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261

Oversimplifying complex problems

Standing in front of clients and colleagues and be expected to provide instant solutions to complex problems is something many in our practice have experienced. But relying on expert's statements is not the way to go. In George Olsen's opinion, too many gurus are promoting oversimplified and absolutist ideas in order to promote themselves as the ones with the answers.

Being a totally relativistic and declare "It depends!" won't work either. "There are no easy answers. But

Links:

  • The article (Over)simple Answers for Simple Minds Open link in new window

Henrik Olsen - August 07, 2002

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See also: Tips and guidelines (95)  Expert reviews (11) 


 

262

Objections against user requirements analysis

According to Sim D'Hertefelt, requests for proposals for web projects describe the desired solution in terms of functionalities and technologies, but often lack basic information about the problem that will be solved. Without user requirement analysis the risk is that you won't solve any problems.

D'Hertefelt lists 13 common objections against user requirements analysis and why you should not believe them. You might have heard some off these before:

- We know what the user needs
- You're the internet expert. You should tell us what people need.
- We don't have the budget for user requirements analysis.
- It doesn't fit in our planning.
- Users don't know what they want.
- We're not at the university. We're a company developing a website.
- Our project is top secret. We can't approach the future users.

Links:

  • The article Why user experience disasters happen at the start of web projects Open link in new window
  • 13 common objections against user requirements analysis, and why you should not believe them Open link in new window

Henrik Olsen - August 03, 2002

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See also: User research (23) 


 

263

Adventures in Low Fidelity: Designing Search for Egreetings

Cris Farnum's story of a redesign of Egreetings proves the importance of testing early prototypes, by showing how even experienced interaction designers can be wrong and how we have to accept that usability tests can fail concepts, which we believe to be superior.

The article is also an interesting case on testing paper prototypes - or "tabletops", as Farnum calls it. I especially like their use of laminated printouts of screens, which the users can write on with a thin whiteboard marker.

Links:

  • The article Adventures in Low Fidelity: Designing Search for Egreetings Open link in new window

Henrik Olsen - August 01, 2002

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See also: Cases and Examples (28)  Usability testing (68)  Prototyping and wireframing (119) 


 

264

Survival of the fittest through iterative design

Comparing iterative design with Darwin's concept of natural selection, John S. Rhodes from WebWord.com explains why iterative design and testing are important.

Natural selection happens through the production of many offsprings, each with their unique differences. The ones that are strong and fit in a way that make them succeed in their environment, will survive. That's why many quick and dirty prototypes (offsprings) and continuous testing (selection in a natural environment) are important to a successful development workflow.

Links:

  • Evolution, Usability, and Web Design Open link in new window

Henrik Olsen - July 30, 2002

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See also: Tips and guidelines (95)  The design process (24)  Usability testing (68)  Prototyping and wireframing (119) 


 

265

Prototyping for Tiny Fingers by Marc Rettig (1994)

This fairly short article about paper prototyping covers how to do them but is more concerned with why they work. The interesting aspect of this technique (fmm) is the notion of 'playing' the computer; I have experienced students creating fairly complex interactions that they could simulate 'by hand'. The article also highlights some of the problems with hi-fi prototyping - the time it takes, the fact the users tend to focus on the gloss and the understandable resistance on the part of developers to change them. This kind of technique is akin to the performance design method (interactionary) which also seems like a brilliant technique to use with students (so there is no hiding from the comments of your peers or tutors). It is a shame though that the scan is of such poor quality!

Links:

  • Prototyping for Tiny Fingers - original article (pdf) Open link in new window
  • Overview of Paper Prototyping Technique (from the European Usability Support Centres)) Open link in new window
  • INTERACTIONARY - Sports for design training and team building Open link in new window
  • INTERACTIONARY - Sports for design training and team building Open link in new window

ben hyde - July 18, 2002

Permanent link Comments (3)

See also: Prototyping and wireframing (119) 


 

266

The art of UI prototyping

Scott Berkun's primer on prototyping explains the why, when and how of user interface prototyping for web and software designs.

To Berkun, prototyping is a means of exploring ideas, ensuring quality and save time and resources: "Even the brightest people make mistakes. This is especially true for teams of people. Somehow, as a project moves forward, small assumptions and well-intentioned but poor decisions accumulate, turning hours of work into a lousy user experience. The smart teams eliminate their mistakes before they ship by using a technique called UI prototyping. Combined with usability studies, prototypes keep teams headed in the right direction."

Links:

  • The art of UI prototyping Open link in new window

Henrik Olsen - July 04, 2002

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See also: Prototyping and wireframing (119) 


 

267

Camtasia

Camtasia from TechSmith is a powerful alternative to video-recording usability test sessions. Camtasia can capture all the users' actions on the screen and, at the same time, record the spoken comments of the user and the usability facilitator. The result can be saved to a standard AVI movie file and edited with the Camtasia Producer.

Links:

  • Read more about Camtasia at TechSmith.com Open link in new window

Henrik Olsen - June 05, 2002

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See also: Tools (106)  Usability testing (68) 


 

268

What users say vs. what they actually do

On the CHI-WEB list Baron Lane asked for anecdotes of what users say vs. what they actually do. This great (apocryphal) story on focus groups showed up:

"Phillips electronics gathered a group of teens in a room and asked them "What color boom box would you prefer? Black or yellow?" Teens to a person said that yellow was it. Black was conservative and old. Not hip at all. Yellow is definitely the color for them. Later in the afternoon, the teens were informed that they could each take a boom box home with them. Boom boxes were stacked at the exit in two piles, a pile of black and a pile of yellow. All teens selected black. What customers do is more important than what they say. We can watch and influence what they do online like never before."

Links:

  • The CHI-WEB post Open link in new window

Henrik Olsen - June 03, 2002

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See also: User research (23) 


 

269

Guerrilla HCI

Discount usability engineering is one of Jakob Nielsen's hobbyhorses and indeed his most valuable contributions to web and software design. In his contribution to the book Cost-Justifying Usability Nielsen states that software developers rarely use the recommended usability engineering methods, because they are seen as too costly, too time consuming, and all in all intimidating in their complexity.

In the paper Nielsen shows how to conduct discount usability and give some examples of how to estimate usability ROI.

Links:

  • The paper Guerrilla HCI: Using Discount Usability Engineering to Penetrate the Intimidation Barrier Open link in new window
  • The book Cost-Justifying Usability at Amazon.com Open link in new window

Henrik Olsen - May 23, 2002

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See also: Cost-justification and ROI (27)  Usability testing (68) 


 

270

Cost-benefit of usability

According to an article from WebWord all available research proves that the return on investment in usability is high for all stakeholders.

Usability has the benefits of:
- Reducing time to market
- Reducing testing and quality assurance costs
- Reducing sales costs
- Reducing production costs
- Improving customers' return on investment

Some key findings:
- Usability has demonstrated reductions in the product development cycle by over 33-50%
- 63% of all software projects overrun their budgetary estimates, with the top 4 reasons all related to unforeseen usability problems
- 80% of maintenance is due to unmet or unforeseen user requirements

Links:

  • The article A Business Case for Usability Open link in new window

Henrik Olsen - May 20, 2002

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See also: Cost-justification and ROI (27) 


 

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