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Working with External User Researchers: Part II

In the first installment of the Working with External User Researchers series, we explored the reasons why you might hire a user researcher on contract and helpful things to consider in choosing one. This time, we talk about getting the actual work done. You‘ve hired a user researcher for your project. Congrats! On paper, this person (or team of people) has everything you need and more. You might think the hardest part of your project is c

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Your Emails (and Recipients) Deserve Better Context

Email communication is an integral part of the user experience for nearly every web application that requires a login. It‘s also one of the first interactions the user has after signing up. Yet too often both the content and context of these emails is treated as an afterthought (at best), with the critical parts that users see first-sender name and email, subject, and preheader-largely overlooked. Your users, and the great application you&l

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Meeting Design

A note from the editors: We‘re pleased to share an excerpt from Chapter 2 (‘The Design Constraint of All Meetings‘) of Meeting Design: For Managers, Makers, and Everyone by Kevin Hoffman, available now from Two Waves.Jane is a ‘do it right, or I‘ll do it myself ‘ kind of person. She leads marketing, customer service, and information technology teams for a small airline that operates between islands of the Carib

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Going Offline

A note from the editors: We‘re excited to share Chapter 1 of Going Offline by Jeremy Keith, available this month from A Book Apart.Businesses are built on the web. Without the web, Twitter couldn‘t exist. Facebook couldn‘t exist. And not just businesses-Wikipedia couldn‘t exist. Your favorite blog couldn‘t exist without the web. The web doesn‘t favor any one kind of use. It‘s been deliberately designed to

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So You Want to Write an Article?

So you want to write an article. Maybe you‘ve got a great way of organizing your CSS, or you‘re a designer who has a method of communicating really well with developers, or you have some insight into how to best use a new technology. Whatever the topic, you have insights, you‘ve read the basics of finding your voice, and you‘re ready to write and submit your first article for a major publication. Here‘s the thing: mo

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Onboarding: A College Student Discovers A List Apart

What would you say if I told you I just read and analyzed over 350 articles from A List Apart in less than six weeks? ‘You‘re crazy!‘ might have passed through your lips. In that case, what would you say if I was doing it for a grade? Well, you might say that makes sense. As a part of an Independent Research Study for my undergraduate degree, I wanted to fill in some of the gaps I had when it came to working with the World Wid

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Discovery on a Budget: Part III

Sometimes we have the luxury of large budgets and deluxe research facilities, and sometimes we‘ve got nothing but a research question and the determination to answer it. Throughout the ‘Discovery on a Budget‘ series we have discussed strategies for conducting discovery research with very few resources but lots of creativity. In part 1 we discussed the importance of a clearly defined problem hypothesis and started our affordable

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Planning for Everything

A note from the editors: We‘re pleased to share an excerpt from Chapter 7 (‘Reflecting‘) of Planning for Everything: The Design of Paths and Goals by Peter Morville, available now from Semantic Studios.Once upon a time, there was a happy family. Every night at dinner, mom, dad, and two girls who still believed in Santa played a game. The rules are simple. Tell three stories about your day, two true, one false, and see who can de

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Priority Guides: A Content-First Alternative to Wireframes

No matter your role, if you‘ve ever been involved in a digital design project, chances are you‘re familiar with wireframes. After all, they‘re among the most popular and widely used tools when designing websites, apps, dashboards, and other digital user interfaces. But they do have their problems, and wireframes are so integrated into the accepted way of working that many don‘t consider those drawbacks. That‘s a sha

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The Slow Death of Internet Explorer and the Future of Progressive Enhancement

My first full-time developer job was at a small company. We didn‘t have BrowserStack, so we cobbled together a makeshift device lab. Viewing a site I‘d been making on a busted first-generation iPad with an outdated version of Safari, I saw a distorted, failed mess. It brought home to me a quote from Douglas Crockford, who once deemed the web ‘the most hostile software engineering environment imaginable.‘ The ‘works

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The Problem with Patterns

It started off as an honest problem with a brilliant solution. As the ways we use the web continue to grow and evolve, we, as its well-intentioned makers and stewards, needed something better than making simple collections of pages over and over again. Design patterns, component libraries, or even style guides have become the norm for organizations big and small. Having reusable chunks of UI aids consistency and usability for users, and it lends

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Conversational Design

A note from the editors: We‘re pleased to share an excerpt from Chapter 1 of Erika Hall‘s new book, Conversational Design, available now from A Book Apart.Texting is how we talk now. We talk by tapping tiny messages on touchscreens-we message using SMS via mobile data networks, or through apps like Facebook Messenger or WhatsApp..article-layout .main-content > figure.quote:first-child figcaption { margin-top: 1rem; } In 2015, the Pew

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The Illusion of Control in Web Design

We all want to build robust and engaging web experiences. We scrutinize every detail of an interaction. We spend hours getting the animation swing just right. We refactor our JavaScript to shave tiny fractions of a second off load times. We control absolutely everything we can, but the harsh reality is that we control less than we think. Last week, two events reminded us, yet again, of how right Douglas Crockford was when he declared the web &ls

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We‘re Looking for People Who Love to Write

Here at A List Apart, we‘re looking for new authors, and that means you. What should you write about? Glad you asked! You should write about topics that keep you up at night, passions that make you the first to show up in the office each morning, ideas that matter to our community and about which you have a story to tell or an insight to share. We‘re not looking for case studies about your company or thousand-foot overviews of topi

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Orchestrating Experiences

A note from the editors: It‘s our pleasure to share this excerpt from Chapter 2 (‘Pinning Down Touchpoints‘) of Orchestrating Experiences: Collaborative Design for Complexity by Chris Risdon and Patrick Quattlebaum, available now from Rosenfeld Media.If you embrace the recommended collaborative approaches in your sense-making activities, you and your colleagues should build good momentum toward creating better and valuable end-t

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Designing for Research

If you‘ve spent enough time developing for the web, this piece of feedback has landed in your inbox since time immemorial: ‘This photo looks blurry. Can we replace it with a better version?‘ Every time this feedback reaches me, I‘m inclined to question it: ‘What about the photo looks bad to you, and can you tell me why?‘ That‘s a somewhat unfair question to counter with. The complaint is rooted in a su

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The Cult of the Complex

‘Tis a gift to be simple. Increasingly, in our line of work, ‘tis a rare gift indeed. In an industry that extols innovation over customer satisfaction, and prefers algorithm to human judgement (forgetting that every algorithm has human bias in its DNA), perhaps it should not surprise us that toolchains have replaced know-how. Likewise, in a field where young straight white dudes take an overwhelming majority of the jobs (including

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A DIY Web Accessibility Blueprint

The summer of 2017 marked a monumental victory for the millions of Americans living with a disability. On June 13th, a Southern District of Florida Judge ruled that Winn-Dixie‘s inaccessible website violated Title III of the Americans with Disabilities Act. This case marks the first trial under the ADA, which was passed into law in 1990. Despite spending more than 7 million to revamp its website in 2016, Winn-Dixie neglected to include des

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Order Out of Chaos: Patterns of Organization for Writing on the Job

A few years ago, a former boss of mine emailed me out of the blue and asked for a resource that would help him and his colleagues organize information more effectively. Like a dutiful friend, I sent him links to a few articles and the names of some professional writing books. And I qualified my answer with that dreaded disclaimer: ‘Advice varies widely depending on the situation.‘ Implication: ‘You‘ll just have to figure o

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