User Experience Magazine: Volume 11, Issue 1, 2012
Volume 11, Issue 1, 2012
View this issue online.
Featured Articles: Beyond Books
Why might it make sense to recommend faulty products to your friends? By looking at a few examples from user research sessions exploring portable media players, it is possible to highlight a network of implications that show such behavior as completely rational. We found that taking an isolated look at qualitative, or interaction data in a usability study without exploring the history of a participant, gives a narrow view that can be misleading, and can miss rich findings.
As UX professionals, we notice usability issues everywhere we go. Jesse James Garrett posited, “The user experience mindset is an acquired condition for which there is no cure.” Yet, when it comes to the banal, we often assume some things are simply good enough, or fail to see beyond superficial improvements in utility.
We have all experienced frustrations with poor design decisions in places such as public restrooms. From toilet paper dispensers that lie just out-of-reach, to faucet sensors that never seems to recognize your presence, these simple interactions symbolize a more endemic issue of overlooking the greater user experience. Through several examples of usability issues found in everyday, mundane tasks (throwing a paper coffee cup in the city’s trash bin, using a public restroom, or trying on clothes in the dressing room), this article attempts to call on UX professionals to pay attention to and challenge the usability of basic human experiences, not only the latest and greatest technology gadgets.
Over the past five years, the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) has recalled over 50 medical devices because they were not usable. In the medical device industry, unclear displays can lead to diabetic coma or death; poor ergonomic design can lead to severed digits; misconnected parts can lead to air-embolism. This article discusses recent recalls due to these severe consequences.
In this article, you’ll discover how to preemptively ensure the safe use of a medical device. First, we must defer blame away from the user by saying “use error” instead of “user error.” It is not the user’s fault when the user interface sets them up for failure. Second, contextual inquiry is an important starting point for developing a safe medical device and initially identifying potential risks for “use errors.” Third, it is necessary to rank tasks in order of their level of risk, to ensure that the device design does not promote high-risk “use errors.” Finally, the FDA requires manufacturers to perform usability studies with representative users in a realistic use environment to show that the device is safe to use.
TV remote controls can be frustrating to use for at least two reasons. First, they have too many buttons. Second, navigating thousands of content options by pushing directional buttons up, down, left and right to move one item at a time is absurdly cumbersome. The TV user interface has remained relatively primitive despite technological advances and the rapid growth of content. This article describes designing a new remote control based on pointing, including key design considerations and lessons learned.
After the fun of designing and running a research project, writing the report can feel like hitting a brick wall. Where to start? How to format? What to include? We’d like to offer a few suggestions on punching up your report writing by focusing on format flexibility (tailoring your report to your audience) and on glanceability (not making your audience work for the information you’re trying to get across).
Start by thinking of the Executive Summary as a brief report that can stand on its own. Make it engaging by opening with great quotes and including positive findings. Talk about what you learned, not your methodology. For expanded reports, recycle your research questions into headings for discussion sections so that readers see your results as clear answers to their needs. Keep everything concise and clean by removing extraneous data tables and descriptive paragraphs. Instead, use graphs and screenshots with callouts. This article describes these and other techniques to make your reports easier to consume, and as a result, more impactful.
By adding a developer to your UX team, you can change the terms of engagement and bypass problems of schedule and priorities altogether. Instead of dividing up work by time (bugs early, usability fixes later), work can be divided up by person (Joe will fix bugs while Maureen will fix usability problems), guaranteeing a certain level of attention to usability issues. This article expands on this idea and provides specific guidance and advice for anyone who wants to try this approach.
Persuasion should be a consideration in every design. While making a product usable is certainly essential to its success, if someone isn’t motivated to use it, it will ultimately be a failure. This article summarizes why persuasion is a powerful design tool, provides an example of how persuasion has been successfully applied in a real-world application, and explores five tips for integrating persuasive design.
Capturing participant feedback during a usability study can be cumbersome using traditional linear note-taking techniques. Mind-mapping allows note-takers to create a visual representation of user feedback, which consists of one central concept (in the center of the diagram) with branches of associated topics and thoughts stemming from the core. This article presents some of the author’s experience using mind-maps, discusses pros and cons of use, as well how and when to use them. After reading the article, you will likely be convinced to give this technique a try and may never use linear note-taking again.
Eye tracking is a useful tool for user testing games. It leaves less room for assumptions and helps us better understand player behavior by offering qualitative insights that would be difficult to obtain otherwise. This article describes four case study examples of how eye tracking data helped make more informed design decisions: (1) visual cues within a game, (2) heads-up displays, (3) the game menu, and (4) instructions how to play.