15 Questions To Ask Yourself When Evaluating A Photo

katiebookI’m a big fan of online video, video blogging and the importance of photography in design. But I’m a total amateur when it comes to the technical side of photography and video, such as lighting and cameras. You know that phrase, “know enough to be dangerous”. That pretty much describes me. I’m largely self-taught, and if you watch some of my videos over time I’m sure you can see the evidence that I’m learning as I go!

Luckily I’m going to shortly get some help. I’m teaching part-time this semester at University of Wisconsin, and one of my colleagues at the university, Katie Stern, is an expert at all things photography. I’m hiring her to come to my video studio and help me work with lighting, and I’m really excited to do so!

In the meantime I’ve been reading her book, Photo 1: An Introduction to the Art of Photography (Amazon affiliate link)

(Warning… it’s a textbook and full of beautiful images — i.e., it’s not inexpensive!!) There’s this great section towards the end that kind of sums up all the things you can learn in the book, and I thought it was an interesting set of questions to ask yourself when you are evaluating a photo that you are thinking of using in one of your projects, for example, at a website, book, or whatever else you are designing. Here are the questions that Katie suggests you ask:

  • Describe the photograph. What does it look like? Color, grayscale, areas of each?
  • What is the subject matter in the photograph?
  • Can you tell from which social era it came? What clues give you that information?
  • Does the photograph give you a sense of time (day or night, long exposure or short exposure)? What clues give you that information?
  • What can you discern about the camera’s aperture, shutter speed, and ISO settings when the photograph was made? What visual clues lead you to your conclusions?
  • What was the approximate focal length of the lens? Wide angle? Telephoto? What leads you to your conclusion?
  • What were the lighting conditions when the photograph was made? Do you think flash was used at all? Can you discern the distance, direction, and color temperature of light source(s)?
  • What was the vantage point of the camera when the photograph was made? Was the camera low to the ground, at eye level, overhead, or somewehre in between?
  • Did the photograph have an emotional impact on you when you first saw it? What emotions did the photograph trigger in you?
  • What emotional response do you think the photographer was trying to evoke in a viewer? Did the photgrapher’s intention match your emotional reaction?
  • What concept or idea do you think the photographer was trying to portray with the photograph?
  • Do you think the photographer was successful in translating these thoughts into a visual form? What aspects of the photograph lead you to this conclusion?
  • Considering your thoughts on the lighting, choice of lens, vantage point, aperature, shutter speed, and ISO the photographer used, what could the photographer have done differently to strengthen the message?
  • Do the following elements help or hurt what you perceive as the concept of the photograph?

              Cropping of the photo
              Density (lightness or darkness) in the overall photograph
              Contrast (the range between the lightest and darkest areas of the photo)
              Details (or lack thereof) in shadows and highlights
              Depth of field
              Composition
              Color (if it’s a color image) such as color balance, brightness or dullness of the colors, and how the colors relate to each other within the photograph

  • What changes would you make if you could have made the photograph yourself?

Wow, makes me realize just how much I don’t know!

What do you think? Do you know enough to evaluate photos this thoroughly? How important do you think it is to evaluate the photos you use?

If you are interested in Katie and her book you can find more info on her Amazon author page.

How To Get People To Do Stuff #5: What makes things go viral?

Why do some ideas, articles, videos go viral and others don’t? Check out these ideas and the research in the video:

Here’s a summmary:

Things go viral if one or more of the following is true:

The piece elicits a strong emotional response — either positive or negative
The person who is doing the communicating is passionate and committed to the idea
If there is a compelling story around the idea
If it’s cute or funny (cats in hats, babies, puppies)
If by passing it on to your network it will make you look smart

What do you think? Do you agree with these ideas? With the research? What do you think makes something go viral?

References:

J. Berger and and K. L. Milkman. 2012. “What makes online content viral?” Journal of Marketing Research, 49(2), 192–205. DOI: 10.1509/jmr.10.0353
Jennifer Aaker, The Dragonfly Effect

Top 10 Best Usability, and UX Books You Should Read

Part of the work I do is to consult, mentor and teach how to design technology products so that they better fit how people work, think, and play. The teams I work with often ask me for my ideas on the best books to read in this field. So I thought I’d update my list of favorite usability and user experience books.

There are lots of great books these days, and I’m limiting the list here to 10, so chances are you have a favorite that I’ve not included. Let me know what your favorites are in the comments.

I have an Amazon affiliate account, so I’ve linked to the books on Amazon if you are interested in purchasing, or even just getting more info.

The list below is in no particular order:

1. Don’t Make Me Think by Steve Krug. Steve is such a great writer (and an all round great guy!). He has a way of cutting through all the chatter and clutter and bringing out the essence of a topic. If you are going to get one book for your team to introduce them to human-centered design thinking, then this should be the book.

2. Rocket Surgery Made Easy by Steve Krug is the other necessary book if you are doing usability testing. And you ARE doing usability testing, right? This book will teach you everything you need to know about how to plan and conduct a user test of your product.

3. Forms That Work by Caroline Jarrett and Gerry Gaffney. If you are designing anything that has a form: a web page, web app, software application, mobile app, or even a paper form, you must read this book. It’s practical and also conceptual — my favorite book on form design.

4. Usable Usability: Simple Steps For Making Stuff Better by Eric Reiss. Eric combines what usability is, why it’s important, and how you do it, in one easy to read book. Give this book to anyone who needs to understand an overview of usability concepts in an interesting and practical way. Written with wit and clarity.

 

5. Communicating the User Experience: A Practical Guide for Creating Useful UX Documentation by Richard Caddick and Steve Cable. In an era where many are calling for “lean UX”, and the end of the formal deliverable, I am going to be so bold as to say that there are many times and situations when you should create deliverables for communicating your user experience work, and luckily this book will show you how to do that. It’s practical and innovative at the same time. A must-read for practitioners who have to create deliverables for their projects.

6. Smashing UX Design: Foundations for designing online user experiences by Jesmond Allen and James Chudley. This book has everything. It will walk you through the idea of user centered design, teach you the details of how to do everything (stakeholder research, user research, wireframing, prototyping, user test, etc etc,) and then will show you how they did it with case studies. A great book for the UX practitioner, whether new or experienced.

7. Client Centric Web Design by Paul Boag. Have you ever had your design or UX project blow up? Misunderstandings with clients? Then you need to read this book. Paul takes the point of view of the client, not just the user. This book has critical advice for anyone who works on web design/UX design projects for clients. Unless you are only designing your own personal website, you need to read this book. It’s not available on Amazon, just through his site.

 
8. Measuring the User Experience by Tom Tullis and Bill Albert. Need metrics? Need numbers to back up your impressions? This is the go to book for everything measurable about the user experience. Really thorough and detailed.

9. Quantifying the User Experience: Practical statistics for user research by Jeff Sauro and James Lewis. The word “statistics” scares a lot of people. I love statistics, but I understand that many others don’t. Whether you love ’em or not, you should read this book. If you are friends with stats then you’ll enjoy the book. And if you’re not you really NEED to read it! Don’t be afraid. Jeff Sauro is a master at getting people to understand the why and how of stats for user experience.

10. Card Sorting by Donna Spencer. This is a little book and just about one topic, card sorting, but it’s a great book and worth reading and having on your bookshelf if you need to learn about the user research technique of card sorting. It also has lots of great information about user research in general.

and one more bonus book: I hope you forgive me, but I’m going to recommend my own book: 100 Things Every Designer Needs To Know About People.

Which makes 11!

(You might also be interested in my top 10 Psychology books to read.)

What are your favorites?

4 Reasons Why Online Video Is Compelling & Persuasive

Why is online video so compelling compared to text?

I’ve been in my video studio working on my new online video course (Designing For Engagement). It’s a lot of work to create my online video courses (through Udemy.com), but it’s also fun to work on them, and it’s exciting to have people taking and enjoying the courses.

It got me thinking again, about why online video is so compelling as a medium, and so while I was in the studio I made this short video “4 Reasons Why Online Video Is Persuasive”:

Here are the 4 reasons:
#1: The Fusiform Facial area makes us pay attention to faces
#2: Voice conveys rich information
#3: Emotions are contagious
#4: Movement grabs attention

What do you think? Do you find online video more engaging than reading text? Why do you think it is (or isn’t)?

How To Get People To Do Stuff: #4 — Does Money Make You Mean?

The mention of money, or seeing money changes how people behave and interact with each other. Watch the video and find out how:

Kathleen Vohs, a Professor of Marketing at the University of Minnesota has researched the effect that money has on people. She doesn’t even use actual money. It turns out that just the concept of money changes behavior.

Dr. Vohs concludes that the concept of money leads people to behave self-sufficiently. If you want people to be self-sufficient, then prime them with the idea of, or pictures of, money. If you want people to be collaborative and help others, then avoid the mention of, or pictures of, money.

For more information check out:

Kathleen D. Vohs, et al.
The Psychological Consequences of Money
Science 314, 1154 (2006)

and my new book (when it comes out in March 2013 — available for pre-order now at Amazon) How To Get People To Do Stuff

What do you think? Is money a good incentive to get people to do things or work harder?

 

 

How To Get People To Do Stuff: #3 — A Hard-To-Read Font Will Activate Logical Thinking

I am taking a chance here, because I know that the subject of fonts is always controversial, and if I say that you should use fonts that are hard to read I’ll be blasted by many of my readers! But I have to share this fascinating research on how mental processing changes in some surprising ways when people read text that is in a hard to read font vs. an easy to read font. Below is the video.

For more information check out:

Daniel Kahneman’s book Thinking Fast And Slow

and my new book (when it comes out in March 2013 — available for pre-order now at Amazon) How To Get People To Do Stuff

In a previous video on confirmation bias I talk about Daniel Kahneman’s idea of System 1 (quick, intuitive) thinking vs. System 2 thinking (slow, logical, analytical). Kahneman’s research shows that when a font is easy to read then System 1 thinking does its usual thing — makes quick decisions, which are not always accurate. When a font is harder to read, System 1 gives up and System 2 takes over. Which means that people will think harder and more analytically when a font is hard to read. I’m NOT suggesting you intentionally make fonts hard to read in the text you have at websites and in other places, but these findings do make me pause and think about whether we are all inadvertently or purposely encouraging people not to think about what they are reading.

Ok, let’s hear it! I know you will all want to weigh in on this one!

Get FREE Advice & Help Train The Next Generation

Would you like to get FREE advice on how to create a more engaging product, website, or app? Starting this January I will be teaching a semester course at the University of Wisconsin, Stevens Point, on “Designing for Engagement” in the Web and Digital Media Development department. In the class we will be using “real life” case studies for evaluation of engagement, re-design, and design. If you have a project/product that you would like evaluated or re-designed to be more engaging submit it for consideration as one of our case studies. You will receive free advice and you will be helping to train the next generation of designers.

Here’s what you need to submit:

Your Name:

Your Contact Info:

Brief Description of the product/website/app etc:

Brief Description of your engagement challenges:

Instructions of how we can access the product:

Who the product is for/users/visitors/intended audience:

What the users/visitors/intended audience want to do with the product:

What YOU want them to do with the product:

Let me know if you have questions, and thanks in advance for submitting your product for a possible evaluation and/or re-design/design

 

 

 

How To Get People To Do Stuff: #2 — Break Through A Confirmation Bias

A confirmation bias is a form of “cognitive illusion”. People tend to pay attention to what they already believe and filter out information that doesn’t fit with their opinions and beliefs. You can breakthrough these biases, however. Watch the video to find out how:

For more information check out:

Daniel Kahneman’s book Thinking Fast And Slow

and my new book (when it comes out in March 2013 — available for pre-order now at Amazon) How To Get People To Do Stuff

In order to get through a confirmation bias, start first with something you know the person or your audience already believes. That way they will let the information/communication in through their attention gate. Once you’ve made it past the confirmation filters you can then slip in a new idea.

What do you think? Have you tried this to break through a confirmation bias?

How To Get People To Do Stuff: #1 — Use Nouns Instead Of Verbs

"I am a voter"This blog post is the first of a new series called “How To Get People To Do Stuff”. It features nuggets from the book I am writing by the same name due out in March of 2013.

I’m also starting a new format of doing video blogs. So first is the video, and then below it is the text that I talk about in the video.

Let me know what you think about the new topic series and whether you like the video format!

Here’s the research:

Walton, Gregory and Banaji, Mahzarin, Being what you say: the effect of essentialist linguistic labels on preferences, Social Cognition, Vol. 22, No. 2, 2004, pp. 193-213.

In a survey about voting, Gregory Walton at Stanford sometimes asked  “How important is it to you to be a voter in tomorrow’s election?” versus  “How important is it to you to vote in tomorrow’s election?”

The first sentence was phrased so that the emphasis was on the noun, “voter”. The second sentence emphasized “to vote”. Did the wording make a difference?

11% more voted — When the the noun (be a voter) was used instead of the verb (to vote), 11% more people actually voted the following day.  Why would nouns affect behavior more than verbs?

Needing to belong — I had always learned that using direct verbs resulted in more action. But if using a noun invokes group identity, that will trump a direct verb. People have a strong need to feel that they belong. People identify themselves in terms of the groups they belong to and this sense of group can deeply affect their behavior. You can stimulate group identity just by the way you have people talk about themselves or the way you phrase a question. For example, research shows that if people say “I am a chocolate eater” versus “I eat chocolate a lot” it will affect how strong their preference is for chocolate. “Eater” is a noun. “Eat” is a verb.

When you are trying to get people to do stuff try using nouns rather than verbs. Invoke a sense of belonging to a group and it is much more likely that people will comply with your request.

What do you think? Have you tried nouns instead of verbs?

5 Ways A Task Analysis Results In Great Design

 

Picture of a task analysis flowchart

A task analysis is the one document that really spells out what the users’ experience is going to be before you design anything at all.

I think the process of task analysis ,and the document that comes out of the process, are some of the most interesting and useful things one does as a UX Designer or a usability specialist.

I also think that task analyses are underappreciated. It does takes time, energy and creative thought to come up with a useful task analysis and people are usually “chomping at the bit” to start design. They often don’t want to create a task analysis first.

So I decided to create a course on “How To Develop & Document A Task Analysis”. And then I put together this short video on 5 Ways a Task Analysis Results In Great Design:

 

 

Here’s a summary of the video.

5 Ways A Task Analysis Results In Great Design 

  1. Quickly & efficiently document how the users are going to get their task done — Before you start storyboarding, designing screens, or creating user requirements documents, try creating a task analysis first. When you do a task analysis before design you are deciding on the most important and critical tasks and detailing in a simple diagram how the user is going to accomplish each one. All the work you do after this will be much more efficient because you will have hashed through lots of alternatives early on.
  2. Use the task analysis document to communicate critical design decisions BEFORE design — Not only will the task analysis help you in your design, it will help you communicate with others — stakeholders, programmers, visual designers.
  3. Get design agreement on the user experience early & upfront — By working on a task analysis you are making design decisions before design. So your whole team is coming to agreement on what the design will be like early and before design begins.
  4. Save time & re-work — Because you have worked through a lot of design decisions in order to create the task analysis you can save a lot of time and rework later. Instead of starting on design and then having to change all your storyboards or prototypes, you can work through the issues and decisions about the user experience before design and save yourself a lot of rework.
  5. Ensure that the design is accepted by the team AND matches the way your users want to do a task — When you work together with your team on the task analysis you are making a series of decisions that everyone buys into as the task analysis document gets created. Not only that, because a task analysis is describing how the users are going to complete a task, you are ensuring that the users’ point of view and desired process is incorporated into the task analysis. So when you design from the task analysis you will be designing a user experience the way the users want to do it.
Task analysis — the unsung hero of a user centered design process!
What do you think? Do you develop task analyses documents before you design?

 

If you are interested in the new course check it out at Udemy.com. And if you decide to try it, use the code 0812 during August for a special discount.