Cool stuff and UX resources

< Back to newsletters

Introduction

Even though Bob Dylan, Tom Wolf and at least 15 different book titles on Amazon exhort us: "Don't Look Back", let's join the contrarian crowd and digest the year's offerings.

True to our usability roots, we'll provide you this high-level information architecture to our 2010 year-end review: Goals, Strategy, Testing, and Organizational Development.

(Something for everybody smile )

Toyota Prius

Goals: Help end-users feel good about visiting your site

March: Ah, spring time and we learned the value of "flow" for creating the experience that sells. That's a goal worth pursuing when designing your ecommerce site, info foraging site, and even – believe it or not – your intranet site.

Why not have a goal of making your site easy enough so people can figure it out, but rich enough in intrigue, variety, nuance, and surprise that people feel "flow". (Yes, your call to creativity!)

That's "flow" as in "peak experience" or "in the zone". These are feelings associated with a video game that has just the right balance of simplicity with challenge.

But, your web site can do that too.

Remember we showed you how Amazon does it with their shopping system. They let used book vendors duke it out with price and quality competition that makes it fun for you to shop, shop, and shop, and then do the deal!

April: Following up on "flow", Noah Schaffer, PhD, made a guest appearance with expert words on how to use the computer game experience as a paradigm for your design.

To give that feeling of flow, Noah shared details on how to provide your user with clear goals, feedback and room for error.

He provided you this checklist:

  • Does the user have a sense of presence in the interface?
  • Are your goals clear, challenging, and surmountable?
  • Do you provide instant, gratifying feedback?
  • Do you leave room for failure?
  • Are there opportunities to explore and play?
  • Do people feel like they take something away from your interface?
  • Have you given people the opportunity to interact with other people?

November: Research showed your "ace-in-the-hole" back-up is none other than your graphics buddies.

A home page that scores well on visual attractiveness will be perceived as having good usability – even if it has only lackluster usability.

Can't beat that.

Plus, we learned that good usability, even excellent usability, won't reverse the first impression given by sub-standard visual appeal. Darn.

The goal is obvious. Make friends with your graphics team. They can save the day.

Did you send them a Hanukkah card? Christmas card? Depavali card? Dinner, anyone?

Now let's see what you learned about Strategy, Testing and Organizational Development in 2010.

Strategy: "Just right" solutions to tough design problems

July: We learned that the "tame problems" of design melt away when you take a systematic approach to finding the sweet spot of design. "Not too much of this and not too little of that".

We learned that aesthetics of design can fool us and at times be counter-intuitive. For example, when measuring "aesthetic appeal," symmetry in web page designs turned out to be less important than the number of picture elements. Who would have thought that?

Moral: adopt the strategy of the "Goldilocks principle." Remember to test your designs so that it's "just right" for your end-users.

But wait, that's not all. You also learned about the "wicked problems" of design. Those problems mimic the problem Goldilocks had when she was lost and cold in the woods! What did she do?

Well, for starters, she broke the rules and entered unbidden into the Three Bears home! Then she snuck into the refrigerator, foraging for food. And she sought refuge and rested in the private bedroom.

But, as any good designer handling a difficult ("wicked") design problem, she exercised expert judgment using non-linear heuristics and fearless trial and error.

She modeled her decisions with a test-and-iterate strategy. Ah, here, too, the Goldilocks principle of getting it "just right" can illuminate the wicked problems with insight.

September: Do you provide news? What design strategies can support your user needs for information foraging?

Are people willing to scroll when looking for news?

How far from the home page do people seem willing to go?

When given a choice, will people search or browse for their news articles?

And the answers, please: Yes, they scroll; and one link away is about the far as people want to go (they fly back to the home page as often as they can), and people love to browse before they search!

Read more about that study which showed us "Home is where the heart is..."

October: Question: What strategies do you need to support end-user interaction with video on your web pages?

This is especially critical, since:

"Nine-in-ten internet users ages 18-29 use video-sharing sites, up from 72% one year ago... Online adults ages 30-49 also showed big gains over the past year; 67% now use video-sharing sites, up from 57% in 2008."

Answer: "Link management." Research shows that best practice among video news sites has resulted in placement of links next to the video object.

Do your users care what you do?

Well, if you had been designing a "newspaper site" in the past, your links would have been distributed across the various articles.

So, yes, your users care – because they have expectations developed from numerous video sites that have a style quite different from a news-only site.

Testing: Sampling your user interaction the right way

January: If you want to compare your site with other sites, check out the SUS (System Usability Scale).

There are no other free tools that let you get a "grade" on the site you are about to improve. Thanks to a diligent, committed team at AT&T who collected data on 3,500 users over 10 years, we have an idea of what "average" means in terms of a SUS score: the median score is 70 out of 100.

Also, the top 25% scores came in with an average (mean) score of 78.

But, better yet, they show users choosing these adjectives (below) for applications. Those users gave these average SUS ratings at the same time:

Ah, the SUS testing can now let us compare our results with other applications.

Plus, remember the SUS takes so little time (a minute – 10 questions), you can offer it after each major task!

May: We took a tour of usability magi Jeff Sauro's recommendations on how to talk about our test results.

He updated Jakob Nielson's famous "you only need 5 users" chart.

Now we can account for this hidden and little known sizzler question: "what's the rate for finding problems IN YOUR PARTICULAR DESIGN?"

See the chart below. The red line is Nielson's assumption that a single user has a 31% chance of finding a problem. If that's all you want, then 5 test participants makes sense.

But if you want to find problems that have a lesser chance of being found, then you need more participants! (See the blue line for problems that have a 10% chance of being found.)

If you have concerns about finding problems that occur "fewer than 31% of the time" check out your May UI Design Newsletter. Learn exactly how many participants you really need.

August: It was baseball time when we heard about Yogi Berra's homily that "it ain't over 'till it's over."

We learned that testing is only half of your work. The other half is communicating your results to your developer team.

Out of 81 usability recommendations written by various usability teams, only 17% could be called both "Useful" and "Usable" or better.

Even worse, only 42% of the 81 recommendations could be called both "Partly Useful" and "Partly Usable". The remaining 58% of the recommendations scored worse.

Check out the August UI Design Review for tips on writing your usability recommendations.

Toyota Prius
Toyota Prius

Organizational Development: Bringing life (back) to the corporate party

February: We conducted a little "group therapy" in this UI Review while talking about management demands and usability reality.

Recall our reader's letter (himself a recent CUA graduate):

"...It's a hell of a job – especially because I am "dropped in" after 15 years of other people developing and using the product – and they expect me to take my magic wand and fix it."

To set the scene, we took the role of management, and gave this rationale for management's attitude toward the letter-writer: "People havealways bought our software.Changes will scare users away.We must code now."

Indeed, we needed some "deep therapy" here because it was a real-life replay of Alan Cooper's famous usability manifesto: "The Inmates Are Running the Asylum: Why High Tech Products Drive Us Crazy and How to Restore the Sanity".

Remember our solution? "Loving the Madness of Good Design: "Institutionalize us all."

With help from Eric Schaffer's blog, we gave these recommendations:

1. Show your managers articles (and blogs) that discuss new usability trends such as Eric describes in his blog.

2. Adopt the vocabulary, metaphors, goals, ideas of your management. Talk their talk, not usability talk.

3. Support your manager's quantitative business goals with your own usability metrics. Present and talk about your metrics for user success: faster learning, faster productivity, and greater feelings of success.

4. Nothing speaks better for a successful future than a successful past. Start with projects small enough to guarantee success. Increment. Grow. Only make promises you can keep. Be nice.

June: And for the month with the summer solstice, the longest day, you read the best advice you could ever get for getting usability buy-in. Simply put: "teach them, so they know."

Recall the "Dunning-Kruger effect." These researchers gave us words for what we already knew – people think they know more about your topic than they really do.

They tested this theory with short tests about grammar, logic, and humor. They found that people scoring in the bottom 25% on the tests guessed they were doing as well or better than 55% of other people taking the test.

The solution? To restore a more accurate appraisal of their own knowledge, people needed a little training.

After short 10-minute training in, for example, rules of logic, the bottom 25% now modestly put themselves as doing as good as at least 44% of other people. Not accurate, but at least more modest.

Conclusion: End-of-year performance report

I trust that the Dunning-Kruger affect will not apply to you.

Having read the above abbreviated comments, now you indeed know more than 95% of your management and at least more than 55% of other usability folks. Congratulations on your performance.

Have a great new year and, as Yogi Berra said, "it ain't over 'till it's over."


References

Friedman, H. H., Herskovitz, P.J., and Pollack, S (1993). The Biasing Effects of Scale-Checking Styles on Response to a Likert Scale. Proceedings of the Survey Research Methods Section, American Statistical Association. pp. 792-794.

Hinkle, Veronica (2009). Using Repertory Grid Interviews to Capture First Impressions of Home Pages. Usability News, 11 (2). (See references in this article for other usability studies using Repertory Grid Technique.)

Message from the CEO, Dr. Eric Schaffer — The Pragmatic Ergonomist

Leave a comment here

Subscribe

Sign up to get our Newsletter delivered straight to your inbox

Follow us

Privacy policy

Reviewed: 18 Mar 2014

This Privacy Policy governs the manner in which Human Factors International, Inc., an Iowa corporation (“HFI”) collects, uses, maintains and discloses information collected from users (each, a “User”) of its humanfactors.com website and any derivative or affiliated websites on which this Privacy Policy is posted (collectively, the “Website”). HFI reserves the right, at its discretion, to change, modify, add or remove portions of this Privacy Policy at any time by posting such changes to this page. You understand that you have the affirmative obligation to check this Privacy Policy periodically for changes, and you hereby agree to periodically review this Privacy Policy for such changes. The continued use of the Website following the posting of changes to this Privacy Policy constitutes an acceptance of those changes.

Cookies

HFI may use “cookies” or “web beacons” to track how Users use the Website. A cookie is a piece of software that a web server can store on Users’ PCs and use to identify Users should they visit the Website again. Users may adjust their web browser software if they do not wish to accept cookies. To withdraw your consent after accepting a cookie, delete the cookie from your computer.

Privacy

HFI believes that every User should know how it utilizes the information collected from Users. The Website is not directed at children under 13 years of age, and HFI does not knowingly collect personally identifiable information from children under 13 years of age online. Please note that the Website may contain links to other websites. These linked sites may not be operated or controlled by HFI. HFI is not responsible for the privacy practices of these or any other websites, and you access these websites entirely at your own risk. HFI recommends that you review the privacy practices of any other websites that you choose to visit.

HFI is based, and this website is hosted, in the United States of America. If User is from the European Union or other regions of the world with laws governing data collection and use that may differ from U.S. law and User is registering an account on the Website, visiting the Website, purchasing products or services from HFI or the Website, or otherwise using the Website, please note that any personally identifiable information that User provides to HFI will be transferred to the United States. Any such personally identifiable information provided will be processed and stored in the United States by HFI or a service provider acting on its behalf. By providing your personally identifiable information, User hereby specifically and expressly consents to such transfer and processing and the uses and disclosures set forth herein.

In the course of its business, HFI may perform expert reviews, usability testing, and other consulting work where personal privacy is a concern. HFI believes in the importance of protecting personal information, and may use measures to provide this protection, including, but not limited to, using consent forms for participants or “dummy” test data.

The Information HFI Collects

Users browsing the Website without registering an account or affirmatively providing personally identifiable information to HFI do so anonymously. Otherwise, HFI may collect personally identifiable information from Users in a variety of ways. Personally identifiable information may include, without limitation, (i)contact data (such as a User’s name, mailing and e-mail addresses, and phone number); (ii)demographic data (such as a User’s zip code, age and income); (iii) financial information collected to process purchases made from HFI via the Website or otherwise (such as credit card, debit card or other payment information); (iv) other information requested during the account registration process; and (v) other information requested by our service vendors in order to provide their services. If a User communicates with HFI by e-mail or otherwise, posts messages to any forums, completes online forms, surveys or entries or otherwise interacts with or uses the features on the Website, any information provided in such communications may be collected by HFI. HFI may also collect information about how Users use the Website, for example, by tracking the number of unique views received by the pages of the Website, or the domains and IP addresses from which Users originate. While not all of the information that HFI collects from Users is personally identifiable, it may be associated with personally identifiable information that Users provide HFI through the Website or otherwise. HFI may provide ways that the User can opt out of receiving certain information from HFI. If the User opts out of certain services, User information may still be collected for those services to which the User elects to subscribe. For those elected services, this Privacy Policy will apply.

How HFI Uses Information

HFI may use personally identifiable information collected through the Website for the specific purposes for which the information was collected, to process purchases and sales of products or services offered via the Website if any, to contact Users regarding products and services offered by HFI, its parent, subsidiary and other related companies in order to otherwise to enhance Users’ experience with HFI. HFI may also use information collected through the Website for research regarding the effectiveness of the Website and the business planning, marketing, advertising and sales efforts of HFI. HFI does not sell any User information under any circumstances.

Disclosure of Information

HFI may disclose personally identifiable information collected from Users to its parent, subsidiary and other related companies to use the information for the purposes outlined above, as necessary to provide the services offered by HFI and to provide the Website itself, and for the specific purposes for which the information was collected. HFI may disclose personally identifiable information at the request of law enforcement or governmental agencies or in response to subpoenas, court orders or other legal process, to establish, protect or exercise HFI’s legal or other rights or to defend against a legal claim or as otherwise required or allowed by law. HFI may disclose personally identifiable information in order to protect the rights, property or safety of a User or any other person. HFI may disclose personally identifiable information to investigate or prevent a violation by User of any contractual or other relationship with HFI or the perpetration of any illegal or harmful activity. HFI may also disclose aggregate, anonymous data based on information collected from Users to investors and potential partners. Finally, HFI may disclose or transfer personally identifiable information collected from Users in connection with or in contemplation of a sale of its assets or business or a merger, consolidation or other reorganization of its business.

Personal Information as Provided by User

If a User includes such User’s personally identifiable information as part of the User posting to the Website, such information may be made available to any parties using the Website. HFI does not edit or otherwise remove such information from User information before it is posted on the Website. If a User does not wish to have such User’s personally identifiable information made available in this manner, such User must remove any such information before posting. HFI is not liable for any damages caused or incurred due to personally identifiable information made available in the foregoing manners. For example, a User posts on an HFI-administered forum would be considered Personal Information as provided by User and subject to the terms of this section.

Security of Information

Information about Users that is maintained on HFI’s systems or those of its service providers is protected using industry standard security measures. However, no security measures are perfect or impenetrable, and HFI cannot guarantee that the information submitted to, maintained on or transmitted from its systems will be completely secure. HFI is not responsible for the circumvention of any privacy settings or security measures relating to the Website by any Users or third parties.

Correcting, Updating, Accessing or Removing Personal Information

If a User’s personally identifiable information changes, or if a User no longer desires to receive non-account specific information from HFI, HFI will endeavor to provide a way to correct, update and/or remove that User’s previously-provided personal data. This can be done by emailing a request to HFI at hfi@humanfactors.com. Additionally, you may request access to the personally identifiable information as collected by HFI by sending a request to HFI as set forth above. Please note that in certain circumstances, HFI may not be able to completely remove a User’s information from its systems. For example, HFI may retain a User’s personal information for legitimate business purposes, if it may be necessary to prevent fraud or future abuse, for account recovery purposes, if required by law or as retained in HFI’s data backup systems or cached or archived pages. All retained personally identifiable information will continue to be subject to the terms of the Privacy Policy to which the User has previously agreed.

Contacting HFI

If you have any questions or comments about this Privacy Policy, you may contact HFI via any of the following methods:
Human Factors International, Inc.
PO Box 2020
1680 highway 1, STE 3600
Fairfield IA 52556
hfi@humanfactors.com
(800) 242-4480

Terms and Conditions for Public Training Courses

Reviewed: 18 Mar 2014

Cancellation of Course by HFI

HFI reserves the right to cancel any course up to 14 (fourteen) days prior to the first day of the course. Registrants will be promptly notified and will receive a full refund or be transferred to the equivalent class of their choice within a 12-month period. HFI is not responsible for travel expenses or any costs that may be incurred as a result of cancellations.

Cancellation of Course by Participants (All regions except India)

$100 processing fee if cancelling within two weeks of course start date.

Cancellation / Transfer by Participants (India)

4 Pack + Exam registration: Rs. 10,000 per participant processing fee (to be paid by the participant) if cancelling or transferring the course (4 Pack-CUA/CXA) registration before three weeks from the course start date. No refund or carry forward of the course fees if cancelling or transferring the course registration within three weeks before the course start date.

Individual Modules: Rs. 3,000 per participant ‘per module’ processing fee (to be paid by the participant) if cancelling or transferring the course (any Individual HFI course) registration before three weeks from the course start date. No refund or carry forward of the course fees if cancelling or transferring the course registration within three weeks before the course start date.

Exam: Rs. 3,000 per participant processing fee (to be paid by the participant) if cancelling or transferring the pre agreed CUA/CXA exam date before three weeks from the examination date. No refund or carry forward of the exam fees if requesting/cancelling or transferring the CUA/CXA exam within three weeks before the examination date.

No Recording Permitted

There will be no audio or video recording allowed in class. Students who have any disability that might affect their performance in this class are encouraged to speak with the instructor at the beginning of the class.

Course Materials Copyright

The course and training materials and all other handouts provided by HFI during the course are published, copyrighted works proprietary and owned exclusively by HFI. The course participant does not acquire title nor ownership rights in any of these materials. Further the course participant agrees not to reproduce, modify, and/or convert to electronic format (i.e., softcopy) any of the materials received from or provided by HFI. The materials provided in the class are for the sole use of the class participant. HFI does not provide the materials in electronic format to the participants in public or onsite courses.