The 2008 edition of the Bad Usability Calendar is out and available for download. Go get it.
“When you are designing, how much time do you spend in your own head, applying your own perspective, and how much time do you spend in someone else’s mindset? Next time you’re designing, try to spend more of the time outside of your own perspective. Make this into a practice.”Jeff Moyes shared this post with the UX group at FamilySearch today and what Indie Young wrote at the end really helped refresh how we should approach user experience in our work. Enjoy™
Mental Models: How to Wield Empathy Posted by Indi Young on Rosenfeld.
“A king brings six men into a dark building. They cannot see anything. The king says to them, “I have bought this animal from the wild lands to the East. It is called an elephant.” “What is an elephant?” the men ask. The king says, “Feel the elephant and describe it to me.” The man who feels a leg says the elephant is like a pillar, the one who feels the tail says the elephant is like a rope, the one who feels the trunk says the elephant is like a tree branch, the one who feels the ear says the elephant is like a hand fan, the one who feels the belly says the elephant is like a wall, and the one who feels the tusk says the elephant is like a solid pipe. “You are all correct”, says the king, “You are each feeling just a part of the elephant.”“The story of the elephant reminds me of the different view of design that people of different backgrounds, education, and experience have. A visual designer approaches UX design from one point of view, the interaction designer from another, and the programmer from yet another. It can be helpful to understand and even experience the part of the elephant that others are experiencing.” Enjoy™ The Psychologist’s View of UX Design by Susan Weinschenk on UX Magazine.
“Usability problems usually fall into two categories; either it’s not clear how to do something, or something is too cumbersome to do. The latter is fixed by a better understanding of what the key tasks are, and the former is usually resolved by adding clarity. Often the best way to do this is through the writing of the interface.”Des Traynor: “Writing an Interface” a post about a presentation he gave at Content Strategy in London (Sep. 5, 2011). If you have 25 minutes I highly recommend watching the presentation. Enjoy™
Essential UX Layers—an interesting model from Jared Spool for tying together your vision, design principles, personas, scenarios, and user stories (or feature designs or use cases or whatever). He presents this as a way to help user experience design fit into an agile development world, but the layers would work well in traditional dev methods as well.
An important point that might be lost on some readers—many of the layers (all?) are rooted in user research; you don’t just make stuff up and expect to solve real problems for real people.
Check out this post from UX Magazine about keeping the realism out of UI elements (icons, buttons, etc.). Most user interfaces are not meant to be realistic and should never be, as their primary purpose is to help the end-user complete tasks with as little thinking as possible. Anything more requires additional work for the designer and the user, so why bother?
“Simplicity is often responsible for the ‘dumbing’ of information rather than the illumination of it.”Michael Hoffman speaking on the difference between simplicity and clarity
Here’s a conclusion to Jason Fried’s post yesterday: The difference between trying something and using something. Designers must design for trying and using. As designers we want both experiences to have positive results, so we have to design for both. However, if you ever have to choose between the two, lean towards “using”.
iPod is my favorite example of this. Try handing an iPod to someone who has never used one before and ask them to find and play “I am the Walrus” by the Beatles (assuming your iPod is properly equipped with the classics). Most will fumble around for quite a bit before they get the hang of the wheel and the center button. However, once they “get it”, it’s all goodness. The experience is optimized for “using” at the expense of the “trying” experience and that makes a huge difference.
P.S. Jason’s comment about the shallow nature of most reviews today is spot on. I find most tech product reviews in the range of mildly amusing to useless. There’s a huge opportunity for a new type of reviewer or review model to come forward with in-depth, “using” reviews. I’ll be the last person to step in line to buy a Zune. The size affects the “trying” before you even pick it up. However, I have to wonder if the tone of the Zune reviews would change if all the reviewers were forced to use the device as their primary music device for 30 days before they wrote anything. I know we’d get a clearer, fairer picture of how good or bad that product really is.