Posts Tagged ‘User experience’

February Update – Guerrilla UCD Live and Card Sorting

Tuesday, February 4th, 2014

February Update – Guerrilla UCD Live and Card Sorting

We now have a series of dates for our Agile User Experience and Persona-Driven Design workshops in London, Tallinn and Hamburg (March, April and May, respectively). These sessions are aimed at building better understanding of how to integrate user experience and user-centred design with Agile approaches (day 1) and walking participants through the entire design cycle with a practical project (days 2 & 3). Early booking for London runs until 24 February:

  • Day 1: Agile User Experience (how to do UX in lean and Agile ways to better fit with the development process)
  • Days 2 & 3: Persona-Driven Design (a two-day workshop taking participants from user research through to conceptual models and visual specifications)

Full details and booking are available online.

Guerrilla UCD at the Interaction Design Foundation

Our recorded Guerrilla UCD webinars are still going strong at the Interaction Design Foundation web site. All 16 webinars are presented as a course, free with the cost of membership (currently EUR 98 / GBP 80 / USD 150). Visit http://bit.ly/ixd-ucd for more details.

Also, our two courses at CHI 2014 in Toronto have been scheduled; they are Card Sorting for Navigation Design on Tuesday morning, 29 April and Agile User Experience and UCD on Wednesday morning, 30 April. Further details (and 23 more courses!) at http://chi2014.acm.org/program/by-venue/courses.

Card Sorting with SynCapsV3

Speaking of card sorting, we have news of two special offers on our card sorting analysis package for Windows, SynCapsV3. The first is that it is now free for academic use – all you need is an academic email address to obtain a free license during checkout (limited to one license per email address). The second is that UXPA members are now entitled to a 15% on SynCapsV3 licenses.

In both cases, just download and install the software. Then click Buy/Transfer to obtain a license. Visit www.syncaps.com for general information, videos and downloads or www.syncapsv3.com to jump straight to the V3 download.

Guerrilla UCD Winter Sale – All webinars 75% off until 31-Dec-2013

Wednesday, November 20th, 2013

With the completion of recording for 2013, we are offering a substantial 75% discount on downloadable videos and slides until the end of the year. Most webinars are now €13 / £11 / $17 while all 16 in the series will cost only €162 / £137 / $212 with our 5-for-the-price-of-4 discount.

Use the “+ all” button at the bottom of the webinar basket to easily order the whole series and then choose your billing currency. Videos are in WMV format; slides are one-per-page PDFs.

The full series is listed below. Several of the Agile & Lean UCD webinars (13-15) include persona stories – see www.personastories.com for my ACM Interactions article on this topic.

1. Guerrilla UCD Boot Camp
2. Visual Design for Usability
3. Navigation & Menu Design
4. Designing for SEO & Accessibility
5. Human Error, Messages & Feedback
6. Usability Evaluation
7. User-Centred IA with Card Sorting
8. Dynamic Web Pages: Effective Use of Ajax
9. Writing Effective Web & Intranet Content
10. Designing for Advanced Users
11. Persuasion, Trust and Seduction
12. Making the Case for UCD in Agile
13. Integrating UCD & Agile
14. Agile UX: Users, Personas & Design Maps
15. Agile UX: Use Cases, Stories & Scenarios
16. Agile UX: Conceptual Models

May Update – Card Sorting and Guerrilla UCD

Monday, May 13th, 2013

May Update – Card Sorting and Guerrilla UCD

We’re having a Spring Sale on the world’s most comprehensive card sorting analysis package, SynCapsV3 for Windows. When you buy a license, enter the promotion code ‘SPRING13’ before the end of June and you’ll receive a 25% discount. The normal price is €240 / £200 / $320 but with the sale the figures are €180 / £150 / $240 (plus VAT where applicable). You can choose the billing currency during checkout. Visit the downloads page to get the software and click ‘Buy’ in the licensing dialog to purchase a license. Don’t forget to enter the promotion code!

In our Guerrilla UCD webinar series, we are just coming to the end of the first five strategy webinars. Last week’s session was on human error and error handling (messages and feedback). Coincidentally, Jakob Nielsen has just published an Alert Box article on one of the topics we discussed, novel versus routine tasks. See http://www.nngroup.com/articles/novel-vs-routine-tasks/

If you missed the session, you can buy instant access to the video and slides downloads. Next week’s webinar is on usability evaluation methods while our tactics webinars (covering more specific design topics) start on 23 May.

Strategy Webinars

2. Visual Design for Usability

3. Navigation & Menu Design

4. Designing for SEO & Accessibility

5. Human Error, Messages & Feedback

6. Usability Evaluation

 

Tactics Webinars (starting 23 May)

7. User-Centred IA with Card Sorting

8. Dynamic Web Pages: Effective Use of Ajax

9. Writing Effective Web & Intranet Content

10. Designing for Advanced Users

11. Persuasion, Trust and Seduction

Our Lean and Agile webinars start on 12 Sep after a summer break. You can get a quick overview of the webinars and dates for upcoming sessions by visiting the Guerrilla UCD shopping cart.

 

Guerrilla UCD 2013 – Lower cost, better value

Tuesday, March 5th, 2013

Guerrilla UCD for 2013 – Lower cost, better value

We’re kicking off our 2013 season of 16 x 90-minute Guerrilla UCD webinars with a free one-hour overview on 21st March. It starts at 16:30 London time but, like all of the webinars, you can take part from anywhere in the world and if you miss it, download a recording and slides.

To register for the free overview, either visit GotoWebinar or add it to your basket at the GuerrillaUCD web site (there is a short checkout process but nothing to pay if that is the only thing you add).

The really exciting news is that this year, all webinars are 20% cheaper, plus you get immediate access to last year’s recordings and slides (as well as this year’s live webinar, recording and slides as they become available).

The full list of webinars is:

Getting Started

0. Free One-Hour Overview

1. Guerrilla UCD Boot Camp

Strategy Webinars

2. Visual Design for Usability

3. Navigation & Menu Design

4. Designing for SEO & Accessibility

5. Human Error, Messages & Feedback

6. Usability Evaluation

Tactics Webinars

7. User-Centred IA with Card Sorting

8. Dynamic Web Pages: Effective Use of Ajax

9. Writing Effective Web & Intranet Content

10. Designing for Advanced Users

11. Persuasion, Trust and Seduction

Lean & Agile Webinars

12. Making the Case for UCD in Agile

13. Integrating UCD & Agile

14. Agile UX: Users, Personas & Design Maps

15. Agile UX: Use Cases, Stories & Scenarios

16. Agile UX: Conceptual Models

 

Guerrilla UCD – Usability, User Experience and Agile Webinars

Friday, May 18th, 2012

We’re launching our series of usability, user experience and Agile webinars with a free one-hour overview next Wednesday (23 May) at 16:30 London time. The focus of the series is to engage the whole team in user experience so they are designed for a broad audience. See www.guerrillaucd.com for more details and to book the free overview (add it to your basket and checkout – there will be nothing to pay).

Facial Avoidance in Page Design

Monday, April 20th, 2009

I am a great admirer of Tom Tullis’s work. He’s made important contributions to our understanding of screen design over the years (plus he is even older than me, which gives me great cause for hope!). In a recent poster at CHI 2009, in collaboration with Fidelity Investment colleagues Marisa Siegel and Emily Sun, Tom has done it again. He explained to me their important findings on the use of face images to attract attention on web or intranet pages. The results certainly run contrary to the perceived wisdom in this area (that humans are naturally attracted to facial images).

The Fidelity studies show that not only were users disinclined to look at facial images of the type shown in Figure 1, but that a significant number of users were unable to find the text immediately adjacent when given a task requiring that information.

Box containing facial image next to link text

Figure 1: Link panels with and without facial image (Study II)

In fact, overall performance was negatively affected by the presence of the face: accuracy dropped from 93% to 78%, mean time on task increased from 37 to 54 seconds and perceived task ease dropped from 4.2 to 3.4 (on a 5-point scale).

In a separate study, Tullis and colleagues not only found that facial images reduced performance; they also had the completely unexpected effect of reducing user confidence. Figure 2 shows the quite common approach that was tested (with and without the images). Again accuracy dropped, but this time by a smaller margin, from 94% to 87%. However, trust also dropped, from 6.3 to 6.0 on a 7-point scale. This result may seem small but there is only a 5% probability of it being due only to chance, which is taken by statisticians to mean that it was significant.

 Box show author images next to link text

Figure 2: Authors’ images reduced trust in content (Study III)

So, contrary to what I remember being told in design seminars years ago, and even contrary to advice that I would have given up until I saw these studies (typified by my article on using images as links – http://www.syntagm.co.uk/design/articles/fitts50.htm) it looks like we need to be careful about how we use facial images in particular.

(You can see the full work-in-progress paper in the CHI 2009 proceedings, which will eventually be available from the ACM Digital Library – www.acm.org/dl)

The joy of Plesk

Monday, February 9th, 2009

I was as surprised as anyone to discover last week that my blog, admittedly underused, had disappeared from our website. We have our own WordPress installation and like an increasing number of organisations, this is hosted on a Virtual Private Server (VPS) where we share the resources of a UNIX/Apache server with about 50 others.

To try to make the VPS idea workable for mere mortals, our hosting provider uses a product called Plesk. This is a graphical interface for setting up clients, websites and domains for each VPS. At first sight it appears very pretty and fairly well organised. Unfortunately, its attractiveness is literally skin deep – it is a “thin” interface on top of a set of fairly complex underlying technologies.

And therein lies the problem with the disappearing blog. I was foolish enough, when trying to resolve an unrelated problem, to click on the Updates icon. After some wrestling and heart-stopping moments where I was informed that the update on my remote virtual server had failed and it may therefore be inoperable (they were only kidding) I finally managed to get the latest version of Plesk installed (9.0.1). Unfortunately, this didn’t actually solve my problem and left me with missing icons in the graphical interface (wherein lies another story). However everything else seemed to be working.

Then the panic set in. A week later, clicking on a link to my blog produced only a message that the MySQL interface had not been installed. This is an essential component for WordPress and had certainly been present earlier. Not only that, on examining the status of the MySQL database for the blog in Plesk, I was informed that no databases existed. Indeed, even as you read this blog Plesk insists that it does not exist. (Perhaps carrying virtualisation a little too far!)

The problem is not a new one for user interface designers. In this case, the relatively lightweight Plesk GUI had its own ideas about the state of the system, and was not robust enough to carry these forward through a major upgrade. On using the PHP tools for managing MySQL, I discovered that the blog database was indeed present and fully functional. The problem turned out to be that in the process of upgrading PHP, Plesk had defaulted the configuration to exclude MySQL functionality. A one line change to the PHP configurations file fixed this, but as you can imagine, the overall user experience was not a happy one.

If nothing else, this does serve as an excellent example of the perils in oversimplification. There were many aspects of the underlying system that Plesk was trying very hard to hide, but at the expense of considerable confusion when problems occurred. Maybe Parallels (the developers of Plesk) will eventually put in the effort required to make the interface work for the intended semi-technical audience. But until they do, it is not for the faint of heart.

Nix Xobni, Taglocity Rocks!

Sunday, July 13th, 2008

Xobni Panel from OutlookI have been using a couple of Outlook plug-ins over the past few months. Xobni, which is rated by some as a must-have (see for example, Xobni: The Super Plugin For Outlook) and the somewhat more retiring Taglocity from Terazen Technology (www.taglocity.com).

They both claim Web 2.0 credentials, but for me Xobni represents what’s bad about Web 2.0 hype while Taglocity roles up its sleeves and changes your life.

On the right is a screenshot from Xobni. I haven’t broken the news to my wife as yet, but she is apparently the 12th most important person in my life (email wise). I still haven’t found a way to see who is number one, but that is the least of my problems.

Don’t like the colour scheme? Tough. Shades of orange, red and purple are here to stay, at least in the current version. However, I guess my biggest issue is that it just doesn’t solve any real problems for me. It has a fast email search, but so does the Vista desktop. It will show me the conversations with a contact, but I am used to just clicking on From column in Outlook to do that. Maybe I haven’t tried hard enough, but I just cannot find anything that it does that makes it a must-have in my book. In fact I had uninstalled it last week and only reinstalled it to get the screenshot shown.

Taglocity, by comparison, I find eminently useful. It has a very unassuming presence in the Outlook user interface, just a tool bar (which Xobni seems to disable during installtion) and a tag line at the bottom of email windows.

Taglocity Toolbar (new window)

 The point of Taglocity is to allow you to have threaded conversations with other people, whether they are using Taglocity or not. So if you tag an email and send it to a client, their reply comes back already tagged. Also, Taglocity integrates its tags with Outlook categories, so all of the relevant tools that already exist within Outlook automatically work with the tags.

And there’s more. Taglocity allows me to share my tags (and even my emails if I want) with friends or colleagues. I just create a group on the Taglocity site and invite people to join it. This makes it pretty valuable as a piece of groupware, especially in virtual teams. For example, colleagues of mine at the Intranet Benchmarking Forum are experimenting with Taglocity using a set of around 60 shared tags and so far the results are pretty encouraging.

Taglocity is currently in its version 2.0 beta but seems fairly stable. The plug-in and associated account are still free, but personally I would have no hesitation in paying a reasonable charge for the services offered.

Just off to unintall Xobni (again)…

Paying tax the fun way!

Wednesday, July 2nd, 2008

Well, not exactly. While the UK’s beloved HMRC (Her Majesty’s Revenue and Customs) has come a long way with its online services, they seemed to have stopped short of providing a good user experience.

The problem appears to be that us technologists are very enthusiastic about deciding exactly what constitutes a user error, and punishing transgressors appropriately for them. So, for example, let’s consider the following example: 

Error message repremanding user for failing to make a choice when only one option is displayed

Users do this all the time. There is no choice to be made and the empty radio button does not provide an adequate visual cue that something needs to be done. The Next button was enabled, so being as bad a user as the next when it isn’t my own design I clicked on it and received the ticking-off you see above. I find it very hard to believe that it is really necessary to force the user to make a selection, but disabling the Next button would be an obvious alternative to dealing with a user error. That would require client-side scripting but an equally acceptable alternative would be to select the first item listed by default. But the biggest failing is the lack of empathy that designer of this interaction is suffering from. How does he or she think the customer (taxpayers are customers, right?) is going to react to receiving an error message that appears to deliberately intended to cause frustration?

But there’s more. On the same site, but in a different form, users are required to enter the cash equivalent for tax purposes of a company-supplied car. For this purpose, they are invited to visit a web page that does the calcuation and then to enter the result into the form. It’s a bit clunky, but that is not the only problem. Here is the calculator result:

Page showing cash equivalent of car with a comma as the thousands separator

Notice the comma pound sign and the comma? Trying to copy and paste these figures – from the tool that HMRC recommends – causes a message like this:

Error message stating that the input field must be numeric (it contains a comma output by the calulator)

The really galling thing here is that it is very much easier to write code to ignore unwanted commas than it is to complain about it and force users to put it right. And that really is the smoking gun in most of the empathy-deficient cases I see: the designer has become fixated on handling the error rather than working around it in the interests of good user experience. Sigh.