I early adopt the crap out of new software, web and mobile apps. You probably do too. It's good for our professional development to keep an eye on what others are doing. I'm also just a lover of new stuff that makes my life more fun or productive. 

This past few years I've spent most of my time working on early stage products so this gives me a unique perspective when I'm taking them for a test drive and I'm trying to make a habit of not keeping my thoughts to myself but documenting and sharing back to the company. This information can be really helpful to the folks working their buts off to make us cool stuff. 

I would love to encourage you to do the same. Rather than enjoy it in silence or nitpick it to yourselves. Keep track of your thoughts and shoot them an email or ask for a change via a tweet .

I tweeted Slack a while back complaining of how many steps it took to switch between groups on the mobile app. They tweeted right back the shortcut (3 finger swipe). Then I gave them a suggestion for an improvement (Display the name of the group for a second after the swipe so you know when you are on the right one) They implemented it in I think 24hours if not less. Isn't that cool?!  Now I have a better product to use and they got smart feedback from a customer which is what every product developer wants. 

So to demonstrate here is the feedback I sent to recently launched and super awesome Gmail plug in Sortd.

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Hi,

Loving your product! Congrats to you!

Couple thoughts (I'm a product designer myself so just trying to help):

1. Try targeting your email communication better
I just got the below email letting me know I have invites to share but if you had your systems set up in a certain way you would have known that I have already invited close to 15 people. I implemented it on 3 of my gmail accounts because I love it so much and this gave me access to 15 invites. You missed an opportunity to thank me for being an early supporter and instead asked me to do something I have already done for you.

 

2. Did you know women are WAY more into the idea of your product then men?
I posted on FB about the product and asked if anyone wanted an invite. Lot's of folks did. The interesting thing is that of the 19 people that wanted a code 18 were women. My husband (the stay at home dad) was the only man who was interested. You probably already know this is the case but thought I'd share. Actually one other man responded. He said he is happy with Any.do already and isn't looking for a replacement. 

 

3. My biggest usability hurtles right now are
I want a big button top left to switch between regular Gmail view and Sortd list view. Right now I think the only way to do this is to click on the teeny tiny tab on the far right. This is awkward and outside of my usual gmail flow. My mouse stays on the left side.  I also find huge value in switching back and forth and I'm not a keyboard shortcut person (I know that's what you were going to suggest :)

 

All the buttons are too small. It's a surgical moment to find and select buttons like everything in the top nav bar and archive/trash on the email it's self.

 

4. Batch select would be nice
Everyday I batch select and Archive of Delete. It would be cool to do this from the Sortd interface but not a huge deal, especially if I get that quick switch button. 

 

That's all for now! Hope the week has been a great success. I have been working on an "in Gmail" product this year and it's a whole different beast bravo on the work so far!

 

Tyesha Snow

@tyeshasnow

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AuthorTyesha Snow

There is a nice article over at Scientific America about how humans interact with and react to the build environment. I thought it was a nice reminder of for those of us who spend our days designing digital environments that what we create, though not wood and drywall are spaces that people spend time in but what I found really interesting was on of the experiments they discus.

" In 2007 Joan Meyers-Levy, a professor of marketing at the University of Minnesota, reported that the height of a room’s ceiling affects how people think. She randomly assigned 100 people to a room with either an eight- or 10-foot ceiling and asked participants to group sports from a 10-item list into categories of their own choice. The people who completed the task in the room with taller ceilings came up with more abstract categories, such as “challenging” sports or sports they would like to play, than did those in rooms with shorter ceilings, who offered more concrete groupings, such as the number of participants on a team. Because her earlier work had indicated that elevated ceilings make people feel physically less constrained, the investigator posits that higher ceilings encourage people to think more freely, which may lead them to make more abstract connections. The sense of confinement prompted by low ceilings, on the other hand, may inspire a more detailed, statistical outlook—which might be preferable under some circumstances"

Wow. I'm pretty cognizant of the impact of environment on how you feel and your ability to think. Personally I'm extremely effected by it, I've even had to leave a couple jobs due to the environment. Reading this article has me thinking about the research I have conducted and how I will conduct it in the future. I also love that they use a card sort! (great validation for the method).

Here are some thoughts:

1. Is it possible that the answers a user gives in the lab could differ enough from the answers they would give at home in front of their own computers, as to make the data false or at least misleading? I'm not just thinking about the difference between ethnographic or contextual inquiry research, I'm thinking about the lab experience might actually change the way people think they think about something. Just as the tall ceiling affected the subject of this research.

2. How does the experience of conducting an interview over the phone effect the data. When you are on a call your mind almost creates a "mental room" that that the conversation is happening in. If the connection is bad, the volume is uncomfortable or the voice of the interviewer reminds you of someone you know, the environment of that call could effect the data. As a researcher over the phone you have no way to know what the interviewee is experiencing so you can't help to adjust the environment.

Full disclosure on this thought: I'm not really a fan of the phone interview, so I'd selfishly like to learn anything that could help me convince stakeholders to spend money on in person research.

3. All of the research labs I have seen have a similar layout and feel. What if this typical research environment has been effecting the results of research in a particular way all this time. What if sitting in a room with a one-way mirror causes you to answer questions with less intensity then you actually feel or causes you to prefer blue over green? Hummm....

We All Need a Window Seat!

This isn't particular to UX but a great topic to bring up when selecting a new location for your office or are planing to rearrange or remodel your current space.

"In addition to ceiling height, the view afforded by a building may influence intellect—in particular, an occupant’s ability to concentrate. Although gazing out a window suggests distraction, it turns out that views of natural settings, such as a garden, field or forest, actually improve focus." "They found that kids who experienced the greatest increase in greenness as a result of the move also made the most gains on a standard test of attention." "In their analysis of more than 10,000 fifth-grade students in 71 Georgia elementary schools, Tanner and his colleagues found that students in classrooms with unrestricted views of at least 50 feet outside the window, including gardens, mountains and other natural elements, had higher scores on tests of vocabulary, language arts and math than did students without such expansive vistas or whose classrooms primarily overlooked roads, parking lots and other urban fixtures."

This stuff just gets me going. I believe we all deserve a nourishing environment to spend our time in, whether we understand or realize the impact or not, but unfortunately many people aren't as lucky as many of us in our beautiful agency offices. This may have to be my next philanthropic project.....

Go read the whole article, I'm sure you will find ten other points that could be applied to our work. I'd love to hear them:)

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Authortyesha

While doing some looking around after I made the discovery in my last post about the lack of Author pages on Amazon I came across the BBC's FAQ page. Couple things struck me about the page.

1. Their FAQ is pretty good.

We should all think a bit more about FAQ's and how we can make them useful and work on behalf of the site goals and the health of the Brand.

I like that they give a quick list of the answers available below. I like that the answers appear to have some good thought behind them. FAQ's often leave you with more questions then they answer or use it as a place to dump content that has no other place to live. They seem to really want to address reader's questions not just lower the calls to customer service.

2. Loving their very open approach to adding a new feature to the site.

They have taken the opportunity to explain to the readers that they are trying something new and they ask for feedback.

We can't ignore that the websites we design are places that people care about, take time out of their day to visit and often become an intimate part of their life. Being transparent and open about the innovations of the site shows a great amount of respect for the people who care enough to come back day after day. And if you decide the new stuff isn't going to work it might not be as hard for the users to take since they have been with you all along.

3. The Topics pages are a great idea. Hope it works out.

So much news is being produced everyday. It comes and goes. Great content is pushed down the page till it disappears. News organization should take the time to catalog and curate the best most desired content.

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Authortyesha

Filling out forms has been part of life since......since.. maybe forever. Remember all the job applications you filled out trying to find your first job? That was lame. So you can't really complain about online forms, for the most part they are basic, get the job done and aren't too frustrating (accept for incorrect tabbing order, choosing your country/state and hitting the cancel button instead of submit because it's located in the wrong place, or having to deal with endless error messages because required fields aren't indicated....ok. it's a little frustrating) but there are some gems out there.

Yesterday I filled out a form that was just peachy so I thought I would grab a couple screen shots and give some props.

Exhibit A: big fat fields with big fat fonts.

i can't get enough. when you get a form like this where the words dance across your screen happily with each entered letter you cam't help but feel like we have moved into the new generation of form filling. Aside from feeling good, being easy and looking nice, this type of form is great for grandpa and grandma.

-2 points: for cancel button being the same size as submit and so close to the next button.

Exhibit B:

You're doing good honey. Keep going. You're almost there.

Reinforcing good user behavior and confirming that things are moving along well is awesome. The motion of the check mark appearing on screen is like a big scratch and sniff sticker on your math homework.

Exhibit C:

There's no mistaking it....an Error has occurred.

I like this on two levels.

As a User it's clear, you can see that something happened and you don't have to find it amongst the graphic design. Yes, I know that you have to select OK and that this is another step, but you know, it's a trade off and I'm fine with it.

As a Designer, WHY don't I do this. Using system messages is easier and takes less design time. This will eliminate like 5 comps, because you always have to comp up the error message states.

So good job TheMoment. I'm looking forward to checking out your product...if you can get me to enjoy filling out your forms, I have high hopes:)

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Authortyesha
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One of the great quotes in the UX world is " Do a usability test now!" -Mike Kuniavsky, Observing the User Experience I hear these words in my head often and what I think is at the heart of this statement for me is that we aren't always going to have the most perfectly written contract that allows lots of time and money to perform exhaustive research or set up week long usability tests but that doesn't mean that we can't find anyway possible to to bring the perspective of the users into the conversation and have this perspective influence the project.

The other night I was asked by a younger practitioner how she could best use the one day she had been given to perform research. This one day was to be the following day and the audience was specific enough that using her coworkers or friends wouldn't be much of a help.

This is what I told her.

"What you really need to do is find a way to bring the user perspective into the conversation. This is can be done in a lot of ways, many of which you don't have time or resources for.

The two things I would do tomorrow is.

1. Define the users. You have to state out loud and clearly who the project is attempting to serve. Use all of the materials from the client, review the RFP and SOW, talk to anyone you know who has knowledge of the industry, do some online research, get on the phone with the people at the buisness who are closest to the users (customer service, human resources, sales people, etc.)

Then write it up, create a chart, draw a picture. This document will bring the user into the design and strategy conversation, allowing everyone to refer to each group when defining functions and needs. This document may also be super contaversal. This is great. If people get up in arms and start arguing about who the users are and what thier needs and motivations are then you've done your job. You might actually get some money and time to do real research!

2. Do a competitive review and heuristic evaluation of the competitors and other players in the user's ecosystem. Understanding how other companies are communicating to the same users can leverage the work already done in this particular industry. Taking the time to mapout and review all the other places the users are participating in and what these environments are like can tell you a lot about the expectations of the users.

You can also use this work to start conversations about the structure and functionality of the site, by showing examples from competitors sites."

What advice would you have given?

One last thing, I can't mention Ecosystem without pointing you toward this:

from Web Social Architecture article: A Conceptual Map of the Social Web

This does a great job of opening your mind to all of the influences and exfluences* a user may have. This is focused on social media, but is there anything else anymore?

*yes. i made this word up. it means all the things the user spends time putting out in the world. this probably warrents a blog post of it's own.

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Authortyesha
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I'm working on a diagram that illustrates how the major consideration of web strategy/design (also a working concept) should be addressed by the tools of a User Experience Architect. This is the first piece of a presentation I am developing on the topic of "Appropriate use of the User Experience Architect" or "How to plug UX into a project or agency and get value, make life easier for everyone and end up with better products." If you have a moment I would love your feedback.

Couple things before you start.

1. This is a draft 2. It isn't meant to consider every little detail but stay at a certain big picture distance 3. I'm not stupid, but it is possible this isn't totally right. That's ok, I'm practicing shameless collaboration and artistic expression by not editing myself too much and assuming you folks can fill in the blanks without me over explaining.

click to make bigger. The Five Considerations: Brand Needs: Content, features and design choices that support the goals of the brand, reinforcing the correct perceptions and enriching the user's experience.

Business Desires: What the business wants in order to grow, increase profit and realize company goals (not necessarily digital/web goals).

Technology Needs: That the new solution utilize available tools and/or implement "appropriate" new tools within a specific budget.

User Desires: What the users think they want. Stuff that gives them an emotional reaction and satisfies their expectations.

User Needs: The essential tasks the user is trying to accomplish, which must be completed with ease and clarity.

Industry Ecosystem: What's going on in the larger ecosystem of the business and the users. How and where this digital presence will fit in and contribute.

Tools & Methods Business Strategy Definition: Stakeholder Interviews, Goals and Tactics Definition, Multi-year road-map development, Competitive Research.

User Research: Quantitative and Qualitative methods. Interviews, surveys, usability testing, focus groups, card sorts. Audience segmentation, Tasks analysis, Flows.

Information Architecture: Site structure, content organization, taxonomy, utilize analytic data, collaboration with back-end developers.

Interaction Design: User centered design, industry standards, best practices, collaboration with graphic designers and front end developers

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