Posts from "April, 2013"

New Version: Saving Clicks in our Context Menu

This weekend we installed a new version of pidoco with an improved context menu. It is not a lot that has changed. For example, we now have simple check boxes for all those yes / no properties of the elements. We also improved the Target selector, which now contains collapsed folder entries and grows in width for long page names. This helps you find the target pages for linking even faster. The options menu in Pidoco

In addition to the context menu, we also made a lot of changes in the background. With this new version we finished about half a year of work on many internal components that serves as a preparation for new features. Throughout the next months we will add several new versions that will allow for designing more interactions in your prototypes.

Until then we hope that you enjoy working with the new context menu!

Why there is More to Usability than Just Checklists

The following is a guest post by Dominique Schmidt, UX consultant at Apliki. Enjoy the read.

Through our work as a Psychological IT-Consultancy for User Experience (UX) we are often confronted with the request to make sure the clients’ product “achieves overall usability”. Through further exploration of the expectations behind this assignment we usually come to the conclusion that people expect a checklist-like tool, to ensure they meet usability standards. Of course this somehow reflects the guidelines approach of the DIN EN ISO 9241-11 and a number of checklists aiming to give non UX professionals the opportunity to quickly enhance the usability of their product. Small measures can often change a lot for the better. Yet, this approach falls somewhat short of what real usability means. There is not one kind of usability. On the contrary, usability is highly dependent on the context of use of a product (DIN EN ISO 9241-11). Before we explore this notion further, let’s have a look at where this understanding of usability originates from.

What is in usability checklists?

The task of matching human behavior with machines is indeed a difficult one. For decades this question had been pretty much ignored and it is only in the relatively recent times of software development that the immense importance of this has gained widespread support. As a rule of thumb, one could say that the more potential mistakes there are for one topic, the easier it is to spot at least the most prominent ones. This also holds true for software usability. By following simple rules you can avoid the most common mistakes. This can be by avoiding certain UI elements that have proved to not work very well or by placing information in a structured format. These kinds of tips and tricks are especially well known because they can provide the answers to questions such as: “Does this work?” In addition, there are well known lists of usability heuristics (one of which is promoted by Jakob Nielsen). They provide more general guidelines to ensure “learnability” – defined as how easy it is for users to accomplish easy tasks on their first encounter with a design. The critical point is that these so-called heuristics do not work in a vacuum, but rather are dependent on the context of your software for valid application (remember the DIN EN ISO 9241-11). This leads us to the shortcoming of all- too simple usability rules.

 

Analysis of requirements, User Interface design, implementation, user test

What are you going to miss with usability checklists?

Software does not stand alone. It is built to fulfill a special set of tasks. These are to be done by a group of target users, bringing with them their very own skills, technology orientation, expectations and – not to forget – apprehensions. It does not end here. The product’s use will take place in situations loaded with influencing factors such as distracting noises, high stress-levels, shared office spaces or varying display sizes, to just name a few. All this (and more) is summed up in the context of use and without exaggeration it has to be named the central concept of user friendly software. It is only under the consideration of these factors, that the most important questions of true usability can be properly answered. To reframe the above question: “Does our product enable our target users in the specific situation of use to fulfill their tasks?”

How to get there?

The key to success in defining your specific usability goals lies in two factors: research and documentation. Asking the right questions and pulling together the best data available helps you gain a valid understanding of your users and their environment. This understanding is then put into artifacts such as personas, goal descriptions, scenarios and UI-prototypes ensuring the whole team shares a common understanding of the product’s focus. Using these documents as a basis for every decision and conducting user tests of your prototypes will make sure you achieve optimal usability.

Dominique Schmidt is a UX consultant at Apliki, giving workshops on the user- centered-design process and accompanying the development of software products. He writes about the psychology of usability engineering and UX design on the Apliki blog at http://www.apliki.de/uid/blog

Feel free to contact him in English or German at info@apliki.de

Wireframing Competition Winners!

Saturday is an odd phenomenon at CeBIT. When I walked into Hall 6 that morning, I saw groups of kids, students, and the general public carrying bags full of giveaways from companies they have probably never heard of and whose products might not interest them at all. This is a stark contrast to the rest of the week, where you see many people in suits. And yet, Saturday is one of my favorite days to be at CeBIT. It’s a bit more relaxed and it’s nice to have the opportunity to talk about UX and the value of prototyping to the general public and to students who may want to go into the field later.

We decided to set up a wireframing competition to attract people’s attention on this last day. We wanted a way to get people interested in wireframing without giving a product demo. Having a whiteboard, some magnets and some pens definitely inspired creativity. The best thing about it was that even if people did not know exactly what wireframes were, they understood the concept and were happy to take part.

Whiteboard with wireframe magnets

The winning prototype!

Luise creates wireframe magnets

Luise hard at work creating our magnets

I had the idea after seeing a DIY magnet kit on Kongi.com and it seemed like a perfect fit, because I wanted something that would be practical, reusable and easy to transport. (Actually the whiteboard wasn’t so easy to transport, but fortunately we could fit it into our hire-car). Of course we wanted to use the Pidoco design for our magnets, so we drew these by hand. As soon as we were finished, the team came in and started to move the magnets around the whiteboard and that’s when we knew the concept would work. The winners of the competition have won a free annual Expert plan of Pidoco. Stay tuned for more competitions!

What do you think of these competition entries? To see more, visit our Facebook page. Feel free to like your favorite entries and let us know why!

Bringing Great Mobile Apps To Market (Faster) Using Rapid Application Prototyping

For those of you who did not make it to CeBIT this year, we thought we would share our presentation with you. Our CEO, Philipp Huy discussed the advantages of prototyping in an increasingly mobile market. Why is mobile app prototyping an important topic? Mobile internet use has increased rapidly over the past years and has taken over desktop-based access in countries like India already. With more of us surfing the web on smartphone and tablet devices, it pays for companies to develop mobile-compatible websites and mobile apps. For those that already have a mobile product, chances are this needs improvement.

While we may be inclined to focus on content and the commercial goals of a project, the user experience of a mobile app is often the decisive factor in ensuring market success. Prototyping is a great way to tackle the UX challenges that mobile interactions set for designers and developers as it allows them to involve end users and decision makers early on. At Pidoco we value communication, collaboration and user-testing and therefore offer our customers a special Mobile Edition for simulating mobile app prototypes directly on tablets and smartphones with our Pidoco App. With an iterative approach to mobile app design and development as enabled by rapid application prototyping, developers can significantly reduce risk and bring higher-quality products to market faster. We believe prototyping is one of the quickest and most effective ways to ensure market success for your mobile projects and you can see some of our use-cases in the presentation.

You can access the full presentation at Slideshare – don’t forget to follow us on there, as well as on our other social media channels including LinkedIn, Facebook and Twitter.