The iPad is a multi-user device according to industry reports, writes Frank Spillers. But you wouldn’t know it from picking up even the latest generation iPad, especially if you are a physician or business user handling sensitive data. The design approach of designing for lone users misses out on a fundamental nature of mobile devices: they are social. To design for the multi-user is to recognize this need for delivering a rich social user experience.
Posts in category 'Usability'
Recently published Nielsen/Norman Group research shows that teens are (over)confident in their web abilities, but they perform worse than adults. Lower reading levels, impatience, and undeveloped research skills reduce teens’ task success and require simple, relatable sites.
Must-have modern gadgets are designed by young people with young people in mind – that is the view of Ian Hosking, who works at Cambridge University’s Design Centre.
This can mean that elderly people, who have much to gain from modern technology, feel excluded.
Mr Hosking’s mission is to improve the accessibility of modern, mass-produced devices like smartphones and tablets. To this end, he conducts experiments with volunteers.
The Design Lab conducts tests on individual products, but the general findings that Mr Hosking discusses here apply to digital communication devices across the market.
BBC News also posted a longer article on the same topic.
The Design for Usability project, that researched how best to contribute to the development of usable products, published a book that provides the product development community with a comprehensive and coherent overview of the results of the project, in such a way that they can be applied in practice.
The book outlines the studies conducted in the project, and indicates how the individual research projects are related and which of them can be applied in a coherent mode.
The 150-page booklet provides links to the DfU website, where the reader can find a manual on how to execute the method or tool presented in the booklet, as well as templates that can be used.
‘Design for Usability’ was started by the three Dutch technical universities in 2007. About 15 people collaborate in this project, of which 5 PhD projects can be seen as the main component. This IOP IPCR project has been partially subsidized by the Dutch Ministry of Economic Affairs. The companies Océ, Philips, T-Xchange, Indes and Unilever are still closely involved in the project, by providing information and cases from their daily practice and serving as a sounding board for the project members.
The latest issue of Interfaces, the quarterly magazine of the Interaction Specialist Group of the BCS, the British chartered institute for IT, is devoted to Slow HCI, or how to design to promote well-being for individuals, society and nature.
Here are the key articles:
Invisible stable interfaces
Kai A. Olsen, University of Bergen and Molde University College, and alessio Malizia, Universidad Carlos III de Madrid, explore the importance of maintaining stable interfaces for efficient workflow and ask companies to consider how to minimise disruption to experienced users when bringing out new versions.
Design for happiness
Anna Pohlmeyer, Delft University of Technology, translates positive psychology into positive design and outlines 20 opportunities to design for happiness.
Birds of a feather
Email is recognised as a major productivity disabler. Karen renaud, Glasgow University, and Judith ramsay, University of the West of Scotland, present a flighty perspective on emailers’ behaviours.
Daniel Gooch and Ryan Kelly from Bath University reflect on a future for HCI where interactions are slow and reflective, more intimate, creatively and innovatively combining aspects of the physical and digital world to promote fulfilling experiences.
The ITT Group
Professor Lynne Baillie provides an overview of her team, the Interactive and Trustworthy Technologies research Group at Glasgow Caledonian University, and some of their current projects.
New centre, new challenge
Lorna McKnight, University of oxford, introduces a new research centre exploring assistive learning technologies and reflects on the difficulties and value of researching this area.
Andrea Bellucci: Prototyping Natural Interaction
Massive Open Online HCI
Alan Dix, Talis and University of Birmingham, describes some of the inspirations and challenges he faces as he prepares to run a massive open online HCI course.
Other recent issues of Interfaces:
Interfaces 91 – Summer 2012 – Reviewing HCI (pdf)
HCI research in the UK: funding, reflection and the future
Interfaces 90 – Spring 2012 – Work, Rest and Play (pdf)
HCI crosses physical and digital boundaries
Interfaces 89 – Winter 2011 – What’s Hot in HCI? (pdf)
It’s difficult to get consensus from our multidimensional discipline
Here’s the view of Ray McCune, managing partner at Flow, on some of the peaks we still have to climb if experience design is to become a mainstream business discipline.
It’s quite excellent.
1. Targets and incentives within businesses must be aligned with long-term value
As long as business managers are incentivised only to deliver against short-term goals in narrow areas of business performance, companies will struggle to make significant improvements in their relationships with customers.
2. We need to stop designing experiences based on company structure
We’re already seeing a rush by individual business units within large organisations to launch their own individual mobile offerings, often with little thought for the overall experience.
3. The User Experience community needs to get out more
We are talking to ourselves more than anyone else. [...] We need to seek out opportunities to speak with politicians, business owners, executives and managers on their own ground and use a vocabulary that resonates with them: tying UX to social benefit, improved business performance and new marketing opportunities.
4. Improve the user experience of boxed products
All too often the out-of-the-box experience offered by third-party products simply isn’t flexible enough to create a valuable, differentiated experience for customers.
5. Most digital agencies are charlatans
Ten years ago, few digital agencies had any user experience offering, so it should seem like progress that today the majority of agencies make the vocabulary of UX central to their pitch and their proposition. Or perhaps not.
6. Pitches are a uniquely bad way of finding a good design agency…
…but they remain a very good way of finding a bad design agency. The traditional pitch process is flawed because it requires agencies to begin the process of making decisions about creative ideas and complex interactions in the absence of insight and understanding.
7. NPS is a blunt tool
While Net Promotor Score (NPS) is good at telling a company what is happening, it’s less good at telling a company why. What influences advocacy is subtle, and NPS lacks the subtlety to help inform experimentation and optimisation of customer experience.
8. The cult of data
Even if data is infallible, the high priests interpreting the data are not. In almost every company we know, data analysts find patterns in the numbers and then guess at their meaning. That guesswork is passed up the line, sometimes to board level, but it masquerades as fact because its source is ‘the numbers’.
9. Still not enough investment in solving basic usability issues
While companies have increasingly employed usability testing to improve their sales and service processes there is still a clear tendency to act only on the issues which are easiest to fix.
10. Too much disrespect for customers
Henry Ford still gets quoted by people who want to marginalise the opinion of customers. There’s a lazy acceptance by many in business that user research is futile.
Tips on Prototyping for Usability Testing
By Jim Ross, Principal of Design Research at Electronic Ink, Philadelphia, PA, USA
Because user research studies peoples’ behavior, the most effective research techniques involve observing participants doing things and talking about what they’re doing. Research that focuses on opinions and discussions of behavior in the abstract isn’t as useful, because it’s difficult for people to talk about their behavior out of context or to evaluate a design without using it. Therefore, the best way to evaluate a new design is to create a prototype and give participants something concrete to interact with and react to. In this column, Jim Ross provides some tips that can make your usability studies more successful and help you to avoid problems when testing prototypes.
Are You Still Using Earlier-Generation Prototyping Tools?
By Ritch Macefield, Owner of Ax-Stream, London UK
Given that we can now choose from a variety of fourth-generation prototyping tools, why is it that so many organizations are still creating second- or third-generation prototypes?
The Many Hats of a Usability Professional
By Rebecca Albrand, Design Researcher at Electronic Ink, Philadelphia, PA, USA
Sometimes it seems as though usability professionals need to have superhuman multitasking abilities to conduct usability test sessions. As a usability professional, you have to wear the hats of a facilitator, a consultant, a conversationalist, a note-taker, a technologist, and a psychologist. In this article Rebecca Albrand describes some objectives for each of the roles you’ll need to take on, as well as provide some tips that you should remember to help you wear each hat successfully.
Demystifying UX Design: Common False Beliefs and Their Remedies: Part 1
By Frank Guo, Founder of UX Strategized, San Bruno, CA, USA
In debunking common UX design myths, Frank Guo shows that they’re just half truths that don’t fully account for the complexity of user experience and that there are better alternatives for achieving your design objectives.
Product Review: Mobile Prototyping and Testing with Justinmind
By Afshan Kirmani, Information Architect at Global Dawn, London UK
Justinmind Prototyper supports requirements gathering, wireframe creation, application simulation, and usability testing. You can use it to create interactive prototypes of both Web and mobile applications. As a bonus, Prototyper lets stakeholders and users provide feedback on your prototypes of mobile and Web applications. Thus, it incorporates all of the features that are necessary for a prototyping project.
We are entering a new age of Web design and development where this concept is apparent now more than ever,” she says. “It’s not enough to have any old website – it must communicate your goals seamlessly to your audience through its rich content. When you take into account the diversity of methods used to access a given website – such as mobile devices – the result is a more dynamic and engaging web that must respond to the end users needs as quickly as possible.”
“In designing websites with the end user in mind, it’s important to take into account principles such as simplicity and clarity, with a focus on accessibility and customization. By tailoring your website to the individual, they’ll feel more appreciated and less like a faceless user who chanced upon your website. This translates into a positive experience for them as well as your business, brand, or service.”
“Usability is a narrower concept than user experience since it only focuses on goal achievement when using a web site. By contrast, user experience is a “consequence of the presentation, functionality, system performance, interactive behaviour, and assistive capabilities of the interactive system”. This essentially means that user experience includes aspects such as human factors, design, ergonomics, HCI, accessibility, marketing as well as usability. An alternative way to look at this relationship is by subdividing user experience into utility, usability, desirability and brand experience. “
“Children are becoming an increasingly important target group on the web. Good usability and high user experience are crucial aspects for a successful website. Early and repetitive user testing is the way to go. If we address children on our website, we need to focus on what they want. We need to include children as a target group in our user testing. In this post I’d like to take a look at usability testing with different age groups.”
and that we need to come back to some basic HCI realities in the design of gestural user interfaces.
“In a recent column for Interactions Norman pointed out that the rush to develop gestural interfaces – “natural” they are sometimes called – well-tested and understood standards of interaction design were being overthrown, ignored, and violated.
Recently, Raluca Budui and Hoa Loranger from the Nielsen Norman group performed usability tests on Apple’s iPad, reaching much the same conclusion. The new applications for gestural control in smart cellphones (notably the iPhone and the Android) and the coming arrival of larger screen devices built upon gestural operating systems (starting with Apple’s iPad) promise even more opportunities for well-intended developers to screw things up. [...]
There are several important fundamental principles of interaction design that are completely independent of technology:
· Visibility (also called perceived affordances or signifiers)
· Consistency (also known as standards)
· Non-destructive operations (hence the importance of undo)
· Discoverability: All operations can be discovered by systematic exploration of menus
· Scalability. The operation should work on all screen sizes, small and large.
· Reliability. Operations should work. Period. And events should not happen randomly.
All these are rapidly disappearing from the toolkit of designers, aided, we must emphasize, by the weird design guidelines issued by Apple, Google, and Microsoft.”
User research Is unnatural (but that’s okay), Part I
by Jim Ross
From the perspective of a participant, user research is not very natural. We ask participants to try to act naturally in the artificial environment of a lab, or we impose ourselves on their environment and hope our presence doesn’t affect their behavior. We often forget how unnatural user research can be and what effect it can have on participants.
Part II: Making user research more natural
To minimize the negative effects of these unnatural aspects of user research and get more realistic results, there are many things we can do to keep user research as natural as possible.
There should be limits to usability
by Peter Hornsby
People generally regard improving the usability of products or systems as a major part of our role as UX designers. While there are tradeoffs in all aspects of design, our assumption has generally been that products and systems that are easier to use are preferable to those that are harder to use. However, despite what seemed to be a common understanding, a number of articles have recently reported on research that suggests increased ease of use can be detrimental. This column examines the research underlying these conclusions and looks at some lessons UX designers can learn from them.
The UX of data
By Scott Jenson / February 17th 2011
Data storage in the cloud enables user experiences that would be impossible with only local storage, and creates a new facet of design: the UX of data.
2016: the user interface revolution underway
By Peter Eckert / February 24th 2011
New interfaces are not going to be uniform; devices and applications will not possess common protocols. For users, each interaction will have to be learned, so despite the improved usability of products, individuals will find themselves learning the quirks and standards of more and more technologies just to get the functionality they seek.
It has taken the opposite approach of Wikipedia and crowd-sourcing: all entries are written by leading figures who either invented or contributed significantly to each topic.
The new encyclopedia also features video interviews shot at different universities around the world.
The materials available for free, because the Interaction-Design.org people believe in the value of knowledge democratisation, where all can can get free access to world-class educational materials.
“Many of today’s industrial products, with their ever-growing feature sets, have become too complex and difficult to use, leading to increased training costs and lost time, and in some cases, even robbing manufacturing companies of the very benefits that the features were intended to produce. But more vendors are beginning to take notice. Increasingly, as a way to differentiate their products and help customers become more productive, automation suppliers are stepping up their efforts to reduce complexity in their products and make them easier to use.”
Michele, who is also European Regional Coordinator for the Usability Professional’s Association, spoke on the event’s theme of communication, and the relationship between communication and usability in research and design activities.
In this short video (with Japanese subtitles), Michele explains how both communication and usability practices boil down to gaining the trust of the customer.
“Some in the technology industry believe that a better alternative would be to simply replace the remote with smartphone apps like the one Mr. Lavoie uses. If you create a specialized smartphone app to control a TV or set-top box, you can pack the phone’s touch screen with virtual buttons in any configuration you like. [...]
[Other] companies are not sold on the idea of the smartphone as the remote of the future. They are selling a range of remotes armed with full keyboards, touch screens and motion sensors.”
In this article, the author takes a deeper dive into smartphone form factors and discusses how much the form factor impacts the phone’s usability and the user’s satisfaction (or lack thereof) with the user experience.
In the 19th century, if you needed to be able to accommodate sudden changes to layout caused by late breaking news, the easiest way to achieve this with physical type was to have interchangeable blocks of text with common widths. And thus we have the newspaper layout we know and, mostly, still love.
The web design of news is also deeply rooted in the technology of the time, with most major news websites optimised to work well in browsers that were released a few years ago, on desktop-shaped monitors. And most existing content management systems (CMS) are optimised around spitting out chunks of articles of broadly similar length, which are mostly displayed in the browser in broadly similar templates.
There might be the occasional dalliance with a different format, but broadly speaking, an article per page, with a strip of topic-based navigation on top is the de facto standard for delivering news online.
The growth of the smartphone market in the US and the emergence of a range of tablet devices are challenging this orthodoxy of digital news presentation.
Related to this is the report by Jakob Nielsen on the iPad usability in general, where he critiques iPad apps being inconsistent and having low feature discoverability, with frequent user errors due to accidental gestures. An overly strong print metaphor and weird interaction styles, he says, cause further usability problems. See also this Guardian article.