by October 31st, 2013
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.
Lesson #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.
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by March 30th, 2013
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 solution
- 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.
by March 22nd, 2013
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.
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by March 18th, 2013
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 Berkun - http://scottberkun.com/2013/the-no-ui-debate-is-rubbish/
Timo Arnall - http://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 »
by March 12th, 2013
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.
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 »
by February 22nd, 2013
I am a lifelong fan of LEGO© toys and games and of J.R.R. Tolkien. So when LEGO began to release The Lord of the Rings sets, I was delighted. I then came across this video about designing Shelob™ Attacks while reviewing the new sets:
Shelob’s wheels from the “Designer Video: Shelob™ Attacks” (© 2012 The LEGO Group)
As a user experience researcher and designer, I enjoy learning about the design process fellow design professionals go through to come up with brilliant products. The designer shared the unique challenges in creating an organic shape like a spider. With such well-known source material, it might have been easy to assume that once Shelob looked right, the design was finished.
However, the LEGO design team did not stop there. Read the rest of this post »
by February 13th, 2013
Since my last post about making emotional response part of the design process and a defined focus of research, I’ve been wondering how you help make user responses, not just success, matter to a design and development team and get them to focus on it. One idea I came up with is user response bingo.
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by February 7th, 2013
A mobile colleague pointed out a blog post that really hit home based on some recent estimating work I had done. If a client comes to you and asks for a web-based application that satisfies some business need, you discuss the high-level requirements, get an idea on sizing and tell the client 5 months and X amount of dollars. More likely than not, they tell you “Great, when can you start?”. However, same client, similar type of business need but it is a mobile app and you tell them 5 months and X amount of dollars, quite often the response is quite different. The response is generally not as positive and is most likely along the lines of “That long and that amount of money for ‘just’ a mobile app?” as they are internally associating this project with of some of the simple and free apps they have download from an App Store.
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by January 31st, 2013
Thursday, Microsoft launched modern.ie, a site with tools to help developers write better code. The tool is really a set of three different components. The first part of the tool is a subscription to BrowserStack, allowing you to test your code on a multitude of combinations of Web browsers and operating systems. This subscription is usually $19/month alone but they are giving away 3-month trial memberships right now. The second part is a set of twenty best practices for cross-platform coding, authored by Dave Methvin of jQuery fame and Microsoft evangelist Rey Bango. The third tool, an automated scanner that will run against an existing Web site and seek out compatibility issues, primarily for dealing with IE code-arounds and such, but it will check for more than just IE issues. The scanner makes it easy to identify potential problem areas and rather than just telling you it’s broken, it gives you some hints and links to resources to help you resolve the issues. Looking at one of our sites, I found a potential issue with an easy fix. You also get access to interact with the Internet Explorer team – at least through e-mail.
Another great feature is that you can configure and download virtual machines with a few easy clicks if you want to test these environments locally. That’s a nice resource for anyone who has ever needed to replicate and track down issues with some obscure combination of browser and OS.
by January 31st, 2013
From the first time I picked up an iPhone, I found the interface intuitive and easy to use. The user experience fit my paradigm for how I would expect to interact with the device, even though I had not interacted with it before that day. Of course, it’s been a few years since that day and using the iPhone is part of my everyday life, as i’m sure it is with plenty of others.
The new Blackberry z10 was just released and I have to admit, it’s got some great specs: very high res screen, great processor with the ability to run multiple apps, and a sleek design. However, what the z10 has introduced is a gesture based-style of navigation. Gestures have been around for a while in Apple and Android devices, but both of those devices have hard buttons, icon-based navigation, and other cues into more traditional computing. With touch-based systems seemingly taking over just about every screen we interact with, it makes me wonder how usable some of these interaction patterns really are. Yes, once you learn “how the system works” you will probably become proficient in tasks you routinely perform, and possibly be able to interact more efficiently, but what is the trade-off? I’m looking forward to some hands-on time with the z10 to try things out for myself.
This week the folks at Mashable hand a blackberry z10 over to some Android and iPhone users to test some simple interactions. Check it out