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This particular blog post has been on my mind for a while now. Nowadays, a popular topic of conversation in the UX world encourages UX leaders everywhere to become more involved in business leadership and business strategy, as opposed to staying in their traditional sphere of influence related to UX strategy. There have also been a number of discussions/comments on a variety of UX blogs lately, about whether the term 'User' in our discipline name is accurate enough, or whether it should be replaced with a different term, such as 'customer' (as in 'customer experience' as opposed to 'user experience'). Others are proposing for the word 'User' to be dropped altogether, so 'user experience design' would end up known simply as 'experience design'.
In my opinion, the fact that these discussions are taking place around the same time speaks volumes about the lack of maturity in many of our practitioners' strategic thinking. Don't get me wrong, I think User Experience as a profession has come a long way in the last 10 years or so in terms of methods, process and industry standardization. We have successfully aligned or integrated our process within various software development methodologies, and we have even been promoted to participate in discussions at the big boys table with the business, technology and marketing folks. There are no doubt a few UX professionals acting or in line to act as CEOs, CXOs, CIOs or CTOs, who, through practice and years of experience, have aquired that business acumen needed to become a true leader in the boardroom. But before we even begin talking about user experience professionals setting the tone and creating the overarching strategy for all those non-UX areas, I would venture a guess that there is still a lot we need to learn about what constitutes a successful business, the parameters within which it operates, and last but not least, its terminology. This guerilla movement within the UX community who are trying to replace 'user experience' with 'customer experience' are obviously not aware that the term 'customer experience' has already been coined and it is used frequently in the corporate world to describe a completely differently business concept.
2010 happens to be the 20th anniversary of Improving a Human-Computer Dialogue, the ACM paper by Jakob Neilsen and Rolf Molich that introduced the concept of employing a list of heuristics when assessing the usability of human-computer interfaces. Four years later, Jakob Nielsen made history again with his famous 1994 heuristics, which are heavily used in usability evaluations even today. In the past decade, additional lists of heuristics related to various aspects of typical UX methodologies have been compiled, yet Nielsen's original list continues to defy the usual laws of longevity that typically constrain the web world. Most likely, this has happened due to the generic nature of the 10 heuristics, which provide largely general statements and consequently, most usability problems can be easily molded to fit the items on Nielsen's list.
Early in my 10 year career as a UX professional, I've used Nielsen's 10 heuristics as the de-facto standard whenever I've performed usability evaluations. As time went by, I gradually went away from Nielsen's original list and I've gradually started employing additional heuristics that are less general and allow to clearly identify modern usability / user experience pitfalls of web-based systems. While the number of heuristics I typically use for an expert heuristics evaluation now stands north of 60 and because I believe that some of them are more relevant than others, I've decided to choose my own top 10 as an homage to Nielsen's timeless original list.
Like most people who have chosen a career path as consultants on large projects, I've spent a lot of time in hotel rooms. Until recently, I shared an outlook on travel, loyalty programs and living on the road with George Clooney's character in 'Up In The Air'. Luckily, my job was a lot more interesting :O)
Spending years living out of a suitcase also meant that every other week, or in some cases every other night, I would sleep in a different hotel room. At the advice of a fellow UX professional, I've decided to write this post about my thoughts on the user experience of these rooms. I'm not an interior designer, so I know nothing about building codes and I will make no reference to Feng Shui. This post is about the business traveller and the little things that can be done to make the hotel stay experience much more enjoyable for people like me.
I typically flew out every week on Monday morning, went straight to work after I landed, put in an full day's work, and then finally made my way exhausted to the hotel. This means that by the time I was about to check it, it was nighttime about 99% of the time. I arrived in front of my hotel room door, keycard in one hand, luggage roller in the other. One of the most frustratings moments when checking into a room is not being able to immediately find the light swich beside the entrance door. I'm not picky in terms of which way the door opens, as long as on the inside of the wall, beside the lock, I can feel the light switch in the dark right away. Having the switch on the opposite side (which means I have to get my luggage inside, close the door, and then keep searching in the dark, is not an option. Neither are multiple light switches unintuitively budled somewhere inside the room, an even worse as it forces me to prop the door open with my luggage so I can find a light switch, any light switch, that I can turn on in order to orient myself through furniture maze of a room layout that I am not yet familiar with.
Over the past month, some encouraging developments took place on the Government of Canada User Experience (UX) landscape. By far the most important (in my opinion) is the creation of a permanent UX working group (UXWG for the purpose of this article) made up entirely of UX professionals, as part of an interdepartmental web governance structure.
Its original lineup includes the likes of @ResultsJunkie, @sagecram, @spydergrrl, @krisaston, @mjmclean, @patlaj, @jmacerve and @hilittle, all of whom have been actively raising awareness about the importance of positioning and conducting high-quality UX work within the Public Service. I'm not someone who is known for throwing superlatives at the Federal Government, but seeing the internal UX community finally step out of the shadows is truly a huge step forward towards improving the customer experience of every Canadian, regardless of which side of the firewall they are on.
Sadly (for me :O), details of the web managers council UX discussions have not been publicly shared to the outside world, so I've decided to write this post and share my own thoughts on the possible evolution of this encouraging endeavour.
If you haven't heard the news yet, Mr. Wayne Wouters, Clerk of the Privy Council and Secretary to the Cabinet (a.k.a. 'His Clerkiness' for brevity reasons for the duration of this post) recently launched his very own slice of web real estate at http://clerk.gc.ca. Nota Bene: no disrespect is intended by using the term 'His Clerkiness', it is simply a catchy, affectionate term that has been making the rounds on Twitter about a week ago, a day before the official launch of the website.
On its own, the very presence of the site marks a bit of a shift in the way the Government of Canada is interacting with its internal (PS employees) and external audience (the public at-large). A real-time Twitter feed (and not a link to a Twitter account) is prominently featured on the main page. CLF bilingualism requirements are met by way of echoing two different Twitter accounts: @WayneWouters for the English version, and @WayneGWouters for those on the other side of the Alexandria Bridge.
So far, His Clerkiness' newly adopted microblogging persona has been relatively quiet. There are only three tweets in the timeline, one announcing the launch of the website, a link to the Clerk's Annual Report and a Thank You note for those who provided feedback on the website. Well, Your Clerkiness, if you haven't received a lot of responses, consider this article my very own way of providing feedback to your new virtual endeavour.
Another relatively unusual component for a GoC CLF-compliant website that can be found on the main page is the presence of a Flash video introduction. Historically, flash video introductions have been used on social networking and blog landing pages. More recently, flash video intros have become increasingly popular within political websites. They are short, official, effective and easy to create, so kudos to His Clerkiness (and/or his communications team) for broadening the CLF spectrum. For those of you keeping track, you can find a second flash video in the How We Help section.
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