Friday, December 19, 2014

Usability in the Movies

Usability is one of those characteristics of technology that has always been there. We need not look far for difficult tech, poor design, or confusion or over elaborate clock-work. This article is really just for fun. Let's find those funny tech moments in the movies and watch as we are blissfully reminded of what we must deal with on a day-to-day.

Christmas Story
When it comes to getting your document to stand out more prominently than the competition, Ralph has it right with the red cover (attention to detail). How could Miss Shields NOT give Ralphie and A++++?

Transformers: Age of Extinction
Sometimes it's difficult to fine tune your design. Especially when there are multiple other people with their own variations of your vision. Good communications through words and visuals can help. When dealing with sound though, it might be a bit more difficult. The right combination of communication channels can 'transform' your design! :)

Sister Act
Sorry that this isn't a movie clip. I'll keep looking until I can find it. Basically the usability point being made here is that even a service such as 'church' has room to improve in order to better meet the needs and expectations of their audience.

Batman Begins
Great example of designing in a box Batman! How do you know the common criminal is going to be afraid of your personal childhood fear?

I actually had this experience one time. These guys are trying to figure out how to turn on an Apple Computer. So embarrassing.

Men In Black
Poor chair usability, poor test packet experience, poor Will Smith!

If a user can't figure out what the purpose is from a quick glance... Well... duh.

Galaxy Quest
Even with the bests quantitative information, a design can miss the mark. It's important to always have the conversation with your users... Otherwise you may end up with a response similar to what is happening in this clip. Check out's article titled Risks of Quantitative Studies

The Incredibles
You know it's a dark pattern in Iterative Design when the human/computer interaction perpetually gets worse.

Catch Me If You Can
This is a great example of using the "Halo" affect to con people. Bad ethic, but great example.

The Little Mermaid
Although this isn't a movie clip , it does elude to a usability topic. Sometimes we think we have a good grasp of the main problem of a design. In order to really know where the pulse of the issue is, it's important to do rigorous up-front usability testing.

Hope you enjoyed. ~e

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Thursday, December 11, 2014

Handy Google Sheets Templates for UX Designers

One tool set we use at the company I work for is Google Sheets. Sometimes I find myself doing similar tasks repeatedly. Just like anything, when you have to do something repeatedly, you find yourself creating "molds" or "templates" to hopefully speed up the process. This is especially true when it's stuff that is in-and-of-itself monotonous. The purpose of this blog entry is to have a place where I can share out my Google Sheets templates to other UXers. Open the sheet and follow the simple instructions on the first tab of the sheet. Let's work together to make this world a better place! Happy Holidays!!!


Experience Blueprint Sheet

Open the Experience Blueprint Sheet Template
The purpose for this template is to help map out all the various touch-points in a service offering that a team or a company has.  It's an adaptation of the Service Blueprint described in the book "Service Design - From Insight to Implementation by Andy Polaine, Lavrans Lovlie, and Ben Reason forward by John Thackara. A Rosenfeld Media production.


Reference Sheet

Open the Reference Sheet Template
The purpose for this template is to help map out all the various touch-points in a service offering that a team or a company has.  This template is intended to provide you with place to track reference material for your research efforts. It's been robust enough for my needs. You may want to adapt it to your projects needs though. Enjoy!


Search Terms Sheet

Open the Search Terms Sheet Template
The purpose for this template is to help map out all the various touch-points in a service offering that a team or a company has.  Sometimes conducting 'online search research' can become tedious, or at the very least confusing. It may be helpful for you to track those terms that you've already used to search on. See the templates example for usage. Hope this one is just what you were looking for.


UX Assessment Planning Sheet

Open the UX Assessment Planning Sheet Template
The purpose for this template is to help map out all the various touch-points in a service offering that a team or a company has. 

If you are like me, you do a lot of UX Assessments for various teams. I also tend to find myself working collaboratively with members of my team.

If you have a Heuristic Evaluation you need to conduct, consider using this sheet to stay organized and to help identify all the screens that you need to remember to keep in scope. You may also consider looking into the article titled Creating a UX Assessment. When you are all done with your work and you need to present, well consider also reading Presenting a UX Assessment.


Questions-Answers Tracking Sheet

Open the Questions-Answers Tracking Sheet Template
The purpose of this sheet template is to track questions, answers, dates and sources for the project you are working on. Modify to your liking! :)


User Info Tracking Sheet

Open the User Info Tracking Sheet Template
Use this template to track User Types and User Type Attributes such as user goals, frustrations, job activities, competency levels and the like.


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Tuesday, December 9, 2014

The right way to present examples in a sentence

The purpose of this article is to draw your attention to the usability, or rather understand-ability of in-sentence examples.

Yeah, you heard me right. In this article my goal is to challenge you in how you write your sentences so that even at this micro level, your user's experience is streamlined. Specifically, what I'm talking about is when you have to provide an example.

The in-sentence example

Today I'm evaluating an interface that has a bunch of stuff that could be better based on some of the UX Industries best practices. I get to a point where I need to to present a few examples within the sentence to better describe what I'm referring to. Here's the sentence I was working on...

"Due to competing levels of visual intensity (i.e. picture of headphones, bright blue button, color gradient in header and footer) on various screens through this course, the user may find it difficult to determine the primary calls to action (i.e. the "Audio Check" button and the "Next" button).

But after looking it over, I realized that I don't even know what "i.e." means! 


Right out of the gate, the fact that it is an acronym opens the user to the possibility of misinterpretation. Does "i.e." mean "Independent Engineer" or "Internet Explorer"? After a little further investigation, it turns out that it's an acronym for two Latin words ("id est") that mean 'that is'. 

 Due to the complex symbolism happening here, there are many MANY different ways people have presented this way of typing up in-sentence examples...
  • EI
  • E.I
  • E.I.
  • E. I.
  • E/I
  • E I
  • -ei
  • Ei.
  • ei
  • i. e.
  • i.e
  • i.e.
  • I.e.,
  • I e
  • -ie
  • .ie
  • .i'e
  • .i.e.
  • ie-
  • Ie.
In terms of usability, this way of communicating an in-sentence example is simply confusing. It's heavily reliant on the users existing understanding.


Just like "i.e.", this alternative way of presenting in-sentence examples is simply requiring too much from the user. Why would the user have to decode my acronym before they can figure out that, "Oh, these are examples!".

My speculation on the usage of these acronym methods is simply because it makes writer seem more intelligent or sophisticated. But does is that the outcome? Maybe for those people who are using this means are impressed by other peoples choices to use such a method. But what about those folks who just don't get it. They are not impressed. They are confused.


When you have a sentence that requires that you provide a couple examples to help communicate what it is that you are trying to say, in encourage you to really think about how you are going to write that out. Here's how my sentence from early changed...
"Due to competing levels of visual intensity (Examples: picture of headphones, bright blue button, color gradient in header and footer) on various screens through this course, the user may find it difficult to determine the primary calls to action (Examples: the "Audio Check" button and the "Next" button).
I hope this helps you be a better communicator and a better advocate for the user.


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Thursday, December 4, 2014

Timing should be intentional

This article is intended to make you think about how time can be a design element, or rather how "Timing" should be considered in your service.

One of the things that a designer must do when designing for services (i.e. coffee stands, wedding planning, etc...) is be able to telescope in to the micro level of specific touch-points in that service (i.e. taking your customer's order), but then also be able to telescope out so that they are looking at the big picture (i.e. the user's journey from the time they learn about the service to the time they exit the service). For this article, let's just take a moment to discuss one particular element of this high-level design of a service.

Time is not a new design element. In fact, I feel like I hear about efficiency all the time. When I hear people refer to efficiency, it usually means how long a user takes to get through a task in an interface. Of course at a low level, we "make straight the way" by eliminating clutter, adjusting colors, and many other surface level and structure level activities. At a high level, we can also be deliberate with the concept of efficiency. We can  remove unnecessary steps or automate timely tasks.

If time-in-design was a Fiddler Crab then "Efficiency" would be that giant over-sized, always remembered arm leaving "Timing" as that tiny little, often forgotten arm.

Timing at the coffee shop

I'd like to tell you about how "Timeliness" became a main point of interest in a recent coffee shop visit.

As I walked through the doors of the coffee shop, I was immediately met with a familiar coffee smell, the sound of informal business meetings, and the shuffling of workers cleaning and preparing to deliver their service to the next patron. I walked towards the counter where I normally place my order. I was greeted with a warm "Hello" from the coffee "barista", which I replied "Hello". Two steps further I was again greeted; this time by the cashier who was shuffling around behind the pastry showcase. Again, I said "Hello". 

At this point I feel pretty good. I've been welcomed. I'm comfortable. Just the perfect euphoria needed to enjoy a nice cup of Jo.

I put my order in for a doughnut and my typical * complicated Seattle coffee order of delight * and as expected, without missing a beat, they repeat it back to me.

I'm please at this point to know that they have my order that can sometimes be a hang point for me. It's my fault that my coffee order is complex, but because they are used to this sort of thing, they were able to handle it without making me remember that it's my fault.

I then went ahead and paid my bill. Instead of forcing the receipt into my hand like they do at the deli where I work, they asked me if I want the receipt. Being the Environmentally conscious person that I am (Ok, so I am not environmentally conscious. I would have chucked it in the garbage if they gave it to me). I say 'No'. 

At this point, I've been greeted which made me feel warm, My faults have been accepted which makes me feel normal AND I've been pulled into the "cool kids group" now that I care for the planet! I'm on cloud nine!!!

I head on over to the waiting area. I notice that the barista is someone I don't recognize. I'm sure she'll do fine though at this point. What could go wrong. This coffee shop is a finely tuned engine of Coffee Fantasy. 

While I'm waiting I hear "What's your first name?"...

Screech!!!!! What the...?!

The lady asked me my first name. That's a bit private. I ask her "What do you need that for?" She tells me that they like to remember peoples names who come in regularly. 

I'm thinking that her response was a bit lame. The thing about truth is that it sounds like truth. This was NOT the truth. Maybe she needed it to put on my cup? Maybe she wanted to know so that she could stalk me when she gets off work?! All I know is that I'm thrown off.

At this point, all those other touch-points in the service have been over shadowed by this strangely timed invasive question.

Timing should be intentional

On my way in from work I began to think about something that I had recently read from the book "Service Design - From Insight to Implementation"...

"Relationship time is what is represented in the customer journey. It means that you want to design the experience to be relevant to people who are at different stages in their relationship with the service."

This was exactly what was happening. Thinking back, I believe that asking for someone's name isn't in-and-of-itself a bad thing. With the right timing or the right context it would have been just fine. If, for example she would have waited until she actually recognized me or maybe until it seemed like I recognized her, then she could have said something like "I think I've seen you in here before, what's your name?" I think that would have been fine. Maybe if they would have said at the beginning of taking my coffee order "We want to make sure you get your order... What's a name we can put on the cup?" That would have been fine too. Unfortunately this otherwise nice gesture was simply placed with the wrong timing resulting in a blemished user experience.


When considering the high level of the service, remember that efficiency is still important, but please PLEASE don't forget about timing. With the right timing the touch-points in a service can be superb, but when a nice action is delivered at an inappropriate time, or without the correct context, it becomes an irritation that can nullify all the good that led up to that point. 


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