"ux" entries

Design is how users feel when experiencing products

The O’Reilly Design Podcast: Cindy Alvarez on emotion, user research, and why Craigslist is great design.

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Oberon,_Titania_and_Puck_with_Fairies_Dancing._William_Blake._c.1786In this week’s Design Podcast episode, I sit down with Cindy Alvarez, a designer at Microsoft, author of Lean Customer Development, and member of our program committee for O’Reilly’s first design conference.

Alvarez talks about how design is changing, how the approach to design at Microsoft is changing, and user research misperceptions and challenges. She also offers advice to those who are insisting all designers should code.

Here are a few highlights from our chat:

Steve Jobs has said that, “Design is not how it looks, it’s how it works.” I would go one step further and say, “Design is how you work.” When you’re using something, how do you feel … How are you feeling more capable — do you feel smarter? Do you feel stronger? Do you feel stupider? Design is how you feel when you are using things or having experiences.

The ‘butt-brush’ effect comes from the wonderful Paco Underhill book Why We Buy. … Specifically, the butt-brush phenomenon is people looking at products that they really wanted to buy, but the store layout made it so people were bumping into them. That was such a strong push to get them to abandon what they were doing … that they’d just get up and walk away. He theorized about people feeling vulnerable, and undoubtedly there’s some sort of evolutionary thing about woolly mammoths sneaking up on us or something. I think it’s just, on a more base level, people feel clumsy. They feel fat, they feel clumsy and awkward, and we don’t like that at all.

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Tweaking personas: Mastering the hunt for the ideal user

Personas are a useful tool, almost always used badly.

Camera_obscura_William_Allen_Flickr

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Personas have always struck me as a potentially useful tool that is almost always used badly. In theory, they’re great. Who doesn’t love a deliverable that is designed to get everybody on the team more familiar with the ideal user? Why wouldn’t we create something to help us focus our design and engineering efforts around the real people using our products?

Unfortunately, the reality rarely lives up to the hype. Personas, as they are created in many organizations, aren’t nearly as useful as they could be. They’re rarely based on real user insights developed during research. They tend to be overly broad and generalized. They’re descriptive, rather than predictive. And that’s just a few of the things people get wrong. Read more…

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Proposing CSS input modality

:focus'ing on users.

Image of a camera lens artfully out of focus

Editor’s note: The author would like to acknowledge her co-author, Brian Kardell, who contributed many insights to the ideas presented here, along with a substantial number of the words.

Web developers and web standards authors alike strive to live up to the promise of “universality” — the idea that the web should be available to all. This concept drives many innovations in web technology, as well as being fundamentally built in to the philosophy of the open standards on which the web is based.

In order to achieve this, we frequently find that having some carefully chosen information about how the user intends to view the content (a concept we’ll refer to in this article as “user context”) allows web developers to create more flexible and useful user experiences. In this post, we’ll lay out a case that it’s time to expand our view of user context to include the concept of modality (how the user is interacting with the page), but before we flesh that out, let’s take a look at “user context”.

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Our world is full of bad UX, and it’s costing us dearly

We need to provide people with proper access, interaction, and use of technology so that it serves their needs.

Download a free copy of “The New Design Fundamentals,” a curated collection of chapters from the O’Reilly Design library. Editor’s note: this post is an excerpt from “Tragic Design,” by Jonathan Shariat, which is included in the collection.

I love people.

I love technology and I love design, and I love the power they have to help people.

That is why when I learned they had cost a young girl her life, it hurt me deeply and I couldn’t stop thinking about it for weeks.

My wife, a nursing student, was sharing with her teacher how passionate I am about technology in health care. Her teacher rebutted, saying she thought we needed less technology in health care and shared a story that caused her to feel so strongly that way.

This is the story that inspired me to write this book and I would like to share it with you.

Jenny, as we will call her to protect the patient’s identity, was a young girl who was diagnosed with cancer. She was in and out of the hospital for a number of years and was finally discharged. A while later she relapsed and returned to be given a very strong chemo treating medicine. This medicine is so strong and so toxic that it requires pre-hydration and post-hydration for three days with I.V. fluid.

However, after the medicine was administered, the nurses who were attending to the charting software, entering in everything required of them and making the appropriate orders, missed a very critical piece of information: Jenny was supposed to be given three days of I.V. hydration post treatment. The experienced nurses made this critical error because they were too distracted trying to figure out the software they were using.

When the morning nurse came in the next day, they saw that Jenny had died of toxicity and dehydration. All because these very seasoned nurses were preoccupied trying to figure out this interface (figure 1-1). Read more…

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Four short links: 1 July 2015

Four short links: 1 July 2015

Recovering from Debacle, Open IRS Data, Time Series Requirements, and Error Messages

  1. Google Dev Apologies After Photos App Tags Black People as Gorillas (Ars Technica) — this is how you recover from a unequivocally horrendous mistake.
  2. IRS Finally Agrees to Release Non-Profit Records (BoingBoing) — Today, the IRS released a statement saying they’re going to do what we’ve been hoping for, saying they are going to release e-file data and this is a “priority for the IRS.” Only took $217,000 in billable lawyer hours (pro bono, thank goodness) to get there.
  3. Time Series Database Requirements — classic paper, laying out why time-series databases are so damn weird. Their access patterns are so unique because of the way data is over-gathered and pushed ASAP to the store. It’s mostly recent, mostly never useful, and mostly needed in order. (via Thoughts on Time-Series Databases)
  4. Compiler Errors for Humans — it’s so important, and generally underbaked in languages. A decade or more ago, I was appalled by Python’s errors after Perl’s very useful messages. Today, appreciating Go’s generally handy errors. How a system handles the operational failures that will inevitably occur is part and parcel of its UX.
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Defining front-end architecture

Raising the banner for a new discipline.

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In this excerpt taken from the upcoming book, Front-End Architecture: A Modern Blueprint for Scalable and Sustainable Design Systems, Micah Godbolt details the history of this new discipline and explains why it is such a vital role to embrace in our industry.

With the evolution of the web came changes to the roles of the modern web team. We went from a small group of generalist webmasters to a team of talented specialists. As each of these specialties developed, and members became more proficient in them, the web began to form a new set of roles… or disciplines.

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The language and metrics of UX evolve at Velocity 2015

As developers and designers converge, we're seeing an increased focus on the user's perspective.

Editor’s note: The O’Reilly Velocity Conference in Santa Clara was held last week. The event explored the essential trends driving web operations and performance forward. In the post that follows, Mark Zeman digs into recent changes he’s observed in one aspect of Velocity: the role, language, and metrics surrounding user experience.

I’ve attended four O’Reilly Velocity conferences over the last year, and I was struck by a notable shift in the conversations at Velocity in Santa Clara, Calif. Many speakers and attendees have started to change their language and describe the experience of their websites and apps from the user’s perspective.

The balance has shifted from just talking about how fast or reliable a particular system is to the overall experience a user has when they interact with and experience a product. Many people are now looking at themselves from the outside in and developing more empathy for their users. The words “user” and “user experience” were mentioned again and again by speakers.

Here are recent talks from Velocity and other events that highlight this shift to UX concerns. Read more…

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Add depth to your project with practical web audio

Enhance the user experience with the thoughtful use of sound.

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There is little debate that Web Audio is cool. Take for example Stepkit by Brent Jackson (embedded below).

It’s definitely a fun toy to play with, but most of us probably couldn’t think of how this might be relevant to our jobs. When I presented 8-bit game music with the Web Audio API at last year’s Fluent Conference, I readily admitted that it was intended to be purely fun rather than practical.

Recently I explored the idea of adding audio to web apps, but I think the big problem isn’t that web developers were unsure how to add audio to their app, but that they don’t think they should add audio to web apps. In this article, I’d like to make the case that you should be considering audio when designing your web application user interface.

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Four short links: 22 May 2015

Four short links: 22 May 2015

Automobile Ownership, Architectural Robots, UX Psychology, Go Packages

  1. GM: That Car You Bought, We’re Really the Ones Who Own ItGM’s claim is all about copyright and software code, and it’s the same claim John Deere is making about their tractors. The TL;DR version of the argument goes something like this: cars work because software tells all the parts how to operate; the software that tells all the parts to operate is customized code; that code is subject to copyright; GM owns the copyright on that code and that software; a modern car cannot run without that software; it is integral to all systems; therefore, the purchase or use of that car is a licensing agreement; and since it is subject to a licensing agreement, GM is the owner and can allow/disallow certain uses or access. In the future, manufacturers own the secondary market.
  2. Architectural Robots (Robohub) — The concept is named ‘Minibuilders.’ This is a group of robots each performing a specific task. The first robot layers a 15 cm (6 in) footprint or foundation, while a second and a third robot print the rest of the building by climbing over the structures they already printed and laying more material over them. This design is only possible at construction scale where printed layers are solid enough to support a robotic print head.
  3. The Psychology of UX — digging into 10 things about human psychology that should inform UX.
  4. gigoFetching packages in golang can be difficult, especially when juggling multiple packages and private repositories. GIGO (Gigo Installer for Go) tries to solve that problem, effectively being the golang equivalent of Python’s pip.
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Four short links: 6 March 2015

Four short links: 6 March 2015

Design Fiction, 3D License, Web Funding, and API Magic

  1. Matt Jones: Practical Design Fiction (Vimeo) — the log scale of experience! Fantastic hour-long recap of the BERG thinking that he’s continued at the Google Creative Lab in NYC. (via Matt Jones)
  2. 3dPL — public license for 3d objects. (via BoingBoing)
  3. Google Contributor — when the web’s biggest advertiser tries alternative ways to fund web content, I’m interested.
  4. Templaran HTTP proxy that provides advanced features to help you make better use of and tame HTTP APIs. Timeouts, caching, metrics, request collapsing, …
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