Posts from "January, 2010"

New Product Release: Custom Stencils and Dollar Payment

This weekend, we added some new things to pidoco. First, you can now pay in dollar directly with a fixed price. Since many of our test users live in the USA, we thought this might support you. There are no more exchange rates to consider or some special fees from your bank for paying in Euros. Prices start from $9 per month and user. You may want to have a look at the complete pricing list. The free trial remains with 31 days which you can use to extensively test pidoco.

The second thing we added are custom stencils that you can create. We thought the most likely case is that you want to have elements in your own style. Therefore, all images that you upload or add via URL are automatically added to the stencil palette. From there you can use them just like you use the other stencils: simply drag them onto a page. That not enough, we made all images linkable. You can set a target just as you do for a button or a link. This way, you may create and use your very own buttons in a pidoco prototype. Since some pictures may be rather small, you can give them a name that is visible in the palette to distinguish similar looking images.

This is only the first step in adding custom stencils to your prototype. What would you like to be able to do regarding custom stencils? Let us know, either by leaving a comment in here or by adding your idea to our feedback forum.

Synchronous, Remote, Real-Time, Internet-based Usability Tests … what for? – Part 1 –

The article will be posted in 3 parts -which should be released a week after another.

Developing a software application is a creative and complex process. It becomes specially challenging when trying to design an interface which suits the end-user. Designers, project managers and programmers all have different views on how to approach their common goal: a successful, stable and user-friendly design.

gantNow let’s be honest: how many of you have met their targets on time and within budget? How many of you have spent sleepless nights because of unforeseen problems which came up in the very last minute?

I bet there are a few of you and one of them is me!

Most problems come up at a stage where a lot of design and programming work has already been invested. These problems become apparent when the test-users start getting their fingers dirty and as soon as they uncover flaws with your work, a lot of heartache will follow. User-tests are necessary yet are often deployed when it is ‘nearly too late’. Don’t get me wrong, I’m a keen supporter of usability tests but I believe that the traditional ways of running such tests are outdated.

The user should be included in the production process as soon as possible. The sooner this happens, the less time and money you will spend on conducting usability tests since you will be able to spot the flaws at an early stage. Makes sense, right?

So why do we keep insisting on setting up expensive test labs and pay thousands of dollars for expensive equipment and spend time and money in finding the right test-users? I want to present you a different approach to user-testing, a way which may very well change your attitude towards the established forms and also a way which can save you from those troubles mentioned earlier.

In order to gain the feedback you need, it always helps to gather qualitative data of users which can test your product in the right environment. Having housewifes, students or seniors sitting in your office and trying out that new e-commerce website for your client isn’t the way forward, or is it? Well, i think it is defenitely more safe and reliable to let them stay at home and do it from their own desk. Why ruin that new test-rig if you can get your test-users to work remotely?


Remote Usability Testing

Remote Usability Tests are conducted in the natural environment of the user (e.g. at home).

The fact that it is conducted remotely and not in a lab environment has a lot of benefits:

Synchronous Usability Testing

Laptop Handshake 2

Synchronous Usability Testing is a well established approach for running qualitative Usability Tests.

As the name suggests, synchronous testing is done on a one-to-one basis and in real time. The test-user will be running tasks set by the moderator which then can be closely monitored and recorded. The moderator’s difficult task is to interpret and evaluate the test-user’s problems with the product. This is not an easy task and it takes a lot of experience and well refined ability to use the feedback in the most effective way possible. This is why synchronous Usability testing is often done with low-fi prototypes – therefore early testing is possible.

The advantages of Synchronous Usability Testing are:

  • allows moderator to guide the user
  • produces qualitative feedback
  • questions can be solved on the spot
  • UX flaws can be spotted at an early stage

Next week, part TWO of this article will follow.

UXcamp Europe 2010 taking place in Berlin next May

UX Camp Europe 2010
The first UXcamp was a huge success if you read some of the blog articles from last summer (read the review from centigrade or have a look at the German blog feedback). That was encouragement enough to lift the UXcamp to the next level by opening the event to an international audience. This makes it UXcamp Europe 2010.


We still follow the BarCamp principle to bring together the European community for User Experience, Information Architecture, Usability, Interaction Design, Visual Design, and everybody who feels himself dedicated to the user of products and services. In case you fit somehow to that description, please join the UXcamp network and prepare yourself for a trip to Berlin on 29th and 30th of May 2010. The registration for the single days and the UXcamp party is planned to open next month. The concrete date will be published in our network once we decided which day.

Since we want to welcome participants from hopefully every country of Europe, we introduced the concept of Country Ambassadors. If your country is not yet represented by an ambassador, please let us know. The only thing you have to do as an ambassador is to spread the word and connect your local community with our network. We are sure this will be an exciting event to be for everybody!

Usually, a BarCamp is free to the participants to provide everybody with the possibility to join the event and participate by giving a session, discussing with the others, or simply by giving a hand whenever necessary. However, this requires us to cover the expenses with sponsorships. If your company is active in the User Experience field, or if you think your company should get active, please don’t hesitate to get in touch with us. We are thankful for every support we can get!

If you  are still in doubt whether you should travel to Germany next May, there is also the International UPA Conference, taking place in Munich from 26.-28. of May, which is right before the UXcamp Europe. Oh, and two weeks before there will be the (German) IAKonferenz in Cologne. And if you’d like to extend your stay in Berlin, right after the UXcamp Europe there will be the Webinale, another gathering for all the Web geeks. So, plenty of events to go to next May.

The Beauty of Web-Based Paper Prototyping -Part 3-

The previous week, part TWO of this post was on the benefits which digital, web-based prototyping will make exportation and presentation easier. This FINAL part will show you how iterations can be made easy and that using digital solutions will in fact help against the fight of global warming.

Quick Iteration: share

One of the main benefits of using the digital solution is the possibility to make us of quicker, easier and cost-effective iterations. But this will only happen if the prototype can be adjusted to new requirements in an instant. Digital paper prototypes can be re-used and won’t have to be created all over again once a new iteration starts. You simply have to adjust specific elements once and then apply those changes to the rest of the prototype, that’s it.


Sustainability: green

The average usability testing project leaves a footprint of approximately 250 kilograms, or 0.25 a tonne of CO2. That may not seem much but that is close to amount of CO2 emission as a 3 hour flight. Usability testing is universally seen as the best way to improve a system’s ease and satisfaction of use. If one usability test itself emits the equivalent of a 3 hour flight, there clearly are considerable gains to be made! In an ordinary usability test, someone travels from his/her location to a laboratory or office where they interact with a test facilitator. Normally this takes about an hour and the process is repeated with 7 to 10 people.

The carbon emission for a usability testing project is based on an average of 10 participants, with each participant traveling 20 kilometers return to get to the test and spending 1 hour with the test facilitator.
More on: http://www.prnewswire.com


Conclusion:

By making use of the newest technologies it is now possible to make the shift from paper-based prototyping to digital or web-based prototyping. User-centered design, sharing of ideas, iterative work-flow, collection of feedback and collaborative work are all aspects which speak in favor of implementing such process. Developers, designers, clients and test-users alike can benefit from working on digital prototypes which engage them from the very first idea. Unnecessary iterations which often confuse and hinder continuous work-flow can be a thing of the past since everyone will be up-to-date. Test-users can work in their natural surrounding whilst the design team can make changes on-the-fly.

Overall, web-based prototyping can only be beneficial for all parties involved. Also, since using excessive sheets of paper can be a thing of the past, it will be a make our planet a little greener.

Product Release: Remote Usability Tests and Specification Document

To start a great new year we have rolled out a brand new product which nicely integrates with the Pidoco Prototype Creator: the Remote Usability Tester.

Take one of your prototypes and do a Usability Test with zero set up time. You start a test session by simply inviting anybody via an eMail just as you would do for letting them view or discuss your prototype. There is nothing more to do for technically preparing a test session. You meet your test participant online within pidoco and can watch exactly what he or she is doing with your prototype. Via either a typical phone or our integrated Flash phone you can talk to each other to apply proven Usability Methods like “Think Aloud Testing”, but this time online from wherever you are. During the whole test session, everything is recorded automatically for playback. Take your time and replay the session as many times as you need to analyze what your test participant did and said.

Using the Prototype Creator and the Remote Usability Tester at the same time, you can test small modifications to your prototype with a test participant watching you. This gives you the unique possibility to apply Usability Methods like “A/B Tests” or “Wizard of Oz Testing”. Prototyping and Usability Testing can go hand in hand for the very first time!

Read what others say about our Remote Usability Tester.

Mircosoft Word or OpenOffice.org Export

This not being enough, we also added a long requested export to Microsoft Word or OpenOffice.org. With just one click you can add text notes to every element to specify and describe your prototype in great detail. All these notes are rendered into one document together with images of the Use Cases, Pages, and Layers of the prototype. All your discussions will be added to the document as well in order to keep track how design decisions evolved over time. Every single piece that is not visible on the pages is described in more detail, like link targets or menu structures. Special Highlight Images show the building blocks of your prototype. You can download a sample document of our homepage prototype.

Take the exported document as is or use it as a resource to write your very own specification document. We know it is a quite difficult task to create a document that satisfies everybody’s requirements. With this style of document we hope to support all of our users in the best possible way. However, please don’t hesitate to approach us with recommendations and ideas of how we can improve the word export.

Starting today, the word export is included for free to all our users. In case you don’t have an account yet, register for a free test account now.