The Implications You Must Take Into Account When Sketching User Experiences

danielle arad ux hotelI’m pleased to welcome Danielle Arad as my guest poster for this article about the implications you must take into account when sketching user experiences. Danielle runs her own blog over at UX Motel and is also on Twitter.

 

 

Although business process mapping, flow charting, and the related processes might already sound familiar to you, for the success of your user experience design you also have to consider which are the factors that make the entire process work and how one can take advantage of them.

Undoubtedly, many UX professionals encounter the process of user experience sketching at least once in their career, mainly when the business plan and design meet. Such events are more usual with startups and enterprises, rather than small to medium businesses. Therefore, with user experience sketching representing a topic of actuality, it’s highly important for a designer to understand the key components which take part in design.

1. Think about the elements that will be comprised in the design based on what you think your users will need.
If you already have a business model in mind, you are most likely aware of your demographic, which is probably defined by your niche’s design and price range. This demographic is the first factor which you have to keep in mind throughout the sketching process. Think of how much your users’ would need the product and by a more thorough analysis of the said demographic, how are they going to act when they will interact with your finished product?

2. Don’t get discouraged if your prototype design isn’t working well
In case the design of your product is not gelling with your users, then, yes, your team might suffer from a small hit. However, it’s up to you which action you choose to take in such place. It would be strongly advisable to not sacrifice price in detriment of quality. Remember, it’s the about the alignment process which goes on beyond this how much money you will make in the end.

3. Keep in mind that time and budget are key factors in the process

Other factors which are relevant to sketching and design are time and budget. When sketching your user experience design, you must create an engaging flow for the user, yet design according to the time and budget specified for the task. For an excellent UX to be developed, you may have to pay a higher price in time and money. Remember, customers will be aware of how much you invested in preparing your design – it will definitely show in the final results.

When you’re in the process of sketching out a user experience, it’s essential to prioritize a flow for the demographic. You must ensure that the design you’ll come up with will fall within the users’ array of needs and that it will suit the given budget to. Additionally, when emphasizing the role of demographics, you need to ensure that a suitable connection is created with each maintenance components’ sub-flows, so that users will be able to easily use them whenever they are required to. Such flow will also see you where the numbers are negative or overly amplified, case in which they need to be adjusted.

Sketching user experiences is all about creating a flow for the process, tracking up the deductions, basing your model on intuitive prediction design, and ensuring that the UX works as it should. In addition, working according to the budget is also an important component for both parties’ profitability.

 

Further reading:

Sketching user experiences bill buxton

Sketching User Experiences: Getting the Design Right and the Right Design


Fired Groupon CEO advises ‘start with the customer’


groupon

Did you read the letter from Groupon’s CEO about his leaving (or rather being fired from) the company? There was one paragraph that particularly stood out to me:

If there’s one piece of wisdom that this simple pilgrim would like to impart upon you: have the courage to start with the customer. My biggest regrets are the moments that I let a lack of data override my intuition on what’s best for our customers. This leadership change gives you some breathing room to break bad habits and deliver sustainable customer happiness – don’t waste the opportunity!

Start with the customer, base your decisions on evidence not intuition. Don’t just redesign your website, redesign it starting with the customer, do research into their lifestyle, their wants and needs from your product or service and how you can best meet those needs. Design the site and test then retest and retest again to get it spot on. Get it right the first time and in the long run you’ll save yourself the huge cost of rework and guesswork that results in lost customers and sales. Do it right, spend a bit more at the outset and reap the rewards.

Ask me about customer research and the design process >>>

 


Interview with Whirlpool’s UX Manager

kitchenaid uxIn my spare time I love baking (I love eating cakes), I run a local baking club and I absolutely love KitchenAid products. I love the industrial user-centred design and the attention to ease of use. So, for the Keep It Usable blog this month, I decided to interview my friend Brandon Satanek who is the UX manager at Whirlpool.

Not only is Brandon a great guy, but his knowledge and passion for UX is something you should learn from. If you’re unsure how UX can benefit your business, Brandon will reassure you with some fantastic examples. I especially like his example of how Whirlpool created innovative product concepts simply by sending their researchers into people’s homes to observe them doing their laundry and interviewing them.

After seeing people adopt rather uncomfortable postures, an idea was developed to create a platform to raise the products to a more convenient height…it shows how contextual user research can lead to user-centered innovations that directly impact the bottom line.

There are several names for this type of research; ethnographic, contextual inquiry, in-context. It’s my personal favourite style of research as you gain true insights into the user and their behaviour. Have you ever stepped into a strangers home and been able to make instant judgements on their personality, hobbies, interests, activity levels, family life that turned out to be accurate? Research has suggested that these judgements we make, which are based on our experience of life and people so far, are often accurate. If you’re interested to know more, I recommend reading Sam Gosling’s book Snoop: What your stuff says about you.

Many UXers shy away from contextual research as it is true research that requires a certain level of skill, and a lot of people who conduct usability testing aren’t specialist researchers.

Research conducted in the context of use is imho the best you can get. You will find out rich information and behavioural insights giving you those ‘why didn’t we think of that!’ moments that just can’t be gained through lab testing.

Read my interview with Brandon, it may just change your business…


Information Architecture (IA)

Have you ever been to a website specifically to look for something and no matter how hard you look you just can’t find it? Most people will give up within a few seconds, hit the back button and go to a competitor. This is why your Information architecture is incredibly important – get it right and you will keep more people within your site, lowering your bounce rate and improving your conversion.

What is information architecture?

In simple terms, it’s about structuring your content to feel intuitive and logical to the end user.

An example of how not to do it

Tesco Direct have placed Halloween items within the heading ‘Christmas’ on the navigation bar. Users will struggle to find this as it makes no logical sense – halloween and christmas are completely separate occasions.

tesco ux usability

If a visitor to your website has the intention of browsing halloween things, they will already have expectations of where halloween things will be. Your aim is to try to understand their expectations of where they’ll find halloween related products. Only when you understand this, can you position it in the optimal place.

Card Sorting to create intuitive IA

One of the methods I employ to help create intuitive Information Architecture is Card Sorting. It’s an activity carried out with users (i.e. your target audience) using labelled cards to group and organise pages of content. Users categorise the pages in the way that makes sense to them and they can use existing grouping or create their own. What this enables us to do is to see the structure of your site or software from the user’s point of view – we can see and understand their mental model.

Card sorting exercise in action:

card sorting with userIf you’d like to understand more about how reviewing your IA can help your business or if you’re curious about card sorting please don’t hesitate to get in touch.

user experience (ux) design and usability testing agency


New Next Gen Macbook Pro

apple-macbook-pro-wddc-2012

“It’s without doubt the best computer we’ve ever built!”

If you’re an Apple fan then you’re probably feeling pretty excited right now. WWDC was held yesterday (you can watch it here) and Apple have finally launched the next generation of Macbook Pros. Thankfully they’ve met and exceeded most people’s expectations, with the new Macbook Pro showing off an incredibly slim casing, superb retina display, high performance and attention to little details such as the lowering the noise of the fan (yes seriously!). I don’t know of any company that would value the user experience to such detail.

New Macbook Pro Overview:

new macbook pro spec
It’s very impressive and I’m already reaching for my purse. The question is whether to wait until July which is when Mountain Lion is released. There’s a free upgrade for anyone purchasing the Pro if you buy now, or like my other half plans to do, you could wait until next month which also gives Apple some time to solve any issues there may be with the new hardware design.

I’m not as impressed with iOS 6. It may surprise you to know that I’ve never owned an Apple mobile, despite my love of all things Apple (well, except iTunes which needs a complete redesign). For most people, their mobile is an extension of themselves, of their own personality. I find the iPhone form factor to be quite masculine. It feels expensive and high quality but I just can’t connect with it. There is one thing that keeps pulling me to Android and that is Widgets. As far as user experience is concerned they enable a shorter, more efficient and effective interaction. I can simply turn on my backlight and I instantly know the weather, the latest news, read a note to myself (usefulness), and I can see a photo of my other half with the cats (emotional attachment, love). It all adds up to a nice experience. iOS may have better usability and apps than Android, but I personally believe they need to add more fun, emotion, usefulness and wow factors into their mobile desktop to have increased emotional appeal.

Getting back to the new Macbook Pro, here are a few quotes from WWDC relating to User Experience that I wholeheartedly agree with.

“To create something that’s genuinely new, you have to start again and I think with great intent you disconnect from the past.”

“If you never change anything then what you can engineer is kind of incremental. But when you’re willing to change things then you kind of open up a whole new world of design.”


BBC Home page research and redesign

I conducted a quick piece of research on the BBC Home page as part of an event called BBC Connected. Did you know it’s the third most visited home page? Yet only a very small percent of visitors actually use it? As our research discovered, most people bypass the page completely, preferring to use the navigation bar or a direct url (usually saved as a bookmark). Here, we share our findings and a few of our design proposals to improve the user experience of the BBC Home page, in particular under-served audience(s).

How do you use the BBC website? Do you ever look at or click on items on the home page? Have you used it more or less since the last redesign? I’d love to hear about your experience. Share your story using the comment box below.

Research by Keepitusable.com


Incredibly intuitive file sharing UI

Spatially aware devices from Ishac Bertran on Vimeo.


Nice Predictive Text Entry Method by Blackberry

I started my UX career as a Smartphone Researcher. I remember when we took the plunge to remove the hardware keypad and go full touch. Users complained that they wanted and needed a hard keypad to enter text. They saw T9 as vital to quick text entry – it could be done one handed and even blindly by many users. I admit myself to being able to text without even looking at my phone, it was great for multi-tasking, like shopping whilst texting ;)

But users can adapt to change very quickly despite their initial reservations and look at everyone now using full touch devices to enter text. How far we’ve come! But, there is still the problem of longer text entry times, needing to use two hands and being more prone to errors. So I’m rather impressed by Blackberry’s approach to improving the touchscreen text entry user experience to be faster and more intuitive. Check it out and see what you think…


Google concept augmented reality glasses “Project Glass’

Augmented reality is already making waves in the mobile app arena but it seems Google are the ones determined to take the eyewear market by storm. It’s something I first looked at years ago whilst at university. Back then it was very much thought of as a useful tool rather than a fun tool (isn’t that always the way with universities?). Information would be overlaid onto real life objects to make them more useful and interactive. For example, when walking down the street, the road you need to take to get to your destination may appear to be a shade of green.

Another project involved being able to see what an item of clothing would look like on you by simply holding up a card to a mirror. An image of the item was then superimposed onto the body via the mirror. It looked pretty rubbish at the time to be honest but that was many years ago now and I know this technology is still being tested. I’m betting this would appeal to males in particular – anything to avoid the changing room hey guys!

The concept glasses video by Google is quite different to this. The information appears to be much more distracting, requiring attention and user focus. I can’t imagine being able to walk down the street and successfully read a text message without tripping over something. My point is that although this is very much a concept, there is a great deal of user interaction, human factors and ergonomics issues that will need to play a major role within the design to ensure the glasses are not just fun and useful but also safe. Google have announced public tests of the glasses are commencing.

The big question is what are Apple going to do? 

I hope we don’t have to wait too long as this is technology I need want right now!


Using kittens to explain the power of Scarcity

(True story)

There are 4 kittens in a pet shop…

3 tabby kittens

and 1 black and white kitten

black and white kitten


Fact: Tabby kittens are adopted much more quickly than black and white kittens.

So, which kitten do you think will sell first?

Answer: The black and white one

Why?

The principle of Scarcity

What is the principle of Scarcity?

When something is scarce or rare, people see it as more highly valued and more desirable. This is why shops often have sales and why antiques have such a high value. Scarcity is closely related to the fear of loss – people fear losing what they have and also what they don’t yet have. They will act in sometimes non-sensical ways to avoid this loss (shopaholics and hoarders are good examples).

How do I know the black and white kitten really will be sold first?

Because these kittens have been advertised on the residents board where I live and everyone wants the black and white one.

How to sell more by using scarcity in your website design

  • Limited numbers of a product left? Make this information clear in the interface.
  • Show an end date or time for an offer.
  • Offer something free with the product but limit it’s availability.
Scarcity is a very well know persuader and influencer of behaviour. Once you’re aware of it, you’ll start to see how it is used everywhere so it’s well worth thinking of how you can utilise its power in your designs. 

Amazon use 2 scarcity elements on their product page
amazon scarcity example

Asos use ‘fear of loss’ to persuade within their basket page
asos

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