less, business strategy focus), Day-in-the-Life studies (full 24 hour cycle of discovery), Field Studies (less than 24 hours, often 4-12 hours), and Contextual Inquiry (full cycle, task focused, usually less than 24 hours) can uncover unmet and/or unexpressed needs, wants, and desires that, in turn, the designer can successfully interpret, model, and then introduce into the user’s world. Experience (in relation to products and services) – The sustaining thought, often holistic and preconscious, that the end-user carries with them to internally validate whether a second time interaction with a product, service, or environment is worth their time and effort. It encompasses all aspects of the end user’s interaction with the company. The first requirement for an exemplary experience is to meet the exact needs, expectations, and desires of the user, without fuss or bother. Next comes the simplicity and elegance that produce services that are a joy to use. Typically, the user finds what they want, when they want it, right where they think it should be. They leave the interaction with an enhanced opinion and emotional satisfaction. Successful user experiences are created by multidisciplinary teams, a seamless merging of talents that “correctly” goes beyond giving users a “checklist of features,” instead, providing surprise and delight that is relevant to the situation. Experience (within individual) – A “pure” and constant stream of consciousness; unarticulated and very rich (e.g., that which occurs during hypnotic trance). The closer the design-researcher and strategist can get to this experience, the more effective their designs will be. Experience (as story) – Condensed and remembered, communicated (e.g., that which occurs during legal testimony or other recollection). Not always accurate but honors that for most, perception = reality. Experience modeling – The deconstruction and creative reconstruction of experience, visually and/or textually communicating key elements. Begins with ethnographic methods of collecting datapoints and touchpoints, open-ended questions, etc. Yields qualitative and sometimes quantitative information; it can point to “phases” of experience (e.g., before, during, after), reveal bottlenecks, unused and new product or service offerings, etc. Throughout, it is important for the team to collect every artifact they can, synthesizing, then forming a narrative.

Expert review – An expert review can also be referred to as a heuristic evaluation. When conducting an expert review, a trained UXP reviews a system to determine its adherence to commonly accepted usability standards. Although it is possible to have a single person conduct a heuristic evaluation, it is generally not advisable. It is much better to aggregate findings across multiple evaluators because each evaluator tends to find different problems. It has been suggested that 3-5 evaluators, doing their reviews independently, will typically find the majority of usability problems with a given interface (e.g., Nielsen, 1993). Field Studies (and Day-in-the-Life studies) – Strategic design research and related activity that moves the team out of their offices and into the user’s world for a few hours, 24 hours, or as long as needed to fully understand the “beginning and end” of a specific user experience. Much in contrast to focus groups or other methods where the user is brought to the team. While requiring expertise in the social and psychological arts and sciences, planning, implementation, analysis and synthesis, such studies provide extremely rich and accurate information from which to “correctly” design innovative products, services, and experiences. Flow models (and Flow charts) – Diagrams that illustrate an experiential (and usually invisible) architecture. Like road maps, flows show all the steps in the experience, including all feedback generated by the outside world. During a project cycle, flowcharts usually undergo several revisions and ultimately inform an Archetype. Functional specifications – A functional specification is a major project deliverable and milestone that defines the scope of the project. It is typically delivered by the client or a technology team prior to commencing formal site design and development. Use cases, user descriptions, schematics, content matrices, business validation rules, logical database design, etc. all comprise a functional specification. Confusing is that in some cases, “functional specifications” are synonymous with “use cases.” Heuristic Reviews – Best practice guidelines for the evaluation of a design; heuristics honor that human behavior (thinking + feeling) is inexact and thus some industry-specific “rules-of-thumb” may be helpful for assessing the viability of a design. A heuristic review can be an inexpensive expert assessment of an existing product, service, or environment design. “Human Code” – The granular particles of the human experience gestalt, at minimum, human thinking, feeling, and doing. Though more daunting, successful design needs to include spiritual aspects of human experience as well. Human code may be articulated via touchpoints, prototypes (etc.) and ultimately, designs that get used. Information architecture – An activity performed that involves specifying the hierarchy for content organization on a system and on pages. Information organization is expressed with a site map. Page organization is documented with page schematics.

Information design – The art and science of preparing information in context so that it can be used by human beings with efficiency and effectiveness. Its primary objectives are to develop communications that are comprehensible, rapidly and accurately retrievable, and easy to translate into effective action. In designing information, the user experience professional is focusing on the relative relationships of the information in the product or system. While information design may provide an input into the layout of screens, thus influencing graphic design, it can also mean simply defining those relationships outside a visual context. For example, devising an information hierarchy could be considered an information design exercise. "One of information design's virtues is that its products, at least at the moment of their conception, are unencumbered by traditional media limitations. The information designer initially works with fields of meaning, not with the materials used to transmit meaning. Other designers may quibble about this point, but in most cases they work with 'stuff,' concrete or electronic materials that impose a priori design constraints." (e.g., Robert Jacobsen, “Information Design,” 2001) Interaction design – Your product’s, service’s, or experience’s behavior, how it works, its ease, predictability, pleasure. Is it a joy to use? Interface design – The clarity, readability, beauty of your product, service, or experience. Does it create an “experiential entrance?” Iterative design process – A process that works in cycles composed of design, user review, revision of design and final user review. An iterative process allows the project team to catch important usability issues early in the design process, and to adapt to usability feedback in a streamlined fashion. Journalizing (including diaries, disposable cameras, tape recorders) – Methods of obtaining user touchpoints and experience when it is not feasible for the designer to be present. User’s are provided journals (with lightly structured pages), disposable cameras, tape recorders (etc.) in which to document a subjectively important (but often private or sequestered) moment in time, an event, a sequence, etc. Pagers can beep to ask the user, at a random point in time, to document their immediate setting, thoughts, feelings, and behaviors. Log reports – A service and method where data that reflects the user’s movement and “behavior” through software (and later websites) is logged, aggregated (sometimes visualized), and analyzed so as to be a predictive model for refining the software or site interaction design, architecture, advertising, marketing, etc. Post dot-com thinking now suggests that this data is too removed from actual user experience (the thinking-feelingdoing that is characteristic of digital interactions) and should thus be treated as an adjunct to actual user contact. Ultimately, such data may hint at some of what users “are doing or not doing” (especially on smaller web sites), but summarily fails to answer the “why” of the user experience. Market segments – Market segments define users by their “market” characteristics, such as gender and economic level. Defining users by their market segments is useful, but not sufficient to determine user needs. Market segment information should supplement user descriptions.

Member (contrast to user, customer or consumer) – Uses the product, service or environment of a non-profit. May be free or fee-based. For example, a member of a coop, group or organization, perhaps not for-profit (e.g., American Heart Association). Milieu – The gestalt of an environment; the dynamic, transitive, in-context environment which impacts the overall subjective user experience. Moments of Truth – A subset of touchpoints, focusing particularly on decision opportunities, subjectively positive or negative, that can occur during the time the user is directly engaged with a product, service, or environment. Navitorial content – Text that explains what can be done on the site and how to do it (e.g., instructions for completing a form). One-to-One – Different from traditional marketing nomenclature, it is the indirect method by which a design-researcher learns about an individual’s user experience. Requires time, patience, emotional, intellectual and interpersonal skill, direct contact, and relevant context. Paid volunteers – A valuable asset, real-world end-users who, in return for a personally meaningful stipend (e.g., cash, coupon, gift, thank-you), allow the design-researcher to observe and interact with them during their daily life. With the establishment of genuine trust and rapport (which requires the passage of time), users will share very detailed and intimate information about their lives if they know that this information will be used to better their lives. Research ethics are paramount (e.g., do no harm). Note that Federal law (e.g., in part, related to Journalism) allows the observation of most individuals in most public places. However, unwanted interaction with an individual in the same public space can be prohibited. Paper prototype – A paper prototype is the depiction of the system’s interface in screen shots printed on paper. Paper prototypes may show only a small number of screens in "wireframe" format, or they can be a full set of color-printed comps. Enough screens are printed to complete a task or set of tasks that will be tested in a usability test. Paper prototypes provide an early means of gauging users’ acceptance of the proposed functionality, prior to formal site development. Often underutilized. Parallel design – As in prototyping, where a designer and a user (possibly two designers with two users, but no more) work directly together to create a design which fulfills the user’s needs, wants, and desires. Participatory design – What occurs during the strategic user research and design process where, via advanced thought, field research, and other design activity, users “inform” the designer of experiential strengths, constraints, opportunities, and innovation for products, services, and environments. In some business environments, the same participant, or a counter-balancing of participants will be included throughout the design lifecycle.

Patterns (and Pattern Language) – Per architect Chris Alexander, patterns can be a “vocabulary for design.” Emphasizes the belief that humans have an innate ability for design that parallels their ability to speak; there may be neuropsychological evidence to support this. First comes the context under which conditions the patterns may hold, second, there are system forces (it is natural to think of these as the human problem or goal), third, is the solution - a configuration that balances the system of forces or “solves’ the problems presented. More recently explored by J. Tidwell (2007). Personas – Once removed abstractions from the discovery of an individual’s 1-to-1 datapoints and touchpoints. An assimilation of all their “thinking-feeling-doing” but with minimal generalization outside of the individual. An effective persona will be approved as “accurate” by the individual whom it represents. Multiple personas can yield an archetype which can directly inform and guide successful design. Contemporary credit given the A. Cooper (1995), though personas were used in urban design planning in the first century (100 AD). Pilot test (or pilot study) – A usability test conducted prior to the actual usability test with users. The purpose of conducting a pilot test is to run through the usability test with a peer or associate. Doing this dry run helps to resolve any missing pieces for the actual usability test. Portal – “A web application that uses a common interface and technology to tie together multiple related, but independent, content pieces or transactional applications through customer, enterprise and business-to-business portals,” as defined by TandemSeven, considered the best in the portal design business. Process flow – Often synonymous to a “task flow” and an “interaction model.” Prototypes - A mock version of a system. A prototype can be created with paper or electronic medium; its purpose is to mock the interface of a system for testing purposes. Some prototypes are increasingly difficult to build due to the [possibly] infinite combinations that the user can invoke. Nonetheless, some type of prototype should always be built. Prototypes are used for testing and demonstration purposes, and, like storyboards, vary in their degree of detail. As mentioned, paper prototypes are usually nothing more than rough sketches showing elements that might occur in a sequence or an event; functional prototypes afford the user to more closely experience a simulated or actual working product, service, or environment. But like buying a new home, often the model home fails to fully represent the final home experience. Quasi-experimental designs – Defined first by Campbell & Stanley (1976), methods of research which accommodate situations where control of independent variables and experimental noise is not possible nor is it desired. Fundamental to planning and interpreting observational, descriptive, qualitative and other non-laboratory nonexperiments, quasi-experimental methods are ideal for discovering and interpreting innovative human-centered opportunities. Readiness – The active state of being willing, available or developmentally prepared to receive.

Rich Pictures (also Meaning Landscapes) – An organized collection of user datapoints, touchpoints, scenarios, stories, affinities, photos, quotes, paths, timelines, patterns, etc. particularly helpful for team brainstorming. Rich pictures tend to be more sensorystimulating (visual and audio, sometimes tactile) than Meaning Landscapes, which tend to be more text-based. For example, “a single frame of digital video can contain 12 million pixels of information and within, the full range of human emotion.” If rich pictures are too organized, the product, service, or environment has likely already been decided or has congealed. Scenarios (see also Use Cases) – Narrative past-tense or future-tense descriptions or task-level stories of one or more users interacting with a product, service, or environment, especially helpful for understanding tacit sequences of interactions. Such descriptions don’t answer all questions, and can sometimes be “brain-teasers” with blanks, to be filled in at a later time. However, they do tease out potential difficulties with an activity flow and suggest possible missing or redundant features. Use cases may be considered a subset of scenarios, focusing on a specific part of an overall experience (e.g., a scenario may be “Barbara and her pharmacy experience” while the use case may be “How Barbara received and then filled her prescription”). Schematics – Visual representations of a page layout. They show the approximate positioning of page elements (such as navigation, fields, and content). Schematics also show how elements on a page are grouped and how they outline the necessary functionality. Schematics do not dictate fonts, colors, or graphics. Securities – In banking and financial, the artifacts or documents that show you have an interest in the capital, assets, property and/or profits of a company or business. This may include equity securities and stocks, debt securities and bonds, mutual fund shares, limited partnerships in real estate or film, education savings plans, oil and gas leases, gold, silver, foreign currency options. Sensorial design – Theoretically, it is ideal if you can incorporate all five (six or more?) senses into the design of the experience so that users are able to "see with their ears, hear with their eyes, move with their noses, and speak and breathe with their feet." In today’s practice, this is presently unattainable (though some have gone out of their way to improperly implement). Shadowing – A gentle, empathic process of spending time with a user throughout an activity, their day, etc. Involves walking “beside” the user, not “behind” the user (a common myth). For shadowing to succeed, full rapport and the development of trust is required. Site map – A site map may be synonymous with “information hierarchy,” and “site architecture.” The site map is a project deliverable portraying a graphical representation of a system’s layout. Site maps provide an efficient overview of sites and clarifies the relationships between structurally distant areas. Site maps also make clear the overall organizational and navigational schemes of a system.

Storyboards – Rough sketches, cartoons, or other visualized sequences that demonstrate the structure and navigation of the experience, ranging from very rough (stick figures, post-its) to very polished (animation cells, documentary films) with some or all of the visual identity included. Strategic Design Planning – An activity of establishing process, rationale, parameters and potential opportunities for design to take place. An integrative discipline given to scrutinizing tactical assumptions and finding better, more elegant means of accomplishing higher order business goals Summaries and Top-10 lists – Lists of issues, tasks, goals, attitudes, preferences (etc.) that emerge from strategic planning and design-research. Somewhat akin to quick, highlevel summaries of strengths, weaknesses, opportunities, and threats (SWOT). System’s Theory – The ordered composition of physical or mental elements into a unified whole; the premise based on the insight that a system as a whole is qualitatively different, and "behaves" differently, from the sum of its individual elements. This takes in account feedback, processing and storage of information, adaptability, ability for selforganization, and the development of strategies for the system's own behavior. In the context of strategic design, the designer seeks to understand differing aspects and perspectives of the elements of the product, service, or user environment, within the broader context of how it is experienced amid the full, dynamic and complex world of a user’s life. However complex or diverse that world is, humans will always establish different types of organization within it, and such organization can be described by concepts which are independent from the specific domain at which we are looking. Target audience – A target audience is the main set of users that will interact with the system or site being designed. Task analysis – The deconstruction of a complex process that users often follow (e.g., “I guess this is how I do it, but I never really think about it”). It can be tacit, preconscious, automatic or “without thought” to the user. The design-researcher must, in context and in tandem with the user, make sense of the process so as to first understand it, and then, if indicated, improve it. Missing pieces of the process – or unique combinations - can yield dramatic innovation (e.g., from the invention of everyday automatic transmissions to the invention of the Porsche Tiptronic ® transmission). Workflow models are a description of a user’s path through the use of a product, service, or experience. A natural outgrowth of scenarios, but not developed until later in a project when the experiential architecture has started to take shape. Most consider task analyses and workflow models to be subsets of Experience modeling. Task flows – A flow diagram that depicts the steps needed for a user to successfully complete a task on the system. Task flow diagrams are part of a use case. Task flows and user workflows are sometimes used synonymously. This often refers to the flow diagram that a designer or architect composes as part of a use case, whereas a user workflow may be observed by a the same professional, during usability or user research.

Thinking aloud protocols (also Protocol Analysis) – Both a process and an event, the art and method of facilitating the user’s internal dialogue, making the covert, overt, but in such a manner that contamination of the user’s words and concepts is greatly minimized. A difficult skill which requires experience over time as well as adaptation to many different types of users (e.g., those who are verbose, those who are nervous, those who are inarticulate). Requires empathy and rapport. The success of the designer-user relationship (and the validity of the obtained data) is not based solely on asking good questions or making good observations; it is the responsibility of the designer to set the tone, to be able to maintain a genuine connection with the user, no matter where the user is coming from that day. Gentle questions and conversations that access deep meaning in user’s lives unfold powerful stories from which to innovate, and move well beyond market conversations, indeed, to the very core of experience. “Tilling the Soil” – One metaphor for how user research is conducted. That is, gently uncovering, refreshing, and revealing what lies underneath. The answers to human design problems are almost always below the surface . . . roots can extend deep, and from this, grows significant opportunity. Time to market (as in business success) – Unless no one on the planet has thought of your idea, a myth. Akin to “growing a Vine” (vs. growing an Oak). Token case – Certain use cases are identified as “token cases.” Token cases are particular use cases that need to be thoroughly tested in usability tests for each user segment. Token cases comprise the functionality that is critical to the user success of the site. Touchpoints – In contrast to datapoints (which may best imply objective points in time), touchpoints capture the subjective nature of human experience, and those thinkingfeeling-doing events which define the way a user experiences a product, service, or environment. Captured primarily via sight (notes taken by the design-researcher and the user, photos, video) and sound (audio) but possibly via other senses (“it smells in here,” “it tastes bitter,” “ouch, that hurts.”), touchpoints contribute directly to the building of rich pictures, flows, personas, archetypes, scenarios, models . . . and actual design innovation. Transformation – Likely positive or negative (not neutral), a moment of insight or sequence of insights leading to “an experience” where what is “now known” cannot be “not known” ever again. An irreversible point in time. Perhaps what happens when knowledge becomes wisdom. Designs which correctly capture the human experience, and then guide the user forward via the vehicle of product, service, or environment, may be transformational. Usable, useful, meaningful, spiritual ™ – The progressive difference between a Yugo and a Lexus.

Usability studies (usability testing) – The ability to objectively observe is the most important skill in the usability setting. Valuable but difficult is the ability to create as realistic a setting as possible for a task to be studied, within the constraints of the study environment and the limitations of the prototype being used. The more closely a user’s mental model matches that of the user performing the actual task, in-context, with a finished product, the more worthy the results. The perceived realism can often be increased by modest changes to the prototype, by additions or changes to the physical environment (e.g., providing a telephone if users would typically make a phone call to a technical support line, to a family member). The purpose of such a study is to obtain user feedback on elements, recognizing that not all elements may not be assessed in any single study-system functionality, user flow, visual design and nomenclature. Usability testing involves observing users performing tasks on a system. The interface to be tested can vary in terms of detail and completeness. A usability study, no matter how informal or spontaneous, is almost always better than none. Use case – A process flow that performs a specific function. For example, a use case describes a person's process in completing a single, discrete goal within the system. It should describe how the system will respond to user actions, and how users will accomplish their goals. For example, one use case could describe how a user would view her account on a site. When combined, all of the use cases of a system constitute the entire user experience. A use case is comprised of a step-by-step textual description of the use case; a task flow diagram depicting the use case; and accompanying page schematics that show how the use case can be successfully completed via the system’s interface. User (contrast to customer, consumer or member) – Actually, literally, uses the product, service or environment. A person who uses the system being designed. Becoming a more powerful lobby, every day. User Experience Design – Very challenging to define, a divergent and convergent method, and process. Though timeless, some believe it has come to the forefront of contemporary design innovation due to the recent 1-to-1 nature of digital interactivity which affords users almost total choice and control over products and services (but not yet environments). The user experience can be the way in which meaning is communicated, where no point of contact has a simple beginning and end, and all points of contact must have meaning embedded within them. When experience leaps across multiple mediums, meaning may be the only true currency. Here, effective design innovation does not add value but creates value. Ultimately, user experience design embraces the fluid nature of how humans relate to the outside world (how the subject relates to the object). The tools of the user experience strategist and designer emerge from the culmination of the user’s thinking-feeling-doing, and from an appreciation of brain vs. mind. Because user experience is a construct, access to it requires relationship and metaphoric representation (both which are, ultimately, contaminating). User needs analysis – User needs analysis is a usability research technique. The purpose of this technique is to gain a comprehensive understanding of the target users’ goals, needs, and strategies. The primary activity involves observing a user’s workflow for a specified amount of time, and asking questions based on what is observed.

User research and Usability Studies – Overlapping, both may reside on the same design continuum, but with different goals. In the former, learning what it takes for a product, service, or environment to succeed. In the latter, confirming that it does succeed. The hard work of understanding users and their needs is first and foremost. A fundamental goal is to understand, then creatively and “correctly” translate increasingly detailed prototypes, employing usability studies to find imperfections in design translations. Usability should be “baked in” throughout the process by introducing mini-studies into the designer-user relationship. Such studies should be simple. Users perform the tasks a product is designed to support. Within a mature design process (strengths, weaknesses, opportunities, innovations, discovered, then designed for), the problems a usability study reveals should almost always be small, without surprise, and generally easy to correct. User satisfaction – Subjective rating of usefulness of the product, service, or environment; a rating scale for satisfaction with functions, offerings, features; number of times the user expresses frustration or anger; the user’s perception that the design supports wants, needs, and desires. For better or worse, it is always “felt” by the user but is usually difficult to “put into words.” Wetware – Much in contrast to hardware and software, human systems are wetware, that is, the fluid process and gestalt culmination of human thinking, feeling, and doing. “What could be” – For example, future-tense storyboards, models, flows, visualizations, and rich pictures which bring to life flows, personas, archetypes, scenarios, and other integrated touchpoints; reflects analysis, synthesis, innovation (i.e., "what if?"). “What is” – For example, current storyboards, models, flows, visualizations, and rich pictures which document and articulate flows, personas, archetypes, scenarios, and other integrated touchpoints. Usually reflects analysis but minimal synthesis. Underestimated in it’s value, an important step prior to creating “what could be,” yet often skipped. Ideally, incubation (and often dramatic inspiration) takes place between “what is” and “what could be.” Z-axis – The dimension or plane within which the user travels an experiential curvilinear path, represented metaphorically or symbolically via use-cases, scenarios, day-in-the-life touchpoints, etc. Akin to playing three-dimensional checkers (or better yet, chess). It potentially includes the ability to “plot” points on the Z-axis which makes a product, service, or environment “successful” in the eyes of the user. It is on the Z-axis that everyday refinement and true innovation likely resides.
Andrew Schechterman, Ph.D., 1990, 1999, 2000, 2004

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