CUA of the Month – October, 2012

Sharon Forbes
"At the end of the day, design is about people, not about the cloud or the latest code, or software."
Sharon Forbes
User Experience Product ,
Analysis Coordinator
Ultimate Software

First CXA to be CUA of the Month!

by Jim Garrett

Here at HFI, we are frequently asked, “Why would I take the CXA if I’ve taken the CUA?” Our CUA of the Month Sharon Forbes is just the person to answer that question. She has completed CXA training and CUA training with HFI certification in both.

Sharon has worked for several companies such as IBM, Insight Global, as a consultant for companies such as American Express, Norwegian Cruise Line and most recently worked for Ultimate Software as User Experience Product Analysis Coordinator. Now as HFI’s first CXA to be CUA of the Month, she relates her experience.

The difference between CUA and CXA. “A CUA focuses on how easy it is to use the application. CXA’s focus is on the user’s experience. HFI did a fantastic job of teaching us how to design for the most engaging experience by using their PET tools: Persuasion, Emotion and Trust. These are founded on the premise that people make decisions based on their emotions, their feelings. The user’s visual interpretation, how they respond with certain interactions, content and flow throughout an application or software tool, has a lot to do with how well the design aligns with their mental model and emotional drivers and blockers,” explains Sharon.

Examples of CUA and CXA usage. “I can have one application where it’s very easy to use; the user is in and out of there easily and quickly and has accomplished their goals. This is an application with good usability. An application with a good user experience is where users become very engaged and excited about what they are persuaded to do. This not only helps them to accomplish their goals easily but also gives them a very engaging and pleasurable experience where they want to use the application,” said Sharon.

“This is a positive user experience where they are persuaded to do things that they trust and are emotionally satisfied. It’s brilliant and is really exciting because it’s acknowledging the emotional triggers of human interactions which allow them to enjoy their experience,” added Sharon.

“So, instead of a user saying ‘Ok I can make a travel reservation easily,’ with a positive user experience it becomes, ‘I'm so looking forward to going on my vacation that I actually want to book my next couple of reservations early and include my friends and family!’ This is because the design created such a pleasurable experience for them and exceeded their anticipated needs. PET actually gave me tools that I can use based on HFI’s research results. For example, people tend to be more engaged with a picture they can identify with "people like me,” verses a picture of a model that looks nothing like anyone they know,” offered Sharon.

Is CXA a replacement for CUA?

“CUA provides a usability design foundation and CXA is "how to engage your user and give them a trusting and pleasurable experience while meeting their needs, important needs they never expected to be met. It raises the bar on the design's experience. It shows you how to really get into the emotional triggers and drivers of your users and equips you with tools to persuade them and engage them to create trust. CXA is really the icing on the cake where your design has users wanting to use the application, not just because they can,” explains Sharon.

Do you recommend CXA courses?

“It depends on how advanced of a user experience design professional you are, but I really loved both. I highly recommend taking the CXA courses. The classes were very interactive and engaging, we were learning by referencing research relevant material … but more importantly benefiting by interacting with design professionals from critical companies all over the country and sharing different business design scenarios. The frequent class exercises helps you to apply the PET and Innovation techniques you've learned with class participation to model design scenarios you would have in your company. Being able to talk about the different approaches provided by everyone in class is very important. You have the benefit of listening and learning to not just your own perspective, but everyone else's experience as well,” stated Sharon.

What’s the most significant thing learned that you are able to apply?

“I’ve been able to enhance my analysis requirements that I prepare. Before I was focused on usability and intuitive design instincts; what needs to be done, what’s the goal, what’s the business value, what’s the ROI. But now I am focused on the holistic end-to-end user experience design strategy. This includes what is the user afraid of, which design tools will be most helpful to eliminate or minimize that fear, which goals are users looking to accomplish and what would really be a driver for them to become more engaged. It’s a higher quality of user experience design,” explains Sharon.

Out of your experience, what stands out that you enjoyed the most?

“The PET Design, PET Architect, and the Innovation Design classes were my favorites. How to Design for the Big: User Centric Innovation and Strategy makes you think of designing completely outside of typical constraints and norms. It allows you to discover solutions for people that you would not have identified before. That's really my niche that I enjoy focusing on, I love innovative design strategy… starting out with understanding our user's needs, and then meeting their needs through engaging design through to the completion of an enjoyable application people really want to use,” states Sharon.

“At the end of the day, design is about people, not about the cloud or the latest code, or software, those things are great mechanisms, but it is about designing for people. So the more you understand people who are using your product, the better you can provide an easier way they can accomplish their goal and enjoy doing it at the same time,” concludes Sharon.

Thank you Sharon for your great insights, and congratulations on being HFI’s first CXA to be CUA of the Month.

CUA of the Month

Each month we highlight the successes and achievements of a different member of our CUA community. If you are a Certified Usability Analyst and would like to be considered for CUA of the Month recognition, please send a brief professional bio to

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Reviewed: 18 Mar 2014

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HFI reserves the right to cancel any course up to 14 (fourteen) days prior to the first day of the course. Registrants will be promptly notified and will receive a full refund or be transferred to the equivalent class of their choice within a 12-month period. HFI is not responsible for travel expenses or any costs that may be incurred as a result of cancellations.

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