Friday, September 25, 2009

UX Week 2009 in a nutshell

I have to gush some about Adaptive Path. They're professional, smart, and they deeply understand product management, content, & UX Design. I love how their workshops engage & connect professionals. I've learned so much about project management, presenting, engaging customers & coworkers.

My history with Adaptive Path Conferences...
My first AP workshop, was in Seattle I met the guys from Grupthink (a unique & early crowd source web app that unlike yahoo answers, is totally subjective & allows fun participation...Check out a great & not uncommon Grupthink post: What's the best construction achievement in world's architecture and engineering?). They were technical people with an awesome understanding of how to use AJAX for great UX, were fun & from Montana. Aside from meeting great people, I was exposed to excellent uses of AJAX in several web applications, how to do a content inventory & how to prioritize projects (one method anyway).

My second AP workshop was equally social & educational. I met the writer a great blog called InspireUX which I've mentioned before. Also, I gained a deep understanding how facets, taxonomies, terminology, and language structure can help people find things online (aka Search), even when they aren't sure of the product name. I remember the presenter, Branden Schaur threw rubber ducks at participants, which was fun.

This was my first UX week. The difference between UX week and other adaptive path workshops lies within the structure. UX week divides most days, save for the last day which is all presentations, into both lectures and workshops. Presentations can come from both Adaptive Path employees and industry leaders. One notable aspect of all three experiences was how far participants traveled. I met folks from all over, including: Europe, China, and the East Coast. That speaks volumes about the quality.

Highlight Reel
Here's a summary of only the most memorable portions for me

1. A general theme: Wireframes fail in UX because they don't capture the interactivity and require lots of explaining or hand-waving. As interaction design goes, they often don't cut the mustard & we need to rethink these deliverables.

2. A continued frustration: In casual discussions with many UX designers, it seems the field is still frustrated with their respective organizations methods for integrating UX into their process. Save for companies who approach UX as it's own business arm like Google, Apple, and surprisingly Wells Fargo, who have VP UX positions or companies that have UX well-integrated into their process at all levels like and most well-run design firms, many folks still feel like the tech industry is lagging, knowing they want a strong UX but not having a deep understanding of what that means to the organizational structure or process. Worse, some companies still haven't gotten past seeing UX more as visual design & layout and the product managers not just owning the features but the interactions & structure that make them work. :(

3. Workshop 1: Sketching - Rachel Glaves
UX professionals should sketch's low cost, allows one to provide several ideas before getting more high fidelity. We talked about sketching UX design patterns and used a variety of markers each designated with a different purpose:
  • Thin black - first pass at elements
  • Thick black - to call out more important elements
  • Grey - De-emphasize background elements
  • Yellow - highlight the one or the few things where you'd like to draw the viewer's attention
Rachel had a nice, easy, presentation style, which I always appreciate.

4. Workshop 2: Prototyping - Dan Harrelson
960 degrees offers fun ajax web page templates which allow quick prototyping. This is only for designers willing to get their hands dirty. But the variety of tools like Omnigraffle, Axure, and good old Powerpoint, to name a few (Dan Harrelson provides many more here) makes it a lot easier. We used modified 960 grid system files and in less than an hour, we all had something to show which was interactive

4. Scott McCloud: was great, in part, because I love comic storytellers like Lynda Barry, I really enjoyed Scott McCloud's presentation. He provides tons of quick movement in his slides which is fun to watch. Better than me telling you, you should jsut check out his lecture.

5. Temple Grandin: I've read some of her work and certainly there's a lot to learn from Animal Science professor, Temple Grandin. As an autistic academic, she's got facinating insights into perception and cognition. Again, showing is better than telling in this case so here's University of California Television's video:

Other Attendee's Summaries
Alex Aitken took a stab at summarizing UX Week 2009 in a day-by-day approach
{ Day 1 }
{ Day 2 }
{ Day 3 }
{ Day 4 }

Dave Terry's photostream on Flickr provides a great visual approach


In Sum...
Conferences are a great break for the grind. I'm looking forward to the IA summit, which will be my first non-Adaptive Path conference. For me, Adaptive Path conferences disseminate very useful techniques and methods and the organization has made a name for itself as a thought leader--creating & sharing best practices for UX design. UX design is a really great field to be in today as more and more organizations & leaders come to understand not just what UX is, but how to engage a UX team so that the product & services that surround it, dazzle, delight, & surprise.

Thursday, September 24, 2009

A leaf for the fall

I'm hard at work creating a ux week summary....& it's getting close. Just wanted to give you some Fall-colored eye content, thanks to another blog called Watercolor Ways

Thursday, September 17, 2009

I <3 Silverback

Silverback is my favorite tool for user testing screen & video capture.

Can it help you take electronic notes along the way? No.
Can you time tasks within the program? No.

So why do I like it?

It's easy, nimble, and cheap ($50!!! & 10% goes to a great cause). They make it easy by providing a free 30 day trial which is downloadable online.

Using Silverback has been a refreshing alternative to it's counterpart on the Microsoft platform, Techsmith's Morae. I don't want to knock Morae's got plenty of features. The most useful of which is a remote viewer so that coworkers and collaborators can view the product evaluations as they happen. But with a simple workaround? No contest.

Wednesday, September 16, 2009

User IN-YOUR-FACE design

Shell Gas station one-way communication A-V blast. This is what I call in-your-face design.

Sunday, September 6, 2009

Quick Tips for usability testing

Here are three tips for user testing :

1. Do a dry run
Testing, is not unlike a play. Your role, the equipment, everything, needs to be practiced. You will save yourself time, embarrassment & good user study content when you are fully prepared.

2. Replicate the experience when you can & observe, don't teach
Assuming your test is task-based., give instructions but no guidance. You aren't there to provide a tutorial, you are there to observe. Let users make mistakes & explore. Set a time so that if they get very lost, you allow them to attempt to get back on track before you intervene, & that limit should be at least several seconds. Intervening should be a last resort.

2. Involve the team
Product managers & devlopers should attend user testing or watch the videos. When combed for detail they provide a lot of insight. For some this just isn't possible and they are leaning on you to report your findings. Your job is to translate lots of details into a digestible format they can use.

More tips online: I wish I thought of this first

OK might not be perfect but it's pretty darned awesome. The rub with this site is that you can very quickly turn around a test with both a video and a written report. The company pays a pool of participants $10 per test & your out-of-pocket expenses are only $30 per 15 minute test.

This is an incredible value considering in-house testing 5 users for 15 minutes will almost certainly cost no less than $300 (assuming a jr. usability professional spends one full day @ $30/hour & users are compensat $10). cuts that price in half.

Return on Investment
Assuming you've got a team that can rapidly iterate, this is great for a product that's getting tuned or for a product that needs initial investigation. You have to do your own calculations on whether or not this is cost-effective

Doing this testing for each round of iterations would go miles further (and be a lot cheaper) than gathering several coworkers in a room to attempt to accomplish UI design. It's often an uphill battle trying to speak for what users will understand & relate to. But when you have evidence, there can be no dispute. For this reason alone, this has the potential to have a high ROI.

What is it good for? has some limits which means it can't yet completely replace in-house testing. Namely, software products it would not make sense for audiences to which you already have immediate access and a low-fi prototype might cause confusion so I'm not sure if that's possible.
Also, I'm not yet sure how long you have access to each video. Anyway, here are the huge plusses:

* Software as a service model means no downloads or storage of huge video files.
* Very quick turnaround--five 15 minute user tests will likely finish within 24 hours.

For live-site testing, this is excellent is an incredibly useful tool to add to the toolbox & look at the buzz they're getting!