Beyond accessibility: Design ethics, edge users, and the role of active proxies in unwinding the spiral of exclusion

Accessibility, inclusion and exclusion. Life matters.

“The ethics and responsibilities of technology companies are under increased scrutiny over the power to design the user experiences embedded in their products. Researchers advocating a Rawlsian ‘just and fair’ design process have suggested a ‘veil of ignorance’ thought experiment in which designers adopt the standpoint of unspecified hypothetical users to ensure designers are not biasing their own perspectives at the expense of others. This article examines including and excluding such standpoints through the lens of edge users – a term based on extreme ‘edge cases’ in which systems are more likely to break down. Edge users are particularly marginalized and subject to a spiral of exclusion when interacting via Internet and Web resources whose design disregards them because their ability to research and voice their experiences is further limited. Active proxies, those already helping or standing in for marginalized users, can be enlisted as design allies to develop a deeper understanding of such edge groups and contexts. Design ethics, in short, needs to move beyond making technologies accessible to all people, to making all types of people accessible to designers.”

Julian Kilker ~ First Monday 25.6

AI and Accessibility

From content accessibility to AI inclusion.

“According to the World Health Organization, more than one billion people worldwide have disabilities. The field of disability studies defines disability through a social lens; people are disabled to the extent that society creates accessibility barriers. AI technologies offer the possibility of removing many accessibility barriers; for example, computer vision might help people who are blind better sense the visual world, speech recognition and translation technologies might offer real-time captioning for people who are hard of hearing, and new robotic systems might augment the capabilities of people with limited mobility. Considering the needs of users with disabilities can help technologists identify high-impact challenges whose solutions can advance the state of AI for all users; however, ethical challenges such as inclusivity, bias, privacy, error, expectation setting, simulated data, and social acceptability must be considered.”

Meredith Ringel Morris ~ Communications of the ACM (June 2020)

Content strategy is a design function

Finally are we getting somewhere with design and content (‘Writing is a Design Discipline’).

Throughout my career, I’ve seen content strategy operate in a wide variety of ways. Sometimes it’s explicitly called strategy. Other times not. At some businesses, it’s highly valued. At others, it’s outsourced. Sometimes it’s run as a part of a larger line-of-business or integrated marketing team. Other times it’s wrapped into the design organisation. In many of these situations, content strategy can thrive. But across the board, in my experience, the companies that are successful in creating content-led experiences that deliver real value to their customers are the ones that see content strategy as a design function, not a management function.”

Matthew Rayback a.k.a. /matthew-rayback ~ Digital Drum

Designing the structured search experience: Rethinking the query-builder paradigm

In search we trust.

“​Knowledge workers such as healthcare information professionals, legal researchers, and librarians need to create and execute search strategies that are comprehensive, transparent, and reproducible. The traditional solution is to use command-line query builders offered by proprietary database vendors. However, these are based on a paradigm that dates from the days when users could access databases only via text-based terminals and command-line syntax. In this paper, we present a new approach in which users express concepts as objects on a visual canvas and manipulate them to articulate relationships. This offers a more intuitive user experience (UX) that eliminates many sources of error, makes the query semantics more transparent, and offers new ways to collaborate, share, and optimize search strategies and best practices.”

Farhad Shokraneh a.k.a. /farhad-shokraneh ~ Weave: Journal of Library User Experience 3.1

Usability testing for voice content

Where’s the human voice these days? In the machine?

“​It’s an important time to be in voice design. Many of us are turning to voice assistants in these times, whether for comfort, recreation, or staying informed. As the interest in interfaces driven by voice continues to reach new heights around the world, so too will users’ expectations and the best practices that guide their design.”

Preston So a.k.a. @prestonso ~ A List Apart

The author of ‘Don’t make me think’ discusses UX design’s 20-year evolution

Up to the next two decades of the field of ‘previously-known-as-UX’.

“​The book started serendipitously in the mid-’90s era of dial-up when acclaimed magazine designer and typography sage Roger Black, who is credited with the design or redesign of Rolling Stone, the New York Times Magazine and Esquire, along with websites like Barnes & Noble’s, approached Krug about a possible book deal with Macmillan Publishers. At the time, the two had been consulting for @Home Network, one of the country’s first high-speed cable internet service providers. They were close colleagues who admired each other’s work — Black the graphic design sage and Krug the usability pro.”

Jeff Link ~ built in

Educating the Designer of 2025

Some much needed insights on design education (in this special issue).

“​I am not inclined, for several reasons, to believe there are straightforward goals for educators seeking to shape the designer of 2025. The embedded assumption that there are broad similarities among designers is my first worry. I don’t just believe that differences are inevitable—I believe in the value of diversity in individual experience and individual points of view. I see thinking through making as vital in my little corner of design, and as valuable resource for educators in general. Thinking through making—once a common way of approaching the world—has largely disappeared, but art and design programs would do well to preserve this important approach. (…) To some extent, the popularity of design thinking has demonstrated the value of a variety of thinking through making. Much of the conversation around design thinking assumes that the future of design is in the tackling of larger, more complex, and often immaterial tasks. While I embrace that, I wonder whether moves toward larger, more complex, often immaterial projects as the center of undergraduate training undermines the learning of the sort of skills we hope designers have.”

Gunnar Swanson a.k.a. /gunnarswanson ~ She Ji 6.1

Changing Design Education for the 21st Century

Deep thinking on (design) education (not training!) in combination with a practical implementation.

“​Designers are entrusted with increasingly complex and impactful challenges. However, the current system of design education does not always prepare students for these challenges. Designers are moving into new areas, many of which require management, social, technological, and political skills never before thought of as the responsibility of design. Not only has technology increased and changed dramatically in recent decades, but society has become more and more concerned with weighty global issues, such as hunger, health, education. Design skills for developing creative solutions to complex problems are becoming more and more essential. Businesses are starting to recognize that designers bring something special to the work—a rational belief based upon numerous studies that link business success to a design-driven approach. These are all powerful opportunities, yet we are not always training our students appropriately.”

Donald A. Norman and Michael W. Meyer ~ jnd.org courtesy of marcovanhout

Practices and Challenges of Using Think-Aloud Protocols in Industry: An International Survey

Language as the gateway to the mind.

“​Think-aloud protocols are one of the classic methods often taught in universities for training UX designers and researchers. Although previous research reported how these protocols were used in industry, the findings were typically based on the practices of a small number of professionals in specific geographic regions or on studies conducted years ago. As UX practices continuously evolve to address new challenges emerging in industry, it is important to understand the challenges faced by current UX practitioners around the world when using think-aloud protocols. Such an understanding is beneficial for UX professionals to reflect on and learn from the UX community’s practices. It is also invaluable for academic researchers and educators to understand the challenges faced by professionals when carrying out the protocols in a wide range of practical contexts and to better explore methods to address these challenges. We conducted an international survey study with UX professionals in various sized companies around the world. We found that think-aloud protocols are widely and almost equally used in controlled lab studies and remote usability testing; concurrent protocols are more popular than retrospective protocols. Most UX practitioners probe participants during test sessions, explicitly request them to verbalize particular types of content, and do not administer practice sessions. The findings also offer insights on practices and challenges in analyzing think-aloud sessions. In sum, UX practitioners often deal with the tension between validity and efficiency in their analysis and demand better fast-paced and reliable analysis methods than merely reviewing observation notes or session recordings.”

Mingming Fan, Serina Shi, and Khai N. Truong ~ UXPA Journal 15.2

Inbodied interaction: Introduction

On invasive technologies.

“​HCI practitioners are increasingly interested in designing interactive technologies to support the body. At the CHI conference, research around health in particular has grown over the past decade. Once consisting of a session or two on health-related papers, it has since become one of the largest dedicated tracks in the conference. That said, few of us in HCI are experts in how the body works as a complex suite of physiological, interacting systems. Understandably so: Such expertise takes years of study in, for example, body-oriented fields like medicine or sports science. It is not a huge stretch, however, to expect that having more expertise about the body’s complex systems would enable us to design better tools. For example, a screwdriver can be effective for working on some parts of a car, but if we wish to ensure that the engine under the hood is running well, we need additional, specific tools like timing lights and spark-gap slides. Understanding how to use these tools, of course, is an essential requirement for ensuring the optimal performance of that machine.”

M.C. Schraefel ~ ACM Interactions Magazine 27.2

A guide to asking the right user research questions

It’s the answer that matters.

“​User feedback is a vital input for product development. But to maximize the effectiveness of your user research, it’s necessary to ask the right questions. Before talking to your users, think about the overall objective of the research: What do you want to know? Do you want to find out if a certain feature is useful? Or are you trying to learn what problems the user is facing? At this point, focus on the overarching theme of your research, and not specific questions.”

Jeremiah Lam ~ Maze

A usability evaluation of Web user interface scrolling types

Paper against pixels, hence scrolling.

“​This paper details a usability evaluation of scrolling techniques on Web sites. The scrolling methods evaluated were normal scrolling (with default pagination), infinite scrolling, infinite scrolling with a load more button and infinite scrolling with pagination. The four scrolling types were evaluated in the context of tasks that involved either serendipitous type tasks or goal-oriented type tasks. The evaluation was principally about the raw’ performance and participant perceptions. This is because it was felt that the greatest gap in knowledge concerned these aspects. The evaluation was done by means of an experiment and the data collected was statistically analysed. The results were mixed in nature, where no single scrolling method stood out as being the most usable.”

Sushil Sharma and Dr. Pietro Murano ~ First Monday 25.3

Digital experience systems: Expanding design systems to serve the full customer experience

The scope of design systems is getting larger and larger.

“​In this era of ever-evolving technology and innovation, organizations can no longer rely solely on a static dot-com to connect with customers. Increasingly, customer expectations are driving the need for an unprecedented mix of dynamic touch points, such as websites, customer portals, native mobile, wearables, chatbots, and voice interactions. Modern marketers need to manage these experiences intentionally and consistently to provide valuable brand interactions across the full customer experience. Further complicating the trend of multichannel experiences is a need within organizations to continually assess the impact and return on each customer touch point.”

Kristen Cromer ~ Adobe XD ideas