Archive for the ‘User-centered design examples’ Category

I know that one of the most difficult challenges of your final report and presentation is figuring out the most effective ways to communicate data. It takes scientific precision, artistic creativity, and great communication skills. It should be a fun challenge for graduate students – but, at this time of the semester, it gets quite painful, I know…

Take a break, watch the video below. It will remind you that there’s power and joy in data visualization:


Oh, and… never mind Power Point. Here’ the new requirement for your final presentation! /badjoke.


Here is a corporate report on monitoring user experience. Open it in Scribd and click the Full page view, or download the pdf.

Even though the contents may not be particularly breakthrough, I am posting the link here so you can take a look at the format of the report. I hope your end of semester research reports will be written in this style. You are writing for a busy audience, that needs to gain insights from the report even if just skimming. Careful formatting, use of white space and well-chosen graphs and charts can help with that

You read in the Cooper book about creating context scenarios, and I wonder what you thought about them: Helpful? Not helpful? Too much writing? Not relevant to me because I’ll NEVER create software/a website from scratch?

Even if you won’t be in a position to create a product from scratch, thinking about users in scenarios is a very helpful skill in a lot of ways.

For example, we used the scenario of the usability testing session in class to develop the materials we need. Walk through the scenario from the perspective of each user (the research participant, the timer, the observer, the session manager) and I guarantee your materials will turn out better and easier to use. Something as simple as a paper form for recording observations is an interface that can have usability issues when you put it in context.

Another example is that of a job applicant’s file – something you’ll do sometime in the future. Say you email your resume. Many people email a file named resume.pdf. Now, create the scenario of the recruiter receiving these emails and trying to save the files. She’ll end up with a million files, all similarly named! Or imagine your attachment gets forwarded, and the sixth person who gets it doesn’t really know whose resume it is, because your initial message is buried down at the bottom of the email. What will the file name resume.pdf mean to this person? Not much. So, if you imagine these scenarios of how your email and attachment will be used, you’ll come to the conclusion that it’s better for you to include in your file name your field of study, your name, and even your university. Why university? Alumni have loyalty towards their alma maters, and may open the attachment only because they saw the university’s name in the file name! (This has actually happened to at least one of my former students). – Hint: same goes with assignments you email your professor. I love the thoughtfulness of an assignment that includes the student’s name, rather than assignmentCGT512.docx.

As I am sending out recruitment emails to undergraduate and graduate students, I am also thinking (alas, imagining!) scenarios. Where are they on a Thursday night? Are they up late working, and likely to read email? Or are they already out for the weekend? I am trying to imagine their full email Inbox with a long list of messages. What kind of subject line will stand out, be appealing, yet not spammy?

So, here are two fun (?) challenges for you:

  1. What subject line would you write for an email that asks graduate students to participate in this research? How about undergraduate students?
  2. What are some opportunities in your daily life where thinking in scenarios could help you make something better?

If you recall (and I hope you do) our readings from the Cooper book and our class discussion of personnae, you’ll remember that this framework for understanding users begins with very general personal goal that are not directly linked to a task or activity. It may be a bit difficult to see the connection between those general goals and interface design, but here is a wonderful example:

I am sitting in a meeting about nanoHUB, and a physics professor tells us over lunch about some physics demos that he likes to use to help freshmen understand concepts. When asked what his criteria are for choosing those tools, he simply states:

“I want them to make me look good as a teacher.”

Then he goes on to tell us how the explanations have to be simple and clear, so that freshmen get the concept. They have to look neat, but not be burdened with unnecessary, complicated information or bells & whistles.

I had to tell you about this story, because it’s a really neat example, I think, of:

  1. the value of understanding user goals at the general level, as Cooper argues;
  2. the direct link between general user goals and interface features.

Google ads FAIL

Posted: September 26, 2010 in User-centered design examples

I was searching for a news article for a blog post about the It Gets Better project – a YouTube project to help gay teenagers who are bullied and, helpful as ever, this Google ad was displayed on my screen. Had to get a screenshot, and should probably submit to FAIL blog!

Soda dispenser at popular fast food chain restaurant

I don’t know if it’s because most unhealthy things are so easy to do, but I do appreciate the user-centered design of this type of soda dispensers. I was able to hold a sandwich and a heavy purse, get my soda, AND take a picture at the same time – all this with only two hands. (Sometimes I need more, but can’t afford the upgrade at this time.)

Click image to enlarge

If I’m not really paying attention, I often end up clicking the “Add Another Folder” button when I really want to hit “Save.”

Then, I waste time by backtracking – I have to cancel and start all over again. Reason 5,437 why I hate Blackboard.

What is the usability issue at the root of this user error?