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Editor’s Note: Communicating the Usability Message Around the World

November 11, 2010, the sixth annual World Usability Day, is the topic for this special issue of UX Magazine, and brings the theme of “Communication” to life in the work of several practitioners. Contributors to this issue bring their experience in several international settings to our global community of readers, an appropriate celebration of the whole world of usability challenges and solutions.

  • Markus Weber reports back from this year’s UPA conference in Munich, where he conducted an idea market session on issues around terminology like “usability” and “user experience.” Markus also addresses the question of communication tools, such as usability study proposals and reports.
  • Heather Nam questions some conventions of moderator-participant communications in the traditional usability evaluation. She provides examples of scripted versus unscripted moderator-guide topics, using the example of a recent study involving global positioning systems.
  • Communication in the twenty-first century is hugely impacted by the wide use of online search tools. Craig Tomlin explores the relationship between search engine optimization and usability; he proposes several shared elements of SEO and usability and shows how they complement each other.
  • Even the underlying medium for communication is changing. Matthias Müller-Prove shares insights from the frontiers of cloud computing and the development of the virtual desktop infrastructure. He questions our prevailing definition of “personal computer” and shows why it may no longer be relevant.
  • Peter Vogel takes a close look at the design of tutorials as communication, fleshing out the traditional structure of introduction, steps, and final review with advice on what works and what doesn’t. And, as Peter says, “Error happens.” His article includes an example of effective error-handling.
  • User-generated content (UGC) has only been part of mainstream communication since 2005. Through blogs, social networking, online communities, and discussion boards, average citizens exert a profound influence on our culture and economy. Scott McDonald asks some hard questions about this phenomenon.
  • How do IT professionals in our rapidly converging world find time to spend with family and friends? Suneet Kheterpal reports on a recently conducted survey to understand the patterns, styles, and reasons for accessing online networks by female professionals working in Indian IT.
  • Silvia Salazar reports on a study of bilingual requirements for web-based healthcare information for a largely Latino target group. Interestingly, her team discovered a new user group, Promotoras de Salud, while recruiting participants in the study and obtained some of the most interesting results from them.
  • Michael Bechinie, Markus Murtinger, and Manfred Tschlegi offer a list of social skills for UX consultants, including both classic textbook advice and some things that no seminar ever taught us. This is the full version of the article, as originally published on our web site.
  • Lastly, for the closing “View From Here” feature, UX talked to Elizabeth Rosenzweig, founder of World Usability Day, who shares her enthusiasm for, and some incongruous humor from, the history of the event.

These are just a few of the many faces of communication in the usability context. Maybe this year’s event will prove to be the forerunner of many more.