Category: User Experience

Recap: Fast & Cheap UX Research

At our August 2013 meeting, Refresh Detroit welcomed Jodi Bollaert and Megan Schwarz of Team Detroit, who shared their insights on fast and inexpensive user experience research.

Attendees included web designers, developers and user experience professionals who came from metro Detroit and Ann Arbor to learn about online and in-person research methods to improve their projects.

Thank you Team Detroit for the refreshments, hosting the meeting and for your support of Refresh Detroit events. It was our first time meeting at Team Detroit, and it was a great venue!

Notes from the Presentation

Before beginning user experience research, what do you want to learn? With over 100 user experience tools, how do you choose the best tool? It helps to identify:

  • Who is your target audience?
  • What will you test?
  • What’s your budget?

Challenges we face today with user experience research: three times as much to test (desktop, mobile, tablet) and short project lifecycles. Traditional testing can take up to two weeks to get the report. Web-based tools (like enables teams to do research at lower cost and less time, with fewer resources.

Why use

  • You need findings quickly (within hours)
  • Test can be completed in 15 minutes
  • If audience can easily be recruited online
  • Site is available online
  • Have resources available to do the tests, review the videos, take notes and report
  • Budget is a concern

Using unmoderated testing with, you’ll be able to:

  • Test five people
  • Do remote research
  • Only spend 15 minutes
  • Get results in an hour
  • Keep cost to ~$250 on average

For mobile testing, sends cameras to participants.

Analysis and Reporting

  • The team doing design and development, get the results within hours
  • Developed a UT report template - focused on actionable findings, including a few video highlights to underscore key themes
  • Deliver report in person (usually a few days later since it can take three to four days to review five videos, create report)

Team-based Analysis

  • Offer chocolate and caffeine to encourage team members to attend
  • Watch videos together
  • Practice active observation
  • Each team member documents key insights on sticky notes, one per note
  • Post stickies on wall, work together to sort out

Constraints/Lessons Learned

  • Avoid leading questions
  • Run a pilot test with one participant before launching the full study
    • Check that duration is about 15 mintues
    • Ensure your directions and questions are understood
  • Participant no good? Usertesting will find another one quickly for you

Even Cheaper Tools

5 Second Test

  • Offered by Usability Hub
  • Find out what users recall about your design
  • Free with Karma Points (which you get by participating in tests) or monthly subscription pricing
  • Easy to set up
    • Upload screenshots
    • Add brief instructions
    • Use default questions or customize for your needs
  • Example shared: Team Detroit home page
    • 5 second test showed that users didn’t know what Team Detroit was about (was it cars? Detroit)
    • Updated home page to clearly identify what Team Detroit does

Click Test (Usability Hub)

Card Sorting

  • Method to help you organize content on a site
  • Example: videos for Ford site. Users asked to group content and write labels once all cards were grouped.
  • Card sorting resource from Boxes and Arrows
  • Consider Websort for online card sorting. Free for under 10 users

User Interviews

  • Qualitative research method
  • One-on-one conversations
  • Identify what your users’ needs are and why


  • Do-it-yourself user experience research will be used more often, but won’t replace traditional research
  • Talk to project teams. Find out their pain points. Get them involved in planning and observation.
  • Test early, test often
  • Test up to launch, test after launch
  • Share results when you get them (don’t wait)
  • Document findings & facilitate next steps
  • Be careful what you wish for! People get excited and want to do more. You’ll soon discover you need more bandwidth.
  • Just do it!

We’re hoping to have a link to Jodi and Megan’s slides soon. We’ll update this post when the slides are published online.

Recap: 25 User Experience (UX) Lessons from Hollywood

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:

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:

  1. Rain Man: Social Media Ratings of UX Can be Powerful (“Kmart Sucks!”)
  2. Mission Impossible: Arrange your User Interface Around Urgent Tasks
  3. Minority Report: Design Your System with a Multimodal Interface
  4. Top Gun: Design for Human Error Upfront
  5. Risky Business: Style Captures Attention
  6. The Green Mile: Task Completion Doesn’t Automatically Equate To Success
  7. Cast Away: Fictional Personas Can Bring Sanity to the Project
  8. Bosum Buddies: Re-Skinning Can Allow Financially-Advantageous Reuse
  9. Da Vinci Code: Complicated Interfaces Have Their Purposes Too
  10. Forrest Gump: Exceeding Expectations Makes You Memorable!
  11. Jurassic Park: The Details Are Surrounded by Dung
  12. October Sky: Have Faith in Iterative Testing
  13. Recount: Statistics Can Be Both Powerful and Dangerous
  14. Blue Velvet: Investigations Can Go Too Far
  15. Meet The Fockers: Understand the Financials of Personalization
  16. Pirates of the Carribean: It’s Not About the Ship You Rode In On
  17. Edward Scissorhands: Plan Ahead for Assimilation
  18. Alice in Wonderland: Flexibility on Size Helps Win the Battle
  19. What’s Eating At Gilbert Grape: Design for What Your Customer Wants
  20. Alice In Wonderland: Tremendous Flexibility Can Lead to User Satisfaction
  21. Bruce Almighty: Silent Analytics Can Help Tailor Your UX
  22. Man on the Moon: Know the Business Side of your Business
  23. Mr. Popper’s Penguins: Watch Out for the X+1 Factor
  24. Horton Hears a Who: Don’t Forget The Minority Might be a Captured Market
  25. 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.

Recap: Brad Colbow - It’s the little things

Last week we were lucky enough to have Brad Colbow talk about designing interfaces for mobile devices. Brad has extensive experience explaining usability and produces a Web comic called “The Brads.”

The Presentation

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: