Posts Tagged "usability"


Planning Usability Testing


Posted By on Mar 4, 2013

These may sound obvious, but I’ve recently found these are not obvious.

1) Usability Testing Needs Serious Planning

For what are you testing? If people will understand that flow? Make it through the process? Understand choices? Like a design? Understand messaging? There are so many things you could be testing. You should start with those intentions and build a plan around that.

2) Include Your UX Person In The Planning And Testing

It’ll cost you more to include your UX person or team. They’re going to bill you for the time. And it’ll be worth it.

You may not know much about usability testing. Most clients don’t. The testing company usually assumes you’ve already decided what you’re testing and maybe even how you want to test that. The testing company makes it happen and reports back.

The UX person can help devise this plan and make sure the right prototype, wireframes, or other deliverable is ready and working for how the test will be run.

If You’re Testing UX, Include Your UX People

I seems obvious, but please do it! Sure, you can save money by cutting those people or that person out of the budget for the testing planning and process. But if in the end you end up with a test that didn’t check the right thing or results you can’t really make sense of, will the money you saved have been worth it?

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As of when I’m writing this, I no longer get notifications that someone sent me a message on Facebook. I used to, and that was very helpful. I had no other way to know I had a message waiting for me on Facebook… until I hit the Facebook site, and saw the lit-up icon along the top. But someone sending me a private message on Facebook is clearly trying to get my attention, and it would be great if I could once again have that proactive notification that let me know that someone contacted me or responded to me.

This means I’ve been contacting people in other ways to let them know I sent them a Facebook message. Huh? I even Google Plus’ed someone the other day saying hey, I sent you a Facebook message… you’ll have to find it under Messages: Other. Oy. This clearly isn’t working when I have to message someone to let them know they have a message. If Facebook is thinking that we’re all running mobile apps, and the mobile apps will tell us we have a message, wrong and wrong. I have their mobile app, but I keep notifications off. I also keep my phone off the internet when I don’t actively need it on the internet, so I’m not polling and burning the battery.

However, I am now getting emails from Facebook to let me know when someone likes something I’ve written. Did I really need that? It’s not like I can respond to that. Was this to try to help the people who are out there murdering people who won’t like their statuses? Why would I need notification of a “like” but not a notification of a private message?

And notice that all these notifications don’t come with content. It’s like “someone tagged you… go read it!” or “someone likes your comment… click to see what comment that was.” Very mysterious! I will just have to click that, and go back to the Facebook site!

I can see how Facebook might want to make sure their site is stickier, and get people coming back. I didn’t think Facebook had a problem with getting people to come back and use the site. In my opinion, they are sacrificing ease of use to try to push me back. I also don’t understand why I can’t more granularly control what notifications I get. I WANT to be notified of private messages, even from a non-friend, but I do NOT want to be emailed when someone likes a comment I put on a post. Why can’t I control this? What does Facebook gain by not letting me control this?

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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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Improve Your Surveys


Posted By on Apr 11, 2011

I was recently asked if I’d like to take a survey about what content might interest me. OK, sure. I assume this takes very little time, so let’s do it! Here is a screen shot of just one of the many questions. Click to enlarge.

Thing one, ouch ouch ouch. Thing two, holy cats, that’s a LOT of choices. I wish that by default, something meaning “no interest” were checked. I could then check my level of interest only where something interests me. What interests me on that list? Electronics, Food, and Pet. I have to say no to everything else. Can you make this faster and easier for me?

I closed the window, and didn’t fill out the survey.

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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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Making Error Messages Helpful


Posted By on Jan 21, 2011

I was trying to buy tickets online from a website where I was not sure if I had purchased before. So I acted like I was a new account. Upon checkout, I got this message:

Well, which is it? Your system MUST know. Your system has to know if there is an account with this email address. Your system KNOWS if the problem is that I entered an invalid username/password combination. You know what the problem is. I don’t. Now I am not sure how to fix it. If I try to fix my username/password combination, but the real problem is that I have an account (and you want me to log in), then I will waste my time trying to fix my form.

FAIL. Error messages need to tell the user in plain, obvious language what is wrong AND how to fix it. It would have been a better experience if the message had come back that there was already an account with my email address. It would be even better if it then showed a login form AND a forgot password interface. Boom. Without extra clicks, I have whatever I need right there.

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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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American Airlines iPad App: FAIL


Posted By on Jan 13, 2011

Last night, my boyfriend and I were trying to book flights on his iPad. We had already researched options, and knew we wanted certain flights on American. He opened the American Airlines iPad app, which in many ways is a lot like their website. So this is double fail, if you ask me.

I don’t have an iPad. I’m one of those “iPad haters.” Every time I’ve touched one, I’ve ended up furious at something in the UI or experience. But I have seen my friend, Mike, book zillions of flights from his iPad, and he makes it look like sliding down a hill covered in butter. So I was ready to be thrilled.

American Airlines, not a lot makes me yell out loud, and you had both of us yelling out loud. Here are some screamers:

  • When a list of flights come up, it’s not obvious that there may be pages more. Those choices are in -10 point font at the bottom of the page, below the fold.
  • The “continue” button is also at the bottom. It’s small and red on a website where everything is bold blue and red. Not easy to find. And if I wanted the first flight on the list, I still have to scroll down to continue. How about a continue button at the top too?
  • The back button in the app doesn’t take you to the screen you were last on. It takes you to the splash/welcome page of the app. So we were JUST about done buying the flights when we got stuck on a screen that wouldn’t take us back. I hit “close window” over and over, and it sat there. I finally hit “back,” thinking it would go back to where I was. Nope. We lost EVERYTHING we had done, and had to start over. That was when most of the yelling happened, but it was at American Airlines, not at each other.
  • Choosing seats happened AFTER I bought the tickets. This tells me that your seat options are often stinky, and you don’t want me to know that until I’ve already committed to buying. OK, but then you may have an angry and frustrated person who committed to buying, and now doesn’t want to fly you next time, or needs customer support. Why create more need for customer support? Show me seating during the booking process so I can make sure you have what I want. Who knows. I might switch to a more expensive flight just to get the seats I want.
  • I’m surprised at the default seating choice. There are two of us. In an MD-80 (2 seats on the left, 3 seats on the right), you put us in an aisle and window in the back of the plane, knowing we have a tight plane change. You could have put us in the 2 left seats 10 rows forward of that. I think the default choice is quite strange, and not great for travel!

That was very frustrating. I’ll never book from an iPad app again, if I don’t have to. That was a multidimensional user experience failure. We bought the tickets, but furiously.

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