“In an effort to win over less technical users, both Apple and Microsoft dumped that command-line interface for personal computers more than two decades ago, replacing it with visual icons for files, folders and applications. Over the years, they added animations and search technology and other features to make navigating a Mac or Windows PC even easier.
Yet all of the gloss and glitter doesn’t hide the fact that both operating systems are still pretty geeky and difficult for many computer users to navigate.”
Posts in category 'Usability'
“In the coming months, the likes of Microsoft, Hitachi and major PC makers will begin selling devices that will allow people to flip channels on the TV or move documents on a computer monitor with simple hand gestures. The technology, one of the most significant changes to human-device interfaces since the mouse appeared next to computers in the early 1980s, was being shown in private sessions during the immense Consumer Electronics Show here last week. Past attempts at similar technology have proved clunky and disappointing. In contrast, the latest crop of gesture-powered devices arrives with a refreshing surprise: they actually work.”
“As web-based augmented-reality applications have exploded, it’s more important than ever to remember AR is a technology based on utility and not gimmicks.
Unfortunately, as with most new and emerging technologies, it’s quickly becoming overhyped and abused. Usability and user experience have been thrown under in the stampede of agencies and brands saying “Hey, look — me too!” Even more disturbing is that most marketers are overlooking the most unique aspect of AR itself: that it’s a technology that can create innovative and sustained engagement between a brand and its target consumer through utility.”
EU ministers have committed to developing smarter online public services for citizens and businesses by 2015. The Commission has welcomed this step forward in making eGovernment more accessible, interactive and customised. At the fifth Ministerial eGovernment Conference in Malmö (Sweden) today, EU ministers outlined a joint vision and policy priorities on how this should be delivered. eGovernment is a key step towards boosting Europe’s competitiveness, benefiting from time and cost savings for citizens and businesses across Europe.
“Today’s declaration is another step in the right direction to further improve online public services for citizens and businesses. The commitment to shift from a “one-size-fits-all” to a customised approach is more likely to meet users’ needs and will open the path for more interactive and demand-driven public services in Europe”, said Siim Kallas, Vice-President of the European Commission in charge of Administrative Affairs, Audit and Anti-Fraud.
Viviane Reding, European Commissioner for Information Society and Media, added: “The Malmö declaration is an encouraging signal sent from Member States towards the achievement of more effective cross-border services and the completion of the Single Market. For such services to become a reality for most citizens there is still more to be done. Achieving government savings in the current economic climate must be a priority. Better cross-border public services must be delivered even with fewer resources available so the investment made in eGovernment must be maximised. The lives of citizens and businesses can be made increasingly easier if they can benefit from efficient public services ranging from simple registration of life events such as births and residence, business services such as company registration and information or more sophisticated applications including those relating to tax, VAT or customs declarations.”
The declaration signed last night in Malmö by the EU ministers outlines a joint forward-looking vision and defines policy priorities to be achieved by 2015. The key objectives that Member States together with the Commission aim to achieve in the next five years are:
- to empower businesses and citizens through eGovernment services designed around users’ needs, better access to information and their active involvement in the policy making process;
- to facilitate mobility in the single market by seamless eGovernment services for setting up business, for studying, working, residing and retiring in Europe;
- to enhance the effectiveness and efficiency of government services by reducing the administrative burden, improving organisational processes of administrations and using ICT to improve energy efficiency in public administrations which will result in a greater contribution to a sustainable low-carbon economy.
The European Commission is already working in close cooperation with Member States to set concrete targets for the eGovernment agenda in Europe and will launch an action plan in the second half of 2010 proposing concrete measures to achieve the objectives set out in the ministerial declaration.
The empowerment of citizens and businesses is already supported today by a large number of eGovernment services. Recent figures from the eighth benchmarking report ordered by the European Commission on eGovernment in Europe, released today at the fifth ministerial conference, indicate that the quality and availability of online government services have been on the rise in Europe in the last two years: 71% of the public services measured are fully available online through portals or websites, while this was only 59% in 2007. Austria, Malta, Portugal, the United Kingdom, Sweden and Slovenia are leading countries in the assessment of availability of services. Poland, Slovakia, Lithuania and Latvia are making important progress but differences across Europe remain significant.
The report shows also an increased degree of interaction between service providers and users, where Europe stands at 83%, compared to 76% in 2007 (see annex for table). This year’s report looks at the availability of eProcurement, which aims at improving public procurement. It is now at around 60% in the EU, still far from the 100% target for 2010 set by the i2010 eGovernment action plan.
The interviewees include:
- Professor Ben Shneiderman – User Interface guru from the University of Maryland
- John Thackara – Director, Doors of Perception and currently senior advisor on sustainability to the UK Design Council
- Nicolai Peitersen – Founder and CEO of Ethical Economy
- Daniel Liden, Senior Designer at Chris Lefteri Design Ltd, who specialise in materials
- Dina Guth – Director of British design and innovation company TECAtech
- Liz Edwards, Home Editor of the UK Consumer’s Association
- Tom Stewart, President of the UK Ergonomics Society
Introducing user-centred web design
The first article in this series introduces the idea of User-Centred Design (UCD) — a design process that concentrates on designing websites for the people who will use them; rather than to embody the latest trends in web technology, or to simply please the senior management in the company.
User experience: What it is and how to get some
The second article in this series looks at the concept of user experience. As well as explaining user experience in more detail, the article outlines what skills are needed to embody it in good web design.
User experience in action
This article looks at some of the methods that can be used to implement UCD in real websites. It considers some case studies drawn from the experience of Wired Internet Group, a Christchurch-based company striving to promote the principles of UCD in the local web industry. These case studies will reveal some of the “real world” usability issues that may be encountered, and the sometimes simple steps that you can take to remedy them, and give your site the user experience your customers deserve.
“These energy monitors not only show you real-time information about your energy consumption, many of them also record that data. Government-provided national energy data is great, but with your own data, you can make decisions that can help you conserve energy, save cash and cut your carbon footprint. [...]
I’m going to focus on devices that can easily export data and not simply display it in the applications that ship with the monitors.”
The tool, now called Panoremo, is meant to collect feedback from users in order to evaluate their emotional reaction towards any sort of physical spaces.
This opens up the door to a plethora of possibilities and applications: evaluating an urban environment to know how people feel about their surroundings (emotions in architecture and urbanism), finding out how people feel about that new interior design that you are developing for a new store (emotions in retail design) or identifying the critical emotional points of a restaurant or of a hotel lobby (emotions in experiential services) are but a few of the examples to think of.
“‘What’s notable about many of the stable of researchers at Yahoo backing that effort is that many of them [...] aren’t even computer scientists.
They are part of a team of social scientists — cognitive psychologists, sociologists, economists and ethnographers — that Yahoo hopes will help close the search gap with the dominant Google. [...]
The plan to broaden Yahoo Labs into a multidisciplinary team where social scientists work directly with computer scientists is one element of Yahoo’s strategy to hold people on its Web properties, after its new branding campaign — Yahoo’s single largest integrated global campaign ever — brings them in the door.”
“As a user experience designer, I thought my job was to make things not suck. Until recently. As technology has evolved, human behavior has evolved along with it. Since behavior is the basis of user experience design, my job has evolved as well. Now, my job is to make things people love. At the 2009 IA Summit, Karl Fast articulated the value proposition of user experience design with sparkling clarity. “Engineers make things,” he said, “we make people love them.” And then he held up an iPhone as an example.
This is a crucial change, the importance of which cannot be overstated.”
The short presentation describes the challenges, such as a wide range of platforms and audience types, as well as the wide-range of research tools that are used to understand and address them, from card sorting to ethnographic research.
The video of the presentation is also available (requires registration, go to “Web 2.0, Social Networking, Usability, Design & Build Theatre,” then “Wednesday at 13:00″).
It is based on a 2008 paper by Norman, entitled ‘The Psychology of Waiting Lines‘ (which is freely available), but sections have been added on “Variations of basic waiting lines” (including triage, categorization of needs, and self-selection of queues) and “Deliberate Chaos.”
According to Norman, “the original is better in the amount of detail and formal analyses, worse in the rough draft and inelegance of the writing as well as a lack of examples which I added for SMR.”
Here is Norman’s introduction to the 2008 paper:
Waiting is an inescapable part of life, but that doesn’t mean we enjoy it. But if the lines are truly inescapable, what can be done to make them less painful? Although there is a good deal of practical knowledge, usually known within the heads of corporate managers, very little has been published about the topic. One paper provides the classic treatment: David Maister’s The Psychology of Waiting Lines (1985). Maister suggested several principles for increasing the pleasantness of waiting. Although his paper provides an excellent start, it was published in 1985 and there have been considerable advances in our knowledge since then.
In the PDF file, The Psychology of Waiting Lines, I bring the study of waiting lines up to date, following the spirit of Maister’s original publication, but with considerable revision in light of modern findings. I suggest eight design principles, starting with “emotions dominate” and ending with the principle that “the memory of an event is more important than the experience.” Examples of design solutions include double buffering, providing clear conceptual models of the events with continual feedback, providing positive memories and even why one might deliberately induce waits. These principles apply to all services, not just waiting in lines. Details will vary from situation to situation, industry to industry, but the fundamentals are, in truth, the fundamentals of sociable design for waiting lines, for products, and for service.
Below is a run-down of the 2008-2009 speakers (all videos are available online):
October 31 , 2008 – Justine Cassell, Northwestern University
Building Theories: People’s Interaction with Computers (video)
November 7, 2008 – Merrie Morris, Microsoft Research
SearchTogether and CoSearch: New Tools for Enabling Collaborative Web Search (video)
January 16, 2009 – Hayes Raffle, Nokia Research
Sculpting Behavior – Developing a tangible language for hands-on play and learning (video)
January 30, 2009 – Bobby Fishkin, ReframeIt
Social Annotation, Contextual Collaboration and Online Transparency (video)
February 6, 2009 – Bjoern Hartmann, Stanford HCI Group
Enlightened Trial and Error – Gaining Design Insight Through New Prototyping Tools (video)
February 27, 2009 – Sep Kamvar, Stanford University
We Feel Fine and I Want You To Want Me: Case Studies in Internet Sociology (video)
April 3, 2009 – John Lilly and Mike Beltzner, Mozilla Foundation
Firefox, Mozilla & Open Source — Software Design at Scale (video)
May 22, 2009 – Will Wright, Maxis / Electronic Arts
Launching Creative Communities: Lessons from the Spore community experience (video)
Archived lectures from CS547 can also be downloaded from iTunes.
Design for All Institute Of India is a self financed, non-profit voluntary organization, located in Delhi, India, which seeks corporate and public partnership in order to carry forward its very ambitious agenda of pro-actively building bridges of social inclusion between the design community and all other groups whose activities can be positively influenced by a coherent application of design methodology. Design for All means creating products, services and systems to cater to the widest possible range of users’ requirements. We initiated the concept and have received enormous encouragement from domestic as well as International communities.
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But technology is not made for us.
Although computers have operating systems in many languages, once you have chosen one of them you are completely locked in: support in any other language means going through complicated menus that are usually not immediately reachable and that have way too many options (e.g. every time I change my spell check language I have to select between ALL languages, not just between those that I actually speak); key widgets are available in the main OS language only (try installing an English language Apple dictionary/thesaurus on your Mac, while also installing an Italian and a Dutch one); going through user forums; or relying on the web.
Nokia, which is a company that should know better (as Finnish is only spoken by 6 million people), is not much of an example either. European phones come pre-installed with dictionary support for language regions (no help if you are a Belgian living in Italy), and it is nearly impossible to change that unless you start mucking around with the firmware of the phone. Even changing my T9 language support during messaging from let’s say English to Italian takes me at least 8 clicks (Options > 4 down on the list: Writing language > 3 down on the list: Italiano).
In the end you end up messing around, tinkering, hacking solutions together, struggling and being frustrated.
Has there been any research on this? Any article? Any best practices?
(Series: Human Factors and Ergonomics)
by Andrew Sears and Julie A. Jacko (Editors)
CRC Press, March 2, 2009
Hardcover, 356 pages
Amazon – Google Books Preview
Hailed on first publication as a compendium of foundational principles and cutting-edge research, The Human-Computer Interaction Handbook has become the gold standard reference in this field. Derived from select chapters of this groundbreaking resource, Human-Computer Interaction: The Development Practice addresses requirements specification, design and development, and testing and evaluation activities. It also covers task analysis, contextual design, personas, scenario-based design, participatory design, and a variety of evaluation techniques including usability testing, inspection-based and model-based evaluation, and survey design.
The book includes contributions from eminent researchers and professionals from around the world who, under the guidance of editors Andrew Sear and Julie Jacko, explore visionary perspectives and developments that fundamentally transform the discipline and its practice.
Table of contents:
User Experience and HCI, Mike Kuniavsky
Requirements Specifications within the Usability Engineering Lifecycle, Deborah J. Mayhew
Task Analysis, Catherine Courage, Janice (Genny) Redish, and Dennis Wixon
Contextual Design, Karen Holtzblatt
An Ethnographic Approach to Design, Jeanette Blomberg, Mark Burrel
Putting Personas to Work: Using Data-Driven Personas to Focus Product Planning, Design and Development, Tamara Adlin and John Pruitt
Prototyping Tools and Techniques, Michel Beaudouin-Lafon and Wendy E. Mackay
Scenario-based Design, Mary Beth Rosson and John M. Carroll
Participatory Design: The Third Space in HCI, Michael J. Muller
Unified User Interface Development: New Challenges and Opportunities, Anthony Savidis and Constantine Stephanidis
HCI and Software Engineering: Designing for User Interface Plasticity, Jöelle Coutaz and Gäelle Calvary
Usability Testing: Current Practice and Future Directions, Joseph S. Dumas and Jean E. Fox
Survey Design and Implementation in HCI, A. Ant Ozok
Inspection-based Evaluation, Gilbert Cockton, Alan Woolrych, and Darryn Lavery
Model-Based Evaluation, David Kieras
Ethnographers at Microsoft: A Review of Human-Computer Interaction: Development Process
Book review by Ronald J. Chenail
Qualitative researchers and those with qualitative inquiry skills are finding tremendous employment opportunities in the world of technology design and development. Because of their abilities to observe and understand the experiences of end users in human-computer interactions, these researchers are helping companies using Contextual Design to create the next generation of products with the users clearly in mind.
In Human-Computer Interaction: Development Process, the new edited book by Andrew Sears and Julie Jacko, the authors describe an array of models and methods incorporating qualitative research concepts and procedures that are being used in technology today and can have great potential tomorrow for qualitative researchers working in fields and settings outside of business and technology.
“Our solution was to conduct a “digital diary study”: a novel hybrid technique that combined aspects of traditional methodologies into a single, comprehensive framework. In the study, participants used voicemail, email, and digital photographs to “record” their daily behaviors. These recordings were sent to researchers at frog on a daily basis via email and international toll-free numbers.
Researchers would then follow up using these same technologies, pursuing new questions as they arose. Participants elaborated iteratively through this two-way conversational model until behavioral patterns were identified. An additional benefit was the ease of response; participants only had to remember to carry their own cell phone and digital camera, as opposed to a paper journal. This more naturalistic approach allowed for journal entries to be captured in a variety of locations and a variety of moments; participants could leave brief messages even while driving, working, socializing, etc.”
The 2010 UPA conference (Munich, Germany, May 2010) takes this just a bit further: design is now ‘experience design’ and the European regional conference theme of “cultivating diversity” has turned into a global “embracing cultural diversity”.
It’s nice, and somewhat funny, to notice how ideas influence one another.
“A person is a first-time user exactly once (and in the case of the infusion pump, because of training and observation, nurses were actually never really first-time users), and in many cases a beginner for only a very short while. The first-time user scenario is always important to get right (as is that highly emotional first impression); for some products such as an airport check-in kiosk or a public emergency defibrillator, for example, it’s the most critical one and deserves the most elegant solution. But for countless other products that target people who will use the product to accomplish complex workflows over long periods of time, the first-time use case is likely only one of many secondary scenarios that deserve attention.”
“The set of methods employed by most user-centered professionals fails to deliver truly user-centric insights. The so called ’science’ of usability which underlies user-centeredness leaves much to be desired. It rests too much on anecdote, assumed truths about human behavior and an emphasis on performance metrics that serve the perspective of people other than the user.”