We’re back with another batch of interesting (we think) articles we came across this summer.

One of our guiding mantras is presenting similar content in similar ways, which is reminiscent of a word popping up in many articles on improving user experience: modularity. Although it seems straightforward, it’s quite complex to implement. Alla Kholmatova’s article, The Language of Modular Design, points out the importance of the words we use when referring to the modules we are working on.

When we confer names to objects, we  bring those objects into existence, and those names have a habit of sticking. “Once you name an object,” she explains, “you shape its future.” This is why we make a point here on our team to make our processes of naming things as inclusive as possible, to ensure we don’t spend time and effort building something (say a list of user tasks) that does not cover the complexity of the topic at hand.

Our colleagues in the research team are wary of the traps set by personas - those profiles of typical users made of attributes we know about them. Alan Klemet, in his piece Replacing Personas with Characters, tells us that “because personas focus on creating a story made up of a customer’s attributes, instead of a story that explains a purchase, personas leave the brain in an unsatisfied state.” The brain referred to here is that of the person using the persona to make decisions -  in our case design or information architecture decisions regarding the website we are building.

“The way to mitigate these unintended effects is to replace personas with models that enable cohesive stories.” The science and insights of this article can easily be stretched to the analysis of audiences for communication. Worth checking out.

Change is difficult. It triggers all sorts of reactions in those facing it and, at times, those reactions are soaked in emotions. Kelsey Lynn Lundberg’s Understanding Emotional Response is a good primer into how emotions are stirred by change in the web world of an organisation, as well as a few ways to engage and, at the same time, avoid making matters worse.

If you have the time, I would pair it with a comprehensive description of what goes into the research work that goes into building a website: A Crash Course in UX Design Research or “the work that uncovers and articulates the needs of individuals and/or groups in order to inform the design of products and services in a structured manner.”

And since the word design is coming up, here’s a Harvard Business Review article talking about “design thinking”, the buzz word that has been keeping the attention of organisations around the globe in the past year or so: Design Thinking Comes of Age. You can trust this article to give a good take on why principles such as “empathy with users, a discipline of prototyping, and tolerance for failure” are considered “the best tool for developing a responsive, flexible organizational culture,” as well as an account of which organisations are making this their way of working.

The ways in which organisations communicate via the web are advancing, and fortunately governments are catching up. The Commission is doing it, the Australian Government is doing it (their design guidelines), Mexico too (their new web portal of services), the US too (Barack Obama talking about the gap between government and other sectors of society, and the role IT plays in it).

If you come across any interesting links relevant to our work, we appreciate you sharing them with us in the comments section. Enjoy what’s left of the summer!

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