Value of resource

December 30, 2008

You’ve found an site, blog or written article with some information that is valuable to you, but you wonder..

  • How valued is this source?
  • How known/popular is this source?
  • Can I safely trust and cite this blog

Popularity

  • Check Digg.com and Del.ico.us. If blog, check technorati*
  • Check Google pagerank (Alexa ranking uses dmoz? Other public traffic analytics:  http://quantcast.com/  and  http://siteanalytics.compete.com/  as mentioned on CrunchBase.com )
  • Compare stats
  • Check amount of backlinks (Google link:URL)
  • TrackBack and PingBack have been refered to as a kind of internet currency.
  • Check web credibility reports (internet score engine)
  • Research the background of the author
*= Note the difference between Technorati Authority and Rank: Technorati Authority is the number of blogs linking to a website in the last six months. Technorati Rank is calculated based on how far you are from the top

Above the fold

December 30, 2008

This article tackles essential questions:

– What is the ‘fold’?
– How real or important is the ‘fold’?
– How to design with the scroll in mind, i.e. using scroll indicators and avoiding scroll ‘blinders’.
– Where is the ‘the fold’ ?  (link)

Learning about the fold gives insight into several other aspects of interaction design for the web.

What is the fold?

The ‘fold’ (a.k.a. fold-line or scroll-line) is a term derived from newspaper times. It refers to the line where a newspaper stacked up pile in a newspaper stand is physically folded. The claim goes that the most important headlines should appear higher up in the page, as to motivate people passing by and catching a glance to buy a copy. In web design, some designers and marketeers claim that users might not notice some content if it requires a user to scroll (down).

Note horizontal scrolling is generally regarded as bad web design practice, but often needs to be considered as a possible consequence of high resolution designed pages for lower resolution viewers/users.

When do we apply the fold?

Commercial often comes with the requirement that a sponsor or advertiser will buy real-estate space on our site, under the condition that their ad is shown ‘above the fold’ as much as possible (or sometimes about 50% above the fold). What most advertisers usually don’t specify, however, is for which resolutions and/or browsers the fold. I haven’t investigated much further.

The second use of the fold is in web interface design, where elements that need to be visible upon entering a page are frequently desired to be ‘above the fold’ of the browser window.

What to place above the fold?

There’s a great article at boxesandarrows.com about the myth of the fold
1) people will scroll if there’s something worth scrolling to. See ‘indicators and dangers’ below.
2) people will follow their ‘search scent’ and click the first link that they see that comes close to what they might be or are interested in.
3) people read from left to right, top to bottom, hence websites are designed in such a way (except sites in Hebrew and others languages which are read from right to left)

Nielsen [Prioritizing web usablity]: “If people expect something to be in a particular place, they will not look for that item elsewhere or scroll to find it.”

Indicators (when do people scroll?)

Elements that give positive ‘hints’ that scrolling is worth it:

– Headers or content that can be seen just above the bottom of the screen strongly suggests that there’s more content below

Nielsen [book Prio] has interesting research showing in general users with a lot of experience tend to scroll more, and scrolling is higher (50%) on certain types of pages (especially search results and interior pages), and scrolling is more.

What should go above the fold

If users conclude that what they see on the visible portion of the page is not of interest, they may not bother scrolling to see the rest of the page. User will scroll down when they know there is (sufficient indicators), was (returning users) or could be (looking for specific information or just browsing around) worthwhile content down there. Some users take a long time to scroll down ‘below the fold,’ indicating a reluctance to move from the first screenful to subsequent information. Older users and novices are more likely to miss information that is placed below the fold.

Generally, put your best stuff on top. Call-to-actions that are placed above the fold.

Iceberg syndrome – Have you also heard that web users hate to scroll? This is a myth, too. Web users are happy to scroll unless they encounter a page with iceberg syndrome. Pay careful attention to content that appears “above the fold” on the part of the page that is viewable without scrolling. Web users tend not to scroll when they do not find any useful content above the fold, or when the content above the fold does not give a good indication of what is further down on the page. Other scroll stoppers include horizontal rules, big white spaces just before the fold, a row of links, tiny fonts.

Dangers

Elements that give negative ‘hints’ that cause people to not scroll, not realise to scroll or forget to scroll:

– A white space at the bottom of the viewable area of the screen make people assume that’s the end of the page and don’t scroll any farther, even when their browser scroll bar indicates otherwise.
– Ad-like elements that appear immediately above the fold are interpreted as the end of the page because ads are commonly placed in peripheral (=secondary) areas of the page (and this is what people expect)

Nielsen [Prioritizing web usablity]: “If people expect something to be in a particular place, they will not look for that item elsewhere or scroll to find it.”


Banner blindness
– Thanks to commercial websites, users have come to subconsciously expect an advertising banner to appear across the top 15% of a web page. As a result, images in that area of the screen are often overlooked even when those images are links to core site content.

Information masking – Informavores look for patterns in the hunt for information. If they find the first few trigger words in a particular region of the screen, their eyes will be drawn to that region on subsequent screens. Other page content will be rendered less noticeable. To keep web users on the right track, navigation links should have consistent placement in the site design.”

Elements and content that generally should be above the fold:
* Ads
* Search
* Navigation
* Site title: Logo/tagline, branding
* About/Help with this site
* Page or article title
* Inverted pyramid writing (summary first, also good for SEO, and include a tagline)
* Indicators that there is more below the fold (links to content below, or on mobile even an arrow)

Yes, the above is very over-generalised and debateable. It all depends on how your balance of meeting user/usability goals versus business goals. Some elements might delibrately _not_ be placed above the fold in order to place more stress/attention to other (more revenue-generating) elements.  (on a side-note: Revenue-generating.. know that’s another interesting topic. There’s long and short-term revenue generating. The focus should usually lie on mid-term?)

Disregarding if we believe in the fold or not, the fold is a reality in the web design world.

Will all users see the most important content at first glance?

Do I have typical horizontal spacing near the fold that indicates that the page ends, when there actually is more gold below?

Design with the fold in mind: encourage scrolling

http://www.uie.com/brainsparks/2006/08/02/utilizing-the-cut-off-look-to-encourage-users-to-scroll/

Usability labs report that test subjects often say they don’t scroll — even as they scroll. One key to getting
users to scroll: Use a multicolumn layout and place headlines, small graphics, and other visual elements at different heights within the columns. That way, for any given combination of browser configuration and screen resolution, it’s highly likely that one of the images will be cut in two by the bottom of the screen. The
visual cues that this approach provides signal that there is more content below the bottom of the current
screen.  [Forrester Research. June 2, 2006. Don’t Rationalize Bad Site Design]

http://wireframes.linowski.ca/2012/11/foldtester-scrolling/ says:
One term which I heard being thrown around at work was the notion of a “False Bottom”, that I think is still relevant. The idea is simple. If scrolling is to be relied on, designers should always give the impression that more content is present further. This can be achieved by repetition (showing multiple repeating elements) or continuity (cutting an element in half with the fold). In other words, if there is scrollable content, one should try to avoid showing closure near the fold (ex: lots of white space that suggests completion).

Links and further reading

Most famous articles about the fold:

Jakob Nielsen advocating that users expect to scroll  (research may be outdated, web trends change over time)

http://www.conversion-rate-experts.com/scrolling-tips/

http://www.usability.nl/2012/de-vouw-3-0-usability-issue-van-mobiele-websites/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=de-vouw-3-0-usability-issue-van-mobiele-websites&utm_source=Usability.nl&utm_campaign=718d89d5a4-RSS_EMAIL_CAMPAIGN&utm_medium=email  Mobile sites and the fold

Boxes and arrows’ busting the myth of the fold @ famous article @ http://www.boxesandarrows.com/view/blasting-the-myth-of

http://www.smashingmagazine.com/2009/09/24/10-useful-usability-findings-and-guidelines/ – See guideline #4  (users DO scroll)

Formal research into how often and how much users scroll @ Clicktale http://blog.clicktale.com/2007/10/05/clicktale-scrolling-research-report-v20-part-1-visibility-and-scroll-reach/ (still to read!)
Conclusion of ClickTale’s article (in Dutch) : http://www.designia.nl/weblog/webdesign-ontwerpen-voor-scrollen-of-niet-zin-en-onzin-van-de-pagefold/

Discussions

http://www.cre8asiteforums.com/forums/index.php?showtopic=26096

To Add:

DS’ 2 cents:
If they will scroll depends on:

i)                     user’s web experience

ii)                   user’s screen resolution

iii)                  type of page

  1. do users expect the page to be long, such as search results or an article page
  2. landing page of an ad is different than a product detail page

iv)                  presence of scrolling clues and scroll stoppers

v)                    emotions (user’s general goodwill towards the site: his patience, level of annoyance and trust, affect his willingness to scroll)

vi)                  design of the page

http://www.guuui.com/posting.php?id=2268 (leading to http://www.cxpartners.co.uk/thoughts/the_myth_of_the_page_fold_evidence_from_user_testing.htm

http://www.uie.com/brainsparks/2006/12/26/408/
http://www.slideshare.net/chuckmallott/rethinking-fold
http://blog.clicktale.com/2006/12/23/unfolding-the-fold/
http://www.uie.com/brainsparks/2006/08/02/utilizing-the-cut-off-look-to-encourage-users-to-scroll/
http://www.uie.com/articles/page_scrolling/


Laws of interaction design

December 30, 2008

This post is under construction.

This post lists the basic and essential laws that good web interaction design should follow. Understanding these rules will improve your design skills. You can also use them as arguments to test and defend your design solutions as being ´most  usable´.

Contents:

  • Simplicity
  • Consistency (across your own site)
  • Convention  (or consistency across the web; common web patterns)
  • Don´t make me think
  • Metaphors  (symbols, connotations and conventions within a culture)
  • Cognitive processes (attention, memory, gestalt)

Common sense

  • Make sure all your links work
  • Text should be large enough to read (by your (senior) audience on their screen set with (high)  resolution)

Above the fold

Relative importance: low

One of the first steps of interaction design you should follow is determining the screen resolution. As screen real estate is scarce and users must scroll, you should take into account the scroll-line and avoid creating scroll-stoppers (see my post about the fold). Try to answer for what resolution you want to minimal design for. Find out where is the fold nowadays?

Don Norman´s laws

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Seven_stages_of_action

Fitt’s law

Applies to: performance, physical

Minimise the need of physical movement in an interface. On user performance wise, the ideal interface is circular. Big buttons are easier to hit.

See also: motor, click fatigue

Hick’s law

Applies to: performance, cognitive

Users will more quickly make decisions from a list of 10 items than 2 lists of 5 items.

Gestalt principles

Proximity, similarity, etc.

Application @ http://sixrevisions.com/web_design/using-power-structure-and-gestalt-for-visual-hierarchy/

Good article @ http://www.jungleminds.nl/publicaties/artikelen/een_kwestie_van_perceptie%3A_hoe_gestalt_wetten_helpen_bij_optimalisatie_van_je_website

Links

http://psychology.about.com/od/schoolsofthought/f/gestalt_faq.htm

http://www.usabilityweb.nl/artikel.php?id=41

Visual design principles

Contrast/prominence, rhythm (ritmiek), templates (stramien)

Simplicity

KISS = Keep It Simple, Stupid!
If you can remove anything that doesn’t add value, then do so. Less is more. Progressive disclosure: hide, reduce.
Avoid junk/noise and other excess.

Too much simplicity can be dissapointing to power users. Though the problem is usually the overcomplexity of the system or process.

Reduce, hide, merge, remove
Also: swap, replace

Related reading: http://52weeksofux.com/post/548149787/simplicity-isnt-that-simple

http://www.quora.com/Product-Design-software/What-is-the-best-process-for-simplifying-a-user-interface-and-experience?hover=2

Take things away till it breaks. A few colours are enough.

Consistency

Consistency is important for learnability (the time/effort needed by a user to have a hunch how a particular UI element works or where to find certain information on a page, or on what page, or what is clickable, etc), recognition rather than recall.

You don’t have to have blue and underlined links if it is clear

Navigation is not always consistent (example: Apple.com). Where consistency fails, convention must take the upper hand.

Consistency should not go in the way of experimentation. Break conventions, but only when the new solution is truly more beneficial than the conventional solution.

Convention

Standards, common practice, familiarity, learnability. People expect certain things and are used to things working alike. Don’t make them think. They don’t always like change. Don’t innovate! Break the convention only if doing so adds significant value.

Don’t make me think!

Relates to simplicity, convention

What makes me think?

  • Where can I click? Can I click this?
  • Where will this link button take me? What will this button do?
  • I don’t understand this sentence
  • What happened? I didn’t expect that! Now I’m lost.
  • Should I trust them?

Match my expectations, cultural differences and norms, etnography

Attention

In Western websites, top-left page elements get more attention than bottom-right. From eye-tracking studies we know that, on most Western websites, the parts that get most attention are those  in the F-shaped pattern.

By correct use of fonts, certain page elements (such as the ‘Attention’ title of this paragraph) gets more attention, or prominence. In other words, it gets relative more noticed (noticable) than other screen elements.

Convention

By applying commonly used principles. For example, on Western websites, logo is top-left. Consistency: Things that look different should act different.

Memory

A user must learn and remember the style conventions, navigation structure and terminology used on a website. See also convention.

Miller´s magic 7.

Direct manipulation

Direct manipulation is more a type of interface (consideration) than a strict law. Examples are WYSIWYG, Wacom, Wii (body as control), and video game controller devices. There is a direct correlation between what you see and what you can manipulate. Interaction practice examples that follows from this are:

  • The button/control IS the feedback  (think of a button that changes colour to indicate that what it underlying represents is in On or Off state). Compare this to a separate button where the state is shown elsewhere on the screen. NB: This is more an application of the simplicity rule of combination, but also demonstrates “Immediate display of the results of an action.”
  • “Rapid action and display”. A real-time relation between action and reaction/response.
  • Spatial response. The trigger does the action on-the-spot. For example, by clicking the monkey on the screen makes it jump, dragging it moves it. Compare this to layout out separate controls for jump and move.

The advantages are usually: the user can feel the control, predict the response,  easy to reverse the response (undo).

Related areas

User experience

  • If it is good looking (visually) it will be more usable
  • Fun, pleasure
  • Emotion, touching, triggers
  • Convincing
  • Empathy
  • Trust (not pushing/cheating)

Copywriting

  • User don’t read, they scan.
  • Scent of information:
    • Users will click the first thing they see where a ‘word association’ has been made (i.e. where the scent is strong)
    • Users will click on that looks clickable (or should be..). Ensure affordance (e.g. 3D buttons afford to be pushed) and consitency in link look and feel (underlined links recommended)

Visual design

typography
– ease/speed of reading (it is generally better to have two 40-character wide areas than one 80-character wide. One-and-a-half alphabet long)
– legibility  (it is better not to have ALL CAPITALS headings as they are slower to read or recognise)

Layout

(grid and column): Index, Work-area, Index

In essence, the global layout should take care of:

  • Where users put most of their attention
  • How the page elements, such as MiniApps, are arranged on a page so that they obey the rules for flow of control and dependencies
  • The page size and scrolling problems

Micro-layout (within a miniApp on webpage) should take care of:

  • Put like with like  [Nielsen in Prioritizing web usability]
  • Order of elements: put most used/useful first?
  • Presence of elements (“surface commonly-used features” and hide others)

Related principle: Gestalt theory

Flow of control

Flow of control is important in two respects: (1) for the efficiency in performing a task, (2) for the transparency and understandability of a screen or page. Visual flow should be from top-to-bottom and from left to right (reading direction).  Dependencies (or cause-effect relations between the different parts (work areas) on screen) follow the same rule. Neither should ever be zig-zag (i.e. when you initiate an action the effect should not be visible in a part of the screen diagonally upper-left of the action button, but better bottom-right). In effect this is Fitt´s law but then applied to eyes, not to source-target.

Muscle memory, flow, instinct, modes  (e.g. input mode and review mode in inline validation)

Technical requirements: Page updates and refresh

Unique to webpage design is that browsers often must clear the screen (reload or refresh a page) to show the changes. Automatic scrolling might be a solution, but then the context of the starting situation gets lost. Moreover, the changes might affect several areas on the page. The context goes completely lost in such a case, and the user has to take great effort in reestablishing. AJAX-based might be a solution.

Related to attention. Avoid making things jump around on the screen, unless the purpose is to get the user’s attention (even then, animations are usually too distracting and annoying, like the ESPN website). Smooth transitions (shrink, slide, expand) and animations (fade, glow, yellow highlight) and other effects can help eliviate the pain.

Information design: navigation and structure

Defensive design

Error prevention, adequate support/help and input forgiveness, good defaults/preferences, feedback.

Bottom line

  • A good design is like a friendly person  (empathy, kindness, humour/right tone of voice, trust,  manage expectations/don’t unpleasantly surprise me, exceed my expectations until the point that it’s almost too good to be true)
  • Don’t make me have to think – it should be intuitive and clear
  • Don’t confuse or annoy/irritate me

Further reading

Designing for Interaction (book) has a chapter on Principles of Interaction Design.

More ‘laws and principles of interaction design, in the sites:

http://www.theuxbookmark.com/2009/11/interaction-design/expert-ratings-of-usability-maxims/ (34 thumb rules)
http://uxmag.com/design/the-psychologists-view-of-ux-design
Interaction-design.org  > Encyclopedia
http://www.smashingmagazine.com/2008/01/31/10-principles-of-effective-web-design/ [2 read]

http://uxdesign.smashingmagazine.com/2007/10/09/30-usability-issues-to-be-aware-of/
http://www.ixda.org/discuss.php?post=41955 [2read]

Related posts

Interaction designer’s neccesities

Principles of interaction-design


Making design decisions

December 29, 2008

Decisions. They happen to all of us. Design is usually considered a creative process based on analysis alternatives and previous decisions. In a way it´s like playing chess. (Every solution can create new problems.) What is good, effective design be based on? How can we come to the ideal design solution of a product or design problem?

When you bump into a question, when you don’t know which widget to use, what works best for the user/business, or need buy-in. This post can help. We’ll refer to questions, issues as design problems.

There are always times were you are challenged with a problem. You could spend a lot of time on all sorts of problems. Macro problems are those of design strategy. Micro problems are those of tactics. All solutions to micro problems should not detract from the overall strategy.

Gut feeling

Genius design. Good designers make good guesses – they have a good hunch. They make an educated guess.

This is the fastest method for coming with a solution. It costs less than investing in research and testing. It is also the first step: in your first iteration, and the first few iterations following it, you almost only rely on this method for all design decisions.

  • Use logic, cognitive walkthrough [..], intuition and common sense, you will be able to make good design decisions.
  • Use conventions and think ‘where have I seen this feature before’; if you can’t think of anything, try to break the creative block by thinking outside of your field (in the physical, mechanical world) apply parallel thinking to think of analogies/metaphors. If that doesn’t help, look at the  ‘Get examples’ section below for more ideas.

The bad news

The Descriptive Theory tells us that we justify our decisions in order to avoid regret. What you do when you make a decision is satisficing: “making the best decision we can given what we can know at any given moment”. Almost every decision is questionable and doubtable.  No matter how much of an expert you are, your gut feelings remain objective opinion, unless or even when backed up by:

  •  a more formal body (expert opinion)
  • group of semi-experts (subjective opinion)
  • tested resource (research)

For some high-detail (low-level) first iteration design issues, you might want to refer to those.

The good news

As you gain professional experience, your intuition, or gut feeling, your ability to make good decisions in a Blink [..] with good accuracy will increase. You must trust your instinct of making good assumptions (80-20 rule and Blink). If you fail at this, you will not be speeding up the overall design.

The problem is not well understood until after formulation of a solution. Remind yourself, therefore, that a bad decision is better than no decision at all. We have to make “good enough” decisions all the time (see 80-20 rule) and every decision is a compromise. So make those gut decisions in your first iterations, and for your first visualisations (sketches/prototypes), and in times of increasing pressure (deadlines). In the worst case, if your gut fails you, learn from your mistakes  – it will be a learning experience for you and your gut!

Finally, rest assured that there is no right answer! (see http://52weeksofux.com/post/694599232/theres-no-right-answer )

How to improve your gut feeling

  • Age?
  • Design experience
  • Isolate yourself from distractions. Turn on headphones (classical music?) or lock yourself in a room?
  • Set up feedback-cycles for yourself (Blink)
  • Meditation (awareness, bring decisions into conciousness through visualisation (or words?), relaxation, incubation, concentration, focus, improve your memory)
  • Chinese proverb: learn and you will remember, but teach/blog and you will understand!  (or something like that)
  • Give critique  (link)
  • Actively surf and live mindfully in the world (look at the world through your usability glasses every day with anything that you do or use)
  • Remind yourself conciously about your previous experiences
  • – blog what you have done,
  • – log a screenshot of every iteration and before you start working on the next iteration, note what didn´t work in the last and what you have changed in the next (rationale, before and after comparison)
  • – find a way to structurally/systematically capture your design experiences
  • Jog!  (see scrum wiki)
  • Take a break or micro-break
  • Sleep over it…
  • Don’t overthink a problem or you break the flow. But do take an extra second or two when you decide on decision.

Of equally importance: get creative & innovative!

Thinking

When going in more detail, when evaluating a solution once your gut feel is satisfised with it. Maybe then it’s time to think more deeply, to explore the “what-if’s” and your (mental) check-list (link) of what makes good IxD.

Gut versus think. It’s rapid feel versus slow considered thought out decisions. Some problems deserve more than gut feel.

  • But “When you start becoming reflective you lose the flow”  [Blink]
  • I share the opinion that for knotty problems, slowing down, taking a second or two extra “for issues where a solution is NOT immediately apparent”  [1]
  • Most IxD problems are of that nature: wicked problems.
Wicked problems
From [1]. According to Conklin, the four defining characteristics of wicked problems are:
    1. The problem is not understood until after formulation of a solution
    2. Stakeholders have radically different world views and different frames for understanding the problem.
    3. Constraints and resources to solve the problem change over time.
    4. The problem is never solved.

Think it over

Every time you feel you’re taking too much time mulling over a decision or puzzle, toying in circles and overthinking a design problem, try this:

-Consider the importance

  • how critical is this feature, or the design thereof, to the overall user experience or business goal/KPI?
  • will the product fail to meet the goals if I don’t fix this design issue correctly?
  • how much relative attention does this particular issue deserve? do I need to go into such detail level now? can we park the issue and work on another first?
  • how does this issue fit in the larger context of design strategy, purpose and goal for this product?

-Consider the urgency

  • how much time can I spend on this puzzle?
  • by when do I need a final answer on this issue?

– Consider the generic applicability

  • if I get the ultimate answer for this issue, could I re-use that solution knowledge confidently?

-Consider the budget

  • could user testing answer this question for me? could I do quick, low-budget usability testing or get critique?
  • is there time for creating persona’s, even rough ad-hoc/assumed personas?
  • can I perform full quantitive/qualitive research myself?
– Try different perspectives
  • go radically different way, then lay the two designs next to eachother and say what is good and bad about each
  • Question every element. Simplify.

Bottom line

  • remember that some problems solve themselves: …the solution could come to you in your sleep, while solving other problems, or while jogging or relaxing, under the shower…go do something else
  • is me spending time answering this issue worth the return in investment in time? (“The Utility theory says that each decision has associated costs and benefits to be outweighed.”)
– Question the fixed
A Product Manager helps “create[s] the conditions for [problem] focus by giving the designer boundariespriorities and resources.” [2]
But look for “moonwalking bears”. Critically question what’s going on: the requirements, the constraints. Are they valid, or should they be taken lightly with a big bag of salt? What is the underlying reason for that requirement? Why am I working around these icons or images, this navigation and how “fixed” are they really?

Get examples

Conventions

Competitor audits, case studies, patterns, best practice and other trusted sources.

Competitor sites, books, design patterns, existing software. Google images, not just interfaces  (e.g. type “my products” when you’re looking for an innovative product overview page)

Though you don’t have to re-invent the wheel, you don’t want to copy bad behaviour either. Be vigilant of blindly applying convention, take advice with a grain of salt. Be critical but trust the instinct of others.

Research it

Or rather: find research about it.

“Research is a tool, not a methodology. Research is more about filling in the gaps in the designer’s knowledge than an activity to be done for its own sake.”

Proven best practice, proven results (clear before/after changes)

  • User research. Do users have behaviours, motivations, expectations that make this decision a bad choice?
  • Is it culturally appropriate? For example Yahoo! China

Every design issue can raise questions: is this the best design? Every design is different, just like every designer will come with his own solution. At times, research resources (used with vigilance, see research validity checklist) may come in handy and give that extra convincing power (“One research study shows that…”) or buy-in.

The bad news

Even with user research, we might still be guessing here.

The good news

Intuition is the most powerful tool and often the most effective. Especially when choosing which UCD method or research technique to apply be creative. Even Jared Spool (SXSWi 2009) questions sticking to one method, it is more effective to set up a constant feedback loop with your user-informants or allies/collaborators (= those in close contact with users ).  Even analytics and data may give us a distorted vision on things. The button with the

Discuss it

Talk about it. Think a solution out loud, be abstract or concrete. Find it on a usability/web design forum. Ask people what they think of it, like the forums on IXDA.org

A collective (subjective) gut feeling is better than an objective one, but you know the context better.

The bad news

Time: It takes time to find or describe your post.
Cost: Most forums are free.
Overall rating: Talk about what you’re trying to achieve and where you’re struggling with anyone. They come often with questions you are blind for.

Google it

Chances are somebody has crossed the same question you are having. The great thing about doing a Google search is that it will be a combination of what you´re looking for, while inspiring you with closely related.  (lateral thinking)

How to improve your searching skills

  • Master Google (book), know the Google tricks (Google search engine page, search wiki blog 4 it)
  • Exploit the power of other search engines.

Test it

(usability testing or A/B testing, etc.)

Measure it

Data from web analytics (Google Analytics etc) > learn how to read and use these metrics to prove your points!

Overall neccesities

  • Flow!
  • A focussed/clear mind, be it sane or insane. Unconcious competence.
  • Paper and pen
  • A fast and stable PC and broadband internet connection

Further reading

http://www.adaptivepath.com/ideas/how-to-make-good-design-decisions  [1]  TIP

[2]: http://www.quora.com/User-Experience/Given-that-the-qualities-of-a-good-UX-Designer-and-a-good-Product-Manager-seem-so-close-what-are-the-distinguishing-features-of-the-two-roles#ans1273120


Usability research

December 29, 2008

Where to find (free) research into usability?

Pick your topics

http://uxmyths.com/

https://www.interaction-design.org/literature/book/the-encyclopedia-of-human-computer-interaction-2nd-ed/visual-aesthetics

..and other chapters of the-encyclopedia-of-human-computer-interaction-2nd-ed

Search spiders

http://tc.eserver.org/
ACM Digital library (access via university library, not all are free)
Search field of hcibib.org

IEEE HCI? See Encyclopedia of HCI (link above) for more popular academic HCI research resources

CiteSeer(x)(Journals, periodicals, articles (…), (university) research groups, conference papers, special interest groups SIGCHI, theses, blog posts)

Directories

http://degraaff.org/hci/publications.html

Research tools

How to organise your (online) research.

http://researchresources.blogspot.com/

HCI Research bodies

http://www.surl.org/ (Uni WI)
http://www.microsoft.com/usability/publications.mspx (few broad articles by microsoft)

Notes:

  • use it to gain buy-in power
  • beware of the applicability of usability research (Dutch)
  • Applicability of the research source (before+after reading sth):
  • – what can you do with the information? can you study/learn, derive or directly apply the research outcomes?
  • – is it relevant? User performance (user speed, efficiency and ergonomics) goal versus business conversions goal. Though related, a design that focussses on the most efficient may seem more ‘usable’ (less prone to error, faster completion, faster to learn) but might not necessarily be the most desirable design at first sight.
  • Context, audience and cultural differences

Will it make a difference? Asking the users (surveys) gives a skewed reality. Statistics can be damn lies. Usability research on prototypes gives you more confidence. But for the real truth, only getting it live (lean) can tell. Then do A/B, usability, heatmap and satisfaction testing – whatever data you need to get the job done.

 

The value and credibility of research

(coming up)

Cooper: break with convention only if…

A fruit juice may be healthy and good for you, but is it also ‘lekker’?

Research should adhere to these criteria:

Accurate

Compared to a gut feeling, research is often a better representation of the truth. However, a research by UIE.com found that using gut feel by an experienced usability practicioner about a given research question performed just as effective as full-on research.

Applicable/relevant

It holds true for whatever you’re working on or trying to find out.

Credited

You can use CiteSeer, a cross-reference tool, to check how many times a certain publication has been cited by other publications. There are also ways/tools to find out how much a person is cited (userati) or paper referenced from blogs or the web.

Valid/trust-worthy

The method of research, calculations and measurements involved are correct. There is adequete confirmation from a trusted source (of experts).

There are sufficient authors referencing or linking to the source, and few critiquing it.

Resources

Goal; Types of sites with research sources which are suitable for this; Actually URLs to sites to ‘raadplegen’ for reference

Table:

Best practice in business ;  Pattern sites  ;  Forrester

Improve Customer Support ; E-commerce/CRM software vendors ; egain.com (see ‘Research resources’), RightNow

…. ;  ….. ;…..


Portal design

December 29, 2008

Resources focusssed on the design of portals? Sure, they exist!

Research

How Do Users View a Portal Web Page? An Examination of User Eye Movements


Link directories

December 29, 2008

Starting points and organised, structured link directories

Keywords:  Startpagina’s with the main topic being broad and general
Subjects: usability/HCI/interaction design IxD/User Experience design (UxD)

http://www.stcsig.org/usability/topics/index.html  ++

http://degraaff.org/hci/sources.html

Usableweb (outdated, but a diamond of sources)

Google Directory  (open dmoz)

http://www.hcirn.com/index.php