Posts Tagged "ui"


Earlier, I blogged about changes Facebook seemed to be making to the list of reasons you are X’ing out an ad. I just went to X out another ad, and was offered a pile of choices, including two new ones.

There are two new ones on this list. “Sexually Explicit” and “Against Your Views.” I was under the impression that Facebook was checking ads. When I create ads, I have to wait until someone approves them. I figured they were checking for porn or something that may not be appropriate. Maybe they are going to automate this more, and they’re hoping you’ll police this for them.

“Against Your Views” is interesting since I think it is another way of saying offensive. Offensive is very subjective. What I find offensive might be something someone enjoys doing daily. And I’ll still be sure it’s offensive. It’s against my views. It doesn’t match my standards or morals. So I’m not sure where Facebook draws the line here.

I think the main times I have clicked “offensive” were the ads referencing a “Bucket List” after a friend of mine with a terminal illness complained about how cavalierly these ads seemed to refer to death. I blogged about that in February 2011. So if I saw those again, would I choose “Against My Views?” I wouldn’t. I’d still choose offensive.

Perhaps this choice is for when something religious or political is being advertised, and you don’t share that viewpoint. Facebook, what do you mean?

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Good Design: Twenty Feet


Posted By on Apr 19, 2011

I was just turned on to TwentyFeet.com, a service that helps track your analytics. I’m trying it now, so I have no opinion yet. But I do have an opinion about the UI and site design.

If you’ve hung out around Brass Flowers for more than a few minutes, you know I’m tired of white space. I’m no fan of columns. And I’m no fan of sites that look like glorified WordPress templates; they are so similar that they are mostly bland and forgettable. The main difference in those tends to be whose logo is at the top.

Now check out TwentyFeet.com. Here is a screen shot of their home page (click to enlarge).

Fresh colour scheme. Fun giraffe character. People really connect to characters. This site passes my “thumb test.” Put your thumb over their logo. Whose site is it? It’s TwentyFeet.com. I’ve seen nothing else like it. The site is easy to read, easy to get around. Gender neutral. Everything is clear and intuitive. And they’re smart to use their character in other places. Here is a screen shot of part of another page (click to enlarge).

Twenty thumbs up to TwentyFeet.com. I rarely see sites that I feel are unique, warm, and will really connect with users. I hope more people will break out of columns and WordPress-theme styles.

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In early April 2011, an eBay staffer gave a talk at the Product Camp conference. Part of his presentation was talking about a problem eBay was seeing, which they called pogosticking. This is where a shopper is on eBay search results. She clicks on an item to view the item’s individual page. She spends less than 2 seconds there. She goes back to search results. She chooses another item. She spends less than two seconds there. Et cetera. How do you get shoppers to more quickly find the right items for them, and cut down on this behaviour?

As the top expert on eBay shopper behaviour on the planet, I know I can improve and possibly solve this one. Say you’re looking for a Sprint Overdrive on eBay. OK, you know what you want. You are looking for which seller has it in the condition in which you expect it, for a price you’re willing to pay, who will get it to you quickly, and stand behind it if there is a problem. Here is what eBay search results look like now (click to enlarge):

How much of what makes or breaks my decision appears there in search results? Not that much, unfortunately. The obvious solution seems to be to just add more information to the search results… but what information? And how will we present it? Well, let’s start with what info a shopper is unlikely to need to see.

  • The shopper doesn’t need to see the seller’s feedback. You can opt in NOW to see that in search results, and I guess many people didn’t know they could do that, or felt that they didn’t need to see it. But when I see the Top Rated Seller ribbon, I know this is supposed to be one of eBay’s best sellers. It may not matter if the feedback is 2000 or 40,000. This is a person that eBay is pretty sure will make me happy.
  • The shopper doesn’t need to see the name of the seller OR the name of the seller’s store. You can opt in now to see those too. While I wish eBay sellers got a bit more play with their own branding, I know that a shopper’s decision is not made or broken on what the seller’s name is, or what the seller named his eBay Store. I am just as likely to buy my Overdrive from “Bob’s Bargains” as I am from “Electronics Neighbourhood Warehouse.” I made up both names. Sorry if any eBay seller is using those. 🙂

Just so you can see that there are options to show this now, you can see from this screen shot that if you click Customize View (on the right side, above search results), one set of options has to do with displaying seller info (click to enlarge):

So getting back to our search results, how do we build in the info the shopper needs to see? With as few words as possible. People hate reading. It needs to be visual, and tell the story at a glance. So I worked up a visual wireframe. No, I wouldn’t expect the final product on eBay to look like this. But this is where I would be going with a UX/UI project that aims at fixing this issue. After the image (click to enlarge), I’ll give you some points on my intentions for what you’re seeing.

I actually reworked a lot of what you’re seeing. Here are some points, and note that I didn’t fully work up the second search result’s appearance:

  • I added the Top Rated Seller badge to the item thumbnail. If eBay thinks that shoppers are concerned about picking out eBay’s best sellers, then let’s drop that badge out by where the eye is naturally going.
  • I put the item title and subtitle on one line, not wrapped. Easier to read.
  • Made the price larger. Moved Buy It Now, Best Offer, and bids right under it. Those two things go together.
  • Made FREE SHIPPING into a happy, glowing green delivery truck. Shoppers will only need to look for glowing green delivery trucks to know this is an item with free shipping. Drab blue delivery trucks mean the seller is charging for shipping. eBay’s trying to push sellers more and more into doing free shipping, so having a happy truck on your search result might help inspire a seller too. I put the shipping price right into the search results for the second item. When I clicked into it, it told me $10. So eBay knows this, which means it can be put on the search results page. I know that many sellers get “dumb” questions like what do they charge for shipping. Hopefully, something this visual and hard to miss will be an upgrade from how shipping is shown/hidden in search as well as on the individual item page. I didn’t work on that one yet, but the shipping price can be easy to miss, leading to customer service questions that waste the seller’s time since the info IS there!
  • I made it clear from where this seller ships (NY), when he will ship (2 biz days), and how. You now have a good idea of when you’ll get this. But if you go into the individual item page, eBay will tell you a range of days when you can expect to get this in your hands. That’s why…
  • The calendar is a placeholder for something way more advanced. The calendar would NOT show one day. It would show a range. eBay is calculating what days you’re likely to have this in your hands for the individual item page. So this image will show in an bold and hard-to-misunderstand way, “APRIL” at the top of the calendar on the red, and then “24-27” underneath (it would be more of a rectangle than a square to make room for the numbers). Boom. Obvious. No need to read much or think. This is when you’ll get this! When you eyeball all the search results, you’ll quickly see who is getting this to you fastest. Sure, you can read that it’s the guy who ships soon from near you, or in an expedited manner.

How long did it take you to figure out what I mocked up? Zero seconds? Was it just darn obvious? Did it leave you with questions or doubts? I think it’s fairly solid. It’s really just a slightly-designed wireframe, but I have confidence in it! I think this would be way better than eBay just slapping non-urgent info there, like the seller’s store name.

Will this idea solve every problem? No. For a collectable, a shopper will still want to go into the item, review lots of pictures, read about it, etc… Nothing we can put in search results to explain what this is in the detail it deserves. For a used or refurbished item, I’m going to go in and want to see more pics (is there damage?) and read about the condition (does it totally work)? Another concern is if a used item is guaranteed, warrantied, or can be returned. That might be nice to bring out into search since it CAN make or break a decision. But before I bring more info into search results, I’d love to see eBay test an idea like mine. I’d like to see if pogosticking goes down, and if not, I want to conduct interviews that find out WHAT info these people needed to see, and how they found it so quickly (if they’re staying less than a few seconds on an item before leaving).

Publicly-stated problem. Publicly-stated answer. I hope eBay will give this a try.

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I have hit the close “x” on many Facebook ads. Hundreds. I try to choose the best choice. Typically, it was the first on the list: uninteresting. You are showing me an ad I would NEVER click on because the product, service, or company doesn’t interest me. Or I’m not the target audience.

I got so used to hitting that first radio button for “uninteresting” that I had to stop for a moment last week. The choices had a new order.

Misleading is now first. I wonder if that’s because it was chosen the most, and putting it first would make it easier to spot. I have certainly clicked “misleading” plenty of times, but was used to it being in the middle of the list, third out of five.

What order does Facebook show you? Perhaps they are trying different orders with people to see if it changes how they report. Perhaps they just changed it because Facebook likes to change things constantly for seemingly no reason.

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Grey Is Invisible… On Purpose?


Posted By on Apr 7, 2011

In yesterday’s blog post, I wrote about how I think some sites are mis-using the colour grey, especially for text. They’re making text harder to read, which hurts the user experience.

Today, I want to write about a different take on using grey and how it affects the user experience. Today’s example is eBay. A few years ago, eBay removed most of the design and personality from their site. They stopped using their main font (Matrix), and made everything very plain. The site now mostly has no design. It mostly looks like a wireframe to me. But that’s a complaint for another day. Today’s complaint is that eBay uses grey on purpose to make things invisible… on purpose.

eBay’s search results are sorted, by default, in an order called Best Match. This is eBay’s algorithm. But you can “opt out.” You can re-sort your search results to sort by price, what’s newly listed, what’s ending soon, and a few other choices. Not everybody knows that. You might not know that because the UI doesn’t highlight that feature. eBay would want to be able to show that when search results come in, people stick with Best Match because Best Match works. If eBay made it clearer that you could re-sort, I think more people would, and the numbers would show less adoption and more “opting out” of the Best Match search results. I re-sort every time to lowest price.

Take a look at some sample search results. Notice where the sorting option is? (click to enlarge)

Did you find it? It’s not that easy. It’s in a fairly logical place, but the page has SO many paths for you to go down that it’s easy to not notice the sorting option. You’re naturally looking at the search results. You’re also eyeing the left side categories to try to figure out how to narrow down your results. You may not notice tiny grey words on a white menu on a grey background with “Sort By” written in dark grey on a light grey background. Invisible, but I think deliberately so.

I’d like to see eBay innovating again. I blogged in 2009 (in a different blog) about some ideas I had for eBay, how they could use sliding panels with side tabs to show and hide the information people want to know when looking at an individual item for sale. These tabs would stay anchored on the side as you scroll down the page. That way, you don’t have to scroll back up to see shipping details or the seller’s reputation. I still think this would work very well for the eBay “vibe” and experience, plus it would solve problems sellers and buyers experience on the individual item page, which eBay calls the View Item page.

But back to my original point. Grey on purpose is, well, strange. I would love to see eBay search results where the “Sort By” menu is brightly coloured and hard to miss. I’d like to know if they see more re-sorting from that, and then, do they see more purchases because people are then finding more of what they want, thanks to the items sorted another way. I’d LOVE to see this tested. I don’t think eBay will do it, but I’d love to see it tested.

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Grey Is Invisible


Posted By on Apr 6, 2011

I’m convinced that if you want something to be NOT noticed, not easily read, and not easily found on your web page, your best bet is to make it grey. Let’s start with hard to comfortably read with this screen shot from a website’s navigation:

Grey on black. Not comfy for reading.

Grey seems to be all the rage because the Apple site lives in a world of shades of grey. While every company would like to have the products and following that Apple has, I don’t suggest copying their website design. Here is a screen shot from a help file search on a site that feels like it’s copying the Apple site (click to enlarge):

We have dark grey words on a light grey background, which has a darker grey background behind it. I love the product, but want to call this UI a failure. Minimalism may be in style right now, but that’s no excuse to make something hard to read. I feel like this page is a secret, and if I can rub my decoder pen across it, maybe the words will show up. Also, to me, this site is lacking in personality and design.

It’s forgettable because it is so minimal and bland. I think the more visual people get, the more we need to design for what keeps the brain and attention with us.

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Facebook Comment Entry Fail


Posted By on Mar 22, 2011

For years, when you posted a comment to Facebook, you then hit the button to submit that comment. Facebook started taking that away recently, first in private messages. They even had to add a “what the heck does that icon mean” checkbox asking if you want enter to submit the comment or if enter should be a carriage return. People aren’t used to a website asking them what they want the enter key to do. Not intuitive. Ugh.

It’s reached a new low with this:

The UI kiss of death: instructions. This is supposed to be a clue to the website owner that something isn’t intuitive, natural, obvious, or clear. Once you’re adding instructions all over the place, you’re doing something wrong. And in a case like this, this is just a shame. The idea that Facebook needed to tell people to hit enter to post their comment tells all of us that people didn’t know what to do when their button got taken away.

And why take it away? How did that improve the user’s experience? Does it improve the user’s experience if 500 million people needed a tooltip-style hint on what to do?

I am not sure why, but Facebook doesn’t seem to have learned that change for the sake of change is normally not worth it. This is not an upgrade. I now can’t write in paragraphs since hitting enter posts my comment. The new messaging system is not an upgrade from how it used to work. The new way of showing a photo on a model window with a black background is not an upgrade from how that interface used to look and work. Perhaps they think that they’ll never have competition. Someday they will, and people will choose the site with the better interface (and privacy policy).

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“Select A Topic” Drop-Down Menu


Posted By on Jan 19, 2011

I was stuck in the hell of trying to get support from Network Solutions last week (on behalf of a client’s domain). I was filling out the support form when I hit the pull-down menu for “select a topic” (the reason why I’m contacting support). What unfurled was the most jumbled, wacky menu I’ve possibly ever seen.

I needed help trying to figure out how to transfer a domain between NetSol accounts. Which thing do I pick here? I don’t see “domain names” or “domain transfer” obviously on the list. Evidently, I wanted “nsWebAddress,” which meant so little to users that they had to put “Domains” in parens.

Branding fail. If what you call your product is so NOT memorable that when you use your branding, you have to remind me of what you really mean, then it’s ineffective and another point where I can easily disconnect. I mean, you must be doing something really wrong when “Design/Develop” needs an explanation in parens.

Make drop-down lists as short as possible. Organise them in some obvious, intuitive way. And if you need to explain something, something is wrong that needs to be fixed rather than explained. Find a more logical and intuitive way to name or list it.

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How Good Should Version 1.0 Be?


Posted By on Dec 16, 2010

I recently heard a few people say that if you’re not somewhat embarrassed by version 1.0 of your website, you’re doing something wrong. I can’t think of a reason to not make the first thing the public sees from you as fantastic as it can be.

An old commercial has the timeless line of, “You never get a second chance to make a first impression.” I was thinking about that again when I saw answers to a Facebook question about why the search engine Cuil failed. People explained the early tech problems they had, which then made search results junky. People got fed junky search results, and they didn’t want to come back or give them a second chance. Cuil wasn’t enough to make them stop using Google or whatever they had, and that was it. Impression formed, decision made.

To me, version 1.0 should have been thoroughly tested, especially with a focus group made of up people from your target audience. Launch something you’d be proud of. Sure, it won’t be perfect, but why not shoot for close to perfect?

I recently saw a startup that has plenty of competition already launch something that I felt needed more time in the oven. The UI was gloomy and dreary whereas competitors had designed “brighter” happy cartoon lands like Twitter or Skype. Their UI was dark and plain. I found things hard to use and counterintuitive in places. How will they bring people over from competitors? Why not show me something compelling and amazing so that I stick around and tell friends?!

This also reminds me of what I once heard Seth Godin say about the Microsoft Zune, which was being developed when iPods were already all the rage. He basically said that if MS is not developing the iPod killer, then what’s the point. If you’re not developing the product that will make people throw away their iPod, what do you really have.

I ask that to startups who are launching sites, products, or services, that may not be ready. You often only get one very short chance to make the impression people will always have of you. Show them the best you have in that moment. Don’t show anything that’s not quite ready. Show them the iPod killer for whatever your market or vertical is. If your company is not so hot that people will drop what they are already using, then what do you really have?

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Vonage Website Navigation


Posted By on Dec 15, 2010

Click to enlarge the above, which is the navigation on the Vonage website once you have logged into an account. I love Vonage. I’ve been with them since 2004. But I can’t stand their website. It’s time for a serious re-think!

Let’s start with what can be removed from here. Orders lead to a long list of times you’ve changed your account. I have NEVER needed to look at that list. That can be buried under My Account. Billing should also be tucked under My Account. I rarely need to look at that. These things don’t need to be in the main nav, especially when I’ve rarely clicked on them in 6 years. I’m mostly logging in to control what Vonage calls my Features.

Add-Ons would be what you click to learn about a handful of features Vonage recommends. Even if I’m signed up for them, they are there. Those are just marketing and info pages. I can’t control anything related to my account from there. Features is where I would go to do that… it’s where I can control the add-ons I have. There has to be some logical way to combine those.

Similarly, messages that pop up around the member area are illogical. There are huge messages telling me to sign up for Visual Voicemail. I am. I have been signed up since they released the feature. The system should know that, and show me no message, or some other message.

Also interesting is that the Vonage website seems to be 1014 pixels in width. My netbook has a resolution of 1000, which means I will get a scroll bar.

The Vonage website has had this navigation for years. They changed the design at some point to make the buttons medium grey with charcoal lettering. Not an readability upgrade. I’d love to see Vonage make their website easier to use. Every time I have to log in, I dread the amount of time it will take me to figure out where they’ve tucked what I need to do.

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