November 15, 2013

Context is King

A little over two months ago, my husband, my dog, and I arrived in Portland, Oregon. A week later, I was sitting at my desk at Empirical UX, thinking about what to write for Empirical’s Ask the Expert column “advertorial”. Since I was new on the job, I didn’t have much to go on from a case study perspective.  So I thought of what kind of advice would give businesses the most bang for their buck UX-wise.  In my opinion, you can’t do much better than designing for context.

In true self-deprecating fashion, I have to laugh at myself for the “context is king” line.  It’s so cliche.  But cliches are cliche for a reason, right?  After all, context is the circumstances that define our experience.  And if you’re not paying a lot of attention to that, well… you clearly do need to ask the expert.

Perhaps the most cumbersome task in designing for context is the research required to know exactly how, when, and why your users are interacting with your product. Some of this may be identifiable by analytics, but to truly understand context, you’ll need to invest in some quality user research.

From there, you’d be amazed at just how much machines can do. They can leverage your location to tell you what’s nearest to you, they can serve up different content depending on the time of day, and the multitude of screen sizes… HANDLED, son. All you need to do is plan for it.

And that’s where I come in.

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