In January we were lucky enough to have Steve Tengler give a talk to a joint meeting between Refresh Detroit and the Michigan Usability Professionals’ Association. His talk built off his ongoing series of articles which explore user experience lessons from actors:
- Five User Experience Lessons from Tom Cruise
- Five User Experience Lessons from Johnny Depp
- Five User Experience Lessons from Tom Hanks
Although Steve couldn’t share his slides here are the 25 UX lessons he demonstrated that we can learn from Hollywood.
The 25 UX Lessons From Hollywood:
- Rain Man: Social Media Ratings of UX Can be Powerful (“Kmart Sucks!”)
- Mission Impossible: Arrange your User Interface Around Urgent Tasks
- Minority Report: Design Your System with a Multimodal Interface
- Top Gun: Design for Human Error Upfront
- Risky Business: Style Captures Attention
- The Green Mile: Task Completion Doesn’t Automatically Equate To Success
- Cast Away: Fictional Personas Can Bring Sanity to the Project
- Bosum Buddies: Re-Skinning Can Allow Financially-Advantageous Reuse
- Da Vinci Code: Complicated Interfaces Have Their Purposes Too
- Forrest Gump: Exceeding Expectations Makes You Memorable!
- Jurassic Park: The Details Are Surrounded by Dung
- October Sky: Have Faith in Iterative Testing
- Recount: Statistics Can Be Both Powerful and Dangerous
- Blue Velvet: Investigations Can Go Too Far
- Meet The Fockers: Understand the Financials of Personalization
- Pirates of the Carribean: It’s Not About the Ship You Rode In On
- Edward Scissorhands: Plan Ahead for Assimilation
- Alice in Wonderland: Flexibility on Size Helps Win the Battle
- What’s Eating At Gilbert Grape: Design for What Your Customer Wants
- Alice In Wonderland: Tremendous Flexibility Can Lead to User Satisfaction
- Bruce Almighty: Silent Analytics Can Help Tailor Your UX
- Man on the Moon: Know the Business Side of your Business
- Mr. Popper’s Penguins: Watch Out for the X+1 Factor
- Horton Hears a Who: Don’t Forget The Minority Might be a Captured Market
- Batman Returns: Be Flexible on Emerging HMI
If you have a chance to see Steve talk, take it. He is engaging and has a great insight in to user’s needs. We were grateful to have him and invite him back any time.
I love this time of year when my favorite websites post advent calendars for people who work on the web. It’s like Christmas comes early with all the tips and resources!
If you missed it earlier this week, .netMagazine published eight advent calendars for web designers and developers, leading off with the well-known 24ways site and including UXMas, a new advent calendar for user experience professionals.
Here’s a few more web-focused advent calendars you might enjoy:
Online Marketing Advent Calendar
The Online Marketing Advent Calendar shares a digital marketing tip each day, focusing on SEO and content strategy.
Systems Administration Advent Calendar
With tips and resources written by fellow sysadmins, the Systems Administration Advent Calendar has been publishing their calendar since 2008.
It’s a Shape Christmas
For illustrators, the It’s a Shape Christmas interactive advent calendar features 25 downloadable shapes from illustrators around the world.
The Mozilla Developer Network (MDN) Calendar offers a puzzle-interface for demos and to learn about new resources.
WebKrauts Advent Calendar 2012
Though written in German, it’s easy to use Google Translate on the WebKrauts Advent Calendar 2012 which features web topics including CSS, wireframes, SASS, tools, and mobile web.
University of Michigan School of Information (UMSI) is hosting Connect with UMSI, an informative session for prospective Master of Science in Information and doctoral program students.
The event is October 27, from 1:00pm to 5:00pm in the Rackham Graduate School (next to North Quad) in Ann Arbor, Michigan.
The Master of Science in Information program includes students who are studying:
- human-computer interaction
- archives and preservation
- information management
- library and information science
- information analysis and retrieval
- social computing
UMSI also offers a new Master’s program in Health Informatics, where students learn how information can improve health care. UMSI Ph.D. students are working to better the field of information by working with top scholars to explore information through research.
If you plan to attend Connect with UMSI, register at UMSI Connect website.
Notes from the meeting:
- Brad works from home and has a specific routine that he follows every morning. One day that routine was interrupted because his daughter was having friends over. So he decided to work from a friend’s office which was quite some time away.
- He decided that he would pass the time driving by downloading an audiobook from his local library. He browsed the website and found the book he wanted. He then went on to download the book and found the experience so frustrating that he made it a topic of one of his cartoons: Why DRM Doesn’t Work.
- He loves to take dense mental model information and turn it in to a comic strip that anyone can understand
- Brad’s day job was building magazines for iPad and iPhone. They didn’t have an iPad yet, so they started on the iPhone and thought they could scale up from there. They knew that magazines needed to be better digital than print. They started with the user interaction guidelines that are available for iOS, Android, Blackberry, etc.
- What is the secret to creating a great user experience?
- Looking at experiences they liked
- Listed reasons and tried to figure it out
- When you study a bad experience you can easily figure it out
- What could they use as a bad experience? The Library
- The little details matter
- On the library website when you browse for audiobooks you see and can search the entire selection. But when you decide on one and are ready to download it you get an “Add to SelectList” option. What is a “SelectList?” It’s not even a real word..
- In a real library if you can see a book on the shelf, you can check it out. That experience isn’t mirror on the library website.
- Stuff like this is not nitpicking. It’s not the big thing that gets you, it’s all the little things that bother you over time.
- Brad outlined some great user experiences, for example using Dribbble on an iPad. iOS will auto capitalize the first word typed, usernames are case sensitive, so when you login to the website you have to be sure the first letter of your username is lowercase. This is a minor inconvenience but because these two systems obviously have their own motivations it is justified. But the developers of Dribbble must have experienced this first had and added ”autocapitalize=”off”” to their username field. It is these little details that make it such a great experience.
- Brad then went on to outline a few UI differences between iOS and Android and why designing a single interface won’t delight the users of both OS’s. The users of each OS are use to a certain button placement and experience.
- Some best practices
- Don’t let the UI hinder the experience
- Be Skewmorphic sparsely
- Elevate the content people care about
- Mobile websites are to do something one time and be done with it. Don’t put an ad on your site to download the app.
- Avoid forcing the user to rotate the device
- Don’t make up new touch gestures
- Avoid help. If you need an instruction manual, you’re doing it wrong
- If your app needs help, your app needs help.
Full presentation available at: https://speakerdeck.com/u/bcolbow/p/its-the-little-things
ForeSee in Ann Arbor, Michigan has a job opportunity for a Usability Auditor to conduct usability audit reviews aimed at improving the interface of websites to enhance the user experience.
The Usability Auditor participates in all phases of the usability audit review delivery process—from conducting in-depth usability audits to delivering results verbally and in written format to the client. Specialized training will be provided by ForeSee.
- Review satisfaction data and communicate with Satisfaction Research Analysts to determine area of focus for usability audit
- Conduct usability audits and write up expert usability evaluations.
- Conduct usability reviews of prototypes, including wireframes and requirements documents.
- Manage our proprietary usability audit database application.
- Conduct ad hoc research regarding usability principles and best practices.
- Act as internal resource regarding usability and the Usability Audit Review service.
- Be part of a great team of smart, friendly Usability professionals.
- Take part in “Extreme Snack Day” with enthusiasm rather than skepticism.
More information about the position can be found an the ForeSee website.
In design, the user experience is paramount and getting the little details right can make a huge difference. In this presentation Brad talks about his experience designing interfaces for mobile devices and looking at how little changes can have a big impact on how we use them. You will be introduced to the world of human interface guidelines for mobile devices.
- What can we learn by comparing and contrasting the guidelines of these mobile players and how can we incorporate it into our apps and websites?
- What are the main differences in developing for these platforms and what do user experience designers need to take into account before starting a project?
- Should you focus on building an app or make your website mobile friendly instead?
Cost: Free (free parking, too)
Thanks to Blue Cross Blue Shield of Michigan for hosting our September event. We’ll be meeting in downtown Detroit at:
Registration is required. Please register before 10am September 18.
Brad Colbow is creative director at Designing Interactive in Cleveland Ohio. Brad is an award-winning web designer, best known for his comics that are published monthly in .Net magazine and “The Brads” a (almost) weekly strip found on his personal website. His work has appeared on the New York Time’s website, CNET, Smashing Magazine and elsewhere. You can find out more about him and his work on his website colbowdesign.com
At tonight’s Refresh Detroit meeting, we had an excellent time talking about and sharing our favorite tools and applications. While we didn’t have big attendance at the meeting, our discussion lasted almost two hours.
We took time to demo several applications and shared our experiences on how the applications improved our workflow. I know I have a few more tools to add to my work toolbox.
Here’s a list of some of the applications we discussed:
- Evernote: free note taking application that seamlessly synchronizes your notes on the web, desktop, and mobile. It’s easy to take notes, scan images, capture screenshots with the browser Web Clipper, and share notes with others (premium version only). Not sure what to do with all those business cards you collect at events and conferences? Scan them with your phone, add to Evernote with a note. Evernote uses OCR (optical character recognition) to scan the text in the business card so you can easily search at a later time.
- EchoSign: online electronic signature application built into the free Adobe Reader application. If you’ve ever had to send hard copy contracts back and forth via post, or scan PDF signature pages, this application is for you. Sign your contracts and other documents in minutes with EchoSign. The Federal E-SIGN Act makes online electronic signatures equivalent to a written signature
- Trello: online project management application that organizes your work into boards. The interface is all visual, updates in real time, and you can easily drag and drop tasks, lists and archive weekly work.
- Cleo: Cleo (Compact Library Extension Organizer) is a Firefox add-on that allows you to combine themes and extensions into one package. You can easily share your favorite extensions by creating a package. Or install the package in a new Firefox profile.
- Axure: Desktop application used to create wireframes, mockups and interactive prototypes. Though the cost might be beyond the freelancer, Axure is the tool of choice for many large organizations and corporations.
- Balsamiq and Mockingbird: Online wireframe and mockup applications. Many web developers and user experience professionals have moved from traditional desktop applications to online applications for ease of use and cost.
Thanks to Washtenaw Community College for hosting our meeting.
After reading Susan Weinschenk’s 100 Things Every Designer Needs to Know About People, I found it a great reference for solving design problems. Susan breaks the book out into 10 self-contained sections that discuss the psychology of how people see, read, remember, think, and feel.
Susan does a great job of keeping each topic very digestible, with simple language, while still going deeper with a more scientific approach to things.
This book promises to answer questions every designer has had over the course of his or her career. I know I’ve asked a few of these questions myself:
- What line length for text is the best?
- Are some fonts better than others?
- How can you predict the types of errors people will make?
- What grabs and holds attention on a page or screen?
Each section is packed full of valuable information about how and why we humans think the way we do. One of my favorite sections was about how people see. A lot of the things in this section were basic reminders, like how red and blue colors are hard on the eyes when used together. Others were more in depth, like the various meanings of colors throughout different cultures, and how people see cues that tell them what to do with objects. The latter is especially important in user interface design, because if you want your user to click a button, it should look like a tactile button.
For web and user interface designers, I would recommend the sections about how people see, read, focus their attention, and decide. The takeaways from these sections were especially helpful in designing interfaces.
Overall I found this book a staple during my work day, I often refer to it when trying to solve an issue when I have to ask “what would the user do?” I would recommend this book to all of my fellow designer friends or to friends who are just interested in learning about how people interact with things in general.
You can purchase Susan’s book online at Peachpit in paperback and ebook format. Use our Peachpit User Group coupon code (UE-23AA-PEUF) to get 35% off your purchase.
This month we were honored to welcome Molly Holzschlag to Refresh Detroit. Molly is considered one of the
godfathers godmother of the Web. Her talks centered around “From Documents to Apps: Evolving an Open Web”. As an advocate for open standards, she outlined how the open web allows for the empowerment of all individuals via global access.
She started her talk with a quote from Hillman Curtis that I am very fond of and wanted to share:
“Be prepared to reinvent yourself. Be prepared to go out on a limb occasionally, and be prepared to do the things that you feel strongly about”
- Hillman Curtis
I’m not going to give you a play by play of her talk because she was kind enough to let us record it. The full audio is available below and on Soundcloud.
A few things that stood out for me while she went through her presentation and interacted with the audience were:
- Setup a personal advisory committee, no one person knows everything about the web.
- It’s survival of the most adaptive, not survival of the fittest.
- On the Web nothing matters, browsers, OS, data format, or language.
- The definition of “open” often means transparency. But the preference is to mean authenticity.
- The many things rule: Never look at one thing and thing it is just one thing.
- Adopt a error forgiveness. We cannot know it all.
- ARIA is the important piece that most Web sites are missing.
Molly gave us five main points to move forward
- Support existing content
- Ensure interoperability
- Define the user agent behavior (Solve problems from real-world issues)
- Better handle errors
- Evolve what we have
Some pictures from her talk
You might think software testing would be a bit of dry topic but Christopher Martello’s talk at the November Refresh Detroit meeting was far from it. Chris gave us a look at what website testing is, who does it, why they do it, and numerous excellent resources that everyone can use for testing.
Chris has a lot of experience to draw from. He has been doing software testing for about 12 years. He’s done manual testing, automated testing, been a team leader and a project coordinator. Currently he’s a Build & Deployment Coordinator.
He started with an explanation of why we need testing and what makes testers tick. Testing identifies issues that get missed during development. Tester’s are often in between the developers and the business analysts, making sure the functionality is in balance with the requirements. They can function as the gatekeeper to production, determining when a build is good enough for a release. “The most compelling factor for me as a tester is I want to make sure the customers … have a good experience,” said Chris.
Software testers are the type of people who like to find defects and issues. They identify the intended and unintended ways users can go through an application. They also make sure all the intended scenarios work. They incorporate quality throughout the process. It’s important that IT finds the bugs. “You don’t want the user to find the bugs”.
The testing process consists of planning tests, running through them, and reporting the issues you discover. Chris discussed how testing is one part of the overall quality assurance process for your website or application. “It helps build confidence in your application, the team can say it has been tested.” Chris briefly touched on some of common terms and testing methods used in software testing including functional testing, automated testing and load and performance testing.
He then discussed how NOT to test, which included:
- Letting the users do the testing
- Saying “I’ll test later”
- Saying “Works on my computer.”
He discussed other types of testing including standards and browser testing.
Standards testing involves determining if a web site or application meets HTML, CSS, accessibility, security and the evolving mobile standards.
Browser testing is a very important aspect website testing. Unfortunately its difficult to cover the ever increasing number of web browser and operating system versions. Graded presentation standards are typically developed to determine what browsers your web application works on and to what level. You can base your standards on your own internal application logs and on browser statistics found on sites like Stat Counter’s Global Stats. “You should probably be tailoring your browser standards to what your audience is,” said Chris.
He went on discuss the specialized craft of load and performance testing. “It’s almost like designing a very complex scientific experiment”, Chris explained. Its important for identifying bottlenecks and break points in your application but it can take a great deal of time to set-up.
There’s also manual testing. “You got to have some eyeballs and some hands on”, to test if your application meets the requirements and has the intended functionality. A few examples Chris gave of manual tests included proof reading the site’s fine print, checking if the correct phone number is listed, and making sure a form’s error validation is working correctly.
Chris then provided a list of tools and services that you can use for testing. I’ve listed some of them here but for a complete list I recommend you check out his slides.
- SnagIt – A handy screen shot tool.
- IETester – A way to test multiple versions of the Internet Explorer on one machine (free)
- BrowserStack – A complete cross browser testing service that creates virtual machines for you.
- Xenu Link Sleuth – For testing links on your site. (free)
- SQA Forums – Software Quality Assurance forums
- Cacoo – Free online drawing and wireframe sharing
Some of the Firefox add-ons that Chris suggested we check out are:
Automation is where it’s at in software testing. According to Chris, “if you execute a test case more than three times then you should automate it.” It can save a tremendous amount of time. The downside is sometimes you don’t get support for the tools, the budget, and the training needed. While expensive, Chris likes the
HP QuickTestPro testing tool. Some other automated testing tools are:
Some issue and defect tracking tools Chris mentioned are:
Chris wrapped up the talk with some demos of some of the tools he discussed and answered questions from the audience. Throughout the presentation he provided examples, interesting anecdotes, and some fun QA jokes. Refresh Detroit would like to thank Chris for his excellent presentation.
Below are Chris’ slides:
- Articles (9)
- Book Reviews (9)
- Contests (2)
- Events (34)
- Jobs (8)
- Meetings (52)
- News (74)
- User Experience (5)
- February 2013 (1)
- December 2012 (1)
- October 2012 (1)
- September 2012 (1)
- August 2012 (2)
- May 2012 (1)
- April 2012 (2)
- December 2011 (1)
- October 2011 (2)
- August 2011 (2)
- July 2011 (3)
- June 2011 (2)