5 Favorite Tips From Famous UX Experts

31--2I attended and spoke at the Virtual conference from Rosenfeld Media today “31 Awesomely Practical UX Tips”.  Each speaker presented their favorite user experience tips. I took one tip from each of the speakers as my favorite. Here they are:

Steve Krug — Test your competition/comparables. Before you choose a design path or design idea, find someone else who is doing it and run a user test of their site/app/product. That way you can see what works and what doesn’t before you even start your design.

Whitney Quesenbery — Many of the best designs we all use started out as products designed for accessibility, for example, rolling mail carts for postal delivery people (started off being used by women since it wasn’t believed they could carry a heavy load) and Good Grips tools from OXO (started as special tools for people with arthritis, but now they are just known as well-designed tools).

Jeffrey Eisenberg — Instead of designing to fit your selling process and selling cycle, design instead to fit the customer’s BUYING process and buying cycle. These are not the same thing.

Aaron Walter — Stop designing in Photoshop. Use something like Bootstrap where you can see what things really look like and you can concentrate on the “system” not the “page”.

Luke Wroblewski — 75% of people using smartphone apps are using one thumb — Have you designed for one thumb use?

It was a GREAT day of learning. It was hard to just pick one from each!

 

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

 

 

 

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.

 

4 Ways Personas & Scenarios Result In Great Design

 

Drawing of stick people connected by dotted lines

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.

I took excerpts from my latest online video course, “How to Develop & Document Personas & Scenarios”. to make a short video on the 4 Ways Personas & Scenarios Result In Great Design:

 

Here’s a summary of the video.

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.

  

 

Gamestorming — An Interview With Author Dave Gray

Picture of Dave Gray
Dave Gray

I actually can’t remember how I came upon the book Gamestorming. I probably read a review of it on one of the blogs I regularly read. I ordered the book and started reading it right before I was going to leave for a trip to meet with a client team. The book is full of design “games” and other group activities that you can do with teams. I read through it to see if there were some new ideas I could use for my meeting. I picked out two “games” to use with my client. They were a great success, making the meeting more productive, efficient, and fun for me and the team.

I contacted one of the authors, Dave Gray, to see if he would be willing to do a podcast interview with me.

You can listen to the podcast by clicking on this link

In the interview we talk about:

  • Different ways to do brainstorming that are more interesting and more effective
  • An interesting activity called “dot voting” that I tried out at my meeting
  • The history of the corportate meeting, and how meetings have evolved over time
  • Why having someone facilitate a meeting is a bad idea and what to do instead
  • Why design games and meeting games can make your meetings and sessions more powerful and productive
  • A low-tech social network “game” you can use with up to 100 people in the room that makes invisible connections tangible and visible
  • A quick simple “game” you can use to help keep your meetings on task and on time.

Have you read the book? If so, comment on what you think.

Here’s a link to Amazon if you are interested in the book:

 

Here’s how to contact Dave Gray and get more info:

website for the book: Gogamestorm.com

twitter for Dave: @davegray

 

Do people have relationships with forms?: Podcast with author Caroline Jarrett

Photo of Caroline Jarrett
Caroline Jarrett

I met Caroline Jarrett in 2010 in Lisbon Portugal, where we were both speaking at a conference.  Caroline is a usability consultant in the UK, and she specializes in designing forms. She has a great book, Forms That Work. In this podcast Caroline and I have a fun conversation about designing usable forms.

You can listen to the podcast by clicking on this link
In this podcast we talk about:

  • How to design usable forms
  • Why you should think about “relationship” and “conversation” when you are designing forms
  • The ubiquitous argument: do you put colons or not at the end of field labels?
  • and lots of other fun and interesting topics. It’s all about forms.

What do you think are some of the most interesting points Caroline makes in the interview?

Caroline’s twitter address is: @cjforms
And for more information about Caroline’s book:

Design Challenge Part 2

Picture of the current home page of ilovebluesea.com
Current home page of ilovebluesea.com

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:
Thank you to everyone for your ideas, and I’ll let you know when Martin has the new website up for us to look at.

100 Things You Should Know About People: #73 — 1st Screening About Trusting A Website Is Based On The "Look And Feel"

The word TrustThere isn’t a lot of actual research on trust and website design. There are a lot of opinions, but not necessarily much real data. Research by Elizabeth Sillence and team (2004) provides some solid data, at least in regard to health websites. Sillence researched how people decide whether and which health websites to trust. Participants in the study were all patients with hypertension. (In previous research Sillence used the topic of menopause, and found similar results). In this study participants used websites to look for information about hypertension.

Design is the first filter — When participants in the study rejected a health website as not being trustworthy, 83% of their comments were related to design factors, such as an unfavorable first impression of the look and feel, poor navigation, color, text size and the name of the website.

Content is the second filter — Once the first filter was applied, if the website hadn’t been rejected, then participants mentioned content rather than design factors. 74% of the participants’ comments were about content being important in deciding whether they found a site trustworthy (after the initial design impression). For example, if the sites were owned by well known and respected organizations, advice written by medical experts, and sites that were specific to them and that they felt were written for people like themselves.

A One-Two Punch — People use both design factors and content in deciding whether to trust a website, but the design impression comes first. If the design is not professional and deemed trustworthy they’ll never see the content.

What do you think? Do you find that you do that initial first impression based on design?

And for those of you who like to read the research:

Sillence, Elizabeth, Briggs, P. Fishwick, L., & Harris, P. (2004). Trust and mistrust of online health sites. CHI’04 Proceedings of the SIGCHI Conference On Human Factors In Computer Systems. New York: ACM.


 

100 Things You Should Know About People: #52: People Create Mental Models

Person thinking about a book


Imagine that you’ve never seen an iPad, but I’ve just handed one to you and told you that you can read books on it. Before you turn on the iPad, before you use it, you have a model in your head of what reading a book on the iPad will be like. You have assumptions about what the book will look like on the screen, what things you will be able to do, and how you will do them—things like turning a page, or using a bookmark. You have a “mental model” of reading a book on the iPad, even if you’ve never done it before. If you’ve used an iPad before, your mental model of reading a book on an iPad will be different than that of someone who has never used one, or doesn’t even know what an iPad is. If you’ve been using a Kindle for the past year, then your mental model will be different from someone who has never read a book electronically. And once you get the iPad and read a couple of books on it, whichever mental model you had in your head before will start to change and adjust to reflect your experience.

What is a mental model? — The term mental model has been around for at least the last 25 years. One of my favorite definitions is from Susan Carey’s 1986 journal article, “Cognitive science and science education”, which says:

“A mental model represents a person’s thought process for how something works (i.e., a person’s understanding of the surrounding world). Mental models are based on incomplete facts, past experiences, and even intuitive perceptions. They help shape actions and behavior, influence what people pay attention to in complicated situations, and define how people approach and solve problems.”

Users create mental models very quickly — often before they even use a website or a product. Users’ mental models come from their prior experience with similar sites or products, assumptions they have, things they’ve heard others say, and also from their direct experience with the product or device. Mental models are subject to change.

Mental models vs. conceptual models — In order to understand why mental models are so important to design, you have to also understand what a conceptual model is and how it is different from a mental model. A mental model is the representation that a person has in their minds about the object they are interacting with. A conceptual model is the actual model that is given to the person through the design and interface of the actual product. Going back to the iPad ebook example, you have a mental model about what reading a book will be like in the iPad, how it will work, what you can do with it. But when you sit down with the iPad, the “system” (the iPad) will display what the conceptual model of the book app actually is. There will be screens, and buttons, and things that happen. The actual interface is the conceptual model. Someone designed an interface and that interface is communicating to you the conceptual model of the product.

Why care about this mental model/conceptual model idea? —Here’s why you should care: If there is a mismatch, between the person’s mental model and the product’s conceptual model, then the product or website will be hard to learn, hard to use, or not accepted. How do mismatches occur? Here are some examples:

  • The designers thought they knew who would be using the interface and how much experience they had with interfaces like this, and they designed according to those assumptions without testing them, and it turns out their assumptions were wrong.
  • The audience or the product or website is varied. The designers designed for one “persona” or type of audience, and the mental model and conceptual model match for that group, but not for others.
  • There are no real designers. The conceptual model wasn’t really designed at all, It’s just a reflection of the underlying hardware or software or database. So the only people whose mental model it fits are the programmers. If the audience is not the programmers then you are in trouble.

What if the mental models the users have won’t work? — What if it’s a brand new concept and you don’t want to match the current mental model? — What about the idea that people who have only read real, physical books will not have an accurate mental model of reading books on the iPad? In this case you know that people will not have an accurate mental model that fits. You will need to change their mental model. The best way to change a mental model is through training. You can use a short training video to change the mental model before the iPad even arrives at their door. In fact, one of the best purposes of training on a new product is to adjust the audiences’ mental model to fit the conceptual model of the product.

A different use of the term – By the way, the way I’m using the term mental model is, I believe, the most common definition, but it does not fit with at least one of the new definitions I’ve been reading and hearing about lately. Indi Young has written a book called Mental Models, and she’s using the term in a different way. She diagrams the behavior of a particular audience doing a series of tasks, including their goals and motivations. Then underneath that she describes what the “system” or product will do, or be like, in order to match the task. This entire structure she calls a “mental model.” Her methodology and its output look useful, but it doesn’t match the definition of mental models that I’m using here.

The Best Designers — a) understand the mental models of the intended audience (with task analysis, observations, interviews, etc), and  b) design a conceptual model to fit the audience’s mental model, or a design a new one and know how to get us to switch from old to new.

Take Aways:

  • People always have a mental model, and it often doesn’t match what the conceptual model that someone designed (or forgot to design!).
  • The secret to designing an intuitive and delightful product experience is making sure that the conceptual model of the product matches, as much as possible, the mental models of your audience.
  • If you have a brand new product that you know will not match anyone’s mental model then you will have to provide training to prepare the person to create a new mental model.
  • If you are struggling to learn how to use a new website, software or device, it might be because you are holding on to an old mental model that doesn’t work anymore. Try letting it go and looking at the product without so many assumptions about how it works.

What do you think? What products have you had a hard time with because your mental model didn’t match the conceptual model? If you are a designer, what do you do to try and get a better match?