Spark

Subscribe via Email

Subscribe to RSS feed

Archives

Archive for the ‘UX’ Category

Creativity: A Matter of Taste

What’s the #1 quality attributed to designers? Creativity. A creative director literally manages creatives… in the creative department. This isn’t just organizational, it’s procedural. For instance, Lean UX promotes design studio activities in which participants create dozens of rapid-fire sketches. Those outbursts of creativity are great, but what’s rarely discussed is taste level. I feel that good taste is as important as anyone’s ability to brainstorm. Here are some elements of taste for consideration in your designs.

Creativity: A Matter of Taste1. Aesthetics. Visual design and branding are more than creative colors and custom layouts. Studies have linked visual design to users’ perceptions of usability and credibility. The better a visual design, the more users will trust it. Good designers track trends (without impersonating them) and avoid anachronisms.

2. Simplicity. Feature sets grow bloated because teams want to add value to products. It’s much harder to explain what you didn’t do. However, creativity isn’t just about new functions and use cases. It’s about ingenuity in combining and reducing those features. For example, which sounds like a more tasteful checkout UX: a 1-click button, or pop-up ads and pre-marked checkboxes for email newsletters? When I’ve worked on the latter, they always tested poorly.

3. Social customs. Users want ethical, safe experiences. No-nos include vulgarity, invasion of privacy, and moral affronts. For instance, Google Glass is a cutting-edge technology that’s sometimes misunderstood as a 24/7 surveillance tool. Rightly or wrongly, social judgments affect purchasing decisions.

4. Metaphors. Designers often map features to a UI metaphor to leverage users’ mental models. Caution is warranted for metaphors that may look contrived or tacky. As a simple example, horizontal tab UI mimicking file folders is easily understood. But occasionally designers position their tabs perpendicular to the page to be unique. Reading sideways labels is a creative UX, but in a not-so-good way.

5. Accessibility. Small web fonts aren’t sexy, they’re hard to read. Green and red buttons for positive and negative actions? About 5% of the population can’t distinguish them. Sometimes designers fall in love with visuals; I’ve been guilty of this many times. However, it’s poor taste to trumpet a beautiful design at the expense of those who can’t use it.

I hope these ideas are useful not only for designers, but any project member who defines, reviews or implements design. Do you have additions to this list? Please feel free to add a comment.

Posted in Design, Musings, UX

Are Devices Personal?

Every day I get “targeted” emails from retailers that are designed to appeal to my personal profile and preferences. Much of the content is driven by search history, browsing patterns, shopping cart contents and the assembled profile that the retailer has created for me. Which is great in theory. I want more relevant experiences that are tailored to my unique needs and interests. However, the reality is that my profile is actually an amalgamation of my entire family. You see, when I get home at the end of the day, my phone, my laptop, and my tablet become public property. My wife and my kids each take their turn and have their own experiences online. Experiences that include, disney princesses, monster trucks, cake decorating and yoga. So now when I get an email from a retailer, it is typically reflecting a diverse set of browsing experiences. For instance, the other day I got an email from Amazon that was promoting a set of jungle gym related products (a rock climbing wall, gymnastic rings, a play tunnel, etc..). From that, I could tell that my wife was thinking about remodeling our play room. To which I replied, “you are not turning our playroom into jungle gym.” Helpful for me, but perhaps not the intended goal of the email campaign.

Targeted Email Campaign

Targeted Email Campaign

So while personalization is becoming more engrained into a variety of web experiences, some of the methods need to be re-evaluated. It is not safe to assume that devices are personal. They can easily be shared and frequently represent a group of users. Therefore, the challenge is for retailers to focus on a personalization model that supports individual interactions vs. broader profiles. This can be achieved by looking at the context of the interaction to understand the intent, mindset and ultimately the needs of the individual user. Only then can personalization become truly personal.

STLUX Recap: Practical Interaction Design for Developers

St. Louis had a user experience conference last month (yes, I am very timely) called STLUX, and I’m starting a series of blog posts to recap some of the sessions I attended.  Instead of the typical essay type of blog post, these will be a more in depth breakdown of my notes, which come in a bulleted format.  Enjoy!

It is the duty of the machines and developers to understand people and how they think. We can absorb the pain, so our users have a better experience.This is the first in the series, covering the session by David Ortinau called “Practical Interaction Design for Developers.”

  • Interaction design is defined as the structure, behavior and the meaningful relationships between people and products.
  • In interaction design, people are the focus, not the code.
  • EVERYONE (on the team) needs to be informed about what the design is trying to do.  Designers and developers need to work together.
  • Developers don’t know everything, and should constantly be questioning themselves and their solutions.
  • “How did I come up with this answer?” Question yourself. Your brain can often trick you with your first answer.
  • It is the duty of the machines and developers to understand people and how they think. We can absorb the pain, so our users have a better experience.
  • Bill Verplank’s Three Questions (for interaction designers to answer in regards to their users)
    • How do you do?
      • Push that button
    • How do you feel?
      • I messed up
    • How do you know?
      • Way finding
  • Don’t make your user figure out and understand how your product’s system works.  Your system should understand how your user thinks and expects the system to work, and your system should work accordingly.
  • Slow is a bug
  • Cognitive dissonance is a bug 
  • Cognitive dissonance is when the user expects one thing to happen, and something else happens instead.

All in all it was a great presentation.  I always enjoy listening to David speak, because he has a fantastic presence and passion for the topics he presents.

Stay tuned for my next session summary on fixing your website’s performance!

The Dynamic Customer

At the recent Adobe Summit in Salt Lake City, one of the most interesting presentations I saw was delivered by John Bollen of MGM resorts. As the Chief Digital Officer for MGM, John is responsible for supporting the guest experience through technology. During his presentation, John brought up an interesting challenge. At MGM, they realize that their guests are never the same guest twice. What that means, is that a single customer might visit an MGM resort multiple times under different circumstances. For example, they may visit on an outing with their friends, then again on a business trip with colleagues, and later on a leisure trip with their family. The key to delivering a great experience for each visit, is understanding which mode a guest is in, and providing the appropriate interactions. 

The challenge John described is what I refer to as The Dynamic Customer. While you may have a good understanding of your customer’s needs, behavior and motivation, you can’t expect them to engage with you in the same way every time. Customers are people. And people are dynamic. They are emotional, sometimes irrational and largely influenced by their environment. To provide the right experience at the right time, you need to take into consideration the customer mindset and provide interactions that are appropriate for the situation.

Take for instance, my experience with our local drugstore. I always seem to find myself running to the store with my kids to pick-up a gallon milk, a prescription, or whatever last minute item I need. However, when I have a sick child with me, the last thing I want to do is get them unbuckled, drag them into the store and then try to get them back into the car. On one such visit earlier this year, I was going to the drugstore to buy some Motrin for my son, who was with me in the car. I thought, wouldn’t it be great if I could just get the medicine that I needed through the pharmacy drive-thru window? Surely that makes perfect sense. So I tried to do exactly that. Unfortunately, my store did not offer any OTC medicine through the pharmacy window. Needless to say, I was not a happy customer that day. The drugstore did not consider my situation and provide an appropriate experience. On the other hand, all of their other customers did get to experience a sick, screaming child being carried through their store…

In this instance, it seems that my situation was not unique. The drugstore has recently added some of the most common over-the-counter medicines to drive-thru pharmacy window, including children’s Motrin. Now they’re thinking about The Dynamic Customer, and so should you.

 

Barbie’s Dream House: Engaging with Simple Design

I took my daughters to The Barbie Dream House Experience at Mall of America the last weekend. The experience is a 30,000 square foot life size doll house created with 20 pounds of glitter and 100 gallons of pink paint.

Barbie Dream House Experience
Read the rest of this post »

Posted in Design, UX

Three Lessons Learned from HealthCare.gov

I have been following the rollout of the federal governments HealthCare.gov website and the subsequent healthcare exchanges. I have been reading many articles outlining the challenges that the team has faced with such a massive implementation, in a limited timeframe. There are many lessons to be learned from the HealthCare.gov story, but I would like to share three take-a-ways that struck me as important for EVERY software deployment, no matter how big or small.

goodfastcheapLesson #1 – Good, Fast or Cheap: Pick Two

It would appear from statements made from both HealthCare.gov contractors as well as the secretary of health, that there were a number of issues that should have either held back the deployment of the website, or a reduction in scope should have been applied, and possibly, additional team members should have been added to the project.

This reminds me of a simple project management quote:

“We can make it good, fast, or cheap. Pick two.”

Expert project managers know that very few real-life projects stay on track throughout the entire project cycle. A good project manager also understands how to make all three project constraints adjust to each other in order to maintain project quality. Some of the methods to keep projects within constraints are purely political: preventing stakeholders from changing the scope and maintaining boundaries around financial and human resources. Other solutions require classic project management techniques: keeping team members focused and adjusting milestones when necessary.

Read the rest of this post »

New Class of Prototyping Tools

If you believe you are a good software designer, the great news about creating mobile applications is that with mobile apps: design is everything. Time and time again, it has been show that users value good design and its impact on usability. As with everything else in life, we’re all individuals, with different preferences and ways of approaching design.  There are a number of mobile developer/designers who don’t believe that “paper is dead”, instead, take the position that they come up with more fluid layouts when not in front of a computer.  Other designers prefer to work in Photoshop, creating designs that seem ready for the App Store.  For me, one is too hot, and the other, too cold.  In the case of Photoshop or Axure, I would find too much attachment to the work I put in to the screen mockups to readily change them based on user input.

In my case, I find rapid prototyping beneficial to meet the following limited goals:

  • Investigate the key points of the proposed solutionbalsamiq
  • Test the navigation and overall content structure

This is the point of this blog post, to call attention to a new set of rapid prototyping tools for the creation of mobile applications.  Using my favorite screen prototyping tool, Balsamiq, I was able to export my mobile screen mockups to *.png files.

Using the tool InVision, I uploaded the *.png files into the Build Mode. From there I was able to identify clickable zones in my screen layouts and link them to the other screens that I uploaded. From there, I can export a link to the screens to a smartphone and bring up that link in the smartphone browser and navigate through my screens testing the application navigation.  Other features include the ability for other users of the functional mockup to make comments to specific points of the screens.  The tool supports both the Android and iOS environments.

Once you use the tool, the benefits become immediately apparent when users can touch and navigate through a facsimile of the proposed app.  If your tool of choice is something like Photoshop, you users could touch and play with what would seem to be the real app. Either way, having an app that could function on a phone is considerably better than looking at screenshots on a computer or looking at wireframe documentation.

SxSW Day 3 – Behavior Change as Value Proposition

At the end of the third day of SxSW, I sat in on a session about Behavior Change and how design can use that as a value proposition. Chris Risdon, of Adaptive Path, was the speaker, and it was great to sit in on this topic again and see how much it’s matured since the last time I got to see Chris present on it. The market today is becoming filled with products and services that are designed to not only track and monitor our behavior, but provide insight into how we might change that behavior for the better. Chris covered many of the concepts and principles behind this new breed of products during his talk.

Below are the notes I took during the session, please note it is mostly a stream of consciousness so please forgive any spelling or grammer mistakes.

Read the rest of this post »

SxSW Day 3 – The Best Interface is No Interface

The third day of SxSW started off with a provocative session given by Golden Krishna (website) on the concept of No UI and the invisible interface. On the surface, I really enjoyed the presentation and the material that Golden covered, but I didn’t “fall in love” with his argument as many others did. In fact, since the presentation several blog posts have been written that argue against the concept of No UI which aligns to my way of thinking.

Scott Berkunhttp://scottberkun.com/2013/the-no-ui-debate-is-rubbish/

Timo  Arnallhttp://www.elasticspace.com/2013/03/no-to-no-ui

Below are my notes from the session, please notes taken with my handy iPad mini and Evernote. Read the rest of this post »

#IdeaNotebook: More on the UX of LEGO

I’m not alone in my admiration of the UX of LEGO®. Shortly after my post about the contribution of user research for LEGO designers, I came across this UX Magazine article by Josh Tyson: POP UX! Lego Teaches us About the Power of Near-Perfect User Experience.
IdeaNotebook Art

Tyson asks a couple of intriguing questions at the end including “Is there value in a digital interface that takes the basic elements at-hand and configures new ways to produce rapid, rewarding results that seem limitless, or is that a messy pile of bricks?” My first thought was of graphical programs that rely on widgets or stencils such as Axure or Visio. I have built custom libraries in both tools using basic shapes as well as creating end designs.

Recalling the programming language for the original LEGO® Mindstorms® (possibly NXT 2.0 as well, but I haven’t used that yet) led to the thought of code libraries and snippets. Not graphical and for more specialized users, but definitely creating limitless results rapidly by comparison. I particularly like commenter Leigh Arredondo’s response: “Minecraft.”

The other challenging question Tyson poses is “If you create amazingly fluid and effective software, will it automatically imbue a brand with its core traits (for better or worse)?” Read the rest of this post »

Tags: , , ,

Posted in Design, Musings, UX