Out of the 29 articles we published in 2008, these five articles werethe most discussed amongst our readers. While not everyone agreed with our viewpoints, they did agree these were important discussions to have.

So, where do you fall? Do you agree with our viewpoints or do you think we've got it all wrong? Read the articles and leave your thoughts on the Brain Sparks blog posts.

1: Ideal UX Team Makeup - Specialists, Generalists, or Compartmentalists
Published November 17, 2008

The User Experience world is filled with many disciplines: information architecture, user research, interaction design, copywriting, and visual design - to name just a few. Each of these disciplines have a rich history, a deep knowledge base, and an extensive tool set. Each takes a lifetime to master.

While the successful team needs all of these disciplines, there are more of them than most teams have members. This creates a challenge as teams need to spread the experience, knowledge, and skills across multiple team members, turning them from specialists into generalists.

In this article, I share some of our recent findings in how teams make the call: when should they hire a specialist and when will a generalist work better? Whether you’re a team manager or someone looking to direct their career choices, I think our findings will interest you.

Read the full article: Ideal UX Team Makeup - Specialists, Generalists, or Compartmentalists
Leave your thoughts on the UIE BrainSparks blog.

2: Failure Is Not an Option - It's a Requirement
Published October, 29, 2008

It turns out that it’s no accident people are talking about failure these days. Over the last few years, our research has shown that the organizations that embrace the mistakes they make are more likely toshow growth and improvement in their designs. That’s the great paradox: failure is strategically important to success.

This article describes how one nameless client got themselves into big trouble, how Amazon.com minimizes the risk from major design changes,
and eight common mistakes preventing organizations from getting the most from their failures. I think you’ll enjoy it.

Read the full article: Failure Is Not an Option - It's a Requirement
Leave your thoughts on the UIE Brainsparks blog.

3: The Site Map: An Information Architecture Cop-Out
Published August 12, 2008

Design cop-outs come in many different flavors. For example, you might let users choose options instead of designing it for them. Sure, some personalization is probably OK, but why should the user decide between a “minimized database” or “maximized for search”? How would the user know any better than the design team what is appropriate?

This is the cop-out: instead of doing the research to determine what will best serve the users, the team opted to leave the finishing touches to the user. In turn, the user is wholly unequipped to make the right decision and becomes frustrated because they are being asked.

In this article, I explore a common cop-out: the site map. Sure, site maps seem like a useful tool. (After all, the site map is an invaluable developer tool for tracking the entirety of the site.) But, for users, it can become a catch-all for content the team doesn’t know how to organize.

Read the full article: The Site Map: An Information Architecture Cop-Out
Leave your thoughts on the UIE Brainsparks blog.

4: Design Cop-out #2 - Breadcrumbs
Published August 21, 2008

As site designers, we think about the entire site. Since we put a lot of work behind it, we want to ensure users have exposure to the full breadth of what we offer.

However, users don't have the same perspective. They aren't looking for breadth in our content. They have a specific goal and they focus on just that. Any content on the site not pertaining to that goal is a distraction or unwarranted. The trick is to produce a design that gets the users to their goal immediately.

In this article, I explain how breadcrumbs, like site maps, are hard to do well. They're often a treatment of the symptom, with the real problem that the user is on the wrong page to begin with. Work to ensure the only place users end up is on the right page, and you’ll no longer need to provide breadcrumbs to rescue them.

Read the article: Design Cop-out #2 - Breadcrumbs
Leave your thoughts on the UIE Brainsparks blog.

5: Producing Great Search Results
Published July 9, 2008 & July 14, 2008

Search results look easy. After all, the engine has done all the heavy lifting. It’s taken the user’s query and scoured through the millions of bits of data to narrow the results down to a presentable set. All you have to do now is just display the results, right?

Well, after watching hundreds of users try to accomplish their goals with hundreds of web sites, we can now say, without any hesitation, that it’s not easy to produce a great search results page. In fact, we’re confident that it really takes a lot of hard work and skill to make something that will create a delightful experience for your users.

In this article, we present the first of a two-part article on producing great search results. Fortunately, having now watched all of these users, we’ve seen some really interesting patterns in how the most effective search results pages pull it off.

Read the article:Producing Great Search Results
Leave your thoughts on the UIE Brainsparks blog.

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