Are you wondering where I have been hiding? Me too!
I had some technical difficulties because my website got hacked. And because the main website was hacked, I lost access to my blog.
The good news is that I am up and running again… for now! The bad news is I lost all of the images that accompanied my blog posts. I am slowly trying to restore most of them. But some may never be replaced.
Never the less I learned a few valuable lessons from this experience:
Back up your files. Sure I tend to think I save often. But backing up your files is just as important. And I really neglected to back things up.
Know a great developer. My good friend Anita Cheng cleaned up my files an got me up and running again. I would not have a website again if not for her.
Did I mention to back up your files?
Thanks for your patience. I will post more UX-related stuff soon.
I know there are many ways to build personas. Sure, you can build them on assumptions and guesses and just throw something together quickly. But actions like that just leave a bad taste I’m my mouth. I want personas to be based on research, not assumptions.
One major project I am working on now is to create personas for vehicle purchasers. Where I work, one of the products we are working on deals with the consumer automobile buying space. One things we don’t have is personas. An even bigger flow of our organization is that we are designing products without having personas to consult for our design validation. I won’t dwell on this aspect too much. Let’s just say our organization is coming to light and recognizing the importance of having personas.
My task is to build kick-ass personas. I am up for the challenge.
One of the first steps I took in building personas is to talk to several stakeholders who would have interest in these personas. I talked to designers, design leads, product managers and researchers to find out one thing:
What information do you need from a persona?
I asked a few other questions as well, but this was my primary goal in this phase of my research. I am sharing the information about “What do stakeholders need from personas” is in the attached deck.
Have you ever interviewed a user, after the fact, about an experience and they had nothing but positive things to say about it? But you know that they struggled or had pain points along the way. This phenomenon has a name, and it’s known as peak–end rule.
What is the peak-end rule?
Peak-end rule is a phenomenon where people judge an experience largely based on how they felt at its peak. The peak is the most intense moment. In other words, they forget about all of the feelings and emotions they were experience throughout the entire event. And thy seem to just “remember” how they felt at the peak, whether that is good or bad. This model dictates that an event is not judged by the entirety of an experience, but by prototypical moments (or snapshots) as a result of the representativeness heuristic, according to Wikipedia.
Why does it happen?
The peak-end rule tends to happen more on emotional events, even though people are not usually aware of their motional involvement at the time. Also, people tend to remember how things turned out overall. If they had final success in the process, then their memory is going to be more positive and they tend to forget about the struggles they had along the journey. People just tend to think more positively of themselves when they have accomplished something, and therefore forget the negative aspects. One way to think about this is, if people think too much about it, and focus on the pain they went through, then they are likely to feel that pain again. So perhaps this is a instinctive defense mechanism? Without obtaining a psychology degree, I will leave that question open for debate.
How can you avoid it in your research?
The best way I can think of avoiding the peak-end bias is to observe participants in real time instead of relying on their account of it after the fact. This is why ethnographic research is so important in User Experience design. People are not even aware of some of the actions they perform. But if you are there to observe them in person, you discover all sorts of nuggets in behavior the user might not be aware to share. When you observe a participant, you see things like pain points, struggles, repetition, redundancy, mistakes, hacks, work arounds, cheating, confusion and all sorts of gold nuggets of user behavior.
I have seen it time and time again, a participant is trying to complete a task, and the software or website they are using does not perform as expected. The participant is frustrated. Maybe she expresses a slight sigh in displeasuer. Maybe she even tries to accomplish the task in a different way. Maybe she concedes and relies on the “hack” she has created as a work around. When confronted on an obvious frustration, she makes comments like:
Oh what to you mean? Did I make a face? I didn’t even notice.
I always have to do this.
It’s no big deal, it’s just part of the job.
These comments are a tell-tale sign of actions that would likely not be reported in an interview after the fact.
The bottom line: Get out of the building and observe your user first hand. You will get much more context witnessing them in their environment rather than just “taking their word for it.” Observation is king!
Cards sorts can make many forms. They can be low tech with index cards or Post-it notes. Or they can be a higher fidelity done on a website or with other card sorting software on the computer.
If you have access to users in person, you can use a physical card sort. With this, you can use index cards or Post-it notes to have the user organize the items written on the card in to more general categories. If you do not have the opportunity to to meet the user in person, it’s ok to use a remote card sorting service or software (second image above) to do a card sort.
The major things that a card sort is used to accomplish is:
It is cheap and easy to do. Yes it takes a bit of time to create one card for each topic and make sure that all assets are covered. But once that is done, all you need to do is hand the cards to the user and have them organize them. Take a picture of the results with your phone or a digital camera and save for analysis.
It is user centric. It truly is from the viewpoint of the user since the user is the one organizing the cards in the best way they see fit.
It can be done in person or remotely. As shown in the images above, card sorting can be performed in a variety of ways.
It is a valuable and reputable source for gathering information. Car sorting and taxonomy have been used in a variety of ways for years. And if done correctly, it really works!
It can also help create labels and navigation titles. If you leave the card sorting open (without providing categories for the user to organize the cards) you can have the user not only group like items, but give them intuitive titles as well.
It provides insight in to the user’s thoughts. If you are able to talk with the user as they organize the cards, you get great insight as to WHY they are organizing the cards in certain ways. This helps you get sone context as the why and how the user is grouping like items.
Don’t be afraid to perform your own cart sorting exercise to help organization for your website or app. Feel free to leave comments and share your experience with your own card sort.
As professional in the User Experience field, we’ve all heard it time and time again:
Test early and test often.
The only way to find out if it really works is to test it.
We do not see things as they are; we see things as we are.
The sooner you start to code, the longer the program will take.
Just because nobody complains doesn’t mean all parachutes are perfect
Don’t guess. Test.
To get early feedback is easier said than done. I know that it takes time to create the visual mocks. Then things are moving so quickly (2 week sprints!) and it feels like we don’t have time to run our ideas by users. Finally, we feel like we know what it best for the product. We have done some user research. Our ideas have evolved as the project has progressed. We have made some decisions, that we think are for the better.
The earlier you test your site designs, the sooner you can find any problems and fix them.
But it’s this type of thought process that you need to take pause and stop in your tracks. Just when you think you are doing the right thing, that is the moment that your assumptions and biases are likely to creep in. So, this is a great point to take a break and get user feedback before you proceed down the rabbit hole any further.
To start with, we sent the wireframes to the visual designer to mock up our concept with more visual reality. We made sure that the flow we wanted to show the users was visually represented enough through our mocks.
Once the mocks were in a state we felt we could share with the user, we needed to figure out what type of information we wanted to gain from our usability review. Next, I came up with a brief list of topics and content we wanted to focus on.
I wanted to first focus on the overall presentation and design, as well as have them look at the navigation and taxonomy that we were presenting. Then after getting their feedback on the overall design, I wanted to take them through a specific work flow, and see if it made sense to the user.
I think that a common error in usability testing is giving the person too much information as soon as they see your prototype. Don’t jump the gun!! Take this opportunity to get initial reaction feedback. Let the person participating in the usability review take a moment to take in the design, layout and wording. Let them get acquainted with the page and get that “first few seconds” feedback. Please don’t miss the opportunity.
Then after taking a few minutes to talk to the user about the overall design, you can then take a deeper dive in to a work flow. I found that in this instance, the first half of the conversation focused on the website’s design, terminology and assessing if the user understood how to get started on some general tasks. In other words, I wanted to see if the navigation choices made sense. Also, I wanted to see if they had any cognitive dissonance with any of the terms we had used. Next, we asked the users how they would perform a specific task. In this case, it was how they would start to place an order. Along their usability journey, they brought up a lot of good questions and educated us on how they do this process now. It was all very insightful, and helpful to find out what we had done right, and what we needed to improve. That, my dear friends, is the whole goal of performing this usability review.
Want to watch the entire usability review live in the flesh? Please feel free to watch the video. If you have specific feedback on my approach or any aspect of my session, please share your thoughts in the comments. Just like designing a website or software, my research methods are always in a state of improvement and iteration. Please help me make my product, in this case ME, even better.
Think about when you attend an exercise bootcamp. You are trying to whip your body in to shape quickly by participating in an intense workout session. Then the next day, man, does your body hurt. You realize just how out of shape you are.
This is how I felt after attending an intense weekend workshop taught by instructors from AB Collective. I realized, quite humbly, how out of shape my Axure skills have become. You have heard the phrase, “Use it or lose it.” This came to light this weekend after attending the bootcamp.
After being reintroduced to some of the advanced features in Axure, I learned a few valuable lessons:
Keep practicing and using the tool or you will forget.
Don’t assume just because you used an item a few months ago, you can jump in and use it again easily.
Online videos may not be the best way to learn. You don’t always absorb information from videos. Well, at least I don’t.
If you cannot using this skill in your everyday job, create a project to practice it to keep your skills sharp.
I am so thankful I had the opportunity to to take a course like this. And it was worth every penny. I understand that every person learns differently, so if online videos work for you, by all means continue to watch and learn. But for me, I learned some valuable lessons that I need to keep practicing to keep it in my arsenal.
Sometimes you just forget what each UI term really is called. And it’s good to have the terminology correct, especially when you are talking with stakeholders.
Usability.gov is a great resource when you want to quickly remember the names of those pesky UI elements.
User Interface Elements
When designing your interface, try to be consistent and predictable in your choice of interface elements. Whether they are aware of it or not, users have become familiar with elements acting in a certain way, so choosing to adopt those elements when appropriate will help with task completion, efficiency, and satisfaction.
Interface elements include but are not limited to:
Input Controls: checkboxes, radio buttons, dropdown lists, list boxes, buttons, toggles, text fields, date field
Informational Components: tooltips, icons, progress bar, notifications, message boxes, modal windows
Checkboxes allow the user to select one or more options from a set. It is usually best to present checkboxes in a vertical list. More than one column is acceptable as well if the list is long enough that it might require scrolling or if comparison of terms might be necessary.
Radio buttons are used to allow users to select one item at a time.
Dropdown lists allow users to select one item at a time, similarly to radio buttons, but are more compact allowing you to save space. Consider adding text to the field, such as ‘Select one’ to help the user recognize the necessary action.
List boxes, like checkboxes, allow users to select a multiple items at a time,but are more compact and can support a longer list of options if needed.
A button indicates an action upon touch and is typically labeled using text, an icon, or both.
The dropdown button consists of a button that when clicked displays a drop-down list of mutually exclusive items.
A toggle button allows the user to change a setting between two states. They are most effective when the on/off states are visually distinct.
Text fields allow users to enter text. It can allow either a single line or multiple lines of text.
Date and time pickers
A date picker allows users to select a date and/or time. By using the picker, the information is consistently formatted and input into the system.
A search box allows users to enter a keyword or phrase (query) and submit it to search the index with the intention of getting back the most relevant results. Typically search fields are single-line text boxes and are often accompanied by a search button.
Breadcrumbs allow users to identify their current location within the system by providing a clickable trail of proceeding pages to navigate by.
Pagination divides content up between pages, and allows users to skip between pages or go in order through the content.
Tags allow users to find content in the same category. Some tagging systems also allow users to apply their own tags to content by entering them into the system.
A slider, also known as a track bar, allows users to set or adjust a value. When the user changes the value, it does not change the format of the interface or other info on the screen.
An icon is a simplified image serving as an intuitive symbol that is used to help users to navigate the system. Typically, icons are hyperlinked.
Image carousels allow users to browse through a set of items and make a selection of one if they so choose. Typically, the images are hyperlinked.
A notification is an update message that announces something new for the user to see. Notifications are typically used to indicate items such as, the successful completion of a task, or an error or warning message.
A progress bar indicates where a user is as they advance through a series of steps in a process. Typically, progress bars are not clickable.
A tooltip allows a user to see hints when they hover over an item indicating the name or purpose of the item.
A message box is a small window that provides information to users and requires them to take an action before they can move forward.
Modal Window (pop-up)
A modal window requires users to interact with it in some way before they can return to the system.
An accordion is a vertically stacked list of items that utilizes show/ hide functionality. When a label is clicked, it expands the section showing the content within. There can have one or more items showing at a time and may have default states that reveal one or more sections without the user clicking
Designing a better user experience means making sure that users can access information and services across multiple devices, especially mobile devices (phones and tablets).
In building a better experience, there are many questions about mobile device usage and how designers can best meet users’ needs with apps and responsive designs. We’ve conducted a lot ofmobile usability studies and in the process have encountered many common questions.
Here are 15 data points to help in answering some common questions about mobile usage and behavior. I’ve included as many sources as possible so you can double check our conclusions.
Tablets have a similar profile as desktops. While tablets get lumped together with smartphones, some data suggest that they are more similar to desktop computers. Tablet users are more engaged and view about the same number of pages as desktop users. That’s about four times more than smartphone pageviews.
People use full-size tablets at home and in the evening. In addition to size, part of the reason for the homebound devices might be that only about half of iPads have cellular data access. In fact, we found the most concentrated time was used at home, on the couch, or bed between 7 and 10pm[pdf].
Most user prefer shopping using websites to apps. One of the more pressing decisions for mobile teams is whether or not to build an app. Going down the app path means supporting multiple operating systems and platforms (usually having different development teams). In our lab-based studies, we also generally see users spending the most time with the web browser and often not knowing whether they have an app or not. One of the biggest complaints in the mobile browsing experience is the constant nagging of downloading apps and the non-continuity of links that don’t open the apps. We generally see users prefer shopping on websites rather than using apps. The percentage changes depending on the industry, app and demographic but the app should offer a compelling experience, rich features or something you can’t get in a browser. Update: Changed a link title that cited a somewhat misleading figure suggesting 87% of consumers preferred apps over websites.
Security is a still a major reason why mobile users don’t make purchases. In our 1:1 lab interviews, we consistently hear fear of stolen data as often as usability and screen size as reasons why users don’t like to use credit card or bank information on mobile phones and tablets.
The more consumers consider and research a purchase, the more they use their smartphones to find product information. For example, 73% of mobile usage in electronics stores was to read product reviews.
There are some roadblocks in CoCo’s redesign progress. We need the organization to complete the content analysis. And then we need to figure out the new site map.
In the mean time, I wanted to sharpen my “Layout in Photoshop” skills so I mocked up a very rough draft of a page. I can see from my layout that it needs a lot of work. I feel like it’s very bland. But it’s a good way for me to get some practice in Photoshop.
I came across this nice and simple slide presentation called, “The 10 User Experience Principles à la WordPress.” It visually illustrates Jakob Nielsen’s Heurstic Evaulation Principles. The best part of her slideshow is it gives concrete examples to illustrate each principle.
I am sad that the April newsletter for UXPALA did not make it out the door due to delayed responses et. al. But I am proud that I wrote several summary articles covering various UX events that took place in the spring 2014. If the UXPALA newsletter did come out last month, this is what it would have said:
On Design Thinking on MOOC today, students were introduced the the evolution of the the Economy. See the graphic below:
Joseph Pine and James Gilmore suggested in their book ‘the Experience Economy’, that the economic value creation in developed countries went from an agrarian economy, to an industrial economy, to a service economy, to an experience economy.
The agrarian economy is mainly concerned with producing and dealing with commodities. Extracting natural resources is here the major economic driver. The value creation in the industrial economy is based on the production of goods. When the goods market is saturated the next level of value creation is the service economy, which refers to an increased importance on the delivery of services. And last but not least there is the experience economy, where the experience becomes a significant economical differentiator.
The reason could be seen in a natural evolution, that as soon as basic needs are met, humans seem to strive for improvement and development.
The first of three award winning designs I would like to share with you is my website www.jenniferblatzdesign.com. This was my first ever web design award, and I won’t it from GDUSA Magazine’s Inhouse Design Awards. I have won several awards from them through the years. But this is the first year I’ve won a web design award from the organization. I am proud and inspired to design more great looking websites. Thanks for the confidence boost. Back to work….
This is the second Graphic Design USA award winning design for 2013. The concept here was a jovial and festive “Save the Date” reminder for a company’s holiday party. I needed to express the festive season, without promoting any religious affiliation. This design was well received.
The logo I designed for Website weekend won a 2013 Graphic Design USA award. Just announced today, the logo and branding for “Hike It Up” won an American Inhouse Design Award. I am pleased to add this to my gallery of award-winning designs.
I enjoyed the first day of my first California State Fullerton Class: User-Centered Design for Web and Mobile Interfaces. Today, we learned about examining the goals of the customer and the business. In this class, we discussed four facets of the goals for the customer and the business:
Purpose (Why) The reason for existence
Goal (What) What you want to accomplish
Mechanism (How) How to reach the goal
Metric (When/Where) Define what the accomplishment looks like
After brainstorming these possibilities, for both the customer and the business, then the UX designer can better determine a stronger justicification for creating the website or app.
After discussing the goals, we then worked on the taxonomy of the site. We brainstormed topics that could be on the website. In the class, the business we used was a small gym with five locations. We explored the topics that might be included on the website.
This is one of many design process models, called the d.modes from the D.school in Stanford. It consists of five different modes
Empathize, the first mode, is about understanding people. It is the foundation of the entire design thinking process. You should try to understand and „feel“ the needs, hopes, aspirations of users, experts and stakeholders. Your thinking mode should be that of an psychologist.
Define is the second mode. Often overlooked, it makes sure the problem is understood by everybody in the team. Structure and analyze the data collected in the first phase, cluster your findings and map patterns. You focus on crafting the right questions and define what point of view you will take. Your thinking mode is that of an analyst.
The next step is called ideation. Starting from the focused position of define, it is about collecting many ideas, deliberately without judging. It allows you as a team to go beyond the obvious solutions by combining individual skills. It is about sharing stories about what could be. Think of yourself as an explorer. Des
The mode prototype is about creating a first impression. It derives from the greek protos = first and typos = impression. You can build a prototype for anything out of everything. By crafting something with your hands your brain switches into a different mode. Your thinking mode is that of a craftsman.
Test is the last mode. Get your prototypes into the real world, engage people to interact with it. Ask them and observe their behavior. Figure out what is not yet good about it and what could be improved. Your thinking mode is that of a critic.
I am now watching week 2 of Design Thinking on MOOC viewable on iversity.org. One of the interviewees said something very intruiging:
Question: What is Design in ONE word?
Now this is a very interesting answer isn’t it?
Design is so complex, and so difficult to define with just one word. Some might say design is “art” or “creativity.” Others might say it is “communication” or “planning.” But to think of Design in terms of Freedom is a very interesting approach indeed. There’s some food for thought.
I participated in the workshop “Physical, Digital, Human: Designing Experiences for Mobile and the Internet of Things” taught by Steven Hoober. It was a mixture of instruction about technology and how it is creeping in to other devices in our lives. With technologies like Nest and Smart Watches, we are accessing the internet and using technology in more and more ways. In between lectures, we broke in to smaller groups and brainstormed a concept or two about our project: integrating all house-hold devices that control some aspect in our house, like turning off the lights or adjusting the temperature. We wanted to create a central location for all of these apps to make the experience more delightful.
On Wednesday, April 2, 2014 I attended the UXPALA event “Demystifying the UX Team: Who are the players?” which was the first event held by our organization this calendar year.
Did I mention that I am a Chair of Strategic Projects for UXPALA? Yes I certainly am! That means I assist with the organizations newly established website and email newsletter. I’ll post more about our organization soon.
So of now, here’s a summary of last night’s event:
Demystifying the UX Team: Who are the players?
Almost every company, be it a UX/UI firm or any industry that has a UX team – all seem to have different team structures and working methods.
UX/UI/Usability is a relatively new field, so we’re getting 5 UX Directors and Managers together from various companies to form a panel and answer UXPALA’s questions and yours.
Though I was completely exhausted from WIAD the day before, I was energized by the opportunity to meet new people and gain new skills. We casually formed teams based on a variety of strengths and job titles. My team contained a front-end developer, a graphic artist, a web designer and seasoned marketing guru. and they were all great.
UX Hackathon took place at General Assembly in Santa Monica and was an entire day filled with UX. My team was called “Interrobang.” What is that? I did not really know either. Here’s more information on Interrobang.
About a month ago, I had the privilege to not only participate, but also help organize a global conference on a local level. It was an invaluable learning experience for me. I made new contacts, gained new skills and helped produce an event that would best be described as a success.
Weekly meetings keep the group on track.
Always communicate with the group so everyone is on the same page.
If you think you are planning early enough, you probably are not. Work ahead of schedule.
Holidays and time off make keeping things moving difficult.
Anticipate problem and plan for them in advance.
Secure the venue ASAP because so many other factors are determined by booking the venue.
World IA Day is about bringing the information architecture community together. Los Angeles was selected to participate in this global event that took place in 24 cities, 15 countries, spanning 6 continents. Our local event hosted over 170 attendees, and there were nearly 3,000 participants globally, all one the same day!
My role as Project Manager is the overall responsibility for the successful planning, execution, monitoring, control and organizing teams and over 30 volunteers, participating in the development of this conference. http://worldiaday.org.
Jennifer Blatz explores the world of UX through words and imagery