If we are not collecting the information we intend to from research participants our findings will be incomplete or worse, irrelevant and misguided. To ensure validity, keep the interviews on track and satisfy stated objectives it is imperative to know when to realign interviews by applying subtle methods and when brute force; since both have their place.

Granted that best interviews find their own flow and that over-scripting discussion guides will severely limit the wiggle room needed to reach the golden “a-ha!” moments, determining and establishing research expectations from which value to further project development will be derived is a must. Continue Reading

Surveying your target audience by conducting a top task analysis in order to determine the minimal viability of your solution is an excellent way to account for user needs throughout the estimation process and define the scope.

Doing so enables you to clearly prioritize features and engagement opportunities, distinguishing between “nice to have” and that which is essential. Results are to be leveraged in justifying dropping (or at least postponing) implementation of functionality which users indicate as having little to no value.

The process is direct, engaging, requires little effort but produces powerful results. And it may easily be segmented and replicated to find out if and why there are different interpretations of value derived from the tasks you intend to facilitate. Continue Reading

Measuring the performance of various solution aspects is used to determine the quality of the experience users interacting with that solution have. Those aspects may range from load times, acquisition source viability, building affinity through increasing loyalty etc. and there are plenty of articles out there identifying what are the most valuable data points and how to best segment and interpret what I refer to as big-picture indicators. Where I find a significant gap in measuring experiences however, is in attention given to micro interactions users have with our solutions.

Smallest units of interaction between the user and the solution often lead to largest impact on the experience, sometimes even to abandonment. Think how an entire journey may be degraded in quality by user’s frustration caused by one simple (yet very annoying) password character requirements dialog or perhaps misalignment in expectations that an image should be clickable (to zoom) but it’s not.

Typical performance reports tend to focus on larger impact indicators such as overall conversion rate, but the composite individual interactions leading to that conversion are often overlooked, leaving a lot of room for speculation on what may be the cause. Following is an overview of considerations for tracking, measuring and optimizing different types of individual interactions as well as how to quantify their impact on the user experience and therefore the solution’s performance.

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Microwave Design

Ad-hoc design, or as some people say “design-by-committee” looks at creating solutions to very specific problems. If set in an environment that compromises evaluation of solution iterations for “just getting the project out the door” and not ruffling any feathers whilst doing so, ad-hoc can be very dangerous. It will negatively impact the success of projects, and with it team moral; through highly inflexible and often poorly constructed requirements made by the wrong people in the organization.

Workplaces that commonly nurture the culture type I described are “in-house” teams. Existing in a strictly defined structure, insecure middle management and executives have limited perspective as well as incentive to examine possibilities of improvements suggested from post-committee team members and are almost never willing to challenge the status quo of ineffective decision making authority structures. It’s not their fault, they’re just managers after all, they don’t know any better. They implement linear processes that utilize rational thinking  and expect great innovation to just happen without realizing they are actually stifling it.

Result as expected, is a mediocre (at best) solution, that is pushed to production cycle doomed for failure from start because teams which have to implement this solution do so through a microwave process of cooking up aforementioned shitty requirements on high for 2 minutes per pound and are left unsatisfied with the outcome. This is primarily because they recognize a better recipe exists. More delicate process in which care is given to each ingredient by individuals with unique sets of expertise, who are assigned appropriate authorities and derived responsibilities.

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By end of 2013 (2015 at the latest) mobile browsing traffic (smarthphones and tablets) will surpass the traditional desktop uses. Small screen spaces, limited interaction models and increasing number of user contexts will generate new constraints on designers. Solution to those constraints is focus. Focus on relevant content,  focus on visual hierarchies,  focus on intuitive experiences  that will enable us to do more with less and ultimately provide users with accessible information through  functional interactions.

New era will bring many changes in our approach to the layout.  One change that will play the major role is the shift of the screen orientation from landscape (horizontal) to portrait (vertical).  Although this shift is yet to come, there are steps we can take now in order to accommodate and better understand the impact through use of natural user interfaces (NUI) rather than graphical (GUI) Continue Reading