Usability Testing on 10 Cents a Day.

I really like the whole theme behind the reading this week. I think it was best summed up in two quotes. The first is “Testing one user is 100 percent better than testing none”. As simple as of an idea this is it is very easy to over look. The feedback that you can get from just one user that doesn’t have anything to do with the project would allow you to look at your project from a completely different view point. And building great websites, especially user centered websites, is understanding the perspective of the user. How can you claim to do that if you haven’t actually seen what a user does. Of course the personas gives you an idea, but that’s all it is, an idea. The actual testing of the user allows you to see how they interact with the site and having feedback from just one is light years ahead of not ever knowing.

The other quote is “Testing one user early in the project is better than testing 50 near the end”. I think this quote really helps to push the idea of “test early, test often”. The feedback gained from one user in the beginning can allow you to not go down a UI path that ultimately leads to a large failure right from the start. Where as waiting until the end you may find that your whole interface doesn’t work like you thought it did and now you are fully vested in the interface and not sure what you need to do to fix it when the one user in the beginning might have shown you the little issue that would have let you go down the correct path.

"Meet Your Type"

I can see why this was a lot of people’s favorite reading. It was very amusing. The metaphor of using a font to being in a relationship was very well done. And it actually did make me think about fonts a little differently. As I have said, this seems to be one of my weakest areas, if not the weakest area for me.

One of the things that I really liked about this reading was that it basically spelled out the basics for using fonts. The example of proper leading was actually quite helpful in all its simplicity.

Actually one of the things that I don’t think I had ever done before was set the size of the body copy first, which once I think about makes complete sense. I usually started with setting the size of the first h1 heading on the page because it seemed the most important in the hierarchy but after reading this it seems obvious that you should find the correct size of the body copy because, as the reading says, “that’s where the user spends most of their time”. Then once you have that ironed out you can adjust the other headings and text appropriately.
Another thing I was quite excited about was one of the last parts of the reading. I really liked the section about “Call The Love Doctor”. There were a lot of good tips in there that I think would be a good idea to implement even before there is a problem.

One of those points was about Contrast. It was just a little tidbit on the side but it made the point of when all is gray, add emphasis which reminded me of one of the sites that the students did in the Web Design Fundamentals class. The site was mainly all text with a few pictures. It was laid out well and looked really good but it needed something and I remember we discussed adding colors to help differentiate the page but there seemed to be something more and I feel like that little contrast tidbit was it. There needed to be more emphasis and focus, the page was just too gray. The color differentiating would have definitely helped that but it was nice to have something click as to why.

Thoughts “On Web Typography”

I am actually very glad that this week’s reading is on typography as I feel this is my biggest weakness when it comes to web design. I find myself pulling back to the basics lately and starting with some of the original web safe fonts such as Georgia or Verdana. The last site I built I used Verdana and a font that I found that I thought went with the robot theme of the site.

With this fresh in my mind this article was a very good read. The section that was the “drop dead guide” I did find most helpful. I have often found myself trying to think of typefaces that go together and play well off of each other and I was happy to see that the article gave some basic hints at doing that. For the most part when it came to choosing the typography I had been mostly going with my gut and it wasn’t until recently that I started really trying to pay attention to the design aesthetics of the type I was using.

One of the parts of the guide referred to “going with your gut” but I think that having a better understanding of the type and how it plays off of each other can help give your gut a better educated “gut feeling” as it were.
I would really like to start branching out into using more typefaces than the web safe ones that I pulled back to and I think this article gave me a lot of good ideas on how to look at them differently to get a better idea of what I am trying to accomplish with them.

Now to find an article to help me with my font size issue.

thinking… Web Content That Persuades and Motivates

I remember when I was in my design management class for managing creativity and innovation and one of the main things we focused on was getting to the heart of the company. The why? of the companies existence. What their belief is. Especially if it is product related. What I mean is if you have a company that says we do this and we can make you this. Or something of that nature then it is still a company. However, if you have a company that says, “We believe that our product is such and such and this is why.” then you have a company that is more geared towards the human element, they are more geared towards the user.

One of the prime examples was one of the examples in this article, which was Apple. They gear everything toward the user and what the company believes in. Not what the company wants to sell. They explain their belief in why the product would benefit you, not who they are.

I fully agree that this type of approach should be applied to websites as well. If you went to a site that the first thing you saw was about what the company believed and why their product/service could benefit you that would catch your attention more than a list of who they are. If you want to know who they are, click on the about page, but you aren’t going to go searching for information about what the company believes, that should be given up front.

Communicating Design Personas

This week’s reading really started making me think about the psychology involved in what I want to do. Especially the part about how a lot of companies think they know what their clients want and some of those companies really don’t care. If you think about it, there are quite a lot of people out there that have a really hard time thinking outside of their own box. They can’t put themselves in other people’s shoes and they don’t want to. They think they have a good grasp of what people want based on their own thoughts and wants. There is no basis on other people’s thoughts or wants and this type of thinking is going the way of the Dodo I believe.

I think setting up Personas is a way of getting these people to step outside of themselves and maybe view the world a little differently, which is why I think there were so many different points on how to approach how you use the persona information. Some stakeholders won’t believe or think that the personas have any relevance to how they should run their business.

The other interesting thing from the reading is sort of a continuing thread throughout interface design, “its about solving the problem”. Well, unless you ask the right questions you won’t know what the problem really is. That’s where bad interface design seems to rear it’s ugly little head sometimes. Understanding why a client is using your interface and what it is they are trying to accomplish or solve will go a long way in understanding how to approach the problem.

Thinking about Communicating Design, Wireframes

Well kids, the word for today is “Balance”. At least that is what is going through my mind while I absorbed this week’s reading. Well that and “Holy Crap!!! There is a lot more to wireframes than I realized.”

It seems like there are so many different levels of wireframes and uses for them that you could get yourself buried in scope creep before you even get started. I have been asked to do wireframes before on a couple of different projects and I didn’t really give them a lot of thought. Honestly, I was looking at them as a way to see the basis of the design of a site and not the usability of the site. Which, after the reading makes way more sense.

Back to balance. To me it seems the best way to approach them is balance. You need to balance the need of the design team, the stakeholders, the engineers and first and foremost, the user. I think when you can keep that balance all the way through a wireframe you should have a very successful and useful beginning.

If you start to think about all the different kinds of things you can do with the wireframe it would be so overwhelming you wouldn’t know where to start, which is why I like how the readings approach is to first figure out what the need for the wireframe is and then solve that need. This seems so basic but is so easy to overlook because of the all of the possibilities that wireframes allow. And as we all know, ignoring the basics is what can destroy a project before it even starts.

A thought on “Designing Interfaces”

I would have to say that I agreed with way more in this reading than I disagreed with. I was particularly interested in the section on “Habituation”. I love how she explains that “Some applications are evil” which as any of us that have used computers for any length of time know all too well. Any application that fails to keep things consistent across the WHOLE app is pretty much “evil” in my book. There is nothing worse than getting used to how an app works and then finding that a certain part of it works completely differently.

However, her example left me a little curious. When you are talking about consistency in apps across platforms such as her Emac vs. Word issue that seems to have a lot of underlying issues for me. I mean I understand that Microsoft Word is a fully working application on any Mac. However, this is software that was originally designed for Windows. So here you have a program that was designed for another platform that doesn’t quite act the same way or even have the same button names(same buttons..different names).

So for me the question lies in do you keep the same functionality across platforms such as the shortcuts are the same on Mac and on Windows or do you adapt your application so that it is consistent with other applications on the same platform. I guess this falls into the “you can’t please all of the people all of the time category”. In my head it would make more sense to redesign the software for the different platform because I would figure you would have less people switching platforms (even though I seem to a lot). So, to make a long winded thought short, I agree with her.

thinks on “Don’t Make Me Think” (pun intended)

I think this was a very informative read. I have gotten a lot of information about navigation from various sources but this seemed to put all of it together and into context.

The first thing that stood out for me was the part about how easy it is to get “lost” in the web. I have never really given much to thought to how that happens but what the author says about it makes complete sense. Since there is nothing really tethering you to reality on the web it is easy to completely lose track of time.

Another note for me was the reference of breaking conventions. I absolutely hate it when there isn’t page numbers on the advertisement pages. It is really annoying trying to find the page you want and only half the pages are actually numbered.

Continuing on through the read I was rather shocked to think of traveling through the web as teleportation. Although it does make complete sense. Since you can get to almost any page through Google, well any page that is properly setup and indexed, then you need to know where that page is and how to use the site from that page.

Then there is the part about L.A. First I would like to say that I do agree about the street signs in L.A. However, other than that I would have to say I avoid driving in L.A. as much as possible. I really don’t like driving down there, way too much traffic. However, this does make a good point about websites, you really need to have it obviously shown where you are and where you can go which I think falls to all navigation.

Response to “Elements of User Experience”

This excerpt was very educational. There were quite a few things that I hadn’t thought about from the angle that it was coming from. One part of it really stood out for me though.

Where it was talking about interface design really hit home for me. I have always been the type of person that likes to try to setup anything that I do to cover all types of contingencies and you can’t do that with Interface Design as the book tells us. From my Design Management class I have learned more about risk taking and to successfully implement it. This comes into play with Interface Design as there seems to be quite a bit of risk taking involved in it. You can’t keep a working interface and design together and please everybody. What you can do is make sure that you please the majority of the users and make it work…, well.

That doesn’t mean that you don’t take into account the “extreme cases” but you definitely don’t give them the weight and control in your design as the majority. You may have some fall backs for those extreme cases but this is definitely does not guide or control the interface design itself.

On another note while I was reading this I was thinking about mobile websites and especially when it comes to navigation how important it is. Since mobile gets rid of a lot of the fluff in websites and concentrates on the most important parts I have noticed that good mobile sites, or sites that scale well to mobile, are very precise with their navigation. You always know where you are and I think that you could take that the other way. Use the mobile skeleton of what works and what is important and apply that to the desktop version.  

Thoughts on “Smashing Book” excerpt

After reading the excerpt from “Smashing Book” I feel like there is a lot of it I already knew from other classes and readings but there were a few things that stood out for me that I shall go over.

First, on the section about links, the book was talking about how links should be underlined. They didn’t say it had to be, but were stressing that they should be. I feel that this may be a bit outdated. I think that the treatment of links on a page is very important but it seems to me that we have strayed away from having to have links underlined for the users to understand it is a link. I do fully agree that you shouldn’t underline something that isn’t a click-able link.

Second, as far as links opening in new windows, I was always under the impression that if a link stayed on your site that it should open in the same window. However, a link that takes the user to another site should be opened in a different link. The more I think about this the more I am not sure which makes more sense. I kind of like the idea of having an off site link be in a different window but that goes against what the excerpt was saying about taking control away from the user. This got me thinking about it and I would have to say the jury is still out on this one for me.

Lastly, the section talking about testing really got me thinking. It may not be suitable for this class but maybe a future class it might be good to have to actually publish a site that we built on the web and then the rest of the class has to use it and try to break it. It seems like a really good testing tool and would help the designer/developer out quite a lot.