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Category Archives: UX

Usability Mistakes – Assumptions and Solutions!

Too Many clicks!

What makes any software usable be it a healthcare, Retail, or say Airlines industry?

The message that product gurus are receiving from users is clear – many of today’s solutions are perceived as non-intuitive, with the potential to confuse workflow and slow down their practice. Organizations that focus on product usability are gaining competitive advantage by showcasing success stories of innovative design, ease of adoption, and long-term satisfaction.

Having worked on few products; I have come across quite a few Assumptions. We in this 4 part series will talk through these assumptions and try and see if we can have a solution around these assumptions!

Assumption 1: All info at single screen

Majority of the times it is assumed that information presented by a software product should be
visible on a single screen!

The question that comes with this assumption is how come in the world the huge amount of data can be presented into one screen without making it cluttered?

This is a classic user interface problem. Typically, this type of observation stems from prior experiences in
which the user was forced to hunt for information.

Usability Mistakes

Usability Mistakes

Users become frustrated when they can’t find the information they are looking for. And this results in the assumption that the solution to their problem is to have all of the information available “up front” so that they don’t have to search for it.

But this approach is not a correct one! It has its own flaws…a single UI screen simply just can’t have enough space to house all information.Even if you somehow are able to adjust the data in one screen, this would end up making the scree or page cluttered!

What I feel we never understand what exactly user is looking for; To me they are really asking for the ability to obtain the information they are looking for in a

quick, non-stressful fashion

You can only help them do this if you understand the common tasks performed by your users and the terminology that they use in their work day.

  • Reserve dashboards for primary tasks only

If you design the dashboards without formal user research and usability testing, you would see cluttered dashboards / main screens on almost every product.
Once you understand the users’ workflow, you would discover that users have a distinct set of primary and secondary tasks. They may look for some information quite a few times per day, while they may only want to access other information once a day or once a week.

The key is to ensure that the information can be found and accessed in a logical fashion and displayed at the right time.

Research has shown that if the path to the desired information is clear and obvious, a user will not mind navigating two or three pages “deep” as long as they know that they are on the right track.

It is therefore important to design the interface in a way that

  • reduces the time for a user to think about where to go
  • moves them through the interface in a logical fashion.

If users become confused about where to look for information or the time it takes to return to that information, they will become frustrated and their confidence in the solution will be shaken.

A desired page might be just one or two clicks away, but if users do not see a logical path to that information, they often assume that it is not available – or simply give up before finding it.

We will talk about few more mistakes that a user would do in our upcoming posts! Till then ‘Don’t let your users think!’

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Posted by on June 14, 2013 in Usability, UX

 

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Enterprise Usability – There is always a risk of ‘Change’ being ‘Challenged’!

In our previous post we talked about ‘Enterprise Usability’, the two major points we touched upon were;

Enterprise buyers in most of the cases will never be the Users., and The Constraint faced due to Architecture. See here

Let’s talk about two other facets of Enterprise Usability and understand why it is tough to have good enterprise software which are user friendly to start with!

Think about this: How many times you as an individual have accepted the Change? Not many times, I would say!

There is always a risk of ‘Change’ being ‘Challenged’

Long time users become so engrossed in the processes they work on, that they feel any change will disrupt their way of doing business. They’re likely to be irritated, and feel bad about things they feel affect their bottom line, even if it benefits them in the long term.

Any improvement that is being made in the product is likely to affect someone who pays for your current product.

In industry there are proven ways and methods to upgrade / update the existing portion of a product, but the risk of being challenged is what makes Organization put those changes on hold for a long…very long time.

Let’s see what happens when you have a product like Microsoft Word, which is feature-heavy applications where 90% of the users utilize 10% of the product, multiplied several times over!

1

Enterprise products are the products which often try to be all things to all people instead of focusing on a specific set of primary users and a selective number of user or usage scenarios. This results in having a no specific target groups of users – Solution being generic, at the cost of Usability.

Below excerpts are from a conference where customers shared their top usability issues about enterprise software:

  • Customers perceive that the user interfaces of enterprise software are inconsistent and difficult to navigate.
  • Customers think that some functionality is missing or inappropriate to their tasks.
  • Performance problems with enterprise software are perceived to cause productivity losses to workers.
  • Preformed workflows seldom conform to actual business processes.
  • Collaboration is possible, but difficult

One major problem that becomes a bottleneck in upgrading to new version of a software is; The new could do a lot that previous versions could not; however, user would not be sure the complexity penalty of these extra functions was worth the price s/he has to pay in learning and using the new software.

These are certain points which ends up making the existence of User friendly Enterprise Software a distant dream!

 
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Posted by on April 16, 2013 in UX, UX and Usability

 

Installation isn’t the same as adoption!

Consumer v/s Enterprise; these are the two major paradigm in today’s mobile world. You call it B2C or Consumer, or B2B aka Enterprise; the lines are merging when you talk of user experience.

If you think of it, the Consumer is pretty straightforward – We build a product for the end user and, if they like it, they’ll go ahead and pay for it. Having the excellent UX (User Experience) is quickly becoming a fundamental ‘Feature’ and no more is a luxury. The competition is fierce and the treacherous one-click adage puts competitors just one click away.

Now think of enterprise world; the user and the purchaser here are different people with different needs. And this is what requires a product manager to have a different product management approach. In the early days of having a top-down adoption of software development meant that the end user experience didn’t really matter – as long as whoever was paying for it was happy and hit their goals. But then happened – ‘the consumerisation of the enterprise’.

Due to the revolution in user experience in consumer apps, end users simply gave up on crusty old systems internally and demanded better tools. And, if they don’t get them, they simply get around their IT department and use whatever they can to make their work more efficient. And this is what made companies realize that installation isn’t the same as adoption and that to truly benefit from new products they have to be used.

But the cliche’ is: Many ‘consumer’ products are driven by a sense of desire, a want, and frequent ‘need’ doesn’t even enter the picture. Enterprise products flip that formula on its ear. If it isn’t needed, justification is hard to get, unless there’s an executive champion with enough clout to drive ‘want’ over need.

More to follow on this in my next post…

 
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Posted by on March 20, 2013 in Product Management, Usability, UX

 

Incredible NASA Earthy images

 
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Posted by on November 17, 2011 in UX

 

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How to handle clients with varied sense of UX

An excellent article, which explains in detail about how to handle various clients depending non their  ‘Usability and or UX’ understanding.

Project management, and UX strategy to me, these fields are inextricably linked as part of the planning phase of any project.

In this article let’s learn about how to introduce two things:

  1. A governance framework that walks through the value of UX during various stages of a project.
  2. Hurdles UX strategists face, and how to overcome them.

Experience Design Process

The following presentation outlines the various documents that can be created during the planning phase of any project. Although it’s rare that all of these documents would be required, a number of them will be useful for every project. It’s a good template to reference on every project to ensure you’re setting the project up for success.

The Experience Design Framework

With the planning phase defined, the role of a UX specialist often gets forgotten. Throughout the project lifecycle, a UX specialist can be invaluable to the success of a project. In this document, I describe how to integrate the role of a UX specialist into every phase of a project, regardless of the project management methodology used.

The UX Project Lifecycle

Clip from The UX Project Lifecycle
(Download PDF – 61kb)

External UX Hurdles

Risk-averse client

Hurdle: Risk-Adverse Client

Issue: A Risk-Adverse Client is a common issue that pops up on many projects. The client will push back on any innovative solutions, and will not want to commit to a single solution without testing, written rationale, or other 3rd party support.

Overcoming: The easiest way to overcome this is through upfront stakeholder interviews. If you detect a Risk-Adverse Client, you will need to probe for the root cause of their fear, and may need to perform upfront research or user testing to help assuage the client’s fear. Doing this upfront will do two things: 1) it’ll show you’re taking the client’s concerns seriously 2) it’ll prevent fears from inhibiting innovation further down the project pipeline.


New World Client

Hurdle: New World Client

Issue: It’s said that in 1492 when Columbus came to America, the native inhabitants were able to look out over the ocean, full of ships, and see nothing but water. They had never seen ships before; in fact, they’d couldn’t even dream of such things. The only way they knew a contingent was on approach was because of the ripples the ships caused in the ocean.

This is the same issue that New World Clients have. It’s known as perceptual blindness, and it’s contested whether or not it actually exists. In this case, New World Clients might push back or make unusual requests because they’re used to having things look, feel, and behave in a certain way and don’t know any other way to think.

Overcoming: Just like the first person to spot the ripples in the water, you need to get the New World Client to see that something new and important is on its way. Show them examples, prototypes, or any other materials that illustrate that what you’re proposing is right. New World Clients need special attention, but much of the attention should be given during the onboarding process.


Big-Eyed Client

Hurdle: Big-Eyed Client

Issue: Think kid in a candy store. The Big-Eyed Client wants everything, every feature you could name. A great indicator that you might have a Big-Eyed Client is vendor-itis; if your client has more than five vendors providing niche services on a single site, there’s a good chance you have a Big-Eyed Client. These clients will push for as many features as possible, regardless of the impact on user experience.

Overcoming: Again, an ounce of prevention is better than a pound of cure. In this case, prioritization and focus are key to reining in a Big-Eyed Client. This can be done in a number of ways: by prioritizing user flows, scenarios, user stories, or a feature list. Adaptive Path recounts this process in detail here starting on slide 52


Fox-in-the-Hen-House Client

Hurdle: Fox-in-the-Hen-House Client

Issue: This is an example of the Highest Paid Persons Opinion (HIPPO) effect, where a misinformed UX advocate holds an elevated position within an organization and can influence everyone else simply by offering his opinion. In many cases this type of client will offer outdated or misinterpreted information he’s read or heard from others. No client wants to create problems for the user; the Fox-in-the-Hen-House client believes what he’s saying is true, and will benefit the user.

Overcoming: Don’t argue a specific issue—you’ll never win. Even if you end up winning the issue at hand, you’ll have built animosity between yourself and the client. Instead, focus on imbuing the wisdom that a single solution isn’t right all the time, and that different contexts require adapting and manipulating solutions to improve an experience. Even banner ads worked until we realized users were developing banner blindness.


Can That Be Done Client

Hurdle: “Can That Be Done?” Client

Issue: In many (if not most) organizations, the client contact you’ll be interacting with will not be familiar with technological constraints. Additionally, he may not be familiar with emerging conventions and new types of tools and technology that are available. The issue this type of client will often create is one of hesitation; he’ll want to pass every innovative idea past their IT department. As we all know, IT departments can be the place where innovative ideas die.

Overcoming: Being able to navigate the pitfalls of an IT department is a skill few people possess. However, if you have access to a seasoned developer (or better, can develop a relationship with one of the developers within the IT department), you can utilize that person to communicate how a solution could be implemented.


Too Many Chefs Client

Hurdle: Too Many Chefs Client

Issue: When working with clients that are part of larger organizations, there may be a lot of stakeholders, all looking out for their own interests. In many cases, these varying interests conflict with one another, and prioritization of these interests becomes unmanageable.

Overcoming: Rather than trying to accommodate everyone, it’s best to take a two-step approach to preventing this issue:

  1. Produce a comprehensive content inventory either by auditing the existing site/app, or by developing a new one. This will help identify all the potential stakeholders. Tip: Add a responsibility column to your content inventory and get the client to fill it in. This should outline the business owner of each piece of content that will be created.
  2. Facilitate a prioritization breakout session with representation from all stakeholders to determine whose content will be considered mandatory on all shared content pages and modules.

Astronaut Client

Hurdle: Astronaut Client

Issue: The Astronaut Client is a visionary; he doesn’t want to get bogged down in details and knows what he wants when he sees it. This type of client, while open to innovation, is often only open to innovative ideas that mesh with his perception of his vision. A big issue I’ve run into with Astronaut Clients is that they often don’t want to review planning documents, but will reserve feedback for visual design.

Overcoming: A standard onboarding procedure should address this issue. The client should either be educated on the process they’ll be asked to run through, or asked to provide a proxy who can review and provide approval to elements the Astronaut Client doesn’t want to review.


Proxy Client

Hurdle: Proxy Client

Issue: A proxy client is generally a person who’s selected to represent the interest of another stakeholder because that stakeholder is too busy or unavailable to interface with you directly. This is an example of “broken telephone,” where an opportunity exists for the proxy client to misinterpret direction from the stakeholder due to a lack of background information.

Overcoming: Strong relationship management skills are required to overcome this issue. The easiest way to work with a Proxy Client is to ensure regular reviews are scheduled with all vested interests. When that is impossible, a governance document may need to be created to have some documentation on what elements the Proxy Client can approve, and what elements the Proxy will take back to the stakeholder for approval. Tip: Never allow the Proxy Client to present your work to the stakeholder. Whenever possible, present your own work.

Summary

If you use the Experience Design Framework, and follow the process laid out in the UX project lifecycle, you’ll experience far fewer hurdles. If you’re not able to do this for whatever reason, you’re likely to face some of these hurdles.

You’re now equipped with the tools you’ll need to combat the hurdles you may face from these types of clients. That said, you may face combination clients who have traits from several of the above types. If this is the case, you need to consider both your well being and your organization’s well being.

Ask yourself, “Is this work going to be worth the education and relationship management required to transform this client?” I’ve phrased this question deliberately, because I’m assuming you wouldn’t want to simply capitulate to every client whim, and you wouldn’t want to invest in a client that isn’t willing to produce quality work.

If it is worth the time and effort required, you may need to schedule an education session. Earlier this year I was hired as a consultant for a major Canadian financial institution where I was able to conduct such a workshop. It uncovered major organizational issues that couldn’t be corrected immediately, but caused stakeholders to be cognizant of their potential biases. These issues were also documented and raised to the corporate HR lead and the executive team. I was also invited to give a high-level presentation to the board of directors, who will be considering several proposals my team made.

This is all to say, if you’re a digital shop who’s working with a client, you have options to make your relationship much more valuable and fun. If you’re a marketer, consider hiring an agency that is capable of offering you the direction you need. If you’re hearing “yes” to all your ideas, or are being required to provide more direction that you believe should be required, you probably have an agency that doesn’t understand the nuances of UX strategy. If this is the case, consider hiring your own consultant to provide the project with guidance, or consider finding an alternate agency that can.

 
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Posted by on November 9, 2011 in UX, UX and Usability

 

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An Effective Homepage…Basics, Objective, Purpose

As a general rule, your homepage will be the first encounter a visitor will have with your business. Great care, therefore, should be taken to design and structure your homepage so that readers will digest and act on your business message.

Let’s discuss the quality of a home page…




 
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Posted by on November 3, 2011 in Usability, UX, UX and Usability

 

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