How much do you really like this feature?

1 Jun

Co.Labs posted an article yesterday on GitHub’s use of deprivation testing to verify how much users really want a new feature they’ve prepared to roll out.

It’s a technique that seems obvious once you’ve heard the idea but I’d never thought to test in this way. Time to think through a pilot test to see if this is as solid a match for testing new features in our systems as I think it is.

Feeling a lack of natural scrolling

To Brodigan’s point on giving sufficient time for testers to get used to the new feature before taking it away: It took me a while to get used to OS X Lion’s “natural scrolling.” It took me time to reverse years of muscle memory that told me the new method was backward. Once I got to the other side on muscle memory I found it as natural as the marketing term claims. It’s now to the point that using the traditional scrolling gesture in Ubuntu feels so frustrating that I took to the Internet to learn how to get natural scrolling working in Ubuntu as well. Without giving sufficient time for users to adjust to the new feature we won’t get accurate information about whether it hurts to take the new feature away.

Libraries using this technique for existing services

In a parallel to Brodigan’s point that “deprivation studies actually happen a lot in real life,” the Queens Library is using deprivation methods to help the communities they serve understand what life would be like without the features they provide through mock funerals like the one they held at their Pomonok branch in Jamaica. This may seem an odd move for a library to make but given that their key argument in encouraging community action is that the libraries “cannot sustain cuts of these proposed levels at a time when they are experiencing some of the highest number of visitors in history,” it may prove effective motivation. My heart and mind respond more clearly to losing something I like or depend on than hearing that an abstract percentage of funds won’t be available.

Skeumorphic scoreboard design at Fenway

1 Jun

Jared Spool posted the following shot of one of the boards at Fenway Park.
Skeumorphic Scoreboard design
Remind you of something?
Wrigley Field's centerfield scoreboard

Don’t get any ideas, Ricketts. We still don’t want a Jumbotron even if you make it look like our beloved hand-turned scoreboard.


What do you want to convey and to whom?

29 May

“To craft the experience, you have to think in terms of emotions: what do you want to convey and to whom?”

Sarah Parmenter, An Event Apart: Designing for the Responsive, Retina-Friendly Web

A winning app with a maligned icon

28 May

In looking for an alternative to the lackluster default iOS weather app Jacqui Cheng’s comments led me to check out Yahoo’s Weather app. It quickly became my favorite weather app. Consistently positive reviews, high star ratings, and a tool to set Yahoo Weather as the default app suggest I’m not alone in thinking highly of it.

Yahoo Weather ChicagoYahoo Weather San Jose CR

Yahoo Weather makes a strong impression by making excellent use of the Flickr library, the most traditionally underutilized of Yahoo’s resources. This provides a quality visual backdrop relevant to the numeric weather data and invites users to further emotional involvement by contributing their weather-relevant photos to the Project Weather group. As such excitement moves into geographic areas with little Flickr activity it becomes doubly helpful to Yahoo! as it provides a significant improvement to the emotional quality of the experience while helping users of Flicker and Weather feel more ownership over both applications.

Yahoo Weather forecastYahoo Weather map precipitation

After the initial wonder inspired at the Flicker imagery subsides the app provides the tools you’d expect. A 5-day & hourly forecast display, details of current weather, precipitation radar and percentages, even information on wind, sunrise, and sunset.

Except for disappointments in poor photo coverage in less Flickr-savvy areas I’ve been pleased with the app. I was however surprised to find that there’s something many weren’t thrilled about: the app’s icon.

New icon... thanks whiners

The Weather app team apparently felt the sting of numerous whines on Twitter about how people didn’t like the icon. I disagree. I think the much maligned line drawing on a purple background clearly communicated the key characteristics of the app.

  • By using the line drawing for partly cloudy that millions have learned over decades of seeing weather reports on the television and the internet the icon quickly communicates that we’re talking about weather
  • By using the Yahoo! purple background and keeping to it in the negative spaces of the partly cloudy image the icon clearly communicates that this is a Yahoo product

I don’t think the new icon communicates either of these traits effectively. The new wispy cloud doesn’t leverage prior visual experience to the same degree as the previous icon’s line art. The connection to Yahoo’s corporate identity comes only in the form of the Yahoo! logo emblazoned on the blue background.

It’s important to help customers see that you’re listening to them. The icon change may have come as an easy opportunity for Yahoo! to prove they’re listening. I think in this case we get a lesser product as a result but if this change of icon helps more customers engage with the product and focus on its strengths maybe it’s my turn to hold my complaints.

If you don’t think so, take a look at Tristan Denyer’s Is the Yahoo! Weather app icon really that ugly?

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Forging the team: UX in development scrums

28 Jul

Last week Jeff Gothelf wrote a great article on the value of involving the UX designer in the development team’s daily scrums, pointing to Karate Kid as a way to be patient through the initial run of meetings.

It’s great to see someone write this up. It’s an approach that we made part of our process at Roundbox Global years ago.

Benefits that we saw included:

  • Demolish the wall between Design and Development — no more “us” and “them” with its related miscommunications
  • Increased teamwork — everyone interested in making the whole team succeed
  • Pair designing — make sure the designs will implement cleanly before documenting, developers point to how we can push the tech to meet design needs
  • Reciprocal invitation — involve developers in requirements discussions with the client, especially where technical limits are tight

Through this the team enabled itself to move more quickly before changes in requirements and provide software that met the needs of client stakeholders and end users.

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Clorox expands mobile options to staff, doesn’t burst into flames

12 Apr

Last week Computerworld’s Lucas Mearian wrote about some interesting IT choices at Clorox.

What I find especially interesting is the possibility that various CIOs and IT managers are looking at opening their hardware offerings to more end-user choice, especially in mobile devices.

“If you believe demographic studies, the workforce in their 20s and 30s isn’t going to accept black corporate PCs with black corporate mobile phones and not be allowed to run Facebook or Angry Bird apps,” he said.

Loura was among many CIOs and IT managers at SNW who said they’re facing the same issue — employees want to use mobile technology at work, leaving IT with the job of ensuring that the devices and the data on them remain secure.

As a result, Loura refit Clorox’s employees with HP laptops to replace their old Windows 2k desktops and moved all mobile off of Blackberry and to the user’s choice of iOS, Android, or Windows 7 Phone. They provide these various options while maintaining the data security standards required by the enterprise.

I’ve worked in both large and small operations and my experience had always fallen in line with the stereotype: the big boys lock things down and don’t tolerate questions while small companies let their people choose their tools and keep access open when possible.

It looks like there are CIOs challenging that stereotype. What would really blow my mind is seeing full on Devops in larger enterprises.

That would be a world to live in.

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“Tablets are a fad” and other failures of insight

28 Mar

With the release of iPad 2 the naysayers have sounded again. Tablet devices are just a fad claims PC World’s Katherine Noyes.

What I find most interesting are the reasons she cites for tablets’ fad-dom because they tell more about the reviewer than about tablets. She approaches tablets from an old paradigm, one that fails to recognize some basic realities of why and how many people use computers.

“Limited functionality”

Tablet devices are only limited in their functionality when compared to full PCs, laptops, and some netbooks. Compared to some other devices (like smartphones) they provide richer interface options by virtue of their larger form factor and beefier hardware.

The problem with comparing tablets to PCs is that it bakes in the assumption that what everybody really wants is a traditional PC.

If we take Jef Raskin at his word and to the end user the interface really is the product, there’s room for consumers to perceive tablets as more powerful or more open despite the hardware stats or code licensing.

“Waning excitement”

Noyes founds her claim of waning excitement about tablets on claims that reviews of the iPad 2 were mixed. The false assumption here is that anything short of all positive reviews of iPad 2 means that the masses have lost interest in tablets. Though iPad dominates tablet mindshare it’s not the only device in the space. Even if all reviewers hated the iPad 2 we can’t declare tabletgeddon just yet.

Consumers tell a different story – iPad 2 launch

The assumptions that all people really want a PC and that iPad 2 is a failure are invalidated by the sales statistics for the iPad 2 launch. iPad sold out throughout the US on launch weekend with Fortune quoting a claim that 70% of iPad 2s sold to people that didn’t have a tablet device before.

In speaking with friends that are still trying to purchase the much coveted device the current technique for successfully purchasing one is to find out when the shipment of iPads arrives at the nearest Apple stores and be there when they unload the truck. Within hours of unloading the iPads are once again sold out and unavailable until the next shipment.

Underlying biases

What Noyes is really communicating is her own biases and looking to datapoints convenient to her preconceptions. Per her bio she is a proponent of free (as in freedom) software and tends to cover Linux topics.

Free software is a wonderful thing, but unfortunately free software and open source software are proving to have little place in the tablet space. Apple’s iOS defines itself by its closedness and Google’s take on “open” with Android is proving less than what we might have hoped for.

That said, writing off the currently OSS unfriendly tablet space as a fad is giving personal bias too much sway.

When I first heard that iPad would use iOS rather than OSX I was displeased. It was just gonna be a huge iPhone! This wasn’t the device for me. At launch it looked like it would be difficult at best to code on it and there were few applications available for diagramming, designing, or creating graphics. I also had my concerns about the walled garden and how that might prevent the kind of “seeing the gears turn behind the curtain” moments that inspired some of us that work in software to choose our current vocation.

Here’s what I had to face: most people aren’t interested in computers as en end in themselves.

It’s not the device, it’s what you do with it

There are many people in this world that have a computer (be it a laptop, desktop, or notebook) only because computers help them to use Facebook, go on the web, instant message, tweet, email, watch videos, listen to music, and in some cases make music and videos.

These are people who have computers not because they think computers are awesome, but that the things they want to do are awesome. Computers are only a bridge to that awesome.

These are people that care less about what operating system they work as that it doesn’t confuse them with interfaces or details of the computer’s operation that they don’t understand.

Tablets let these people do what they want to do without imposing the traditional PC baggage on them. No file system asking them where they want to put their files, no taskbar filling up with programs, no drivers to deal with.

To please these users you need to do only this: empower them to do what they want to do and get out of the way.

This is why iPad has captured the imagination of so many people. They see in it the promise of a device that will let them do what they want to do without burying them in all the traditional computer baggage.

While we want a BMW, Ferrari, or Bugati and itch to open it up on the autobahn, they’re cool with a Honda, Toyota, or Hyundai that has a cool look, a sporty feel, and gets them where they want to go.

They don’t need a “real” computer and wouldn’t make full use of one if they had it.

And if we let ourselves believe that our concept of what a “real” computer is matters to them, we do so at our own peril.

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Diseño alternativo de Facebook 2006 por iA

24 Apr

iA-facebook.jpgHace unos años iA hizo un diseño nuevo para Facebook que consiste en una presentación mas limpia y un flujo de información muy ordenada, fluyendo de filtro al info stream a reacción.

A mí me gusta la jerarquía clara que tiene el sitio al presentar los niveles en columnas distintas y la apariencia limpia del diseño visual que hicieron. A pesar de esto, me pregunto como recibirían los usuarios de Facebook este diseño. A mí me gusta pero no quedo convencido que saldría igual con otros usuarios.

Este es una de estas interfaces para las que quisiera ver resultados de un estudio con usuarios.

  • ¿Entienden ellos la jerarquía clara?
  • ¿Se aprovechan de ella?
  • ¿Logran sus metas de navegación mas rápidamente?

Y Facebook es un sitio (tal como Amazon) que tiene una cantidad de usuarios suficientemente grande que fácilmente se puede hacer una prueba A-B y encuestas remotas (si es que no se puede hacer estudios directos). Es posible que al hacer el A-B a una escala en que no salga en Mashable hasta repetir la prueba unas veces.

¿Que opinas del diseño Facebook que hizo iA?

¿Que opinarían sus amigos de Facebook?

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iA redesign of Facebook circa 2006

24 Apr

iA-facebook.jpgA few years back, let’s say 2006, iA put together an impressive redesign of Facebook that provides a much cleaner feel and a cool horizontal information flow from less to more specific. Filter to info stream to reaction as they put it in the article.

I dig the clear hierarchy of the columns and the clean visual quality but I have my questions about how well this approach would play for the majority of Facebook users. (I have a certain affection for MacOS Finder’s column view but I recognize that many people don’t care for it.)

This is one of those interfaces that I’d love to see tested with end users. Interestingly, Facebook is one of those sites (like Amazon) with a large enough user base that an interface like this could get a small scale A-B rollout and remote feedback without causing disruption for the majority of users. Keep the sample small enough and the test might not appear as an article on Mashable until you’ve done a couple rounds.

What do you think of this design approach?

How would your Facebook friends react to it?

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Usabilidad iPad según niña de 2.5 años

6 Apr

Todd Lapin sacó un video de su hija jugando con su nueva iPad y lo subió a YouTube. Lo he visto circular mucho (aparece abajo, audio en inglés) y Lapin hizo un post en Laughing Squid que comenta el contenido del video. El video es precioso y muestra que los usuarios de iPhone pueden esperar una migración fácil al iPad. El video también desmiente un comentario que frecuentemente escucho de parte de clientes potenciales: “Los usarios de nuestro sistema no saben suficiente para dar feedback útil sobre el sistema.”

No es nada del otro mundo ver que a una niña que ya conoce el iPhone le resulta muy fácil usar el iPad. Los dos dispositivos usan la misma interfaz. Buenas noticias para el iPad, pero nada mas allá de lo que se esperaba.

Lo mas interesante viene en los comentarios que hace la niña sin pensarlos y donde se trabó en las tareas que se puso a hacer. Al hacer estos comentarios ella se muestra tan capaz como un adulto en dar feedback de usabilidad.

¿Tiene videos?

Me llama la atención que tan pronto que empieza a jugar pregunta si el dispositivo corre videos. Supongo que esto viene de experiencia previa con el iPhone, que el papá le corrió unos videos en el iPhone y que al ver algo que parece igual al iPhone pero mas grande, piensa inmediatamente en correr videos en el nuevo dispositivo.

Me pregunto si hay otras razones por las cuales pensaría en correr videos en el iPad. Sería interesante saber que ella lo vio tan parecido a un televisor de pantalla plana que le parecía tele, pero Lapin tendría que aclarar primero el contexto que la chiquita lleva de sus experiencias con el iPhone.

Quiero el que tenga cámara

Una de las críticas que mas escucho del iPad es “¿por qué no tiene cámara?”

Me parece una pregunta justa. Parece que sería mas o menos fácil incluir una cámara en el iPad.

Pero al pensar en usar tal cámara me cuesta imaginar que quisiera sacar fotos con algo tan grande como el iPad si tengo la opción de hacer lo mismo con un dispositivo mas pequeño que saca fotos mejores. Lo que realmente quisiera es conectar una cámara profesional al iPad para editar y mostrar las fotos editadas en el momento.

Toques multitouch sin querer

Algo que le complicó a la niña es algo que me imagino dificulta a mucha gente. Al sostener el iPad por el borde ella toca el límite del área sensible. Al tocar el límite del área sensible cualquier toque que hace en la pantalla llega a ser una interacción multitouch que no quiso hacer. En el Home el resultado es que tocar los iconos de las apps no da resultado hasta que suelte el borde del dispositivo.

Si solo se ocupaba arreglar esto en el Home se podría hacer fácilmente. Nada mas ignore cualquier toque que se hace cerca del borde del dispositivo. La cosa es que este problema va a salir para todo género de aplicación. Es algo que se debe arreglar al nivel del sistema operativo o en el dispositivo mismo.

Lo difícil de arreglar esto de forma general es que la misma resolución tiene implicaciones distintas para todo género de aplicación. El tocar el borde de la pantalla sin querer en una app de editar imagenes no se implica lo mismo de lo que se implica en un juego o en un launcher como el Home. Una resolución a nivel de SO o hardware tendrá que balancear todas estas implicaciones.

Toque la carita del gato

Este fue mi momento favorito. El papá se da cuenta que le está resultando muy difícil a la niña encontrar como entrar el juego. En la pantalla inicial de la app aparece la carita de un gato con la palabra “juega” abajo. Este es lo que los diseñadores esperan que los usuarios toquen para iniciar el juego. En la parte inferior de la pantalla hay un botón.

La niña va inmediatamente para el botón. A pesar de ver que no le llevó donde quería ir la primera vez el botón, el saber que botones hacen cosas le lleva a apretar el botón otra vez al volver a encender la app. Al final su papá trata de corregirle y le guia a la carita del gato.

Feedback de usabilidad… no se requiere título

Lo que mas aprendo del video es que la excusa de que los usuarios de un sistema o un sitio no sean suficientes cultos para dar feedback valioso es excusa sin lógica. Si una niña de 2 años y medio puede dar feedback valioso no hay usuario que no pueda dar feedback valioso.

Para dar comentarios valiosos no se require conocimiento amplio del sistema ni tampoco de las metas empresariales del aplicación o sitio. Muchas veces tal conocimiento hace mas difícil dar feedback útil. En fin lo importante es esto: recibir comentarios y feedback de usuarios reales de su sistema o sitio.

Es algo tan sencillo que lo puede hacer una niña de 2 años y medio.

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