In usability we trust

UX and all things web

Tag: Usability

Click Areas for a Brave New Multi-Device World

Have you ever been browsing a web site on your smart phone or tablet and found that on some sites, the links are so tiny and so tightly packed, that it’s near impossible to click the right one?

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Design for Clickability

Making things clickable is done for a single purpose, to get people to click on them. Yet, a lot of times, designers fail to make links or buttons look clickable. In fact, while this might seem like a no-brainer, a lot of sites get it wrong.

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My slides from World Usability Day

Here’s my slides from my talk on World Usability Day. The event gathered around 90 people and was held at Visma in Växjö, Sweden. I’ve made the slides publicly available through SlideShare but please note that the Slides are in Swedish.

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World Usability Day 2011

World Usability Day is on November 10 and me and a few other good people are giving a lunch seminar on this years theme, Education: Designing for Social Change.

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4 Books on UX that I’ve read recently

I’ve recently read a few books on User Experience design and this is a run down of them.

Although they’re all about UX Design, they’re still very different in their approach to the subject. I list them here, from the most practical to the most theoretical.

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Designing with the mind in mind

Designing with the mind in mind is an excellent book that reveals the facts and neurological research behind common design principles. In this review I will tell you why you should read this book.

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Rocket Surgery Made Easy

This latest book from Steve Krug is a terrific read and a great companion book to his legendary and highly successful book, Don’t make me think. Where Don’t make me think focus on design and the ifs and whys of usability testing, Rocket Surgery Made Easy focuses on how to actually conduct usability test and what to do with the results.

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Designing Web Interfaces

Designing Web Interfaces is a book about how to design rich interactions within web pages. In todays web with richer user interfaces, far from the static, full page load web applications we were once used to. We need patterns, guidelines and best practices on how to design those Interfaces to work well. This book is about just that.

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The value of a holistic view

In development project teams there are often several specialized roles, like programmers, database designers, interaction designers, user researchers, business analysts and so on. Studies has shown that the more these different roles collaborate and are aware of the different aspects of the project as a whole as well as what the other project members are doing, the more successful the project is.

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Forms that Work

Forms that Work is a book on how to design web forms properly. Some time ago I reviewed a similar book, Web Form Design by Luke Wroblewski, which deals with the same subject. I then thought that this was a very narrow scope for a book, but perhaps it was not since this book was published shortly after.

No doubt web forms are all around us, so the need for knowledge and skill to design them well should be great. I certainly can’t seem to get enough of these books. Continue reading

Different approaches to communicate UX design

Peter Morville at Semantic Studios has compiled an extensive list of ways to create deliverables to communicate uX designs. He writes about this in User Experience Deliverables.

The article contains a list of 20 techniques with links to further reading on each. To make it easier to find suitable techniques he also made a Treasure Map (pdf) so it’s easier to see what your options are. Or as Peter himself put it:

It’s hard to find the best trees when we can’t see the forest. So, we often fall back on old habits. We churn out wireframes when a story may be worth its weight in gold. Some great deliverables stay hidden in plain sight. That’s why we created this treasure map for our wall (and yours).

– Peter Morville

The Design of Future Things [Book review]

The Design of Future ThingsI’ve read a few books by Don Norman before and they have all been a great source of inspiration and full of “Aha” moments. This book doesn’t quite reach that same level, but I still find it an interesting read.

The book is basically about how to design intelligent things. Some call it ambient computing others discrete computing, but it’s all about the pitfalls and principles when we try to add intelligence to our daily objects.

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Page Load Times vs Conversion Rates

I recently read Andy B. King’s book Website Optimization and was surprised by some of the statistics in it. It shows that there’s a very clear connection between page load times and conversion rates. Statistics from Google and Amazon show that an increase in load time has a direct and profound impact on user engagement.

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How people really use the iPhone

Strategic research and design firm Create with Context has published a presentation on SlideShare showing what they’ve come up with after evaluating the iPhones User Interface. The research goal was to understand how ordinary people interact with the iPhone.

The methods used were interviews, user testing in a lab environment and heuristic evaluation. The result of the research was eight rules of thumb when developing applications for the iPhone.

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Spotify is right on the spot

SpotifyI’ve been using the beta web service Spotify for a couple of months now. And I must say that I’m really impressed. I would almost go as far as to say it’s the best piece of software I have ever used.

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Report from World Usability Day

World Usability Day - Making life easy!

On World Usability Day on 13 of November we gathered a bunch of people to put focus on usability. The event which we called A nice cup of coffee on Usability Day, was held at my former employer, Visma Spcs office in Växjö. Chris Jangelöv was host for the event.

Here’s some pictures taken by from the event along with some comments. The pictures are taken by Ola Karlsson. Thanks a lot Ola!

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A Nice Cup of Coffe on Usability Day

This Thursday (November 13) is World Usability Day. It’s an event that takes place at different locations around the globe each year to put the spotlight on usability in our daily lives.

World Usability Day - Making life easy!

Here in Växjö, Sweden we’re going to celebrate this with a get together where I’m going to talk a little about usability in general and a few others are going to talk about specific usability problems and solutions. Other than that we’re just going to have a nice cup of coffee, some cookies and a nice chat. The event takes place at Visma Spcs at 15.00 and will last for about one and a half hour.

If you’re in the area and are interested in participating, sign up by leaving a comment or by contacting me through this blog’s contact page. It’s completely free of charge but you have to let us know in advance that you’re coming.

Where’s me back button?

My Firefox installation got upgraded to 3.0.2 today. And to my surprise the back and forward buttons is gone!

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The use of buttons in web forms

Action buttons exists at the bottom of almost every web form. They’re so common that we often doesn’t even reflect on how to actually design them. By gathering information from a few of the great minds in the field of web usability and also from my own experiences, I’ve tried to come up with a set of best practices on how to design them efficiently.

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Web Form Design [Book review]

This book has a very narrow scope. It’s all about how to design web forms. And when you think about it, why not. Most interactions with websites and web application happens through the use of web forms so why not make sure to design them as effectively as possible.

Studies have shown that completion rates of forms can be increased by 10-40 percent by designing them using best practices. If the form is the check-out form on an e-commerce site you can easily see that this potentially can be a good investment.

Luke makes the observation that most forms suck. Therefor it should be every designers mission to make them suck less. Exactly how to do this is explained in great detail throughout the book.

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Gradual Engagement

I wrote about it in my blogpost Easiest sign up ever one and a half year ago, where I described the sign-up process of Geni, a site about building your own family tree. I didn’t know the name of the concept then, but after reading Luke Wroblewski’s Web Form Design I certainly do. (A review of the book is coming up here soon)

Gradual Engagement is simply the concept of not throwing a big fat sign-up form in the face of the first-time visitor before he has a chance to try out the site. A better approach is to try to get him engaged in what the site is all about before trying to get tons of information from him.

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5 essential books on usability

I’ve compiled a short list of book on usability and UX design that I’ve found both valuable and inspiring. All of these books have given me important insights and helped me to better understand the different aspects of the area.

I’ve listed them in the order I think one should read them and I’ve also written a small text about each.

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No undo? Redo!

Why is it that web apps very often lack something that we take for granted in most window applications, namely the undo function? Is it because it’s not needed? Is it too hard to implement or is it simply just because it’s something that developers don’t think is needed?

The most common solution to prevent user errors is to simply throw an alertbox warning about potential damage or loss of data that the action might cause. Even otherwise awesome web applications often resorts to this behavior. Take for example Backpack from 37 signals, which I regard a very usable and overall great product. When you try to delete a note they throw this alert in your face:

Are you sure you want to delete this note?

This is, from the developers point of view, the easiest way to handle it. It’s almost too easy to implement an alert and many developers habitually do it without giving it a second thought.

A far better solution is to use an undo function. Although harder to implement it maps so much better to the users mental model and behavior patterns. As Alan Cooper puts it in About Face 3:

Users generally don’t believe, or at least don’t want to believe, that they make mistakes. This is another way of saying that the persona’s mental model typically doesn’t include error on his part. Following a persona’s mental model means absolving him of blame. The implementation model, however, is based on an error-free CPU. Following the implementation model means proposing that all culpability must rest with the user. Thus, most software assumes that it is blameless, and any problems are purely the fault of the user.
Alan Cooper, Aboute Face 3

An undo function enables the user to easily recover from mistakes and also encourage him to explore the interface without fear of doing irreversible damage. It transfers the responsibility of handling errors from the user to the system, where it righteously belongs.

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Designing the Moment [Book review]

Designing the Moment

Robert Hoekman Jr, the author of Designing the Obvious, has written yet another book on interaction design, Designing the Moment. This time he get’s down and dirty with the nitty gritty details of web- and interaction design. In this book he uses a variety of real-world examples to describe, in great detail, how and why to design all the small details of navigation, forms, video interfaces, tag clouds and more.

I had high expectations on this book since I really liked Designing the Obvious. And I have to say that it met my expectations. It’s fun to read and provides lots of interesting examples on great interaction design.

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Change your focus to locus

Locus of attention is a term that describes where our attention is focused. In contrary to focus of attention it’s not entirely up to us where we choose to have our attention. If, for example a bang goes of right besides us, our focus involuntarily is placed on that. And that is our Locus of attention. Our focus of attention is alway where we consciously choose to put our attention.

When we are designing user interfaces it’s important to be aware of where the users locus of attention are, so that we are able to show crucial information where the user has his or her attention.

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Confusing Northface contact form

I recently wanted to contact Northface regarding a jacket of mine which zipper has broke. I went to and searched their web site for an email address or something. After some searching I found a button labeled “Email us” and clicked on it expecting my email client to launch, but instead I was transferred to a page with a contact form.

The North Face Contact Form

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When software ruins great products

I got a small mp3 player as a gift this Christmas. It’s a Sony Walkman NW-E003 and it’s really good. It has great sound, it’s easy to slip inside your pocket, it has long battery time and is easy to operate. The downside is that the software that comes along with it, SonicStage, is really bad. Although I feel that Itunes is somtimes a little quirky to use, it’s nothing compared to SonicStage.

Sony Walkman NW-E003

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Easiest sign up ever

I’ve just discovered a new site called Geni. The site is all about genealogy and building your own family tree. The first thing you do when you enter the site is to start building your own family tree, and naturally you start with yourself. You enter your name and email address and without hardly realizing it you have started you family tree and signed up for the web application at the same time!

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