Have you ever been the User Experience point person on a product team and found yourself explaining over and over again what it is you are actually doing? Working with a team that doesn’t “get” user experience is one of the obstacles to creating a great user experience.
I talk about that obstacle plus a few more, as well as what to do about them, in this video. It’s one lesson in my latest course course called “An Introduction To User Experience”. And the entire course is FREE.
Even if you are an experienced UX professional you might enjoy this video and the whole course.
In the video I talk about three obstacles:
Working with a team that doesn’t “get” what UX is
Being a UX team of One
Not having a high level advocate in the organization
What do you think? Have you experienced these obstacles? More? Others?
Join me on June 5th at 12 noon EDT for a FREE live video event via Livestream.
Design for Engagement Live Website Critiques
Wed Jun 5, 2013 12:00pm — 1:00pm EDT
Come join me in a free live online video event. I’ll be taking website suggestions from the audience and then discussing–on the spot–how to improve the persuasion and engagement of the various websites. While I’m reviewing and discussing each website, you’ll be participating through chat that all participants can see and respond to. We’ll review as many websites as we can get to 20 minutes and then we’ll have lots of time for Q&A. Email your suggestions to me (susan@theteamw) for websites you’d like to see reviewed ahead of time or put them in the comments here, and don’t miss this fun and educational opportunity.
To join the free Livestream event all you have to do is go to the Livestream event page on June 5th, at 12 noon Eastern US time. That’s it! No registration is necessary.
In the meantime, go to the event page now and you can click a link to put the event in your calendar, or follow the event for updates.
I hope you will join me, and don’t forget to submit ideas for the websites that will get the engagement critique, either here in the comments or email me at email@example.com
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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?
I find myself these days working on two streams: on the one hand I’m working on my next new project (which is another book called “How To Get People To Do Stuff”) and on the other hand I’m recording a series of online training videos that cover the basics of doing usable design. Sometimes I think we get all caught up in new stuff and new ideas (Pinterest! apps!) and forget about the great stuff we’ve all worked hard to figure out… like personas and scenarios!
Developing and documenting personas and scenarios as part of a design process is not new. It’s been around for at least 30 years, and maybe more. But I was recently reminded of how powerful they both are in ensuring you do great design.
So in case you have forgotten WHY using personas and scenarios on your project results in great design, or in case you never knew, or in case you know but sometimes have a hard time explaining it to others, you can use this blog post, and the short video that goes with it, to remind yourself and/or explain to others.
4 Ways Personas & Scenarios Result in Great Design
1. Bring assumptions into the open — When you do design there is always a moment (actually dozens or hundreds of moments) when you are deciding something. For example, should I put the button here? What should I call this? Should I separate this into 2 pages? Whether you are aware of it or not, at that moment you are making that decision, you have many assumptions operating about your audience, who they are, what they are trying to accomplish, etc. Some of those assumptions are based on your knowledge and facts, other assumptions are probably biased, as in, “I think this would be best” (implying your audience will think so too, but that might not be the case, since you are likely not your audience). When you take some time to develop personas and scenarios before design then you are bringing all these assumptions out in the open. You can see if your assumptions are the same as your other team members. You can see if your assumptions can be validated.
2. Ensure you are designing what your audience needs & wants — How can you design what your audience needs and wants if you don’t know what they need and want?! When you go through the process of creating personas and scenarios you are collecting data on what people really need and want, not just what you think they need and want.
3. Design for what is critical & important, not the exception — The process of creating personas and scenarios is the process of deciding “if we can’t design for everyone doing everything then let’s concentrate on the most important users doing the most important things.” You have to identify what’s important, what’s frequent, what’s critical, and what’s an exception. Then when you design you can be sure you are designing for what 80% of the people need/want to do 80% of the time, instead of being distracted too much by exceptions — things that rarely occur or aren’t that important.
4. Communicate clearly — How many times have you left a meeting sure that everyone is all in agreement about the audience and the scenarios for the product you are designing. But if you don’t document those decisions they are easily forgotten, or they change over time. When you create personas and scenarios you have documents that you can use throughout the project to communicate clearly to other team members, as well as stakeholders, what the decisions and design parameters are.
What do you think? How do you think personas and scenarios help create great design? Are they used in your organization?
For more on personas & scenarios, you can watch the first couple of lessons of the new course for free.
I was sitting in the audience in Newcastle, UK in April 2012, and Paul got up on the stage to talk. About 5 minutes into the talk I was sending him an email asking if he would be willing to do a podcast. That’s how good his talk was.
It may sound obvious that we need to take client needs and wants into account when we do website design, but that’s not all Paul covers in his book Client-Centric Web Design, and that’s not all we talked about during our podcast.
Colleen Jones is the author of Clout: The Art and Science of Influential Web Content. I read Colleen’s book and then invited her to give a talk at a panel I was putting together at the HCI conference in 2011.
Anyone involved in website design and development talks about how important content is, but how much time and energy do we really invest on website content? When you are designing a website it’s easy to get caught up in layout and design standards, and formats. In this podcast with Colleen we talk about what it means to pay attention to content.
How website content is becoming the main way customers interact with a company.
Why it is that content so often gets ignored.
Some practical steps you can take to get started on your path of giving content its due in your design process.
Besides writing books like Clout, Colleen is the Principal and Founder of the company Content Science, where she consults and teaches workshops on how to change the role of content in your internet marketing.
What do you think? Is your organization structured so that excellent content for website visitors can be a top priority? How critical do you think this is?
Tip #5: Add research or statistics to bolster your recommendations — Research tells us that people make decisions based on a variety of unconscious reasons, but they like to have a rational, logical, fact-based reason to justify their decision. Including research or statistics with your recommendations makes it easier for people to say “yes”. It’s not enough to cite vague numbers without supporting evidence. You need to provide an actual source for your citation.
For example, if I say, “Research shows that people can only remember 3-4 items”, that is not as strong as saying: “You’ve probably heard that people can remember 7 plus or minus 2 items (5-9), but that number is not accurate. Separate research studies, for instance those by Baddeley and more by Cowan, show that the number is really 3-4 not 5-9”. Then you want to provide the actual research paper citation. (Of course I’m going to recommend my book, 100 Things Every Designer Needs To Know About People, as a great source for research citations about design!). If you are going to quote statistics make sure of the number and provide a source for the data.
Using your own data, for example, data from user research you conducted is also a great idea. If you have direct quotes and/or video clips from actual users/customers, that is the most powerful and persuasive.
What do you think? Have you been citing research and sources with your recommendations?
In his (great) book, Don’t Make Me Think, Steve Krug has a chapter called “Billboard Design 101: Designing pages for scanning not reading.” The idea is that people don’t read all the text at a website, they scan it. So you should think “billboard” when you are deciding what to put on the page, instead of “page that someone will actually read”.
What makes a terrible site? — I was thinking about this idea yesterday as I was looking at a terrible website. Website design has matured over the years, and it actually is rare to find designs that are as bad as this one. Someone asked me why I was so apalled by it (they honestly didn’t know), and I almost found myself at a loss for words. I eventually found my voice and started talking about fonts that are hard to read, too much text, no clear and persistent navigation, too many unique margins… But then I realized I was overwhelming the person I was talking to. He’s not a web designer, not a visual designer, not a programmer, and not a user experience professional.
The bigger picture — I decided I needed to go up a level and give him just one or two concepts that would encapsulate the “big picture”. I realized that it boiled down to these two things:
1) On every page, does the visitor know what he or she is supposed to do on that page? Is it clear why the page is there and what his or her next action should be?
2) On every page, has the website owner/business owner made it really clear how the visitor can take the one action that the owner really wants and hopes the visitor to take?
I think this might be a useful high level checklist. Can’t decide whether to include that photo? Does the photo help with #1 or #2 above? Can’t decide what needs to go above the fold? If it answers #1 or #2 above then put it above the fold. Can’t decide if you need more text explanation of a certain action? Will providing more text help with #1 or #2 above?
What do you think? Are these 2 questions the critical ones or do I simplify too much? What do you think are the one or two critical questions? Can we summarize at that high a level or is that not useful?
A few weeks ago I asked my blog readers to help with design ideas for Martin Reed’s Ilovebluesea.com website. (See the earlier post for the design challenge instructions and to listen to a short interview with Martin).
Many of you wrote in via comments to the blog and through email. (Thank you!) Martin wrote up a summary of the suggestions that you made for the Ilovebluesea.com website:
1. Improve clarity on shipping details – how cost/timeframe/packaging materials all work
2. Improve the competitive advantage content and make more visible on home page – perhaps bold words ‘sustainable’, ‘fresh’ ‘quality’
3. Daily Specials work – leave this alone
4. Move cart to top right of pages
5. Sell the newsletter more
6. Make information on product pages more fun! More visuals such as location or harvest method. Perhaps ‘save’ fish with low bycatch, show how many gallons of water you’ve cleaned by ordering oysters, etc.
7. Increase prominence of FB/twitter/blog – perhaps offer incentives, like discounts, entry in contest, etc for sharing
8. Remove ‘Home’ from heading tabs
9. Try using colors that inspire purchasing behavior, ie orange, red
10. Add categories to home page to start shopping experience
11. Increase content on product pages. Perhaps summarize the links on sustainability.
12. Remove pricing from product titles since it changes
13. Is there a way to graphically represent how we work (ordering, shipping, less middlemen)?
14. Calls to action should be contrasting colors
I got back on with Martin to find out which of these suggestions he was going to implement first. Here’s a short audio interview with him I did this week:
My favorite conference of my career so far, either for attending or speaking, was the UXLX conference (for user experience designers). I spoke at the May 2010 event (a year ago). It was my first ever time in Europe (I don’t count changing planes in Amsterdam). I was ok when I left the States, but by the time I landed in Lisbon I had a horrific cold. And yet I loved the 5 days I spent in Lisbon. Besides a great conference (another post I’ll write in the future), I got to spend time with the other speakers, among them Bill Scott, Steve Krug, Eric Reiss, Peter Merholz, Caroline Jarrett, Jared Spool and Justin Davis. The list goes on and on!
The Goddess of Card Sorting — One of the most lively and colorful personalities was Donna Spencer. She did a great talk on Design Games. She’s also the author of Card Sorting. I’m embarrassed to admit that it’s just now that I have gotten around to reading this book. I’ll say it’s because I was too busy writing my most recent book, but I also think it’s because I don’t do a lot of card sorting anymore. (Card sorting is a wonderful technique that user experience designers use to find out how people are thinking about and organizing information. You give people a set of index cards or post-it-notes. On each card is a word or phrase, for example, if I’m designing a website about pet care, I might have a card that says “grooming” and another that says “preventive health care” and another that says, “Diet” and another that says “Exercise”. You give the cards to people who are typical of the visitors you expect to have at the site and you ask them to organize the cards in a way that makes sense to them. By doing this you can figure out how best to organize the information at the web site.) Because I don’t do a lot of card sorting anymore I thought the book would not be that enlightening to me.
WRONG! — The book title is misleading. Certainly there is a lot of information on how to conduct card sorting and how to analyze the results and act on them. But the first part of the book is a great explanation of what information architecture is all about. I don’t know if I’ve ever read such a great description of how to think about organizing information and pitfalls to avoid. Here’s one of my favorite bits from the book:
“I have worked on projects where people didn’t understand why we needed to do card sorting, or even make an effort to create an organization scheme. They expected me to do it the right way — the one true way of organizing the content. Often, their right way was the company structure; sometimes it was a technical aspect of the content. It can be quite hard to convice them that there is no one right way and, in fact, that users may not understand the way they are proposing.”
The best way to organize information depends on who will be using it, in what context, and for what purpose.
Things to do next —
1. Check out Donna’s book. (affiliate link below).
2. You can also watch Donna’s talk from last year’s UXLX conference on “Design Games”. Here’s a link to that talk: