Update, BBC Radio appearance and awards

bbc radio manchester

I’ve been super busy recently which you can probably tell by the infrequency of my posts. As a business, Keep It Usable, has grown phenomenally this year and we’ve been working day and night to make sure we do great work for every single one of our clients. We genuinely care about every business we work with and we deliver high quality work for every single client. It’s something I’m passionate about, especially with the growing amount of people entering the ux industry with no formal training or experience. It puts businesses at great risk and damages the ux profession as a whole.

I’m a mentor for the UXPA and I’m in great favour of a regulatory body / chartership to distinguish between different levels of professionals. It’s difficult for me to read between the lines of someones cv or other agencies claims of ux so I can’t imagine how hard it must be for someone commissioning an agency to know who to believe and trust. In fact, one of our clients had a bad experience with quite a well known ux agency. They were failing in their capacity on a number of levels including the delivery of work, so we were called upon to effectively rescue the client, takeover the work and meet the deadline which was by this point very tight. Of course we hit it, and they were incredibly pleased with the work, so much so that we’re now partners. But what is concerning with this story is that even agencies you should be able to trust, because they are well known, you can’t. It really is a minefield out there.

Awards

It’s because of our commitment to our clients that we’re going from strength to strength and I’m honoured to be shortlisted for two Women In Business Awards: SME and International business. Keep your fingers crossed for me! :)

BBC

I’ve also been invited as a guest on BBC Radio Manchester tomorrow morning. I’ll be choosing several stories form the days papers to chat about. I don’t have much time to watch the news these days so it should be interesting!

BBC Radio Manchester, 29th October, 6.45am and 7.22am

Listen live: http://www.bbc.co.uk/programmes/p002mwyt


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…


Featured in The Guardian

The Guardian UXWhat better way to start the year than a guest appearance in The Guardian!

They seem to have cut the photo in a way that looks like my head’s been chopped off, so erm, just ignore that and read what I say instead :)

Read the article and check out my chopped off head on the guardian.co.uk >>>


Motorola announces the HC1, Headset computing.


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


UX Booth guest post: 5 Useful Lies to Tell User Research Participants

user research liesDo you read UX Booth? If you’re interested in User Experience then bookmark it now! It’s been my favourite site for reading interesting and useful UX articles for a number of years now. As such, when I decided to write a guest post, they were my first choice. I decided to write about 5 little (white) lies that can be told during user research interviews to gain higher validity data.

I’ve conducted hundreds of research interviews and I’ve picked up a few useful techniques along the way to encourage the best out of the people I interview. This includes making them feel more at ease, increasing rappor, gaining trust and encouraging an open dialogue where it is ok to be 100% honest.

Active and passive deception has been used in research for a long time. In the past it was unfortunately used unethically and there are a lot of examples out there of how not to use deception. The Milgram experiment is one of the most known for the psychological and physical damage it caused.

Of course, all the lies I use and recommend are incredibly nice. They’re white lies and many UX researchers use some or even all of them. You don’t have to use any but they are a useful tool to have in your UX toolbox. Enjoy! :)

Read the article: 5 Useful Lies to Tell User Research Participants

 


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.”


UPA changes to UXPA. What do you think?

Have you heard the latest? The Usability Professionals Association (UPA) is rebranding to User Experience Professionals Association (UXPA). How do you feel about that? Do you think it’s a good move or one that’s more motivated by profit than member value?

When I first heard the news my instant thought was that they’re jumping on the bandwagon of the term UX to increase their membership numbers. Cynical me hey! After reading the official Press Release though I’m still not totally clear of the benefits this will bring to me as a member, in fact I’m concerned the content may be more diluted and I’ll have to do more digging to find the stuff I’m interested in. The UPA say ‘many of our members are increasingly involved in User Experience Strategy. Our new organizational model allows us to deliver content on all four of these pillars: Research, Design, Evaluation, and Strategy’ but to be honest they do this anyway so I still believe the change is to appeal to more potential members, which I can understand from their perspective.

As terminology, User Experience is much more attractive to people than Usability. Usability is often seen as more rigid, boring and formal (thanks in part to people’s first impression of useit.com – ‘oh is this what good usability does to a site? bleurgh! no thanks!). So, I think it’s reasonable to assume that the UXPA will gain a lot more members and these will come from a wider variety of backgrounds.

I’d like to see the site cater for both the different specialisms and the different levels of experience between members.

Different specialisms

By this I mean I’d like to see areas within the site and forum where I can geek out about UX with people who see it from many different viewpoints. People come into UX from a wide variety of backgrounds, more varied than usability, so the UPA will need to think about the structure of the site and forums to cater for everyone.

Different member levels

I’d like to see different membership levels for those who are UX professionals and those who may just be joining as they have an interest in the subject.

My own view is that I’m not really too concerned. I’ll be happy so long as the IA of the site is really well thought through with lots of different areas to discuss UX from many different viewpoints and of course we’ll still need an area for Usability! I just hope the new UXPA can actually cope with a higher number of members because in my experience it’s an organisation that, well, isn’t actually very well organised. The first time I applied to join the UPA was many years ago… They lost my first application, they received my second application then lost it and I have no idea what happened on my third attempt as I heard nothing from them and that time I gave up. I recently tried to join again, this time my application was processed (hooray!) but I did have to ask them to resend my welcome pack as I didn’t receive the first one. So yeah, let’s hope they get the IA spot on and can cope with the increased demand.

What are your thoughts? Are you a current member of the UPA? Will you be joining the UXPA? What impact do you think the name change will have (if any)?

Finally, below is a sketch by @jasonmesut that I think highlights the potential impact of the name change rather well. I also recommend reading Louis Rosenfeld’s response which is both amusing and highlights the lack of vision for the name change.

UPA name change impact


Steve Krugg: Why usability problems often go unfixed


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