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User Experience Magazine: Volume 9, Issue 3, 2010

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Volume 9, Issue 3, 2010

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Feature Articles

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Feature Articles: Eye Tracking

Around the Globe: Lab Research in the United States and Europe
By Michelle Borea and Kellie May

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Two operational vice-presidents from Fieldwork, Inc., a US-based company with 30 years of experience in primary, face-to-face data collection in the United States, Europe, Asia and the Far East highlight some of the differences in physical facilities, technology, recruiting practices and cultural idiosyncrasies they have encountered in different countries.  The article will help usability practitioners anticipate and plan around differences that may otherwise lead to data inconsistencies and incompatibilities that make cross-cultural analysis cumbersome or even impossible.

 

Touch Me! Reinventing a Business Application for the Touchscreen
By Carla Merrill

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How do you take a physical keyboard/mouse-based business application and design it specifically for touch interaction?  Mobile device, self-service kiosk, and restaurant applications are the stars in the touchscreen space.  But what about heavy-duty business applications like those for customer support, retail point-of-sale (POS), and office management? Can they enjoy the same success on a touchscreen?  Jakob Nielsen didn't seem to think so in 2009 when he told Forbes.com that:

"The appeal [of touchscreens] is simple: There is something more intuitive, something more direct about them as opposed to the slightly more indirect style of the mouse.  Touchscreens work best for applications where you have very few options, such as … small, portable devices with little room for larger numbers of buttons."

Nielsen’s view seems difficult to challenge, since there are so few, fully-touchable business applications in use today. As a User Interface (UI) designer working for a retail application vendor, I know that clients are definitely interested in gaining the reputed usability benefits of the touchscreen for their store operations.  We have already had success with our full-touch POS application.

Switching to touch does not automatically guarantee usability benefits. The UI must be specifically designed to take advantage of touch interaction. Merely moving a keyboard-based application to a touchscreen and enlarging its UI objects will not work. So what does it take to design a business application specifically for touch interaction? That is the question tackled in this article.

 

Shh. Listen First! Social Networking, Wikis, and User Experience

By Ann Gentle

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On the social web, user experiences are shaped in bits and pieces, tweets and posts. By listening in and tuning to the right channels, we can take those fragments from Facebook, LinkedIn, Twitter and more, and build a vibrant moving collage depicting our users’ perspectives. We live at the intersection of the age of information as it shifts to the age of interaction. Our users are leaving a trail of hints and tips to help us learn from them, and perhaps eventually collaborate with them on product design, documentation, and implementation.

This article describes techniques and ideas for listening to users first, then collaborating with them using social software tools with a stepwise approach. Listen first by monitoring and becoming a cultural anthropologist or sociologist. Participate slowly, build relationships, and engage in conversation rather than de-personalizing the interaction. Finally, if it makes sense, build a collaboration opportunity. This article uses a “book sprint” (an intensive week-long book or documentation production effort among a group of collaborating writers) as an example to demonstrate the concepts.

 

More Than Just Eye Candy: Top Ten Misconceptions about Eye Tracking in the User Experience Field
By Agnieszka (Aga) Bojko and Kristin A. Adamczyk

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Eye tracking is no longer a novel addition to the user experience research toolbox, used by only a few specialists. As more UX professionals incorporate eye tracking into their studies, many misconceptions are being created and perpetuated. These false beliefs and questionable practices have given eye tracking an undeserved bad reputation. It is time to start the process of change. This article describes common misconceptions about eye tracking in the UX field and attempts to clarify its proper application.

The ten misconceptions discussed in the article include:

  1. All usability research can benefit from eye tracking.
  2. Eye tracking is all about heatmaps.
  3. Eye tracking results are easy to interpret.
  4. There is only one way to look at something.
  5. Let’s track and see what comes out!
  6. There is a “magic sample size” for all eye tracking studies.
  7. Eye movement analysis can be done by watching gaze videos.
  8. The dot indicates exactly where a person looked and what they saw.
  9. All data collected should be analyzed.
  10. Anyone can do eye tracking.

 

Integrating Usability and Accessibility: Things Every UX Professional Should Know
By Brad Fain

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Usability and accessibility professionals have been unnecessarily compartmentalized to the detriment of both professions.  Usability professionals often ignore user categories that are outside of the general population when addressing usability issues. People with disabilities or people experiencing reductions in functional capacity due to age, illness, or injury are often excluded from standard usability protocols.  Accessibility professionals, during the course of evaluating accessibility, often identify usability issues but are unable to take advantage of the knowledge to effect positive usability changes. 

The truth is the ability to produce both accessible and usable products and services is enhanced when accessibility and usability are considered together.  The artificial separation of accessibility and usability must end.  The population of the developed world is aging.  In the not too distant future, the same consumers that are demanding usable products today will be demanding that the products accommodate the changes in their functional abilities as they age.  Failure to consider both accessibility and usability will equate to a failure of the product or service.  

Now is the time to make the organizational changes necessary to address the needs of future consumers. By understanding how usability and accessibility are related, usability professionals will strengthen their value proposition, enhance their ability to make lasting positive changes within their organizations, and influence the creation of products that are easier for all to use.

 

Taking Usability into the Trenches: Importance of Ethnographic Research and Field Testing
By Gavin Johnston          

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Product development has traditionally had an “if you build it, they will come” attitude. Usability has often followed suit, producing products and user interfaces that worked beautifully when tested in a lab. Unfortunately, people do not use products in a lab. They use them in the real world, which is filled with distractions and stresses that can have a tremendous impact on usability. If you don’t account for these external influences when designing and testing, you run the risk of building products that fail in practical settings, no matter how well they performed in the lab.

This article focuses on the need to get usability out of the lab and into the trenches.  It speaks to the need to break down the science vs. art debate and how to use both in the designing a testing process that is valid in practical application. It also discusses the process by which methodological boundaries are pushed to incorporate elements of human factors, anthropology, and psychology into the usability testing process.

 

Engaging Teams with Rich Reporting: Recipe for a Research Findings Expo

By John Webb and Tomer Sharon

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A user experience researcher may gain insight that is sure to have huge impact for the product. The research findings may touch not only the usability of specific workflows and designs but carry major business and design implications that answer questions your product manager has been asking for months, and some that she hasn’t even thought to ask. The researcher decides, as usual, to write a report. The problem is nobody reads it. Or, if someone does read part of a research report, they forget the main findings and how they might apply to the product just as soon as another email plops into their inbox.

This article suggests a different communication tool to help transfer the knowledge you, as a researcher, gained to your stakeholders – a usability findings expo. An expo is a full-day event during which stakeholders “experience” the research instead of reading about it. The expo room includes a self-guided exhibition of posters, artifacts, and videos. The study team and the immediate stakeholders host the expo and are available to elaborate and discuss research findings and recommendations with the extended team.

This article discusses reasons for having an expo, identifies materials you will need to prepare and activities undertaken to organize one, suggests ways to promote the expo, and summarizes the outcomes and lessons learned from an expo conducted by the authors.


 

Departments

Editor’s Note: UPA International Conference
by Susan Dray
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What’s News: No More Goofy Glasses
by Tema Frank
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The View from Here: Field Research
by Steve Turner
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Book Review: Lessons in Usability and UX from the Shakers
Reviewed by: Aaron Marcus

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