- Customers have difficulty processing too many features at once
- Fewer features initially allows you to capture more value later
- Staging features allows you to adjust new features based on market feedback
Customers have a difficulty processing too many features at once
Apple has taught us that less can be more. Less features, less decisions, less potential for confusion and a poor user experience. Microsoft has taught more is less. More features, more decisions, more potential for confusion and a poor user experience, ultimately making the user feel stupid.
Fewer features initially allows you to capture more value later
It's important to maintain value throughout the life of a product. There are valuable features that may not be needed initially, but will add value later and ultimately leave the customer thinking that the price they paid up front or the subscription they continue to pay is worth it. That's why the timing is important as well. Releasing around renewal dates can be helpful.
Staging features allows you to adjust new features based on market feedback
In my opinion, this is the most important point. It's one thing to build a product that meets a need and solves a problem, but as the product matures, the problem is changing and the customer's needs are changing. It's important that the features continue to meet the needs of the customer. They shouldn't be release just because they were put on the roadmap 18 months previous. They shouldn't be released just because the competition did. They should be released because the market shows the need and the customer wants it.
I like Jeff's analogy that product management is a marathon, not a sprint. I'll add my own sports analogy. Product management is like a good baseball player. Good baseball players hit a good batting average, they are consistently getting on base, they hit a few home runs, but they rarely strike out. They consistently score through base hits. Product management is the same. Consistent, solid and reliable features that keep the customer happy is key.
Jakob Nielsen’s study on the ideal number of test subjects in usability tests found that tests with just five users would reveal about 85% of all problems with your website, whereas 15 users would find pretty much all problems.
Source: Jakob Nielsen’s AlertBox
The biggest issues are usually discovered by the first one or two users, and the following testers confirm these issues and discover the remaining minor issues. Only two test users would likely find half the problems on your website. This means that testing doesn’t have to be extensive or expensive to yield good results. The biggest gains are achieved when going from 0 test users to 1, so don’t be afraid of doing too little: any testing is better than none.
Use cases fit any development methodology well. If your team follows extreme Agile methodologies, you can just write use cases in the form of brief user stories or usage narratives. If your team follows more structured development, you can write more detailed use cases.
A great article by Fred Beecher on Boxes and Arrows about effective use of prototyping in the product development process. Read full article here.
“Appropriate fidelity” refers to a level of prototype fidelity that allows you to achieve the goals you’ve set for doing a prototype in the first place. By varying the fidelity of your prototype along the dimensions of visual design and functionality, you make your prototype more effective at achieving some goals and less effective for others.
Read an article by Umair Haque this morning. Good stuff.
Let's summarize. What is awesomeness? Awesomeness happens when thick — real, meaningful — value is created by people who love what they do, added to insanely great stuff, and multiplied by communities who are delighted and inspired because they are authentically better off. That's a better kind of innovation, built for 21st century economics.Read the complete article here.
1. Understand the problem before solving it (and avoid “design on the spot”)
2. Sketch before making it pretty (and discuss abstractions versus specifics — “selection” vs. “combo-box”)
3. Validate designs before investing in (production) code
4. Well designed key features & workflows over quantity
5. Ease of use over ease of coding
6. Validated designs over expert opinion
7. Don’t make things “consistently” wrong
8. Don’t let users shoot themselves in the foot
9. Context is important (Where am I? How did I get here? Where can I go next? What is my current state?)
10. White space is good "… the more you add, the more you detract from what is there … every element added to a page detracts from the rest."
Excellent user experiences rarely come about accidentally. Investing time, effort, and thought into the user experience design of a product or service has quantifiable benefits when integrated early and thoroughly into the software development process.
These can be summarized as:
- Reduced development and software maintenance costs
- Increased product sales, market share, and revenue
- Improved customer satisfaction and loyalty
- Increased site visits and conversions
- Decreased customer support costs
- Improved employee productivity
- Improved brand perception and media coverage
This report demonstrates the value of UX design by appealing to pragmatism: good user experiences are good business. This paper also shows how UX design is a worthwhile investment for any development team, generating revenue, decreasing customer cost of ownership and creating better software. Each section includes examples of companies that have chosen to invest in user experience and usability, with measurable benefits.
I thought it was interesting since the Walkman was outdated before 13-year old Scott was born, as well as double-sided cassette tapes. There were still features Scott liked about the Walkman that the iPod does not have including two headphone jacks.
This story is a great example of the value of building a persona. The Walkman was built for the 13-year old 30 years ago, however, it would be a better fit for a 40-year old today, maybe more for the nostalgia than for anything else.
Focus groups gather approximately 6-8 representatives of your target market together with a moderator and have them discuss their feelings, attitudes and ideas on topics. They attempt to gather many people's thoughts and attitudes on ideas and/or designs. Usability testing involves using a 1-on-1 (1 person and 1 facilitator) interaction with a system or website. The facilitator runs through key tasks with the user and analyses how well they perform these tasks and how they find the whole experience. It focuses on the interaction between people and a website/system (finding how well people are able to do tasks and finding where and how designs can be improved).
Both focus groups and usability testing help you learn more about your target market, your users, giving you valuable insight into how you can improve the user experience of your website. But, because of their different focus and approach, they can give you very different information about your users. To help you get a greater understanding of when you should use either method you should learn the advantages and disadvantages of using each.
* Help you get in contact with lots of people fairly cheaply
* Can help you get a clearer idea of your target market, what they think and what they want
* Can only gather opinions on concepts and ideas, not how well people would use designs
The group interaction is a double edged sword. It means ideas can be bounced around and developed in the groups, leading to the creation of new ideas. It also means that they aren't always totally reliable - 1 vocal person in a group can influence what everyone else says.
* Is more expensive than focus groups, so you hear from fewer people
* Gives you much more detail on each person and their thoughts /opinions
* Is more reliable (there aren't other people influencing each person)
* Focuses on the interaction with the website /system. So can show you exactly how people use websites /systems (and where and why they go wrong)
So when should you use each research method? Well, it really depends on the amount of research you've already done.
Focus groups should be:
* Performed early on in the project
* Used if you have little or no real knowledge about your target market
* Used if you are looking to develop something new, but aren't sure what the reaction will be
Usability testing should (ideally) be:
* Used when creating a new site/system from scratch or making changes to an existing site/system
* Performed regularly through the development cycle
* Used to find out the performance of your site/system
Both focus groups and usability testing can give you a vast amount of information about your customers - who they are, what they feel and how they behave. However, to ensure you get the best possible insight from your investment, it's crucial to know what you want to find out and use the method best suited to give you the information you need.
Interview with Jesse James Garrett
Apple has really done it this time with the new MacBook Wheel.
My favorite lines:
"Nothing is more simple than a single giant button"
"Everything is just a few hundred clicks away"
"...spent 45 minutes typing an email to his friend"
"virtually unbreakable unless dropped or hit"
"4 oz. lighter because of lack of screen, hard drive or wheel"
The best way to build a great user experience is simply to stop building. More is not necessarily better. More typically means more choice, more confusion, more room for error. If Steve Jobs and Apple has taught us anything it is to simplify. Less is truly more. Here are a few thoughts to help simplify your User Exerience;
Focus on Less
- Do what you do best and stick to it
- Rely on your core competency
- Don't try to be who you are not
- Don't add features just for features sake
- Don't add features just because a few customers suggested you do
- Focus on what matters most
- In economic times as these, identify what is really needed - keep rock stars, take the trash out.
- Cut marketing and advertising costs, leverage the cost-effective power of social media
- Reduce process. Process is only as good as getting things done quickly and efficiently. Bureaucracy and politics suck. So do meetings
Simplify the User Experience
- Cut the clutter, annoying ads and useless flash animation
- White space is good -- Don't make the logo bigger
- Fewer choices, buttons, links, ads is better -- That's why people love the iPhone.
I found this the other day. This cream will cure your logo problems. Just a dab will do. Sad truth to this. Click here for video proof.
Good suggested UX reading. I would agree with most of these, however I haven't read 3 of them yet.
A friend sent me a link to a Boxes and Arrows post by Holger Maassen. BTW (why are all great IA and UX guys from northern Europe?).
Holger provides a solid explanation of the elements of user experience with a great explanation of the organizational resources required to effectively create a great user experience.
Good design is not only interface, or look and feel, or technology, or hardware, or how it works. It is every detail, like the structure, the labelling, the border of a button or a little icon. Finally, it is the sum of every element. I believe that a shared vision of a group of creators will have more potential than individual creativity. And that is the point where creativity meets expectation. The point of view on IA and design and the process to get to a well-designed product will be changed by UXD-P.
The persons who use the application or other object that we invent are the real “architects” of the “architecture” – the real “inventor” of the design. The more we know about our users, the more likely we are to meet their needs.
Experiences that foster happiness should have the following qualities:
- Make people feel confident of themselves.
- Make people feel they can do something better. Empowers people to do something in a better way.
- Improve people's lives helping to solve existing pragmatic problems
- Make people have an enjoyable and fun time during the experience, thus making life worth to be lived.
- Surprises people in a magic way, bringing delight to the eyes and making the mind wonder.
- Create an emotional connection between everyone involved, the experience itself and the one supporting the experience (a brand or a person)
- Make the world a better place to live
- Strenghten relationships between people that live the same experience
Products, especially software, have a tendency to expose these perceptions. Software is an expert in making us feel stupid. So who's calling who stupid? The software or the user. Ultimately we need to call the software (or the web site) stupid. Where am I going with this?
UX has the power to turn the table on software. It's time to join the revolution and show software who's boss. A revolutionary mind set -- Start treating humans like humans and treat machines like machines. How do does that happen? Put the user first. Stop competing on features. Start competing on simplicity and intuitive interaction. Who said you couldn't enjoy a product experience and want to come back for more?
Users shouldn't have to become an expert to use a common product or service. Users shouldn't have to become more like a machine to understand the machine. The machine needs to become more human.
When user experience becomes a priority in building a product, people will stop blaming themselves for failing. They'll stop feeling stupid. UX has the power to actually allow the user to walk away and feel smart. Smart because they accomplished the task in record time. Smart because they did it better than they ever did before. It's possible. It just has to be a priority.
I was recently asked to guest lecture to a group of interaction design students at UVU. The focus of my lecture was Jesse James Garrett's Elements of User Experience. A common analogy used to explain the five planes is an iceberg.
As you are aware the only visible element of the iceberg is what's seen above the surface of the water. As many sailors and the famous Titanic found the hard way, there is much more to an iceberg than what is seen above the surface. Below the surface is found an enormous mass of ice. This is the iceberg's foundation. Quietly waiting to bring down the ship.
Just like the iceberg, a product or project is much more than the finished design. The unseen elements of user experience such as the strategy, scope, structure and skeleton make up the foundation of the final design. If a good product manager doesn't focus on these elements and is only concerned with the tip of the iceberg, or visual layer, their product will quickly sink in the market. This is important because as much as they try, most executives are focused on the tip of the iceberg and can't see what lies beneath the surface. As a result, we often hear, "Just add a button over there, and the problem is solved." or "I don't know why it takes two weeks to add that feature..." Why? Because they don't see what lies beneath the surface.
It's normal for people to focus on the visual design of the product. That's why I love the iceberg analogy. Without taking the time to go through the planes of strategy, scope, structure and a skeleton before creating the surface layer, we will ultimately lose time and money going back to patch the holes left from ignoring the iceberg.
Time and money spent on solid strategy and interaction design will always save time and money in development. More important, it will save a customer.
See, Axure gets that time and resources invested up front in the design of a product ultimately means time and resources saved on the development of the product. Something that the homo-logicus still struggles with.
So why is Axure almost perfect? They still haven't figured out that the key to good wire frames is a good stencil. Potential customers are asking for it, but Axure is not providing it...yet? I'm caught in a dilemma. I want something that can build rich wire frames and can instantly turn those into prototypes. Visio does wire frames well and fast. An with Yahoo's recent release of the design pattern library stencils for wire frames I'll stick to Visio. The minute puts Visio stencil importing into their product, they will put $499 of mine in their pocket too.
Check out the Yahoo Design Stencil.
I've been using a cool web service, Jott, that interfaces with my mobile phone for just over a year now. Being my anniversary today, I have to give a shout out to Jott which has saved my marriage many times over. Why?
I rarely forget to do something as long as I have it in email. Yes, I've even asked my wife to email me ridiculous things so I won't forget. Well, Jott is great because I can quickly call Jott which is tied into my cell phone number and basically leave myself a voice message that is quickly transcribed from voice to text and placed in my gmail box. The accuracy is quite impressive. Enjoy.
A good friend and colleague of mine is an adjunct Interaction Design instructor at UVU. He was out of town yesterday and asked me to guest lecture in his place. I have done this once before and really enjoyed the opportunity.
I lectured on Jesse James Garrett's elements of user experience and the five planes of designing a site / product. As a product manager there is so much cross-over here that it was a pretty natural area of interaction design to teach. The majority of the students in the class are multimedia majors with backgrounds in audio/video or web design. I'm still amazed at how little people know about user experience and interaction design. Most still think it's all about the surface-level design and have no idea the level of detail that goes into truly designing a product. I may blog another day on the "iceberg effect" which describes how most people only see the ice on the surface of the water much like the surface design, but few know the extent of research and design that goes into building a solid product and user experience.
I had an enjoyable time and hope that I have the opportunity to do it again.
It shows techniques for generative design that can be used by solo user experience practitioners.
I found this excellent visual design of the importance of user experience. You can actually order these as posters for $20.
- I like the representation that Goals lead to Tasks which lead to functionality, features and design
- I also liked how he represented the impact of UX on profitability, customer retention and word of mouth marketing
It has been very helpful in presenting data to management to backup various proposals. It's also helped me get to sleep at night. (Not the easiest read).
No, I don't work for Footnote.com, but I have followed them for many reasons; many of the product and design guys I worked with at Ancestry.com went over there, and the site is beautiful and easy to use.
I just read on the Footnote blog that they have brought the Vietnam Veterans Memorial Wall into the homes of anyone with an Internet connection. What a great idea for many reasons. Congrats to the guys at Footnote.com.
Sequoia is a small startup. With this in mind and understanding that we need to avoid over-processing things, I've spent some considerable time putting together the best process to meet the organization's needs --- and sneak in UX. When I met with the CTO to review the process and get his buy-in he still felt like it was too much. His quote, "We run an agile group, here. We don't need all of this to slow us down." -- Hmm.
I have received formal training from Rally in my past and I can tell you with all the confidence in the world, Sequoia is not running Agile. For one, stand up meetings are just that "stand-up" don't take longer than 15 min. and don't make it a group brainstorming time.
Back to process. The long and short of it is that I've found the most effective process is:
Gather market requirements from customers and research > Share MRD with stakeholders and signoff > Meet with designers and flow out wireframes > test the wireframes with customers > Annotate the wireframes (details, details) > Hand off to development.
This seems to allow us to move quickly, but still control the scope and requirements without letting the inmates run the asylum.
Web analytics is a top spending priority for 2008, with 68% of online retailers saying they will spend more on this key tool for measuring customer experience, according to a recent study from Forrester Research Inc.
Forrester found that 80% of online retailers plan to spend more this year on improving the usability, usefulness and enjoyment of the online experience. In addition to web analytics, 55% say they plan to increase spending on customer satisfaction surveys. Other areas that will receive higher budgets are usability labs (cited by 53%), customer behavioral research (51%), design personas (48%), design agency services (44%), focus groups (39%) and expert evaluations (37%).
The top priority for improving online experiences this year was improving online usability (cited by 84%), followed by adding new online functionality (83%), making online interactions more enjoyable (89%), improving cross-channel interactions (78%), using rich internet applications (66%), and deploying mobile web applications (63%).
Firms are looking beyond the browser, Forrester says. More than half of panelists said cross-channel interactions, rich Internet applications, and mobile web applications are more important than they were last year.
Forrester surveyed customer-experience managers from North American firms with annual revenue of $500 million or more for the study, 'Customer Experience Spending Intensifies in 2008.'
Although most consumers look for ease-of-use in their favorite sites, they diverge when it comes to their preference for other elements of a site experience. To uncover these differences, we examined survey responses of both males and females across five generations: Gen Yers, Gen Xers, Younger Boomers, Older Boomers, and Seniors. Some of our findings: women care the most about ease-of-use; women and young consumers enjoy fun sites the most; and men care more about content than women. Given the differences in what consumers want to see, firms should tailor their site experiences to the specific preferences of their target audiences. One idea: More interactive experiences for 30- to 40-year-old women.
Congrats to my former co-workers and friends at Footnote. They are starting to get some good PR.
Personas according to Cooper:
To create a product that must satisfy a diverse audience of users, logic might tell you to make it as broad in its functionality as possible to accomodate the most people. This logic, however, is flawed. The best way to successfully accommodate a variety of users is to design for specific types of individuals with specific needs.
When you broadly and arbitrarily extend a product's functionality to include many constituencies, you increase the cognitive load and navigational overheard for all users. Features that may please some users will likely interfere with the satisfaction of others.
The key to this approach is first to choose the right individuals to design for -- those users whose needs best represent the needs of a larger set of key constituents and then to prioritize these individuals so that the needs of the most important users are met without compromising our ability to meet the needs of secondary users. Personas provide a powerful tool for communicating about different types of users and their needs, then deciding which users are the most important to target in the design of form and behavior.
ROI calculations, presented as a pattern of findings across case studies, affirm the importance of usability testing in the development stage of a product. For example, usability improvements resulting in improved task completion and shortened time to task completion for an internal company project can mean enormous savings in time and increased productivity. In other instances, usability improvements can result in increasing completed transactions, increasing customer satisfaction, and improved brand loyalty.
ROI calculations are an important piece of the business strategy puzzle. With positive ROI, company decision-makers can be emboldened that their initial expenditures will result in future savings.
Many case studies have been documented companies' positive investments in usability. A sampling of success stories follows:
- Diamond Bullet, a Foraker company, redesigned the architecture of a state government portal site that increased users' success at finding information from 72% to 95%, reduced their time in finding information by 62%, and resulted in significantly higher user satisfaction ratings. This led to an estimated savings of at least $1.2 million per year for the citizens of the state and increased revenue for the state estimated to be at least $552,000. For more information, read the whitepaper or contact Foraker Design.
- American Eagle Outfitters, Inc. launched a newly designed website March 5, 2001 after substantial usability improvements, and posted a 53.6% increase in sales during the month of April. (Source: internetweek.com)
- Delta Airlines reduced the number of pages required to get from homepage to ticket purchase (from 6 to 4) and was able to report a "measurable impact on ticket sales". (Source: internetweek.com)
- Move.com uncovered a variety of functional and cosmetic errors with their site. Changes such as adding embedded help to walk the user through the home search process, making certain links more visible, and making verbiage more precise helped to increase contacts to realtors by 150%. (Source:vividence.com)
- Egreeting.com responded to a drop in hits to their catalog page by redesigning their homepage to better direct users to the resources available on their site. The navigation was changed to a categorical scheme that explained the various types of cards available (similar to Yahoo). The result was a tremendous increase in hits to the catalog. (Source: eleganthack.com)
Heuristic evaluation is the most popular of the usability inspection methods. Heuristic evaluation is done as a systematic inspection of a user interface design for usability. The goal of heuristic evaluation is to find the usability problems in the design so that they can be attended to as part of an iterative design process. Heuristic evaluation involves having a small set of evaluators examine the interface and judge its compliance with recognized usability principles (the “heuristics”).
[source: Technology Transfer of Heuristic Evaluation and Usability Inspection, Jakob Nielsen]
While user testing is the clear winner - both in usefulness and adoption, heuristic evaluation is a close second. The two of them are reportedly much more effective than all of the other tests.
Ten Usability Heuristics
Nielsen also shares with us a list of ten usability heuristics, or general principles to guide user interface design. His list goes into more detail on each of the ten heuristics, essentially answering the following questions. You can think of it as a checklist.
- Does the system provide information about its status? ["Please wait while the system is updating"]
- Does the system use terms and language that are familiar to the user?
- Can mistakes easily be undone? ["Undo" and "How do I get back to where I was from here?"]
- Does the system use controls (buttons, links, words) to enable actions consistently ["Yes" vs. "OK" vs. "Apply"]
- Does the system help prevent common user errors?
- Is it easy for users to see what they can do, versus being forced to remember what they can do?
- Are there ways for expert users to be more efficient than novice users?
- Are users forced to filter out irrelevant information (minimalist design)?
- Do error messages help users to resolve the errors?
- Is the documentation searchable, task-centric, and precise with “how to” steps?
These are fantastic questions to answer (and there’s a right answer for each one). And they also represent very easy to understand ideas - which can be very helpful when trying to explain it to someone who thinks that UX folks just make applications “sexy.”
It may sound weird, but I find it interesting to see where different people put their kitchen trash bin. Most put it out of site under the sink; some to the left, others to the right. Some choose to make it visible next next to the refrigerator etc. I guess I think it's interesting to see where and then understand why. Is this how you did it growing up and just carried it on, or is there some logic to it?
Card sorting is very similar. Card sorting is a way to involve users in grouping information for a Web site (product).
Participants in a card sorting session are asked to organize the content from your Web site in a way that makes sense to them. Participants review items from your Web site and then group these items into categories. Participants may even help you label these groups. This is good to really understand how your customers organize features and elements of your product in their minds.
There is a lot of information about this at usability.gov
After you select (or recruit) a group of participants who closely resemble your user population, you should:
- Give each participant (or two participants working together) a set of index cards. Each card should include one topic from your Web site.
- Ask participants to group the cards in a way that makes sense to them. Many participants start by placing the first card on the table and then look at the second card to see whether it belongs in the same group or if it deserves its own category - and so on through the set of cards.
- After participants have grouped the cards, you can ask them to name or label each group.
I think Richard Anderson provides a great list of reasons and further insite in his Article.
He talks about a "user experiece boat" metaphore and lists some of the anchors that hold the boat down:
- lack of an executive user experience role
- lack of leadership
- an unclear business direction
- inconsistent impact of User Experience on the business
- lack of senior management and other key stakeholder understanding of the importance of user experience to success
- lack of understanding of user experience roles
- lack of understanding of user experience process
- user experience process is considered to be overhead
- different processes for different projects
- last-minute changes made by executives to user experience strategies
- an inability to develop innovative ideas
- too many people need to be OK with an idea or a solution
- a splintered user experience group
- excessive workloads
- shortage of user experience personnel/resources
- inadequate support
- resources applied to addressing features rather than wholistic design
- no continued evaluation of products (i.e., there is never a phase 2)
- fear of change; fear of users (who don’t like change)
- no explicit budget for user experience activities
- inappropriate balance between strategic work and implementation work
- nature of the physical work environment
- inadequate measurement or sharing of user experience success
I've become a strong advocate of Alan Cooper and many of his theories and insights. One of Mr. Cooper's texts, "The Inmates are Running the Asylum" provides a great summary of the value of user experience and what it means to the common user/customer "Homo Sapiens" compared to a software engineer "Homo Logicus". I will preface what I am about to write by saying that I intend in no way to say that engineers don't care about quality products, user experience or meeting the customer needs, merely they have a tendency to trade simplicity for control and focus on what is possible to the exclusion of what is probable.
One great analogy Cooper describes is the "Jetway Test". As one boards an airliner, you have a choice of going left into the cockpit or right into the cabin. To the left, is a room of complex controls, knobs and levers. To the right is the cabin where everything is gently rounded, smooth and a subtle shade of beige.
Turning left means you must learn and understand the complicated technical stuff . In exchange you have complete control. Turning to the right means you give up the control in exchange for relaxation knowing that you will arrive at the proper destination without dealing with complex or confusing technical problems more complicated than turning on the reading light. This 'Jetway' helps divide the homo-sapiens and the homo-logicus.
The goal of user experience is to provide that superior technology and get the user to their destination quickly, safely and in an enjoyable manner, without forcing them into the cockpit.