Return of the Mad Hatter

Hello everyone!  How’s the year been?  I hope well!

So, just to post up, I’ve been on a “journey” if wanna say, in finding out on life outside college.  It’s awesome to see so many hits on the blog since I’ve last posted!  My goal will be to try to get something new up every month this year.  So, look out for more UX posts, rants, and discussions from me!

Ah, and:  User First Designer Second,  Immerse yourself in the chaos that is Design, and Go Crazy with Usability.

Let’s talk UX: the Importance of Returning Feedback

Hello all!  Hope the day’s been well for you!  Today I’ll be speaking a bit on returning feedback from your interfaces.

Alright, so let’s say for example that you were speaking to an individual about something.  You both spoke on a rather interesting topic and you just gave your side on the subject and ask what the individual thinks, expecting an answer.  Yet, this individual simply stares at you blankly.  You ask again.  No response. You ask once more, annoyed.  At this point you may do one of three things:  ask again in a more annoyed tone, begin to think something is wrong with the individual, or become frustrated and leave.

Or, in web interface terms, let’s say you filled out a form and hit submit.  Nothing.  You hit it again.  Nothing.  You proceed to hit it multiple times and look around for some sort of message, but you find nothing.

Both of these are examples of situation in which case you, as the user, received no feedback in return.  

It’s highly important that we understand a key point about ourselves:  We. Need. Answers.  When we interact with others, objects, or user interfaces we expect some sort “return on investment.”  If we speak to others we expect a response, be it friendly or non-friendly.  When we push a door, we expect it to open (or not).  When we click or tap a submit button we expect it to give us some sort of response, whether it be a success message or an error message.  When we do not receive any sort of feedback from what we are interacting with then it is a little disorienting; sometimes even alarming.

What  counts as feedback?  Well, almost every interaction a user does requires feedback.

  •  Hovering over a navigation link or an in-page link and displaying a change in link color
  • Changing the page after clicking on a link
  • Submitting a form after a button is clicked
  • Displaying an error message after wrong information has be inputted
  • Highlighted navigation item while on that specific page after navigating to it

Let’s check out an example of feedback more closely:

googleFeedback

Google’s login page utilizes excellent examples of feedback  techniques when you’ve forgotten or input the wrong password.  If you have forgotten your password or changed it and forgotten, the form will inform you whether or not you have changed your password from the one that was inputted or if the password is wrong.  even more so, the password field itself is highlighted with a red border to pinpoint the area in error.

When feedback is provided through our user interfaces we can be fulfilling three of Nielsen’s 10 Heuristics:  Visibility of System Status, Error Recovery, and Error Prevention.

Visibility of System Status – By giving users adequate feedback from their interaction, users will know what is going on as a result of it and understand the situation at hand.  They may know, for example, whether or not they have used a link on Google before.

Google provides feedback of used links by recoloring them if a user has used before, allowing users to make a quicker decision on following a  past link or referring to a different link.

Google provides feedback of used links by recoloring them if a user has used before, allowing users to make a quicker decision on following a past link or referring to a different link.

Error Recovery – In the event that users have made a mistake, displaying feedback detailing the issue at hand will exponentially aid them in diagnosing and recovering from the error.

dropboxError

Dropbox allows a pop up modal to appear once delete file is hit.  Doing this provides users feedback of “hey, you’re about to delete this” and allow them to proceed or recover accordingly.

Error Prevention – Without any feedback given after an interaction, users may try to interact over and over again, whether it be a digital interface or face to face with an individual.  Actions like these may cause more issues, depending on the user interface or individual.  Providing feedback will guide the user in a general direction as to what his or her next action should be.

Microsoft's email service Outlook provides excellent feedback when an image has been uploaded.  Users can see the image transition from uploading to uploaded.  In addition the image is displayed in a very noticeable way, preventing users from multiple uploads.

Microsoft’s email service Outlook provides excellent feedback when an image has been uploaded. Users can see the image transition from uploading to uploaded. In addition the image is displayed in a very noticeable way, preventing users from multiple uploads.

So when you are designing your user interfaces or simply communicating with someone, remember that providing feedback is extremely vital to users.  Without it, users will almost always feel either lost or frustrated.

Don’t cause users stress!

 

——User First, Designer Second——

Let’s Talk UX: Why Research and Requirements are Important

uxdesign_maindetailHello everyone!  Today I’ll be talking to you all about why gathering research and defining requirements is important.

Alright, so let’s say your team is building an app for a client.  The client asks for two requirements, and leaves the rest to your team.  Now,  your team holds excellent programmers and designers that utilize the latest tools of their trade to come up with ideas of what this app will do and look like.  Your team begins with making sure the basic features asked for by the client are included, then begin adding feature after feature that may help the end user and looks awesome.  As your team builds the product more and more, you all begin to really fall in love with the product.

The end product is a latest-featured aesthetically-pleasing design that does what the client does and more.

Key point on more.

Six months pass and you receive a rather heated email from your client saying the app is performing far below expectations.  He details out that the target demographic does not buy the app.  You investigate into the issue and find that the extra features were far misaligned with what the target audience’s goals were.

This is why research and requirements are important.

You find that if you had done some research into the target audience then a few key features that were tacked on would be avoided like the plague.  You would’ve known why some features were important and why were definitely not.  You would’ve had a direction of where your ideas should go.  Some things that could help your team in understanding why UX Research and requirements are important:

1. The product is not for you, it’s for the user.  Using your “gut” and going with what you think is good are very wrong driving factors in creating a user centered product.  Understanding your users is absolutely fundamental in creating this product.  What do the users prefer?  What type of things drive a user for the topic of this product?  What sort of problems are users having in order for them to want this type of product?  These are all questions you can extract valuable information from and apply to the creation of the product.  

2. The interface is magic, but wandering aimlessly accomplishes nothing.  The requirements are designed to help you define a “road map” to what direction your product design should go.  Without these a designer or programmer is left with creating indiscriminately, meaning there is no set way on where their designs are heading.  These requirements are to help drive your ideas in the direction your users would prefer based on educated conclusions, rather than aimlessly wandering in a direction.  

So next time you and your team are commissioned in doing a product, try to understand your target audience and define a path first.  Don’t throw features at an interface and hope or think something good will come out of it.

 

——User First, Designer Second—— 

 

Let’s Talk UX: UX Ain’t Just UI!

UXNOTUI

Hello everyone!  Today I’ll be talking a bit about User Experience and the lowdown on how it is not just UI.  

Just before I begin, here’s the website heading the point I’m getting at in this post.  The site has multiple file types and sizes of a side-by-side comparison of UX vs UI.  I recommend checking it out!

Alright, so let’s take a scenario:

You’re a UI/UX Designer speaking with a client about an app.  The client is asking for you to work with the team of programmers who are currently working said app.  The client asks you “tack on the design.”  You inquire about the research or prior planning that’s been done and the client responds with “we had an idea, thought it was good, and went with it.  Just do your design or UX stuff.”

OK.  That’s an issue. 

“User experience encompasses all aspects of the end-user’s interaction with the company, its services, and its products.”
— Jakob Nielsen and Don Norman

Simply put, UX, or User Experience, involves a process.  

UX is not something you can just tack on like a “band-aid” and call it quits.  It involves a multitude of fundamental ideas that must be interwoven into the very essence of the project from the beginning, these ideas being  gathering research, creating personas, information architecture, usability, prototyping, and a wide variety of others.

User Experience has to do with a user’s full experience, not just “how the interface looks.”  It involves every button click users must interact with to reach their target goal, the euphoric (or distressed) feeling they experience while completing an online purchase.  It involves the users’ drawn attention to a specific portfolio piece that fits in with what they are interested in.

UX  involves every aspect of the user’s interaction with an interface, and even outside the interface.  It involves the customer service users experience from the interface owner, the thoughts of returning to said interface tickling at the mind when a need for a product located within that interface arises.  UX is much more than just UI.

Now, don’t get me wrong.  UI, or User Interface, is still a very important component.

Kaplan Test Prep

KaplanKaplan expertly uses UI elements in their website to enforce usability and promote a unique experience for the user by attracting them to key elements on the page.  The contrasting green against the white/purple palette points out the starting point of the site clearly, and emphasizes what is important (in this case, you and where you start!).  Gestalt principle of Continuity is in play using the white lines and arrows that draw the eye to the multiple career choices.

Zurb’s Pattern Tap

patternTapZurb

Zurb’s Pattern Tap uses UI elements in a way that draws you to what you want from this site: the massive library of excellent design examples.  Each example owns its own nicely-sized thumbnail that is small enough to be friendly on load time, but large enough to display the featured design example.

The User Interface is an invaluable piece of UX that must never be forgotten.  It is never just one or the other.  UI is like an entire section of a full UX orchestra;  it can’t be complete without it.

So there you have it.  Remember that UX is not something to be used interchangeably with UI, because it can’t.  It just can’t. 

UX is not UI!

——-User First, Designer Second——-

Let’s Talk UI Design: Heuristic 1, Visibility of System Status

Hello again everyone!  Today is post one of the Usability Heuristics series.  I’ll be discussing the first heuristic by Jakob Nielsen, “Visiblity of System Status.  I’ll be using the example I did from my Heuristic Overview post, and that is Zola’s Vintage Clothing and Accessories.

Here’s what I said before:

Visibility of system status 

“The system should always keep users informed about what is going on, through appropriate feedback within reasonable time.”

zola

People get confused easily! You need to let users know what is on the page, where they are in the product, or how long til they get to their target destination.  Examples of this includes Highlighted Navigation, Breadcrumbs, Loading Percentages, Progress bars.

Alright down to business.  I put down Zola as a good example of this heuristic because it follows this convention to down to a T.  The website’s layout is a simple design.  It primarily uses white with orange as an accent color.  The navigation element is plainly seen in view and doesn’t become “lost in the design” because of its large blockiness and alarming bold color.  With each page I click on I know exactly where I am simply because of that navigation.

So, how does it work and why is it important?

We focus on what we want, not necessarily everything around it. Our goals affect our perception of things.  Sometimes, looking for certain items cause us to go into places we know nothing about.  Keeping the status of the page of which we are on allows us to focus on the task at hand without worry.  We know where we are or what’s the status of the UI.

We won’t become confused and in fear of where we are.  Nobody likes to feel stupid.  People’s experience goals can be anything they want to feel while using a product, and it’s USUALLY ANYTHING BUT STUPID.  As designers, it’s very important that we create something that’s intuitive and easy to recognize.  If a user is feeling “stupid” on our creations, then we have messed up horribly.

——User First, Designer Second——

Let’s Talk Heuristics: An Overview

Alright, so last class Dr. V presented to us the 10 heuristics for UI Design by Jakob Nielsen.  We talked about them a bit in class, but today I’m gonna speak a little more about them.  Check back in later posts about how each of them can apply in Designs!

Visibility of system status 

“The system should always keep users informed about what is going on, through appropriate feedback within reasonable time.”

zola

People get confused easily! You need to let users know what is on the page, where they are in the product, or how long til they get to their target destination.  Examples of this includes Highlighted Navigation, Breadcrumbs, Loading Percentages, Progress bars.

Match between system and the real world

The system should speak the users’ language, with words, phrases and concepts familiar to the user, rather than system-oriented terms. Follow real-world conventions, making information appear in a natural and logical order.

mySiteHome

Attention: Everybody’s not a computer, a programmer, or a designer.  People do NOT speak programming lingo out in the real world (most people, anyway).  So….saying things like “Please re-authenticate” at a password error is not gonna fly.  Talk like your target audience talks.  Know how your audience sees things. For example, say your target audience are employers. Seeing your portfolio as a navigation item, for example, or placing works right on the first page.

User control and freedom

Users often choose system functions by mistake and will need a clearly marked “emergency exit” to leave the unwanted state without having to go through an extended dialogue. Support undo and redo.”  

amazonOrder

People make mistakes.  Let them have a way out, or a way to fix things.  For example, displaying information entered before and allow editing before placing an order.

Consistency and standards

Users should not have to wonder whether different words, situations, or actions mean the same thing. Follow platform conventions”.

portfolio

Don’t you dare use two different ways to describe one thing on the same screen!  BAD, BAD, BAD!  If your navigation item says “Portfolio”, then the page title should be “Portfolio”, the url should say “Portfolio”, and the browser tab should say “Portfolio”.

Error prevention

 Even better than good error messages is a careful design which prevents a problem from occurring in the first place. Either eliminate error-prone conditions or check for them and present users with a confirmation option before they commit to the action.”

dropbox

Alright, if you can create a design that pushes for no errors, then that would be epic and very good.  Shoot for that.  Otherwise, if an error does occur, THEN REALLY ASK A USER IF THEY WANT TO DO THAT. For example, accidentally selecting “Delete” instead of rename in Dropbox.

Recognition rather than recall

Minimize the user’s memory load by making objects, actions, and options visible. The user should not have to remember information from one part of the dialogue to another. Instructions for use of the system should be visible or easily retrievable whenever appropriate.” 

amazonBar

REMEMBER THIS ONE.  REALLY.  People do not like to read.  So…don’t force them to. People can recognize certain symbols simply because that’s what they’ve learned.  Using a house symbol as “Home” or using a Cart symbol as “Cart” for example. A progress bar’s position is another example.

Flexibility and efficiency of use

Accelerators — unseen by the novice user — may often speed up the interaction for the expert user such that the system can cater to both inexperienced and experienced users. Allow users to tailor frequent actions. “

facebook

Some people have more experience than others.  Allow shortcuts in your design for these people, because they know what they need and how to get to it.  Facebook keeping you logged in, or even messaging a friend on Facebook are two good examples.

Aesthetic and minimalist design

Dialogues should not contain information which is irrelevant or rarely needed. Every extra unit of information in a dialogue competes with the relevant units of information and diminishes their relative visibility. “

gmailGo

Guys and gals, keep it simple.  Don’t feed users more info than they need…meaning DON’T GIVE A HUGE PARAGRAPH EXPLANATION IF IT’S NOT NEEDED.  In fact, if you don’t need to explain it because it’s intuitive then don’t explain it!  Saying “Create an Account” on a button is a good example.

Help users recognize, diagnose, and recover from errors

Error messages should be expressed in plain language (no codes), precisely indicate the problem, and constructively suggest a solution.” 

beats

Umm….if there is an error, then the people need to know it.  Don’t over-complicate it, seriously.  Highlighting the text box with the error and saying “Oops, wrong password” is more than enough.  Or, even just highlighting the box and using an “X” if that is effective.

Help and documentation

Even though it is better if the system can be used without documentation, it may be necessary to provide help and documentation. Any such information should be easy to search, focused on the user’s task, list concrete steps to be carried out, and not be too large.”

question  

Alright if it’s needed, provide some help.  DO IT ONLY IF IT’S NEEDED THOUGH.  Make it to where it’s easy to find, and of course relatable.  Putting a “?” Bubble next to a search box is an example.

Alright, there ya go everyone!  Check back for some design posts on these heuristics!

——User First, Designer Second——

Google Glass: The Good & the Bad

gg3
Alright, so my Professor recently lent me her pair of Google Glass and I spent time playing with it. Today I’ll talk with ya about my experience with Google’s latest creation.

I clicked the button and slipped the pair on, happily greeted by today’s time. I echo the words “OK Glass” and was taken to a list of commands. I spoke the word “Google…” and then was abruptly stopped with a “no internet connection” notification. A bit annoyed, I clicked on settings and went to the connection settings. I downloaded the Glass app on my phone and tried to sync using the QR code.

After about ten minutes trying to sync up, I finally was connected to the internet. I began searching so many things to see what I can view: music vids, recipes, dogs, cars, glass updates, etc. I noted too when I was on websites like Schurz Communications or Wikipedia that actually selecting links was pretty hard to do. Using two fingers to navigate through a tiny web page doesn’t exactly yield well in concerns to hand eye coordination. When I move my fingers one way, the page seemed to shift opposite what I wanted, causing quite the confusion.

Connectivity seemed to cause a bit of a concern. I found that a connection that multiple people were using would considerably reduce Glass’s searching ability, and sometimes causing it to not work at all.

Taking pictures and recording videos is extremely fun and intuitive to do! Simply tapping the side and speaking a few words allow each option to do so. The commands to do each action aren’t complicated at all, either. Speaking the words “OK Glass, Take a Picture” will have a snapshot of your view in a heartbeat!

Another item to note is the health concerns. Seeing as how one must focus on either the screen or the world, ailments like minor headaches or slight blurred vision tend to ensue after prolonged use. I found myself setting the pair down after half an hour of play.

And of course, there’s the slight issue of awareness. Focusing on the screen itself drags your attention away from your surroundings (like a cellphone) and may cause dangerous consequences.

Overall, Google Glass was a bit less than I expected, but still a fun toy. The largest areas that I see need improvement are navigability, the settings, health, and awareness. Of course I see tools that can be implemented later on to drive this tool to be more usable than a simple toy. I’d like to note too that these are simply suggestions to based on my use with multiple devices and Google Glass. Creating a function that allows one to record notes, or adding tasks or events to the Google Calendar. Using commands like “Wake up” to turn the glasses on or “Sleep Now” to turn them off without taking them off. Adding a functionality that allows users to pay through Google Wallet via a secure connection. Adding in possibly a retina scanner akin to fingerprint scan for security. In the future, I would definitely love to see this transition from a playful toy to an augmentation of our lifestyles.

Ah, and I feel like a Saiyan when I look through these!

——–User First, Designer Second