Practising what we preach – using design tools on the OD website

Our website is due for an overhaul.   It’s a bit like the builder’s house, not the best in the street. None the less, we are having fun applying some of our toolkit to our own project.

At our initial strategy workshop, we started with an immersion activity. This involved getting the boss, James Breeze, to walk through some typical customer scenarios on the website. This is designed to increase stakeholder engagement with the project and shock them into giving you loads of resources for the project. It emphasises the need for change, and help supports the business case. 

Quite a few steps later in the process, we were ready for a design workshop. But we are a company of many talented UX designers, so the question was posed, “How to use this wealth of talent on our own project?”

Enter Design Studio, a collaborative design methodology which aims to draw on the skills of a team, and at the same time, avoids just going with the obvious solution.  Instead of the team discussing one solution together, and sketching it together, individuals design alone, share their ideas, and later refine them. You start with a plethora of ideas, not groupthink. 

Here’s Nirish working on his design.

Design storming

You can find the full explanation of the design studio methodology on UX mag but to summarise the basic process :

  • Background:The facilitator presents the design problem.
  • Sketch: Individuals sketch up to 8 solutions, with the focus on quantity. 
  • Present: Individuals present their ideas to a small group. 
  • Critique: The small group positively critiques the ideas so the individual can go away and refine the designs.
  • Iterate: The process is repeated with ideas being combined, re-defined, and finally the group coming up with one refined solution. 

Ideally you have a full day, with the teams working all day to distill many ideas into one refined solution. But our workshop was on a team planning day, and we had to do it towards the end of the day. So in the sketch phase, we got out the beers, put on some Bach played by the Australian Chamber Orchestra on, and we were away!

Dan, Alexis, Tim and Nirish sharing their designs.

We needed creativity

In 2 hours, we managed to do 2 iterations of the process. We had mix of UX designers, researchers and project managers in our workshop, and nearly everyone had a go at designing in the first stage. In the second iteration, people less experienced in design paired up with someone more experienced. We got some great ideas, which are still up on our wall. So Design Studio is definitely worth adding to your design toolkit. 

And here’s Anna putting on the final touches of her design!

ACO for imagination

OD FAQs | Is an eye tracker easy to use?

People who think that operating an eye tracker is hard, time consuming and requires lots of technical understanding are wrong.

If you can drive a usability testing tool like Morae or Silverback; or if you can drive a design program, then you can use eye tracking software. If you can create an online survey or roll out a social network you can use eye tracking software. So long as it it a Tobii eye tracker.

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Here’s two training videos on the Tobii Studio software:

If you want to use one at our EyeTrackLab for the day, let us know by emailing jbreeze@objectivedigital.com.

Of course, it is important that you have experience in usability test facilitation and setting up great research projects!

Visit our website for more user experience FAQs

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

OD FAQs | What is a heuristic?

Heuristic is a big word for a usability guideline and principle (best practice).Heuristics are used in the context of an Expert Usability Review (Heuristic Evaluation) to ensure that the user experience professional uses as a rule of thumb to uncover issues and create a usable website. 

I use the story of how my Honours thesis was edited to describe heuristics. The process took my editor friend, June, ages! When I asked. “Why did it take so long?” She responded “I read it 40 times?” “What? Why?”, I said. “Don’t you just read it through and pick up mistakes?”

The reason that my thesis was read so many times is that each time she read it, she had one single editing issue in mind.

  • Grammar
  • Spelling
  • Capitalisation
  • Fonts
  • Image Titles
  • Page numbers
  • Style
  • the list goes on.

She was using this technique to ensure coverage, to ensure that nothing was missed. 

I liken the expert usability review process to the editing process I experienced as an Honours student. Instead of ‘reading’ the website we use a set of carefully constructed tasks that represent what users would want to do with the technology, within the context of what the business is trying to achieve. Joanna recently blogged about how to create tasks.

As we go through the tasks the first time, issues that are observed can be noted down against each heuristic. Following this you can review the tasks again with an individual heuristic in mind as you go through each one.

According to Jakob Nielsen the 10 usability heuristics are:

  • Visibility of system status
  • Match between system and the real world
  • User control and freedom
  • Consistency and standards
  • Error prevention
  • Recognition rather than recall
  • Flexibility and efficiency of use
  • Aesthetic and minimalist design
  • Help users recognize, diagnose, and recover from errors
  • Help and documentation

These usability heuristics are representative of the most common issues for technology. However, sometimes it is necessary to use other ones at a more granular level. When we do an expert review we also use a long checklist against each of the heuristics.

You can read more about expert and oporutunity reviews on our website.

OD FAQs | Why do I need an opportunity review?

For years we have been looking for a better name for the competitive review service we provide at Objective Digital.  When doing this service, we generally ask the client for a list of sites they consider competitive to review.

Clients often say, “We’ve done a competitive review already.” However, my response is, “We need to look at them to familiarise ourselves with your market and also to find and borrow any good ideas they might have.” They usually let us do it.
 
Recently, I was listening to Stuart Edwards from Profero speaking at the AIMIA customer experience event at the Telstra Experience Centre. He was showing us how they borrowed the flexible one-page set up interface from World of Warcraft to innovate the redesign of the Pizza Hut online ordering system in Australia. This was a great example of thinking outside the box through opportunity review!

The word opportunity completely changes the focus of the competitive review exercise! Instead of reviewing the other sites to produce something that already exists, an opporunity review takes a creative stance to produce something new. It reminds us that we are looking for design innovations in other websites, not just doing a standard site comparison.

Why should your site innovation be constrained by what your competitors are doing on their sites?

Feel free to browse the other OD FAQs on our website.

OD FAQs I How do I write usability testing tasks?

“They’re Too complicated!”

That’s the most common mistake we see in tasks for a usability test. You want the test participant to focus on the website, not the tasks. Too complicated and the participant will be interacting with you, not with the website. Plus, when they’ll keep forgetting the task if it is too long.http://img.skitch.com

Screen shot 2010-06-17 at 10.15.56 AM.png
 

These are our 10 guidelines for developing simple, effective and uncomplicated tasks for a usability test:

1 Relate each task to test objective

You don’t have many opportunities – generally only 1 hour with the participant, so keep the task focused on the purpose of the test. If the purpose is to test whether users can complete an order, get them to do just that. You should be able to tick off each of the test objectives against a task.

2 Select scenarios that rate high on frequency and/or importance

You may have only 6-8 tasks in a test, so focus on the important tasks. Find something and check out.

For a new site, you generally want to test the primary purpose of the site – find a product and check out, sign up for something, find the answer to something.

3 Don’t make them too complicated

We’ve said it before, but its important. Keep it simple, preferably to one or two sentences:

Example: You want to book a holiday for your family. Find a holiday that suits you.

4 Be as realistic as possible

Try to make the task suit the participant’s real life circumstances. That’s why you have recruited them against certain criteria. For example, don’t have people look for a holiday for an imaginary family – get them to use their own family or friends.

If you have very different user groups, say, Customer and Advisers on a banking site, you need two sets of tasks. One for each group.

5 Move from general to specific

You don’t want to lead the participant around the website by the sequence of tasks. It’s better to have an open exploratory task first to see how the participant interacts with the website.  Then, move to the more specific tasks, based on the objectives and the new functionality.

6 Avoid using the words on the website

Using words on the website leads people. Try to write the task in everyday language.

Example: You want to take out your superannuation NOT You want to consolidate your super.

7 Use concrete language

As much as possible, use active verbs to describe the task – Book a hotel in Rome; Buy a Xmas present for your partner; Find out the weather forecast for today.

8 Follow a logical flow through the website

Try to make the test follow a natural customer journey from start to finish. For example, on an e-commerce site, the customer may explore, compare, purchase, create an account, and check out. Your test should follow this sequence.

9 For information tasks, instruct the participant on how to end

Don’t leave the participant floundering when they have reached the end of the task. Have the participant tell the facilitator when they have found the answer.

Example: Find a cruise which interests you. Tell the facilitator when you have found it.

10 Utilise other communications

Showing the participant other product material such as brochures, leaflets or ads can be useful if you don’t want to explain too much in a task. Then it is up to the participant to work it out from the website, and the extra material.

Example: You saw this ad on a bus stop. Find out if this product would suit you.

 

Of course, we will write the tasks with you!

Feel free to read more usability FAQs on our website.

OD FAQs | How do you interpret all the user research?

Previously, we conducted a user needs analysis project with a client in a particularly political environment.  This meant that every decision made during the redesign had to be well reasoned. The client needed to see exactly how each of the various features, functions and content items (FF&C) were understood during the user research process.  In particular they wanted to know;

”How do you choose the right cards to do a card sort with?”

This made me realise that, in many user centred design projects, the user research is simply used to educate the Information Architect (a person). Often the client doesn’t see an overt relationship between the research findings and the final design choices. They simply trust the Informationa Architecture (IA).

User centred research

To show the relationship between each research exercise and each FF&C I created a simple Excel spread sheet like this (click to enlarge).

Across the top I used the following headings:

User Research methods

  • User focus groups suggestions
  • Online Survey support
  • Online user forum support
  • Competitor analysis support
  • Stakeholder suggestions from Face to Face Research
  • External stakeholder suggestions
  • Recommended content & features (cards for sort shaded)

Strategic decisions

  • Priority (1, 2, 3)
  • Justification
  • Additional info
  • Phase
  • Responsible

Features, functions & content

Then I listed all the possible FF&C down the left, including:

  • everything on the existing site
  • all the stakeholders’ business requirements (preferences)
  • competitor ideas
  • requirements uncovered and tested, and
  • new ideas.

Next I simply went through each FF&C and checked whether it ‘passed’ each user research ‘checkpoint’.

This can be done very quickly with a client in a workshop.  That way the client has full visibility of what is in or out in the design, and most importantly, why?

The last thing to be done is putting a priority on each FFC.

Just last week I used it for another client. We did less research therefore there were less columns. Here’s a partially completed example (click to enlarge):

Graph of content, features and funcitons in IA

Table of content, features and functions in IA

This method was incredibly successful!

It allowed us to generate valuable and insightful discussion with the client and their senior colleagues. In this case, the colours on the left were used to show the priority that people gave in the cards sorted in the face-to-face workshops.

By looking at the spreadsheet you can very easily see if each of the things that stakeholders thought they needed was also a requirement of users. And also what new ideas users had come up with, and whether they are in or out.  The list provides the information architect with a checklist, a heuristic framework, to ensure nothing is missed.  It also lets the client quickly see that everything is justified.

How do you choose cards for a card sort? Don’t just guess, make use of all of the user research that you have completed.

You’ll find a list of other user research FAQs on our webite.

 

OD FAQs | How many people should do a usability test with?

Many new clients ask me, “How many people should we do a usability test with?” I usually reply, “It depends on the type of testing you are doing.”

Types of usability tests

For Objective Digital there are three different types of usability test. The first two can be undertaken with or without eye tracking. However, the third really only works with eye tracking.

1. Improving usability and design

The most common test we perform is to improve usability and design. Participants are asked to complete a set of 6 (approx) tasks on a given software or website.  The objective is to identify:

  • Where people are having issues
  • Why they are having these issues, and
  • What to do to fix them.

How many people to test?

People who have similar levels of knowledge tend to make similar mistakes when using an application. When trying to complete a task, someone’s behaviour is constrained by the interface they are using.

In usability this means that after only a few participants tested, we have seen most of the errors that people are going to make. In this type of qualitative test, a rule of thumb for us is, 6 people per project.  We generally find we can get through 6 participants in a day of testing.

We often perform this type of testing iteratively for a new website development. This involves testing clickable JPEGS and HTML prototypes with limited functionality to uncover issues before the full development of the site.  Over the development phase we may test two or three times, with 6 (different) participants.

We  would do 12 people if the application has varied functionality that requires a different set of knowledge and skills to be able to complete tasks. For example, with Internet Banking a business customer should be able to easily complete the tasks once they log into business banking.  During the test we could also get them to log into the Personal Banking section and have them do tasks there too.

In comparison, a person who doesn’t work in business would have all sorts of trouble completing the Business Banking tasks and none at all with the personal tasks. 

In a case like this I would recommend 12 people be tested. Six business banking and 6 personal.

Sometimes Government departments and large corporates have many different users who use significantly different functionality. This requires testing with more people.

2. Measuring and benchmarking usability

Larger corporates with many and varied content managers and site owners like to track their site to monitor its performance on a frequent basis. Say twice a year. 

How many people to test?

In this type of test, where metrics such as time to task completion, number of clicks, error rates and other experiential measures are captured we recommend testing with at least 12 – 18 people. 

With this number, you uncover between 98 and 99 per cent of common errors, which are defined as those errors likely to be made by over two thirds of users. For details of these figures,  see this Human Factors blog post.

For measures such as task completion, or time to complete  task, there is a smaller margin of error with the increased number of people tested.  These measures make it easy to compare performance over time.

3. Call to action testing or design comparison

We are finding that many media companies, or organisations with lots of advertising, are keen to test the effectiveness of advertising, or other calls to action, on their websites. Other companies want to know how to make the pages on their sites work harder, to get that extra percentage of conversions. 

In this type of testing we are looking at how people digest the page before they have even started interaction.  What immediately stands out for them, where is their attention drawn? Clients like to capture measurements like:

  • How many people looked at an ad or call to action?
  • How long before they looked at an ad?
  • How long did they look at the ad?

This can only be done accurately using eye tracking, which is described on our website.

 How many people to test?

For this type of test you need at least 30 people to identify the common behaviours between people. This slideshow tells it all:

http://www.slideshare.net/jamesbreeze/why-you-need-50-people-in-eye-tracking-…

 

You can find a list of other FAQs on usability on our website. 

Brainstorming your designs – Have you exhausted all the opportunities?

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Innovation in software design can be structured.

It’s about understanding business and user needs, both explicit or implicit, and then brainstorming all the different design opportunities. Once you are completely exhausted, you will hopefully come to the ‘essence’. An ah-ha moment will leave you with the correct design framework. One that is based on a client(s)’ business context, techical framework and their personal preferences.

This Johnny Holland post sums it up well.

No more competitor analysis in this UX practice!

Opportunity Analysis 

 

For years I have been looking for a better name for the competitive review service we provide at Objective Digital.  When doing this service, we generally ask the client for a list of sites they consider competitive to review. 

 

Clients often say, “We’ve done that already.” However, my response is, “We need to look at them to familiarise ourselves with your market and also to find and borrow any good ideas they might have.” They usually let us do it.

 

The other day, I was listening to Stuart Edwards from Profero speaking at the AIMIA customer experience event at the Telstra Experience Labs. He was showing us how they borrowed the flexible one-page set up interface from World of Warcraft to innovate the redesign of the Pizza Hut online ordering system in Australia. This was a great example of thinking outside the box! Stuart made an important point. He said, “We don’t do competitive analysis at Profero, we do Opportunity Analysis!”.

 

The word opportunity completely changes the focus of the competitive review exercise! Instead of reviewing the other sites from an analytical frame of mind it requires a creative frame. It reminds clients and consultants that we are looking for design innovations in other websites, not just doing a standard site comparison.
Why should your site innovation be constrained by what your competitors are doing on their sites?