Posts in "Usability"

Getting to the customer – why everything you think about User Centred Design is wrong

Great post on UCD and the common belief systems. By Thomas Petersen

“In broad terms, user-centered design (UCD) is a design philosophy and a process in which the needs, wants, and limitations of end users of an interface or document are given extensive attention at each stage of the design process. User-centered design can be characterized as a multi-stage problem solving process that not only requires designers to analyze and foresee how users are likely to use an interface, but also to test the validity of their assumptions with regards to user behaviour in real world tests with actual users. Such testing is necessary as it is often very difficult for the designers of an interface to understand intuitively what a first-time user of their design experiences, and what each user’s learning curve may look like.

The chief difference from other interface design philosophies is that user-centered design tries to optimize the user interface around how people can, want, or need to work, rather than forcing the users to change how they work to accommodate the software developers approach.


Testing the hammer

So as you can see a typical UCD process to define it in terms of the hammer test, is based on testing the drawing, the cutout and the Styrofoam hammer.

Not the actual hammer.So why is that? How comes something that seems to be an obvious problematic implementation of the goal of UCD, have become the norm?

Default UCD Process

This way, users have become customers and you can suddenly start to test where it matters with valuable feedback.

Revised UCD process

This will no doubt mean that many have to re-educate themselves and rethink how they approach design whether it be UX, IA, UI or GUI. It is none the less as stated, necessary to stay relevant for the future. A pivotal part of this will also be to re-educate clients and help them understand that they will need to look at at product design a little different.

Design is a decision, not a democracy. If you are serious about using design strategically then courage is the strategic advantage you should be looking for. And with the ability to quickly change wrong assumptions it’s not really dangerous, just common sense.

Agile User Experience Projects For The Small Agency

Jakob Nielsen’s article on Agile User Experience Projects suggests that good implementation of usability in agile projects can be vanguarded by:

“Separate design and development, and have the user interface team progress one step ahead of the implementation team. That way, when it comes time to build something, it’s already been designed and tested. (And yes, you can do both in a week or two by using paper prototypes and discount user testing.)”

Out of our own experience,  small software and design companies do not have the necessary funds to run a dedicated UX-team and by using the above mentioned approach, good design and usability can be achieved.

The Beauty of Web-Based Paper Prototyping -Part 1-

This article which will deal with the various benefits which digital web-based prototyping can bring to your production cycle. The main idea of this article is to promote the digital implementation from the very start of the production work. Many  design agencies still work with pen and paper, a method which has been used for a long time but which in today’s world should be seen a thing from the past. It is time to explore the possibilities which technology can offer us!

The article will be posted in 3 parts -which should be released a week after another. Part ONE will offer a little review on classic prototyping and talk a little about the general structures within the team. The following articles will go more in-depth and talk a little about the ambitions, requirements and solutions for making the product development a little easier and more fun. I hope that you will enjoy this article and hopefully be able to take something useful out of it. Thanks!


Introduction:

User-centered software development is a dynamic and creative process. In the prototyping phase and in the evaluation, one can see it’s benefits and new challenges arise for the production team. The conceivability of the clients must be fully understood, ideas of the heterogeneous design team as well as the gathered feedback of the target audience must be included into the design. A challenging task indeed!

Due to global requirements of today’s digitally connected world, ‘classic paper prototyping‘ often is no longer sufficient. A bunch of draft papers are easily misunderstood, mixed up or lost in the super information highway and the need for an all-encompassing, digital and rapid solution is becoming more of a demand.

Therefore, web-based rapid paper prototyping has been growing into a well known topic for designers, developers and clients. But what is it what makes digital sketching so appealing to the usability community? Are design agencies simply too lazy to do the manual work with pen and paper or do they simply want to be more Eco-friendly and want to stop the deforestation of the amazon by refusing to use paper-based prototypes? This article will touch some of the core points and issues within the field and will list the justifications of this development.


Paper Prototyping:scribble

The easy way to create low-fi prototypes, to gather the design team around the big table or the whiteboard and a chance for everyone to jot down their ideas on the project. This technique supports the main ideas of rapid paper prototyping. Everyone can make changes and also view the changes already made by others. Everyone knows what is going on.

However, there are a few problems with this method. Increasing the complexity of a prototype whilst keeping a full overview on the project as a whole can become a bit of a challenge. Once a change has been made, it it difficult to be undone. Of course you can simply delete or throw away an error prone design but it is not as easy as a simple ‘CTRL+Z’.
To add to this, imagine that the team works from different locations and with different tasks to manage … it can become a mess in no time! Therefore, paper prototyping is no longer sufficient for the demands of the modern design agency.


Prototyping Roles:

The main roles in the prototyping stage are of course the users, the design team, the developers and the client. In order to finish up with a satisfying product, the different needs of those interest groups must be met and considered. Gathering those people around the same table, meeting their requirements, dealing with time pressure, budget limitations and the different locations of the various key players are a tough one to call.


The Design Team:

The design team is a collective of some very smart and able professionals. The interaction designer, visual designer, information architect, human researcher, usability experts and prototype developers are just some of the many roles one can find in a team. In order to express their varied ideas on how the end product should be like, collaborative prototyping is the way to meet this ambition. This method will enable them to discuss and clarify the multitude of requirements.



Next week, part TWO of this article will follow. Subjects are the challenges of a team, collaborative working and requirements for digital prototyping.

What’s the real value of Unmoderated Remote User Testing?

In recent years, as user experience research has become more critical or even standard practice, there is a clear trend towards measuring user experience and usability using quantitative research techniques.

WHAT IS URUT?
URUT is an automated test process whereby a script or series of questions is prepared and packaged into an application. Test subjects may be invited in advance to participate, or intercepted when they enter a website. Hundreds of participants may be involved and all their data is gathered and analysed automatically. URUT can be both simple and quite sophisticated, and Fortune Global 2000 and Internet 200 companies are increasingly using Unmoderated Remote Usability Testing (URUT) as part of their user experience and usability research toolkit.

WHY, WHEN AND HOW WOULD YOU USE URUT?
1. To quantify your usability research
One customer base includes different personalities, usage patterns and perspectives. Quantifying site usability is the only way you can ensure that you are reaching a true representation of your diverse population. Using URUT you gain valuable data about that population and can validate lab findings – or alternatively target which critical tasks you need to be probing in a lab-based study.

2. To conduct benchmark studies
URUT allows researchers to obtain statistically significant usability metrics on how a website performs vs. other versions of the site or vs. competing sites. It’s a great way to measure user experience and compare results either across time or through industry benchmarking.

3. To test users in their natural context
My computer and environment is different from my friend’s computer and environment and most likely different than a good portion of the population. Testing participants in their natural context accounts for different systems, configurations, and setups. The data you gain not only accounts for a mix of these various environments and setups but also encourages participants to act as they normally would, as they are not being observed.

4. To understand user behavior
You want to understand why users are coming to your site and what they do once they come there. URUT uses a combination of web analytics (where users go) and surveys (the why) to create a complete picture and provide valuable data to support the best user experience for your site.

5. To validate or define your lab-based research
You want to ensure that the research you are currently conducting is valid and a true representation. With URUT not only do you gain data that supports your current research, you can also use URUT to target key critical issues and tasks to bring in the lab for further probing.

6. To test internationally without traveling
International research is very expensive and at times put aside due to the cost and time commitment. URUT allows you the flexibility to conduct a study in many international locations from one place. Not only does it remove the expense of travel it also removes the need for all data to be translated before analysis.

As the web becomes a more complex place and users interact with it in different ways, user experience and usability testing and measurement must evolve and continuously innovate. URUT is an example of this innovation and has proven its worth for the past 6 or 7 years. The key to solid research lies not only in proper execution and the right technology, but also in the ability of the research team to understand that different data comes from different methods and tools, and that each should be used with a purpose and to meet specific goals (what, why, when and how). The combination of methods and tools is often the best way to go. URUT is a great choice for specific purposes and, if well executed, can become an invaluable source of data about user experience.

Taken from:

http://www.usabilitynews.com/news/article6067.asp


Is Remote Usability Testing becoming more pervasive?

Seems as Remote Usability Testing will be becoming more pervasive in the future.
Uxited.com reports positive findings on their remote usability testing which were conducted over the course of two days.
Uxited’s findings on the benifits:

  • You hear what the user is saying (and perhaps listen better since you’re not distracted by what he/she looks like).
  • You see the user’s on-screen activity including what browser they use and how it’s set up (e.g., number of toolbars).
  • You get a better understanding of the user’s natural environment (whether their speakers are hooked up, whether there’s a dog in the house, etc.).
  • You may get more honest feedback.  I’m not sure what the research says about this, but my impression was that people not meeting face-to-face with a facilitator may be more comfortable saying what they really think.
  • No need to sit in a dark room behind one-way glass, nor keep our voices down when we wanted to discuss users’ comments during a test.  (Our conference line was on mute, of course.)
  • No travel costs

We from pidoco° have been stressing the very same benifits for some time now and since our Remote Usability Tester has been available as a public BETA, we have been gaining heaps of positive feedback on this process.
Certainly, in the age of the real-time communication it is just another step towards improving communication within business and private realms whilst protecting the environment.  (Soon no more business trips in First Class needed, sorry guys!)

Welcome to the future of UX.. 😉

The fast lane approach to effective UX?

Rob James posted a great article on the “top down approach” which would aid developers to work on their projects in a “holistic approach”.

Essentially the concept is that you work from the user’s perspective down, rather than thinking through the requirements to come up with the domain model, class models and the like. The reason that this is beneficial is that you focus on what the user actually requires to do, not what the system expects them to do. And that is the first step towards building systems that employ best practices in usability.

In the post he mentions the 9 steps of successful project development:

  • Concept
  • Brainstorming
  • Paper wireframes
  • UI Design “Look & Feel”
  • HTML Screens
  • UI Controller Layer
  • Tests and stubbed service layers
  • Service implementation and data layer
  • Utility classes

A well written article and surely a great approach and we believe that the perfect mediator between end-user, developer, client and technology is in fact -the wireframe.

15 Helpful Website Usability Facts & Guidelines

There are many guidelines out there on Usability. We find that this article shows a few tips which can definitely aid the overall experiences of a Web interface. It can help to keep those tips in mind when designing an interface, even when still in the prototyping phase!
A  nice little article by “bestdesigntuts” on U&Design ideas with direct quotes.  The original post can be found here:

  1. Design is a key determinant to building online trust with consumers. For motivated users of an information site, bad design (busy layout, small print, too much text) hurts more than good design helps. – Sillence, Briggs, Fishwick, and Harris, 2004.
  2. Layout on a web page (whitespace and advanced layout of headers, indentation, and figures) may not measurably influence performance, but it does influence satisfaction. – Chaperro, Shaikh, and Baker, 2005.
  3. Experience matters: Blue links are easier to click than black ones, even though black ones have higher visual contrast and are easier to see. – Van Schaik and Ling, 2003.
  4. It’s important to consider the users when you have a choice of icons, links, or both. Initial performance is best with the link alone. Frequent users can use either equally effectively. Icons are not faster, relative to text links alone. – Wiedenbeck, 1999.
  5. Rules of thumb for icons: Make them as large as feasible, place frequently used icons in a persistent task bar, and arrange them either in a square (first choice) or in a horizontal layout. – Grobelny, Karwowski, and Drury, 2005.
  6. The acceptance and impact of animation is enhanced when users are warned to expect it and allowed to start it when they want. – Weiss, Knowlton, and Morrison, 2002.
  7. Use of whitespace between paragraphs and in the left and right margins increases comprehension by almost 20 %. – Lin, 2004.
  8. A format of 95 characters per line is read significantly faster than shorter line lengths; however, there are no significant differences in comprehension, preference, or overall satisfaction, regardless of line length. – Shaikh, 2005.
  9. Applications vs. websites: In general, visual layout guidelines for GUIs also apply to the web, but there are differences to be aware of. For example, dense pages with lots of links take longer to scan for both GUI and web; however, alignment may not be as critical for web pages as previously thought. – Parush, Shwarts, Shtub, and Chandra, 2005.
  10. Narrative presentation enhances comprehension and memory. Narrative advertisements produce more positive attitude about the brand and a higher incidence of intent to purchase.– Escalas, 2004.
  11. On sites with clear labels and prominent navigation options, users tend to browse rather than search.Searching is no faster than browsing in this context. – Katz and Byrne, 2003.
  12. Users will wait longer for better content. Users will wait between 8-10 seconds for information on the web, depending on the quality of the information. – Ryan and Valverde, 2003.
  13. Consumer purchase behavior is driven by perceived security, privacy, quality of content and design, in that order. – Ranganathan and Ganapathy, 2002.
  14. In 2001, Bernard found that prior user experience with websites dictated where they expected common web page elements to appear on a page. The same still holds true today: Users have clear expectations about where to find the things they want (search and back-to-home links) as well as the things they want to avoid (advertising). – Shaihk and Lenz, 2006.
  15. When assessing web accessibility under four conditions (expert review, screenreader using JAWS, automated testing via “Bobby”, and remote testing by blind users) those using screenreaders find the most issues, while automated testing finds the least number of accessibility issues. – Mankoff, Fait, and Tran, 2005.
  1. Design is a key determinant to building online trust with consumers. For motivated users of an information site, bad design (busy layout, small print, too much text) hurts more than good design helps. – Sillence, Briggs, Fishwick, and Harris, 2004.
  2. Layout on a web page (whitespace and advanced layout of headers, indentation, and figures) may not measurably influence performance, but it does influence satisfaction. – Chaperro, Shaikh, and Baker, 2005.
  3. Experience matters: Blue links are easier to click than black ones, even though black ones have higher visual contrast and are easier to see. – Van Schaik and Ling, 2003.
  4. It’s important to consider the users when you have a choice of icons, links, or both. Initial performance is best with the link alone. Frequent users can use either equally effectively. Icons are not faster, relative to text links alone. – Wiedenbeck, 1999.
  5. Rules of thumb for icons: Make them as large as feasible, place frequently used icons in a persistent task bar, and arrange them either in a square (first choice) or in a horizontal layout. – Grobelny, Karwowski, and Drury, 2005.
  6. The acceptance and impact of animation is enhanced when users are warned to expect it and allowed to start it when they want. – Weiss, Knowlton, and Morrison, 2002.
  7. Use of whitespace between paragraphs and in the left and right margins increases comprehension by almost 20 %. – Lin, 2004.
  8. A format of 95 characters per line is read significantly faster than shorter line lengths; however, there are no significant differences in comprehension, preference, or overall satisfaction, regardless of line length. – Shaikh, 2005.
  9. Applications vs. websites: In general, visual layout guidelines for GUIs also apply to the web, but there are differences to be aware of. For example, dense pages with lots of links take longer to scan for both GUI and web; however, alignment may not be as critical for web pages as previously thought. – Parush, Shwarts, Shtub, and Chandra, 2005.
  10. Narrative presentation enhances comprehension and memory. Narrative advertisements produce more positive attitude about the brand and a higher incidence of intent to purchase.– Escalas, 2004.
  11. On sites with clear labels and prominent navigation options, users tend to browse rather than search.Searching is no faster than browsing in this context. – Katz and Byrne, 2003.
  12. Users will wait longer for better content. Users will wait between 8-10 seconds for information on the web, depending on the quality of the information. – Ryan and Valverde, 2003.
  13. Consumer purchase behavior is driven by perceived security, privacy, quality of content and design, in that order. – Ranganathan and Ganapathy, 2002.
  14. In 2001, Bernard found that prior user experience with websites dictated where they expected common web page elements to appear on a page. The same still holds true today: Users have clear expectations about where to find the things they want (search and back-to-home links) as well as the things they want to avoid (advertising). – Shaihk and Lenz, 2006.
  15. When assessing web accessibility under four conditions (expert review, screenreader using JAWS, automated testing via “Bobby”, and remote testing by blind users) those using screenreaders find the most issues, while automated testing finds the least number of accessibility issues. – Mankoff, Fait, and Tran, 2005.

10 steps to making your web site easier to use

  • Ever wondered how to conduct an UAT?  What are the main issues to keep in mind? Below some great tips there by redsneaker which blogs on zmogo.com, find the full article here

    1. Find 7-10 people who may use your site.  These should be a variety of people and not just family and friends.
    2. Write down a list of questions to ask the testers.  These should be centered around the activities on your site.  For example if you are an e-commerce site, ask them to buy a specific item.  Have them walk you through their thought processes as they go through the process of that activity.  It may be helpful to video tape these sessions for review later.
    3. Keep the requests simple.
    4. If they have trouble finding something, ask them “What are you looking for?”  or “What are you expecting to see?”
    5. You will find 80-90% of all the usability issues after 7-10 people.
    6. Keep record of the patterns that occur between testers.  Are they all having trouble finding one particular item?
    7. Don’t worry about them successfully completing the task, just document what they did to accomplish it.  Later, analyze the results to see if there were any changes that would make sense for your site.
    8. Keep the testers at ease and let them know you are not evaluating them, but rather the web site.  Reassure them that they are helping the web site development team make the site better for everyone.
    9. Make the changes deemed necessary to improve the usability of your site.  This could range anywhere from relabeling some navigation items, to a complete redesign of the site.
    10. Finally, reevaluate after making some changes.  Test with another group of 3-4 users to see if the same issues continue to occur.  Keep all usability testing sessions brief.  Also don’t be afraid to retest after any changes in the site in the future.  Sometimes it’s difficult to see the faults of the site since we are the developers and it makes complete sense too