Thursday, June 24, 2010

Sexy vs. Usable

Whenever I get stumped on a UI, I ask is it a design issue or am I just being stupid? And as I have publicly pointed out in this blog, sometimes I'm just stupid. Got stumped on this one for awhile this morning:

BTW, very pretty dialog box. But the install button was disabled and I couldn't figure out why. Thought something might still be loading in the background so I waited. Finally figured out it was waiting on accept the terms of the license agreement.

I don't think I was stupid on this one. I wasn't seeing the gray box to accept the terms, nor did its label catch my attention alerting me I had an action to complete.

If I could redesign this, I would make the check box white (nothing says empty as well as white) and I'd add a tad of space between the box/label and the paragraph above it.

And I mean it, it is a pretty dialog box, and I should know, I stared at it for thirty seconds.

Wednesday, June 23, 2010

User Adoption: A War with Two Fronts

I know, I ride Rogers' old horse beyond its intended range, but it just stays a useful model for a lot of what I do.

We can identify a point in an acceptance life-cycle with a vertical bar perpendicular to the x axis and somewhere along it. Then essentially we can say that we've got the population to the left of that line on board, and the ones to the right are the resistors we are still trying to win over. So the traditional model in my mind has been "resistance lines up on the right."

But I'm becoming increasingly aware of a negative image to that model, where resistance lines up on the left. Innovators and early adopters will resist efforts to lower the entry threshhold to a technology, preferring to keep the club exclusive. "We had to learn it the hard way, so should they." Or "If you make it too easy, then anyone will be able to [do my job][look as smart as me]."

There are so many examples that I am embarrassed it took me this long to notice it to where I could articulate it. Linux/Unix "We don't need no stinkin' GUI" VCR vs. film, digital camera vs. film, sites like this one vs. hard coding HTML.

This means any user adoption campaign is essentially a war waged on two fronts: Trying to entice the later adopters to come on board while battling resistance from the early adopters to anything that makes it easy for them.

I suspect this problem is most pronounced in non-profit and governmental organizations that are not as driven by the economics of user adoption as commercial enterprises are. I also suspect it is higher in technology communities. No data, just hunches.

Sounds like a good conversation for over beers after your next professional association meeting. Do me a favor and save the napkins for me.

Tuesday, June 22, 2010

New Menu Idea

Just helped a coworker figure out how to reopen his style and formatting palette in Word. He had shut it down because it was getting in his way, and then he needed it back.

That happens to me a lot. It's gotten to the point that I am so reluctant to turn anything off because I'm afraid I'll never figure out how to reactivate it. Well, every problem is the seed for an innovation!

Hey, I want credit if Microsoft uses this!

Thursday, June 10, 2010

Yes, Virginia, there are stupid users.

I just didn't think my wife was sounding diligent enough about looking out for the UPS delivery guy, so I decided to work from home this afternoon so I knew someone would be here to accept delivery of the new guitar.

As I was working in my loft, I periodically checked the UPS tracking site to see if the status changed to indicate it had actually been dispatched. The current status message was a bit vague.

I hit refresh (for the 30th time in 30 minutes) and sure enough the status changed--to Delivered!! That got me a bit anxious, as in "TO WHOM--NOT ME!!!" It said "Garage."

I panicked. They delivered my Mike Auldridge guitar to a garage!!! Then I wondered something, so I went downstairs and opened the door to my garage.

What do you know. A guitar. So much for Mr. Eagle Eye.

Wednesday, June 09, 2010

I am like so old school

You might remember a blog I did last year about how not to update your look and feel. Essentially it says not to let old people (moi) design anything you want to appeal to the up and coming set of users.

I navigated to one of my old familiar sites and it has gone through a revamping by someone who certainly took my advice:

If you are over 60 (doh! moi again) give yourself about 5 minutes to figure out where to log in. Yes I know it says in BIG letters LOGIN and has a BIGASS button that says LOG IN.

It also has smudges for input fields.

I'm not complaining, "Brave new world that has such creatures in it" and all-- just saying I'm feeling like I'm a kazillion years old.

Maybe it needs a Help file that says "Type your password in the Password smudge." That would help geezers like me.

Tuesday, June 08, 2010

Mother and baby doing fine

I feel like I'm sending out a birth notice. This afternoon, Mike Auldridge inspected the latest batch of his MA-6 resophonic guitars (his signature guitar made by Paul Beard Guitars). I'm buying one directly through Mike. After checking them out (he still personally inspects all of his signature guitars) I'm told he said, "This one sounds just like mine," and then he set it aside for me.


UPS says it will be here Thursday. Someone's not sleeping for the next couple of nights.

Put Personas to Work

Read my column this month in UXmatters; Personas as User Assistance and Navigation.

Wednesday, June 02, 2010

Requirements vs. Constraints

I love "x" graphs, you know, the ones that show one domain diminishing while another is increasing. They form an x, and the point of intersection represents a sweet spot or break-even point. These days, I feel like I'm living the one shown below:

The more feature-rich a particular design approach is, the more it delights product management. Of course, that starts to overload available engineering resources which drives their delight down. Being a UX designer puts one in this position a lot. On the one hand, you want the product or service to be a differentiator in the market place, one that carries a lot of delight to the customer. On the other hand, it has to be build-able within the constraints of the organization's resources.

So you look for that acceptable area of compromise, somewhere close to the intersection of the two lines. Something achievable that represents enough delight to be a package you can take to market. You end up playing devil's advocate at times, pushing back on product management and goading engineering to stretch. You need to be sensitive to when to back off and say, "OK, I hear you, let me see how I can make the design accommodate that."

In the end, you have to have both sides at the table at the same time, otherwise you find yourself in a series of no-win situations where you are the bearer of the bad news (the areas shown in gray). It also helps the spirit of compromise if each side can be connected to the other's point of pain. Engineering is more willing to bend when they deal with Product Management directly, and Product Management is more willing to compromise when Engineering says "Our schema can't accommodate that kind of a query." Also, each side can hammer out alternatives a lot more efficiently when talking to one another. I'm always impressed how creative engineers can be if you share the problem with them instead of insisting on a particular solution.

This could be one of the most important skill sets a UX designer develops, the arbiter of user requirements and product constraints.