"ux" entries

Theming in Kivy

Adding consistency to Kivy's Python UI tools

Kivy has a wonderful set of built-in widgets that can be extended in numerous ways. They have very useful behaviors, but their look and feel may not integrate well with your App or the platforms you are targeting. Kivy doesn’t support theming out of the box right now, but if you poke around enough, there are a range of options you can use to customize the default look of widgets without having to define your own inherited versions of them.

I’ll first introduce you to Kivy’s image atlases, which are less mysterious than they sound, and are important groundwork for understanding theming in Kivy. Then you’ll learn two different ways to do manual theming in Kivy, with an eye to future automation.

Introducing Atlases

To understand theming, you must first understand atlases. An atlas is essentially a collection of distinct images combined into a single image file for loading efficiency. A JSON file describes the location of the separate images inside that master image file so that Kivy can access them directly. If you’ve ever worked with CSS sprites, you know exactly what I’m talking about. If you haven’t, the following example should explain everything.

Read more…

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Four short links: 25 April 2014

Four short links: 25 April 2014

IoT UX, Tilty Library, Local Govt Dashboard, and SF Dreams

  1. UX of the Internet of Things — a Pinterest board of IoT designs and experience.
  2. parallax.js — Javascript library for tilt, shake, etc. interactivity on iPad. NICE demo.
  3. Gov.UK Local Government Dashboard Prototype is Live — not glorious, but making the move from central to local government is super-important. (via Steve Halliday)
  4. How America’s Leading Science Fiction Authors are Shaping Your Future (Smithsonian) — SF writers create our dreams. “Techno-optimists have gone from thinking that cheap nuclear power would solve all our problems to thinking that unlimited computing power will solve all our problems,” says Ted Chiang, who has explored the nature of intelligence in works such as The Lifecycle of Software Objects. “But fiction about incredibly powerful computers doesn’t inspire people the same way that fiction about large-scale engineering did, because achievements in computing are both more abstract and more mundane.”
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Four short links: 23 April 2014

Four short links: 23 April 2014

Mobile UX, Ideation Tools, Causal Consistency, and Intellectual Ventures Patent Fail

  1. Samsung UX (Scribd) — little shop of self-catalogued UX horrors, courtesy discovery in a lawsuit. Dated (Android G1 as competition) but rewarding to see there are signs of self-awareness in the companies that inflict unusability on the world.
  2. Tools for Ideation and Problem Solving (Dan Lockton) — comprehensive and analytical take on different systems for ideas and solutions.
  3. Don’t Settle for Eventual Consistency (ACM) — proposes “causal consistency”, prototyped in COPS and Eiger from Princeton.
  4. Intellectual Ventures Loses Patent Case (Ars Technica) — The Capital One case ended last Wednesday, when a Virginia federal judge threw out the two IV patents that remained in the case. It’s the first IV patent case seen through to a judgment, and it ended in a total loss for the patent-holding giant: both patents were invalidated, one on multiple grounds.
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Four short links: 4 February 2014

Four short links: 4 February 2014

UX Fundamentals, Mozilla Persona, Pi Tests, and The Holodeck

  1. UX Fundamentals, Crash Course — 31 posts introducing the fundamental practices and mindsets of UX.
  2. Why We Love Persona And You Should Too — Mozilla’s identity system is an interesting offering. Fancy that, you might have single-sign on without Single Pwn-On.
  3. Raspberry Pi As Test Harness — Pi accessory maker uses Pis to automate the testing of his … it’s Pis all the way down.
  4. The Holodeck Begins to Take Shape — displays, computation, and interesting input devices, are coming together in various guises.
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Accessibility: Why I Hate Checklists

A truly accessible website is both accessible and usable

Every time I give a talk about making accessible websites, I get the following question:

“What checklist do you use to make sure a site is accessible?”

My response always surprises them:

“I don’t use a list.”

Why not? There are so many lists out there that I could be using! Practically every US government agency has a checklist published on their site, and several non-government sites offer checklists of their own. With so many free resources, why do I ignore checklists?

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Knowing and Understanding Your Audience

Measuring impact and changing behavior

I had the opportunity to sit down with Laura Klein (@lauraklein) and talk about the importance of creating effective user experiences. Laura is a UX expert and consultant. She stresses the need to figure out what works by talking to users and determining what works through usability testing. She’s also author of O’Reilly Media’s UX for Lean Startups: Faster, Smarter User Experience Research and Design. It hit home when Laura told me, “If people aren’t getting it, you’re probably doing it wrong.”

Key highlights include:

  • How to figure out what works, so you can avoid a poor user experience. [Discussed at 0:19]
  • It’s important to avoid porting a traditional process to a new product and service. Instead you need to think about how to design a new and natural experience. [Discussed at 2:16]
  • Think about context when designing new processes. [Discussed at 2:37]
  • The first step in creating a successful UX is knowing and understanding your audience. [Discussed at 3:49]
  • Using these principles beyond web sites. In all good UX applications, the goal is not to notice the interface. [Discussed at 5:16]
  • It’s critical to observe people, so you’re not assuming a knowledge base. [Discussed at 7:35]
  • The importance of A/B Testing. And how design is not an art; it’s trying to solve a problem. [Discussed at 9:54]
  • How the build, measure, learn lean methodology fits with UX design. It’s all about measuring the impact and changing behavior. [Discussed at 11:11]
  • You can view the full interview here:

    Related:

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Purposeful Design Principles for Behavior Change

How to design products and services that help users change behavior

Steve Wendel (@sawendel) is the Principal Scientist at HelloWallet where he develops applications that help users take control of their finances. He’s also currently writing Designing for Behavior Change. I recently sat down to talk with Steve about the importance of testing and iteration, role of psychology, and resources and tools.

Key highlights include:

  • Describing the general principles of designing for behavior change. [Discussed at 0:16]
  • When we get it wrong, how to turn it around. [Discussed at 2:12]
  • Good examples of products and services. [Discussed at 4:45]
  • Read more…

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Investigating the state of UX and UI design in tech

As web and industrial design begin to collide, UX and UI design are particularly ripe for disruption.

The last major shift in design arguably occurred in the 90s as print design gave way to web design, and designers suddenly had to deal with web safe colors, alias fonts, and the information design challenges of a non-sequential medium. Two decades later, design is approaching a similarly monumental shift as designers move from designing for the web to designing for systems.

Software developers and hardware engineers are starting to face difficult — and atypically similar — questions in terms of user experience (UX) and user interface (UI) design as web and industrial design begin to collide. Software developers must now think about designing for hardware interfaces, and hardware engineers must now design with UX and UI in mind. This collision presents an opportunity for a tectonic shift in the design space, with the potential to spread across industries on a larger — and more personal — scale than design has experienced before. That’s why, beginning today, we’re kicking off an exploration of the companies and people experimenting with and innovating in UX and UI design.

We can already see the beginnings of this shift as wearable interfaces, such as Google Glass, Fitbit, and Jawbone, become more and more mainstream. But what about designing for a wearable computing system for assistance dogs that allows an animal to alert or even command its human? Or for a sensor system for your teeth that could monitor what you eat and drink?

Read more…

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The True Cost of Lemonade

Learn to resist vanity metrics

One of the things we preach in Lean Analytics is that entrepreneurs should avoid vanity metrics—numbers that make you feel good, but ultimately, don’t change your behavior. Vanity metrics (such as “total visitors”) tend to go “up and to the right” but don’t tell you much about how you’re doing.

Many people find solace in graphs that go up and to the right. The metric “Total number of people who have visited my restaurant” will always increase; but on its own it doesn’t tell you anything about the health of the business. It’s just head-in-the-sand comforting.

A good metric is often a comparative rate or ratio. Consider what happens when you put the word “per” before or after a metric. “Restaurant visitors per day” is vastly more meaningful. Time is the universal denominator, since the universe moves inexorably forwards. But there are plenty of other good ratios. For example, “revenue per restaurant visitor” matters a lot, since it tells you what each diner contributes.

What’s an active user, anyway?

For many businesses, the go-to metric revolves around “active users.” In a mobile app or software-as-a-service business, only some percentage of people are actively engaged. In a media site, only some percentage uses the site each day. And in a loyalty-focused e-commerce company, only some buyers are active.

This is true of more traditional businesses, too. Only a percentage of citizens are actively engaged in local government; only a certain number of employees are using the Intranet; only a percentage of coffee shop patrons return daily.

Unfortunately, saying “measure active users” begs the question: What’s active, anyway?

To figure this out, you need to look at your business model. Not your business plan, which is a hypothetical projection of how you’ll fare, but your business model. If you’re running a lemonade stand, your business model likely has a few key assumptions:

  • The cost of lemonade;
  • The amount of foot traffic past your stand;
  • The percent of passers-by who will buy from you;
  • The price they are willing to pay.

Our Lean lemonade stand would then set about testing and improving each metric, running experiments to find the best street corner, or determine the optimal price.

Lemonade stands are wonderfully simple, so your business may have many other assumptions, but it is essential that you quantify them and state them so you can then focus on improving them, one by one, until your business model and reality align. In a restaurant, for example, these assumptions might be, “we will have at least 50 diners a day” or “diners will spend on average $20 a meal.”

The activity you want changes

We believe most new companies and products go through five distinct stages of growth:

  • Empathy, where you figure out what problem you’re solving and what solution people want;
  • Stickiness, where you measure how many people adopt your solution rather than trying it and leaving;
  • Virality, where you maximize word-of-mouth and references;
  • Revenue, where you pour some part of your revenues back into paid acquisition or advertising;
  • Scale, where you grow the business through automation, delegation, and process.

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Not Your User’s Problem

Understanding the Difference Between User Problems, Business Needs, and Solutions

First, let me say that I love all the emphasis on Customer Development, Early User Research, and Product Market Fit that I’ve been seeing these days. What I don’t love is the massive confusion that often comes along with it.

There’s a particular type of confusion I’ve seen on teams at the very beginning of the product development process that I’d like to try to clear up. Or possibly add to. We’ll see.

Some people don’t seem to understand the difference between a Business Need, a User Problem, and a Solution. But you have to understand the difference, because if you don’t, you’ll end up doing the wrong sort of research and designing the wrong product.

A Business Need

At its very simplest, a Business Need is what a product will do for your company. This can often be expressed in the form of a metric that needs to be moved or a hypothesis about how building a new feature or product will make you a billionaire.

Here are some examples of business needs:

  • Improve the conversion rate on a landing page so that we get more people trying our product.
  • Increase revenue by selling more widgets.
  • Get more registered users for free by getting our current users to share our product.
  • Increase engagement with our product so that people are more likely to be retained users.
  • Build a huge user base so that we can eventually monetize it.

What’s interesting about these Business Needs? Well, in one way or another, all of these things, if executed correctly, should eventually increase our revenue or decrease our spend. We need to do these things to have a viable business. But there are all sorts of ways to do them, some of which are great for users and others that aren’t.

To identify a business need, typically you’re going to want quantitative data. You need to know what your metrics are in order to figure out which ones need to be higher. You don’t determine a business need by talking to users.

Obviously business needs might be caused by user problems. For example, if your onboarding process is hard to use, you could have low conversion rates. But the business need is increasing the conversion rate, which you might do in a number of different ways.

A User Problem

Your users have problems. Some of the problems they’ll pay you to solve for them. Some of the problems you’re probably causing for them with your terrible UX. Some of the problems they don’t even know they have.

Here are a few examples of user problems:

  • It’s hard to share documents across different computers.
  • The first time experience with a particular product is confusing and complicated.
  • The user can’t use an app when it’s not connected to the Internet.
  • A person has trouble finding a good hair salon in her area and booking an appointment.

You’ll note that these user problems are all quite different. The first one inspired lots of companies, like DropBox. The second one is common to many products. The third one is mobile specific. The fourth one could be solved by a number of different types of products, some of which are quite low tech. There are roughly an infinite number of other user problems that could exist.

The common factor here is that these are problems experienced by humans. The other common factor is that there is no guarantee that solving a user problem will actually fulfill a business need. Sure, solving problems for people is generally a good thing, but there are some user problems that people will pay you to solve and others that they won’t.

To identify a user problem, your best bet is observational and generative research. Watch people in the wild using your product or other products. Follow people around while they perform various tasks or do their jobs. Understand the things that make life difficult for people and then identify the biggest, most important problems that you could solve for them.

A Solution

A solution, as the name implies, is how you solve a problem. Ideally, your solution will solve a user problem which will fix a business need.

Here are a few examples of solutions: Read more…

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