Links for 2011-10-06

  • Sunni Brown: Doodlers, unite! [TED – Mar, 2011] – Studies show that sketching and doodling improve our comprehension — and our creative thinking. So why do we still feel embarrassed when we’re caught doodling in a meeting? Sunni Brown says: Doodlers, unite! She makes the case for unlocking your brain via pad and pen.
  • Conversation Techniques For Designers [Smashing UX Design – Sep 29, 2011] – In this article, we’ll examine the role of conversation in the design process, and how the words we use shape the products we ship. We’ll outline nine ways by which designers can maintain a consistent design conversation during a project, helping to create a better product.
  • Organize anything, together. | Trello – Trello is a collaboration tool that organizes your projects into boards. In one glance, Trello tells you what’s being worked on, who’s working on what, and where something is in a process.

Links for 2011-10-04

  • Shelf Life of Social Media Links Only 3 Hours [Hubspot – Sep 08, 2011] – When it comes to link sharing in social media, it turns out it’s not about where you share it — it’s about what you share. New research from URL shortening service bitly focuses on how long a link is “alive” before people stop engaging with it and whether it matters what kind of content it is or where it was shared. Winners are using direct links (instead of shorteners) and Youtube.
  • Design Research: Why You Need it [Cooper Journal – Mar 03, 2003] – A design research phase consists of three main activities: stakeholder interviews, domain research, and user interviews. Some combination of all three makes for a successful phase. The length of each activity depends on the complexity of the product. More is always better, but effective design research can be gathered in a relatively short amount of time. Typically, one to three weeks is sufficient for most business and domain products, while complex enterprise systems with multiple interfaces require a longer research period.
  • How Good Designers Think [Harvard Business Review – Apr 26, 2011] – Firstly, good designers don’t tend to think about consumers; they think about people and what they want and need. Secondly, good designers like observing — really looking at what people do rather than simply relying on what they say they do. Thirdly, they bring expertise in other categories and industries to bear on problems in others. Fourthly, good designers look at what might all change in the short, medium and long-term, by engaging with the best trends and forecasting intelligence. And lastly, good designers pressure test their conclusions by consulting with other cultural interpreters from a broad range of other disciplines.

Links for 2011-08-19

  • Social Design [Facebook Developers] – Social Design is a way of thinking about product design that puts social experiences at the core. Create these social experiences with the features available on Facebook Platform.
  • Google Web Fonts – Hundreds of free, open-source fonts optimized for the web.

Links for 2011-08-05

  • Observing Customers Drives Innovation [ZURB – Aug 02, 2011] – Innovation comes from observing customers. That’s all. You’ll find tons of product opportunities to capitalize on by observing how people are accomplishing everyday tasks. OXO comes to mind as a company that drives innovation from observing their customers. 
  • The Eight Pillars of Innovation [Think Quarterly by Google – Q3, 2011] – Our growing Google workforce comes to us from all over the world, bringing with them vastly different experiences and backgrounds. A set of strong common principles for a company makes it possible for all its employees to work as one and move forward together. We just need to continue to say “yes”and resist a culture of “no”, accept the inevitability of failures, and continue iterating until we get things right.
  • An Empirical Evaluation of the System Usability Scale [International Journal of Human-Computer Interaction (Volume 24, Issue 6) – Jul 30, 2008] – This article presents nearly 10 year’s worth of System Usability Scale (SUS) data collected on numerous products in all phases of the development lifecycle. The SUS, developed by Brooke (1996), reflected a strong need in the usability community for a tool that could quickly and easily collect a user’s subjective rating of a product’s usability. The data in this study indicate that the SUS fulfills that need. Results from the analysis of this large number of SUS scores show that the SUS is a highly robust and versatile tool for usability professionals. The article presents these results and discusses their implications, describes nontraditional uses of the SUS, explains a proposed modification to the SUS to provide an adjective rating that correlates with a given score, and provides details of what constitutes an acceptable SUS score.
  • A CRAP way to improve usability [Userfocus – Aug 01, 2011] – Visual design is often dismissed as eye candy. In fact, we can use four key principles of visual design to create more usable interfaces. These principles are Contrast, Repetition, Alignment and Proximity.

Links for 2011-06-22

  • Usability Testing with 5 Users [Alertbox – Mar 19, 2000] – Some people think that usability is very costly and complex and that user tests should be reserved for the rare web design project with a huge budget and a lavish time schedule. Not true. Elaborate usability tests are a waste of resources. The best results come from testing no more than 5 users and running as many small tests as you can afford.

Links for 2011-06-09

Links for 2011-05-26

Links for 2011-05-25

  • Designing for decision making – not the same as workflow [] – Visualization actually requires a whole different set of skills than UI and web design. Fundamentally, visualization is about decision making – understanding the information and its context better so that you can ask better questions, get better answers, and make better choices. UI design is workflow – like a data entry form, a website shopping cart, or trying to figure out how to reset the bullet formatting in Powerpoint.
  • Doodle: easy scheduling – Doodle eliminates the chaos that comes from scheduling and saves you a lot of time and energy when you’re trying to find a time to bring a number of people together. Instead of using just one option, you can propose several dates and times and the participants can indicate their availability online. With one look, you’ll be able to see what the best time is for the meeting, and this works with any calendar system that is being used.

Links for 2011-05-20

  • Awsum Shoes: Is it ethical to fix grammatical and spelling errors in reviews? [Slate Magazine – May 10, 2011] – According to Panos Ipeirotis, a professor at NYU’s Stern School of Business who studies consumer reviews on the Internet, the first review will lure more travelers. In a recent blog post, Ipeirotis discussed his research showing that well-written reviews help sell products, even when the write-ups are negative. Atrocious wireless connectivity? Who cares, so long as Wi-Fi is properly capitalized.
  • Perfecting Your Personas [User Interface Engineering – Jan 13, 2005] – A persona is a user archetype you can use to help guide decisions about product features, navigation, interactions, and even visual design. By designing for the archetype — whose goals and behavior patterns you understand very well — you can satisfy the broader group of people represented by that archetype.
  • Greplin – Greplin is a personal search engine that allows you to search all your online data in one easy place. Greplin indexes the information you create on different websites (like Gmail, Twitter and Facebook) and provides lightning fast search of all your information.
  • Twapper Keeper – “We save tweets” – Archive Tweets
  • Flesch-Kincaid Readability Index Calculator – Flesch-Kincaid readability index calculator
  • 100 Things You Should Know About People: #54 — The Average Reading Level In the USA Is Grade 8 [What Makes Them Click – Jan 23, 2011] – The Flesch-Kincaid Reading Score — The most common formula for calculating the readability of a particular passage of text is the Flesch-Kincaid method. The method gives you a Reading Ease formula and also a reading grade level score.
  • What is Interaction? Are There Different Types? [Dubberly – Jan 01, 2009] – When we discuss computer-human interaction and design for interaction, do we agree on the meaning of the term “interaction” Has the subject been fully explored? Is the definition settled?
  • Sketching in Mockups [Balsamiq UX Blog – Apr 28, 2011] – This is where thumbnail sketching steps in. I hardly ever start full scale on a wireframe. Before I have the chance to even think about the details I work with thumbnail sketches. It’s like zooming 20 feet away from the thing you’re designing, blurring your eyes, and just seeing the major elements of the page. The idea with thumbnail sketching is to draw a smallish representation of your design, roughing out boxes and greeking lines of text to get an idea of what your interface will look like. You actually don’t even need text to sketch the interface, just scribbled lines. You can use text captions to describe what’s happening in the story.
  • The Usability of Passwords [Baekdal – Aug 11, 2007] – Security companies and IT people constantly tells us that we should use complex and difficult passwords. This is bad advice, because you can actually make usable, easy to remember and highly secure passwords. In fact, usable passwords are often far better than complex ones.
  • User Research Is Unnatural (But That’s Okay), Part I [UX Matters – Apr 05, 2011] – From the perspective of a participant, user research is not very natural. We ask participants to try to act naturally in the artificial environment of a lab, or we impose ourselves on their environment and hope our presence doesn’t affect their behavior. We often forget how unnatural user research can be and what effect it can have on participants.
  • The Ultimate Guide To A/B Testing [Smashing Magazine – Ju 24, 2010] – At its core, A/B testing is exactly what it sounds like: you have two versions of an element (A and B) and a metric that defines success. To determine which version is better, you subject both versions to experimentation simultaneously. In the end, you measure which version was more successful and select that version for real-world use.
  • Why We Need Storytellers at the Heart of Product Development [UX Magazine – Apr 14, 2011] – So whether you are at a small start up or a large organization, whether you are a founder, executive, technologist, designer, manager, or marketer, ask yourself this: do you know your product’s story? And perhaps more importantly, who creates your product story?
  • NounProject – icon set
  • Poll Everywhere – Poll Everywhere replaces expensive proprietary audience response hardware with standard web technology. It’s the easiest way to gather live responses in any venue: conferences, presentations, classrooms, radio, tv, print — anywhere. It can help you to raise money by letting people pledge via text messaging. And because it works internationally with texting, web, or Twitter, its simplicity and flexibility are earning rave reviews.
  • Free UX Goodies: Persona Template [Orange Bus – Apr 03, 2011] – Personas are a crucial step in our process to keep decisions grounded and centred around the audience. They help to provoke questions which will challenge decisions, helping the whole team understand the audience being designed for and shaping the design of the site.
  • Creating Great Design Principles: 6 Counter-intuitive Tests [User Interface Engineering – Mar 01, 2011] – Great design principles help designers learn more about their design and make critical decisions about what they’re building.

Blackboard’s Design Principles

Blackboard Design Principles

One of the many reasons why I enjoy working for Blackboard is because of its mission. Who doesn’t want to be part of a company that seeks to better the education experience? The work is fulfilling and challenging. But over a year ago I found myself asking the existential question: is my work making a difference?

Business experts like Jack Welch or the late Peter Drucker might tell me that I need to have a set of objectives, values, and/or principles that can help define what it means for me to make a difference at Blackboard. With this in mind, I set out to work with my User Experience (UX) team to identify some principles. Our UX team has a variety of roles – content design, instructional design, product design, and user interface design. What ties these varied roles together? Well, in our own ways, we seek to build quality products to enhance our customers’ teaching and learning experiences.

But what does it mean to design a quality experience, and do the people who design and build product features have a shared understanding of what this means? When testing our designs with users, one of the tools we use asks participants to choose five descriptive words that exemplify their experience with the feature tested. We took these positive words and conducted a card sort among team members. That is, we asked everyone on the team to take these thirty adjectives and place them into logical groupings. What we came up with were five groupings which formed the five principles we use today: reliable, useful, delightful, engaging, and simple.

What do we do with these words? Well, that’s the fun part. Because the UX team works with a diverse set of stakeholders, including both colleagues and customers, we seek to measure our designs against these principles. How do we do it? Well, we get feedback a few ways. Internally, when project teams discuss new features, we ask folks to define what each principle means for a given feature or target user. For instance, our content and instructional design teams created a rubric where they rate how well the documentation they create meets these principles. Then they use a peer review process to determine how well they meet these principles.

The use of these principles has also impacted our conversations. It’s been refreshing to hear stories of our engineers speaking to their team saying, “This (feature) is just not delightful enough.”

We also involve our customers. When we conduct research activities, such as usability tests, we ask participants to rate to what extent the tested features met each design principle.

We’ve been getting some great data that we can act on, but we still have some work to do. We know there are some areas of the product where we have hit a homerun, and others where we have work to do in order to stack up against these principles. But at the end of the day, we are committed to bring our customers a teaching and learning experience that is reliable, useful, delightful, engaging, and simple.

I’ll be speaking about Blackboard’s design principles with a colleague at this year’s Information Architecture Summit in Denver. Be sure to attend!

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Links for 2011-03-01

  • Interaction ’11 Conference Keynotes [IxDA – Feb 2011] – Keynote videos from the Interaction ’11 conference in Boulder, CO.
  • The Corporate Pursuit of Happiness [Fast Company – Feb 28, 2011] – Offering a happiness class to future masters of the universe at one of the country’s leading business schools does sound a bit touchy-feely. Yet, last fall, 80 of these type-A students signed up for Aaker’s graduate-level course called “Designing Happiness” — with another 100 clamoring to get in. But Aaker’s work is gaining attention not just in academia but also in corporate America: She has worked with AOL, Adobe, and Facebook, among other companies, helping them figure out how to use happiness to increase employees’ productivity and woo customers. If her hypotheses are correct, marketing happiness could be one of the few ways businesses can still appeal to people in a manner that feels authentic.
  • Study Finds the Internet Makes Youth More Engaged Citizens [ReadWriteWeb – Feb 24, 2011] – Arguably, the upheaval, activism, and revolutions in of the last two months may serve to counter what has been a longstanding stereotype: youth are largely apolitical. Moreover, those that do participate in politics and activism online do so in shallow ways, the so-called “slacktivism.” But recent findings from a longitudinal study of high school age students challenge these notions, suggesting that youth who pursue their Interests online are more likely to be engaged in civic issues.

Links for 2011-02-22

  • Measuring the User Experience on a Large Scale: User-Centered Metrics for Web Applications [Proceedings of CHI 2010] – More and more products and services are being deployed on the web, and this presents new challenges and opportunities for measurement of user experience on a large scale. There is a strong need for user-centered metrics for web applications, which can be used to measure progress towards key goals, and drive product decisions. In this note, we describe the HEART framework for user-centered metrics, as well as a process for mapping product goals to metrics. We include practical examples of how HEART metrics have helped product teams make decisions that are both data-driven and user-centered. The framework and process have generalized to enough of our company’s own products that we are confident that teams in other organizations will be able to reuse or adapt them. We also hope to encourage more research into metrics based on large-scale behavioral data.
  • A huge list of Style Guides and UI Guidelines [The UX Bookmark] – If you are a graphic designer or an interaction designer and have ever been tasked with creating a style guide or UI guidelines document (both are different and I’ve had the pleasure to work on both of them creating templates and the actual documents for brands and products), this list should help you out as a consolidated list of references. This list is going to be constantly updated (and will ultimately be a monster list, it’s quite modest for now) of publicly accessible style guides and UI guideline documents on the web.
  • Why Don’t Usability Problems Get Fixed? [UX Matters – Feb 07, 2011] – Why don’t usability problems get fixed? If we point out obvious usability problems and provide reasonable solutions for them, why doesn’t someone fix them? In this column, I’ll explore these questions and provide some tips to help ensure your recommendations get implemented.

Links for 2011-02-08

  • User Experience White Paper [All About UX – Feb 04, 2011] – User Experience White Paper is a result from a Dagstuhl seminar on Demarcating User Experience, where 30 experts from academia and industry worked together to bring some clarity to the concept of user experience. We see the white paper as an important step towards a common understanding on user experience.
  • NoteSlate – NoteSlate is low cost tablet device with true one colour display, real paper look design, long life battery (180h !), together with very handy usage and very simple and helpful interface for pen and paper. This easy, compact and portable gadget is used anywhere you want to make any notes, drafts, sketches, any ideas for future reference. Paper for everyone! Write a note and check it later, save it, or delete it. Maybe send it after. Just one colour is enough to express the basics. Keep your life simple.
  • Sketchnotes 2009 – 2010 [Eva-Lotta Lamm – 2010] – 101 pages full of notes from lots and lots of UX and design events with talks from over 100 speakers and panelists.

Links for 2011-02-03

  • UX Ideas in the Cards [UX Magazine – Feb 03, 2011] – Like many practitioners, my day-to-day to work involves facing situations in which I am unsure of what to do next. Clients and teams look to me for solutions, ideas, and methods that can help create great ideas and experiences. Every now and then I, like anyone else, struggle to remain fresh and creative. When I catch myself falling into a rut or back to approaches that I’m comfortable with, I try to challenge myself to do something different. As a good friend of mine says, “If you’re stuck, try to figure out how to get unstuck.” Often I return to my library of UX books and tools, but in particular, I like to return to my collection of UX card sets.
  • The Art and Science of ‘Stratecution’ [TalentZoo – Feb 01, 2011] – The truth is that strategy and execution need to go hand-in-hand. You need the insight-driven, business-focused, brand-inspired thinking of top-down strategy. You also must work bottom-up, recognizing the everyday realities and real-world complexities you’ll face, while also being nimble, improvisatory, and open to evolution along the way. It’s equal parts strategy and execution, or what I call “stratecution.”;
  • What You Really Get From a Heuristic Evaluation [UX Magazine – Feb 19, 2010] – When applying what I call “checklist usability” in a heuristic evaluation to learn what the flaws and frustrations of a design might be, the outcome is a determination of whether the UI complies with the heuristics. It is an inspection, not an evaluation. It is not about the user experience. It’s not even about task performance, which is what the underlying question was in the team’s conflict: Will users do better with this flow versus that flow? If we interrupt them, will they still complete a purchase? Any inspection method that claims to answer those kinds of questions is just guessing.

Links for 2011-01-24

Links for 2010-12-22

Links for 2010-12-03

  • Using Customer Journey Maps to Improve Customer Experience [Harvard Business Review – Nov 15, 2010] – A customer journey map is a very simple idea: a diagram that illustrates the steps your customer(s) go through in engaging with your company, whether it be a product, an online experience, retail experience, or a service, or any combination. The more touchpoints you have, the more complicated – but necessary – such a map becomes.
  • Understanding Customer Experience [Harvard Business Review – Oct 28, 2010] – “Customer experience” has become a very commonly used phrase in recent years, but like “innovation” and “design” it is actually difficult to find a clear, commonly-held definition, even though many businesses see improving their customer experience as a competitive differentiator. How we can really improve something if we can’t even define it? This is the first in a series of posts looking at customer experience – what it encompasses, how to structure it, how to approach and improve it.
  • Touchpoints Bring the Customer Experience to Life [Harvard Business Review – Dec 02, 2010] – In this installment we’ll look at a framework for understanding how your organization supports the customer throughout that journey. This is accomplished by orchestrating touchpoints – a touchpoint being any interaction point between the customer and your brand.

Links for 2010-11-24

Links for 2010-10-25

  • How Google tested Google Instant [CNET News – Oct 18, 2010] – This mission took on great importance as Google prepared to make perhaps the biggest change to its search experience it had ever contemplated: Google Instant. Google surveyed 160 people–divided equally between Googlers and the general public–as it developed “Google Psychic,” the internal code name for what would become Google Instant.
  • Usability Resources to Win Arguments [Webdesigner Depot – Oct 13, 2010] – So, what we’ve done for you today is compiled a list of some of the biggest, most compelling usability articles which address common issues. Hopefully this should help you during tough conversations about what does and doesn’t work on a a website.
  • Data Informed, Not Data Driven: The Subtext [Adaptive Path – Oct 05, 2010] – I want to introduce you to a UX Week talk called “Data Informed, Not Data Driven” by Adam Mosseri, Product Design Manager at Facebook. While his talk focused on the role of data in design and decision making, I was more intrigued by the sub-text of the story, which I’ve synthesized as: Innovation comes from creative cultures that value collaboration, informed risk-taking, transparency, and trust in one another to make decisions.

Links for 2010-10-05