"ux" entries

Four short links: 6 October 2015

Four short links: 6 October 2015

System Intuition, Magic is Power, Predicting Behaviour, Payment Required

  1. Flux: New Approach to System Intuition (LinkedIn) — In general, we assume that if anything is best represented numerically, then we don’t need to visualize it. If the best representation is a numerical one, then a visualization could only obscure a quantifiable piece of information that can be measured, compared, and acted upon. Anything that we can wrap in alerts or some threshold boundary should kick off some automated process. No point in ruining a perfectly good system by introducing a human into the mix. Instead of numerical information, we want a tool that surfaces relevant information to a human, for situations that would be too onerous to create a heuristic. These situations require an intuition that we can’t codify.
  2. Jumping to the End: Practical Design Fiction (Vimeo) — “Magic is a power relationship” — Matt Jones on the flipside of hiding complex behaviours from users and making stuff “work like magic.” (via Richard Pope)
  3. Predicting Daily Activities from Egocentric Images Using Deep Learning — aka “people wear cameras and we can figure out what they’re going to do next.”
  4. 402: Payment Required (David Humphrey) — The ad blocking discussion highlights our total lack of imagination, where a browser’s role is reduced to “render” or “don’t render.” There are a whole world of options in between that we should be exploring.

Understanding the experience design of consumer IoT products

Great UX for IoT requires cross-discipline collaboration between design, technology, and business.

Download a free copy of our new report “User Experience Design for the Internet of Things,” by Claire Rowland, to learn about a framework for understanding the UX of consumer IoT products. Note: this post is an excerpt from the report.

Trapeze_artists_1890When we think of design for connected products, we tend to focus on the most visible and tangible elements. These are the industrial design of connected devices, and the user interfaces (UIs) found in mobile and Web apps and on the devices themselves.

They are important concerns, which have a major impact on the end user’s experience of the product. But they’re only part of the picture. You could create a beautiful UI, and a stunning piece of hardware, and users could still have a poor experience of the product as a whole.

Designing for IoT is inherently more complex than Web service design. Some of this is to do with the current state of the technology. Some of this reflects our as-yet immature understanding of compelling consumer IoT value propositions. Some of this stems from the fact that there are more aspects of design to consider. Tackling them independently creates an incoherent user experience (UX).

Designing a great connected product requires a holistic approach to user experience. It spans many layers of design, not all them immediately visible. More than ever, it requires cross-discipline collaboration between design, technology, and business. Great UX may start with understanding users. But the designer’s ability to meet those users’ needs depends on the technology enablers, business models, and wider service ecosystem. Read more…

Four short links: 3 September 2015

Four short links: 3 September 2015

Lock Patterns, Peer-to-Peer Markets, Community Products, and Speech Recognition

  1. The Surprising Predictability of Android Lock Patterns (Ars Technica) — people use the same type of strategy for remembering a pattern as a password
  2. Peer to Peer Markets (PDF) — We discuss elements of market design that make this possible, including search and matching algorithms, pricing, and reputation systems. We then develop a simple model of how these markets enable entry by small or flexible suppliers, and the resulting impact on existing firms. Finally, we consider the regulation of peer-to-peer markets, and the economic arguments for different approaches to licensing and certification, data, and employment regulation.
  3. 16 Product Things I learned at ImgurYou can A/B test individuals, but it’s nearly impossible to A/B test communities because they work based on a mutually reinforcing self-conception. Use a combination of intuition (which comes from experience), talking to other community managers and 1:1 contact with a sample of your community. But you’ll still be wrong a lot.
  4. kaldia toolkit for speech recognition written in C++ and licensed under the Apache License v2.0

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.

Subscribe to the O’Reilly Design Podcast, our podcast exploring how experience design — and experience designers — are shaping business, the Internet of Things, and other domains.

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.

Read more…


Tweaking personas: Mastering the hunt for the ideal user

Personas are a useful tool, almost always used badly.


Register for the UX Design for Growth — Improving User Conversion training session with Laura Klein. In this online, interactive training workshop, Klein, author of “UX for Lean Startups,” will teach you to design for product growth.

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…


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”.

Read more…

Comment: 1

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…

Comments: 2
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.

Defining front-end architecture

Raising the banner for a new discipline.


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.

Read more…


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…

Comment: 1