Usability vs. User Experience

Usability answers the question, “Can the user accomplish their goal?”

User experience answers the question, “Did the user have as delightful an experience as possible?”

A great summary via The Difference Between Usability and User Experience.

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Little nicety – custom share thumbnail

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Do you read Saturday Morning Breakfast Cereal? They have a little nicety where if you share the day’s comic using their social media buttons…

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…they give you a side-joke as the preview thumbnail.

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A nice touch to remind that their website is still cared for by humans. 🙂

The ROI of User Experience

Video

Great video by the author of the article featured in a previous post.

Exciting take-aways:

  • Up to 15% of all projects are “abandoned because they are hopelessly inadequate”.
  • Programmers spend 50% of their time on rework that is avoidable.
  • Fixing an error after development is completed costs 100x that of fixing it before.
  • 3 of the top 12 reasons why projects fail are related to UX:
    • Badly defined requirements
    • Poor communication among customers, developers and users
    • Stakeholder politics
  • Factors that can measure return on investment:
    • Conversion rate
    • Users take the action you want them to take
    • Decrease in abandonment
    • Decrease calls to helpdesk
    • Reduce training required
    • Increase usage of an application or action
    • Save user time
    • Save development time
    • Reduce errors

Any intelligent fool can make things bigger and more complex. It takes a touch of genius and a lot of courage to move in the opposite direction.

E. F. Schumacher (mis-attributed to Einstein)

The Five Worst UX Mistakes Websites Make

From a design perspective, it’s easy to get caught up in internal squabbles (“No, no, THIS is the content that has to be front and center”) or distracted by tools or methods (“I say we use lean UX on this project”). When this happens, we often forget that at the end of it all waits a person who wasn’t in on all these decisions, and just wants to get the information they need, buy the product, or be entertained for five minutes while waiting for the train.

Read all about The Five Worst UX Mistakes Websites Make at UX Mag.

Tl;dr –

  • Paying too much attention to the Macro (eg. IA, layout, nav) and not enough to the Micro (buttons, interactions, UI elements).
  • Putting too much time into designing the homepage – and not enough on the other pages.
  • Relying too much on text, when audio, video and images can be much more persuasive.
  • Designing for the wrong generation.
  • Ignoring multi-screen behaviour (ie. taking a desktop-only approach)

Five HCI laws for UX design

From Measuring Usability:

Usability is hardly physics or chemistry. But there are some important principles from decades of research in Human Computer Interaction (HCI) that apply to design and user research.

Read all about it: Five HCI Laws For User Experience Design

Tl;dr –

  • Miller’s Law of Short-Term Memory Load: People can only hold up to about 7 pieces of info in short-term memory.
  • Fitts’ Law: Users will hit a target faster if it’s big and close to where they start.
  • Hick-Hyman Law: Users will take longer to decide if you give me heaps of choices.
  • Power Law of Practice: Users do stuff faster the more they practice.
  • Pareto & Zipf Laws: The 80/20 rule – the majority of stuff will be addressed by a minority of things. (Eg. “A small portion of our site gets hit by a majority of our users.”)

Link via @higroup

How users hold their mobile devices

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Voice calls occupied 22% of the users, while 18.9% were engaged in passive activities—most listening to audio and some watching a video. We considered interactions to be voice calls only if users were holding their phone to their ear, so we undoubtedly counted some calls as apparent passive use.

The users who we observed touching their phone’s screens or buttons held their phones in three basic ways:

  • one handed—49%
  • cradled—36%
  • two handed—15%

While most of the people that we observed touching their screen used one hand, very large numbers also used other methods. Even the least-used case, two-handed use, is large enough that you should consider it during design.

Read the full article at UXmatters: How Do Users Really Hold Mobile Devices?

Your website has two faces – one talks to humans, one talks to machines

When a user interface—intended for human consumption—reflects too much of a system’s internals in its design and language, it’s likely to confuse the people who use it. But at the same time, if data doesn’t conform to a specific structure, it’s likely to confuse the machines that need to use it—so we can’t ignore system requirements, either.

People and machines parse information in fundamentally different ways. We need to find a way to balance the needs of both.

Read more: Your Website has Two Faces at ALA

Solving health problems through good design

Highlights:

Design is the beauty of using constraints as advantages.

It’s one of the most haunting phrases in all of the human condition: ‘If only we had known, then maybe we could have done something about it.’ But of course, we couldn’t have known. Health happens in between doctor visits and the doctor isn’t there to get all of this data.

But for the first time in history, we have these things that sit in our pockets – they’re supercomputers[…] And we can start to tackle the problem of ‘if only we had known.’

22% of Americans never finish their antibiotics course. That’s despite knowing the hundreds of millions of dollars that the US has spent convincing people that they’re creating superbugs, that they’re not getting better.

So here’s the question – is it people’s fault, or is it the fault of the design of our intervention?

If it was a patch you put on yourself and it fell off after the right amount of time, forgetting wouldn’t even be a thing. We have to be designing our interventions to work the way people do, and people are highly constrained.

Why people don’t like carousels and what to do about it.

I got totally Baader-Meinhoffed last week with the accordion thing. Felt like flavour of the month, the way everyone wouldn’t shut up about it.

Actually it was just me and my colleagues having a rant. 🙂

In short:

People don’t like carousels, don’t care what they say
and don’t bother after the first panel
.

…so, for the ux-inclined, it’s frustrating that we still use them the way we do.

[B]oy does that homepage look like a juicy piece of prime real estate to a roomful of stakeholders. It’s hard to navigate these mini turf wars, so tools like carousels are used as appeasers to keep everyone from beating the shit out of each other.

via Carousels @ brad frost web

This ain’t a cry for blood, though. Typically, a design fails because of a combination of things – the medium, content and audience are incompatible. In the case of the humble carousel, we get the perfect storm of disharmony.

The Medium

Suppose your amazing marketing message is 4th in line on a carousel that spends 2 seconds per banner. This means the user will spend at least 6 seconds on filler before they get to your gold. That’s a long time in internet years.

The modern website carousel is like a TV ad break, only your favourite show won’t be back after those messages. Is this really the best way get users to pay attention and engage?

The Content

The write-ups on Nielsen’s Alertbox on Carousels and WeedyGarden’s Carousel Statssuggest that content can be a huge factor in carousels performing poorly.

After all, e-books and real paper books behave in the same way, sequentially feeding the audience one piece of information at a time – and most of us know how hard it is to put down a good book. This highlights the importance of storytelling in this space, something we tend to miss in the mish-mash of unrelated banners on a rotation.

Brian Krogsgard’s Sliders Suck says it could be totally appropriate to use a carousel when using the carousel is the end goal, not the means to the end.

The Audience

When a slider item is active, it’s more important than everything else on the page. When a slider item is inactive, it’s completely unimportant.

via Slide Rules @ Bearded Blog

The implicit assumption of a carousel is that the item on display will be relevant to the person viewing the page. I’m sure I’m preaching to the choir here, saying how one size does not fit all.

And we don’t have to look too deep into behavioural stuff (like banner blindness, tunnel vision and selective attention) or user agent stuff (like hardware capabilities, or compatibility with screen readers) to figure we might be slightly sub-optimal in catering for our users’ needs with sliding banners.

So, what do we do?

The tests say no to carousels, and you’ll find many, many voices in chorus about why. But sometimes we’ll have to use them, and sometimes we’ll actually want to use them – it’ll feel right, even though it seems wrong. We all have nights like this.

The problem isn’t in the doing, but in how it’s done. And we could be doing it less wrong.

Start this way:

  • Make the content more interesting. (source 1source 2Can’t stress this enough.
  • Limit the number of items in a carousel. (source)
  • Make the navigation obvious, so users can skip. (source)
  • Mind the interaction design stuff, don’t do the annoying crap. (source)

Thank you to @niaalist for sharing the links in this post.