Once upon a time, apps had bottom navigation. It then seemed to go out of style with more apps opting for slide out menus with hamburger icons. Bottom navs seem to be making a comeback. Should you design a bottom nav for the app you’re working on?

My American Express app on Android recently redesigned to use the bottom nav.

It depends on your IA and taxonomy.

American Express is simple. In their old slide out menu, they had around 7 choices. One not shown in the bottom nav was Contact Us, which dialed them immediately and directly. That choice is now under Account.

If you can boil your world down to 4 or 5 choices, the bottom nav might work for you. And consider how simple each screen can be. For American Express, the Home screen is balance and recent transactions. Statements has balances, make a payment, and previous statements. Membership looks at your rewards points, earning, using, etc.

Each page has good organization and decent simplicity. Things feel relevant. It’s not like they weren’t sure where to stick something and screens got cluttered.

How about retail?

JCPenney’s Android app uses bottom navigation. Let’s dive in. You start at Shop, which is in the middle. My Android phone takes “scroll captures” so here is most of the home screen.

Shop has to cover almost everything so they are using tabs at the top: Featured, Departments, and Coupons. Notice that Coupons aren’t Daily Deals (on the Shop screen) and they’re not the Wallet (bottom nav, far left). I’m already a little suspicious of how this was organized… but we’ll get there.

Featured is your typical home screen. Departments, deals, underneath that My Store, “Discover” (which seems to be fashion trends), and some marketing banners.

Daily Deals seems rather dominant with the animation… where does it go?

This appears to be a modal. The bottom nav shows nothing highlighted, so where am I?

How about Departments?

It’s a category splash page but not in alphabetical order. Not in the order in which I shop since I mostly search for socks when playing around in this app. 🙂 Probably not by most popular… I can’t imagine JCP sells more couches than bras or food processors. So how is this ordered? And will this order be different if I come back in a month?

How about the Coupons tab?

Coupons has filters that look like tabs. All coupons, store coupons, and online coupons. I’m still on Shop!

Well, how is this different than Wallet?

Not sure. Wallet says coupons too… I’d show you more but I couldn’t log in and the “forgot password” link gave me a server error. Fun!

In Conclusion…

Bottom nav can work when your IA and taxonomy are relatively simple. When your app feels like it has 4 or 5 key destinations or sections to which users will want quick access.

Could JCP or another large retail company get away with a bottom nav? My current opinion is no. When I think about the key sections sites and apps like these tend to have… Departments, My Account, Stores, Gift Registry, Coupons and Deals, Search, Stylist/Beauty Appointments, Legal Terms & Conditions… I’m not sure it can be nicely boiled down to 5 areas.

And once you have 4 nice areas and a “More Stuff Overflow That We Couldn’t Boil Down” as a 5th choice, consider your customer. Is this helpful to her? Logical? Easy to learn and use? Organized? Better than seeing all of her main choices exposed in a slide-out menu?

And do we need these key choices to be exposed? Are people moving between these that much that we need a pinned bottom nav to help them get to these things? Yes, they’re one tap away and that’s nice. But put them in a slide-out menu well and they are two taps away. Open menu, make choice. Saving a tap is nice but let’s make sure it’s all worth it.

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I keep reading that chatbots are the thing and will be more of the thing but I have to admit I’m not on board yet. I believe that human communication is going to require humans. We’re X years off from truly conversational robots.

Do you enjoy IVR systems? Welcome to the typed version.

IVR systems aka Interactive Voice Response are where you call a company. The voice tells you she’s Jenny and she can help you find what you need. Just say one of the following.

“Customer service.”

Jenny thinks you said billing. Is that right? NO. “Customer service.”

Jenny thinks you said customer service. You start breathing again. Before you can be transferred, Jenny wants your account number. You don’t know it. Jenny wants you to read out your zip code. Did you say 89737? NO.

Is your chatbot the same?

Right now, companies are using chatbots that have very canned abilities and responses. Are these things I could have just Googled to find out? Will the chatbot know more than Google search results? I’m contacting you because I have something I can’t do after searching Google.

Even if you build it to say cute things like, “I can’t hear you” when I say I don’t want a bot, you haven’t helped me. I have a real question. I didn’t know I was getting a bot when Facebook said American Express responds quickly to questions over Messenger.

Chatbots are inefficient.

I have seen retail versions of chatbots in Facebook Messenger where you were going to shop by chatbot. You wrote a word. We ask you to narrow down. You can’t answer openly; you have to click a pre-defined blob with the answer. Eventually, we show you a few results.

This seems ways slower than going to the retail site and searching for “size 8 Guess blue jeans.” If you are making my process longer or adding errors to it, this is not a product people will connect with. Do your shoppers like to scan search results for something that looks good? Chatbot is also not for them.

Who is the target audience for the current chatbot?

I have to admit I just don’t see it. I’m not a fan of IVR systems. I don’t like talking to Jenny and hoping she guesses what I’m saying. I don’t like talking to Chatbots and getting basically what’s in the support scripts and FAQs.

Can your company log how many people are truly helped by the automated system they got before getting a phone associate? Or how many were truly helped by the chatbot? I’ll defer to your real data. If most of your customer service calls are “what’s my balance” and your IVR and/or chatbot can answer that, then wow, you saved time and money.

But how many of us have strange or unique questions that require a human? How many of us tried to search online for the answer first and are now hoping typed or called customer support will have a trained person helping us?

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I came up with this post idea when I read in late 2017 that Disney was sure that their spin-off Han Solo movie was going to bomb… but they’ll release it anyway in 2018. The rumors are that the script is terrible, the actors aren’t good, and it’s a money pit.

What should Disney do? Release the movie knowing it may make customers unhappy, especially about something that has so many wild fans? Re-shoot or re-edit the movie? Shelve it and go direct to video at some point? Disney has options.

What should a software company do?

You’ve probably heard this story before. Software company spends lots of money building something. When it’s getting ready for release, someone realizes it’s not great or even good. Let’s imagine it’s bug-free but the UX is summoning The Four Horsemen of Bad UX.

Everybody starts whispering about how much it would cost to have to scrap all this work and start over. Should we just release it?

I’ve heard this one in real life. “Nobody had redesigned our portal in years. We hired this company to redesign it and it wasn’t that good. It some ways, it was a downgrade. But management wanted to see us using what they built (solely) because we paid all that money for it. So we installed it.”

If you bought expensive ingredients and spent hours cooking dinner only for it to turn out disgusting, would you still serve it to your in-laws, assuming you like them?

If you spent a lot of time picking out a very expensive dress but by the time you went to wear it, it was a few sizes too small, should you still wear it out?

The only question: How did that happen?

Any company taking UX seriously and incorporating a full UX process into product design and software development shouldn’t end up at this crossroads. Nobody should be surprised that late in the game that the product is a known or potential failure.

Solve this problem before it happens by hiring UX specialists who will incorporate all of the appropriate User-Centered Design tasks into the process. If we truly know the customer, if we have identified our personas, if we have reviewed the competition, if we have had UX specialists come up with multiple solutions and refined the best one, if we have taken this to user testing and then iterated after user testing… this scenario shouldn’t happen.

The times I have seen this happen have been when non-UX roles have designed the product and/or when user testing was eliminated from the process. That normally happens when:

  • Someone decides we don’t have the time or budget for testing before dev builds it. Consider the possible outcomes. Can you afford the time and money to rebuild it if it turns out to be an embarrassment or failure?
  • Someone announces that we’ll just test it live. We’ll release it to some or all of the public and we’ll see how they react. Again, can you run the risk that the public experiences something that is an embarrassment or failure?
  • Someone is sure we don’t need user testing. Marketing told us people want this, we built it. You know what question I’m going to ask here.

The cost to change your mind or redo something increases as the project moves into later stages.

It’s easy for us to completely redo a product design idea when everything is still an Axure prototype. I’ll just change the prototype, we’ll test again, and see if that’s a better solution.

It costs a lot more to have one or more teams of developers re-build something. Teams of QA people re-test for bugs. Possibly having to merge the code in again.

The moral of the story is: don’t release something that could be embarrassing or a failure. Nothing good comes of that. Customers are unhappy. You lose trust. Wall Street or bloggers tear you to pieces.

Know what’s embarrassing or a failure before you release it by using a proper UX process. Go through all the UCD steps but certainly spend more time testing and iterating if testing shows there is room for improvement.

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Should UX Practitioners Be Licensed?

Posted By on Feb 28, 2018

This article is going around. “This Design Generation Has Failed” suggested that bad UX is hurting people… so maybe UX practitioners should be licensed.

I completely agree that bad UX sucks, hurts people, and can even kill people. I take his examples seriously.

Would licensing work? We license medical professionals.

I have met people who went through UX courses, graduated, and weren’t good UX designers (in my opinion). So if they can graduate and get certificates and diplomas, is licensing the problem?

And how about that dentist? When a dentist wants to make a decision about what to do with your rotting teeth, the manicurist next door doesn’t come in and overrule him. The UPS Store next to the dental office doesn’t come in and say no, if you gave him a crown instead of implants, we don’t meet our quarterly revenue goal… make him get implants.

Medical licensing isn’t a good analogue for the UX industry.

There are people with advanced degrees in UX who are being overruled, ignored, circumvented, and pushed aside at companies who favor business goals over user needs.

The problem lies in other areas:

  • Valuing the business over the user.
  • How much your org respects UX.
  • Who you hire to do UX work.

I’m working on a presentation now, so I think I’ll turn it into a slide…

You must value the user first for good UX.

Whenever people start talking about UX, Facebook is typically offered as an example of good and bad UX. Even the article to which I’m responding mentions Facebook and Twitter. One of his examples is how can these companies allow Russian bots, fake accounts, and all the advertising? It’s bad UX and it hurts people.

Yes it does. I know people personally hurt by these things so I agree. But does Facebook keep fake news flowing and keep Russian bots unchecked because they have a UX team that is FOR these things? It makes no sense to imagine that the bad user experience we are all living is because of UX designers who are so bad we need to see if they should be licensed.

Facebook’s bread is buttered by fake news and bots. This is why they keep pretending they’re working on it but really aren’t. They stand to lose an incredible amount of money in advertising. And if they cracked down on fake news, there are probably 30%+ of the USA that would be outraged that their “news sources” and article links aren’t allowed on Facebook. Facebook needs to show that there are people who will see your ads so it doesn’t want to alienate people.

We can’t blame UX designers for this since it’s unlikely that a UX team wanted this. This is the business valuing themselves and their ad dollars over the user experience. Or user safety in some of these cases. We should not blame UX designers for this. They are probably struggling enough being ignored at Facebook and other big companies.

Companies must put the user first, period. Yes, you want to meet revenue goals. But first do no harm. Don’t be evil. We must get back to putting user needs, habits, motivations, preferences, etc… FIRST. It’s barely UX without that. And trust that when you build a great product and solution for the right target audience, the revenue will come.

Does your company respect UX?

When companies have good UX designers but they are ignored, circumvented, overruled, etc… then who is the problem? Who needs the license? The UX designers might be doing a great job but their work may never see the light of day if the manager or someone from product, engineering, business analysis, etc… forces things to go in another direction.

I once spent two weeks fighting someone at a company who was insisting that when we show shoe sizes, we order them by how many products we have for that size. If we have more products for size 10, then size 10 comes before size 6. This also means that every product would have shoe sizes in a different order. You’d always be hunting for your size in a jumbled list of sizes.

This isn’t super evil. But it took me TWO WEEKS of fighting to get her to give up and allow shoe sizes to go in size order. I had to be tenacious. She probably thinks I’m a bitch. If I had to go through that to get shoe sizes in size order, it’s the tip of the iceberg at companies around the world. Imagine the person trying to design an interface where someone doesn’t see fake news.

I’ve worked at places where engineering has told me that UX is a black box. We go away for weeks or longer. We come back with something they should design. We obviously want to derail the project! We take all this time and to do what? Draw boxes on a screen? They can do that without us.

I’ve been invited to project kick off meetings on a Tuesday that asked for final wireframes for Thursday. These people clearly have no idea what UX is or what we do in our process. And now what? I have two days because that’s what they planned in their timeline. If I want to take longer, I must be some black box that wants to hold up or derail the project.

UX is still heavily misunderstood and disrespected. Companies must value UX and must make sure workers at all levels know to value UX and the practitioners. Some of us suck, sure, but some of us are experienced, educated experts who can really solve problems and delight people while meeting appropriate biz goals.

Who are companies hiring?

I once had the CEO of a small ad agency where I was working yell at me that he had NO idea why he hired me when he can get wireframes from his junior graphic designers.

Maybe that’s who is designing things. Maybe that’s where a lot of bad UX is coming from… people who are not educated in UX, not experienced, and most importantly, not naturally talented at UX.

Or maybe it’s people without empathy, people who aren’t able to put themselves into the shoes, mind, eyes, hands, etc… of the user and use the product from their perspective.

And when your UX job description requires expert visual design, typography, etc… you are eliminating anybody who is a UX specialist and not an amazing artist.

If most graphic designer jobs required you to show an extensive UX design portfolio with wireframes, prototypes, customer journey maps, IA diagrams, and process flows, we’d miss out on a lot of talented artists. Why do this to UX jobs?

The hybrid that is truly, deeply talented in UX and in visual design is rare. They are widely called purple unicorns. Very often when I meet UX hybrids, they are artists who are sure that because they work on screens, they are UX designers. They can be defensive and they are sure they do what I do. When I ask them their process they tell me they make wireframes. That’s like asking a chef his process and he says, “I put salt on things.” Yes, some great artists are great UX designers, but that’s nearly as rare as the purple unicorn.

Additionally, if you are hiring mostly juniors (to save money) then people who are hopefully talented but low on experience are designing your product. I find that many juniors, even talented ones, haven’t yet developed the soft skills to be comfy standing up to other people. Good UX practitioners need to go to bat for the customer. This often means standing up, on your own, to colleagues, other teams, and sometimes leadership. It’s like being a mini lawyer fighting for your client. Not everybody is comfy with that.

Juniors need mentoring and support. I see so many companies hiring juniors and throwing them in the deep end. They get no mentoring. Sometimes there isn’t another UX senior or specialist to help them or review their work. We have to do better by these people.

The author is lacking empathy for the real situation.

By blaming UX practitioners and UX teams for the bad UX out there, the author of the original article is lacking empathy for the reality of many UX jobs.

When companies don’t respect UX, everything suffers and that’s not the UX practitioner’s fault. When other teams and departments don’t respect what UX does, then decisions are made to exclude, circumvent, or ignore what UX designers create.

When companies hire people who are not deeply talented, that cuts away more at respect. If I worked somewhere where there were junior UX designers or other roles trying to do UX tasks, I too would probably lose respect for UX and UX workers. It also teaches people HEY we can throw these tasks at anybody! OK but would you have anybody at your company do the graphic design?

When companies squash good UX, who should be licensed? Hey, I did my best but I was circumvented and overruled.

There are serious problems in the UX industry and they haven’t improved yet. While this article seems to shine a light in a bit of the wrong area, perhaps it will open important conversations about how companies view UX and how they hire.

User experience must be user-centered. It sounds ridiculous but we must get back to that. Licensing doesn’t make you good at something. People with driving licenses crash every day. Physicians with medical licenses do bad things here and there. We must take UX practices more seriously.

I believe when the author talks about licensing, he really means accountability. There should be more accountability for bad UX, especially UX that hurts or kills people. But I wouldn’t point the finger at the individual UX practitioner. There is so much process, so many layers at even small companies, before something ends up in a product.

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Categories: Marketing, UX/UI

Tags: contact us, forms

I was recently doing a UX Optimization Report for someone. When I got to his contact page, he had one form for each type of inquiry you might have.

Contact me for X reason, separate form for contacting him for Y reason. That might seem like a better way for YOU to stay organized, but is it better for the user? Hmmm, which form do I use? Do I need to fill out both? Hey this page is long.

Conditional Logic

Upgrade your forms to something with conditional logic. Whether you can build the form on your site or use a survey system (I’m using SurveyGizmo), use conditional logic.

That way, I can have a question on my form like this:

I can then use my system to write conditional logic on that question. Some of those checkboxes lead to a follow up question. Some don’t. And I don’t want to do a paper-form approach like, “IF you’re interested in our UX training, then please answer this question.” We can do better.

Consider form length.

Our form is a little longer than name, email, comments. But when people fill it out, I have enough info to write them back a very intelligent and relevant response. 🙂 When I used to have a shorter form, I got way less information. I then had to write back with, “Well, can you please tell me more about where you are, when the training would be, and how many people? What level is everybody at?”

Now, I ask those things but I have done my best to design a form that is easy and fast to fill out. Yes, it’s more questions but the extra questions are short like how many people need training. Type a number and you can move on.

I’ve also made many fields optional. If people really want to take the fast route on my form, they can.

And you have a way out.

For those who don’t want to fill out a form, my contact page starts with my email address and phone number. But I find that many people do fill out the form. I can then answer quickly and completely since I get way more of the story.

And only ONE form to fill out no matter why you are contacting Ptype.

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Can You Save Users From Themselves?

Posted By on Feb 15, 2018

One area where UX can make someone’s day is saving a user from himself or herself. In order to do that, you will need good UX research telling you more about your users’ likely behaviors, motivations, habits, locations, etc…

What might this user do that she will later wish she could undo? What might this user do that will later have him calling customer service in a frenzy, hoping someone can fix it?


To me, that’s the number one area where we can save people from themselves. How many times companies must get the customer service call or email, “I didn’t mean to delete that!” or “I deleted the wrong thing and can’t get it back” or “I thought I didn’t need it but it turns out I do!”

For a moment, I’ll use Quickbooks Online as a model. They kept my data available online for what felt like over a year after I closed an old company of mine. Why? Why not tell me you cancelled, you closed, you must be done?

Because they know what will happen next. It’s tax time and that user realises she didn’t have everything she needed. Maybe I sold the company and oops I need some of my old data. So many reasons to need something I thought I didn’t need.

That data was available to me for at least a year and I still see a ghost link to it when I log in. They are saving me from myself.

You can’t go wrong doing this.

If I DON’T need that data then I ignore the link or ghost link to it. I know it’s there, that’s nice, but I don’t need it.

Message the purge date.

Keep the user’s “deleted” data around a little longer. I’ll even allow you to lie to them. Say you’re keeping it for 30 days. Keep it for 60 days. Even 90 days. But warn them that the data will be purged in X days on June 1, 2018.

The Quickbooks Online link also said on what date the data will be completely purged and no longer available. That is helpful messaging. It’s a good model to follow.

Many mistakes are easy to undo. Deleting is hard or impossible to undo. Make the user’s day, month, or year by having what they thought was gone. Predict what your users are likely to do and build them a system that gives them more help and support than they even expected.

Nobody should have to say, “I deleted it by accident, I didn’t notice for a week, and by then, the company said they had no way to restore it for me.”

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UX of Parent Child Account Settings

Posted By on Feb 12, 2018

I recently signed up for a service. My account is a child account to someone who passes me a discount on the service.

After my account was set up, I of course explored every page I could find. I went into settings. Account information had the info of the parent account, the guy who sets these up for others. I figured that was placeholder info and I should put my info in. After all… it’s my account!

Here’s what the account screen looks like without my info in it. Info blurred for privacy.

I figured oops, that’s the other guy who set it up. I’ll put in my information.

That ended up being wrong.

I ended up changing the master account to mine. I started getting emails a parent account would get about how all of the child accounts are doing. That clued me in to having done something wrong.

How do you keep me from making that mistake?

The easiest way to keep me from making that mistake is to not allow child accounts to change the settings on parent accounts. If those fields were disabled and the account were labelled as the parent (with customer-friendly copy), I wouldn’t have fought that. I would have left it alone.

Should we just write instructions telling you not to change it?

Any time you are thinking of giving people instructions it’s a clue to you and everybody that you have designed a non-intuitive interface. It should have been obvious to me that that was THE parent account… and I should have been unable to change it. Instead, I figured it was just placeholder information since Peter might not have known all of my details when he set things up.

Oh Deb, you’re just an edge case and we don’t have to design for you.

Am I the only child account of Peter’s that tried this? Maybe. I tend to be tenacious about forms and info. I tend to read everything. But somewhere there is someone like me making the parent account wonder why their account just went all wrong.

I’m not so special. And a good UX person would design with users like me in mind. Hey, someone may go into account settings and think they have to put in their info. Let’s make sure they don’t overwrite the master or parent account! Nobody who is user-centered would be like NO let’s leave it.

Can you think about a time you logged into an account, went into Settings, and the settings were for someone else’s account?

Your reseller, your middleman, your agency, etc… Usually those interfaces hide the middleman… and this one should too.

When I log in, I see a picture of Peter as my avatar. That gives me a distinct sense of my account not being mine. I thought it was just placeholder info but now I know it’s correct and stays.

I would design an interface to make sure to make a child account feel like it has its own account. Show me Peter where it’s relevant to see his account, settings, relationship, or the controls he has. But otherwise make me feel like this account is truly mine.

And keep me from making mistakes.

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Sometimes when I talk about prototyping and Axure, there is someone who thinks Axure shouldn’t exist; we should all just be writing code.

Well should we? Part of the problem with answering this is that I’m not a programmer. I can’t compare my own coding work vs my Axure work. I can only compare my Axure work to programmers trying to do the same thing or something similar at the same time.

When it comes to code vs Axure, here are the factors I tend to consider.

Who’s building it? I once had a guy at a conference tell me he didn’t need Axure because he was making all his UX people and graphic designers learn code. He was very proud that all “prototypes” would end up production ready. If they want to learn code and write code, that’s great! But what if they don’t want to learn that? What if they prefer to follow their chosen career path or UX, visual design, or both?

And what if they’re bad at it? If your dev team saw the code the UX and graphic designers are writing, would they be thrilled to merge it in? It’s always great to try to learn new things but not everybody will be naturally talented or quickly skilled at everything.

And how are these workers’ time best spent? Do you want your visual designer spending X hours a day writing code? Did your visual designer have that much spare time that you can add that to his or her plate?

Which is faster to build? Can some programmer branch off the master, whip up what you need in a few hours or days, and be done? Or you show what you need to show more quickly in Axure in hours or days? Very often Axure wins but you never know! I can tell you stories of when my Axure work was days faster than someone trying to get his code to work.

I don’t have to really tie into a database, an API, or anything else. I just have to mock it up. That should be good enough for the purposes of UX design and iteration.

Where is this going? Is it your UX ideation and design process? Is it going to user testing? And after this prototype has served its purpose, what happens? Some people hope the code can head into production, which makes Axure less attractive.

When I’m the UX architect (and not a coder), it’s fastest for me to work straight in Axure. I don’t start in Sketch or Omnigraffle and then move into prototyping. I start in Axure. This helps me get my ideas out and quickly see if they are potentially good solutions or need further evolution.

I spent many years writing HTML and CSS but I prefer the visual, drag and drop style of Axure vs trying to think of things in divs and blocks.

What is the source material? You want to show leadership what you’re building but what do you have right now? Wires? Comps? Things live on the site? From what will this be built?

Sometimes, I am prototyping from screen shots. Here is what our site or app looks like now. Slice, dice, change, add… and here is what I suggest we build. I can mock that up quickly. Would it take longer to try to write code on screen shots? Again, as a non-programmer I’m not sure.

How realistic does this have to be? Axure doesn’t do real responsive design. You can’t make a browser window narrower and watch things resize and reposition as you go. Axure works in breakpoints. Here’s desktop. THUD here’s tablet. THUD here’s mobile. If it needs to look really responsive, Axure not be right. If jumping from desktop to tablet to mobile is OK, Axure might be OK.

I believe it comes down to time and resources.

I have seen projects where the spotlight was on coding. That meant that as things finally got to some user testing or review, things had to be complete re-coded. How much time would that take vs me making some changes to an Axure file… and then testing or reviewing again?

Who is working on this and do they have the time to write code? Do they have the talent and skill to write code? Do you have another resource who is coming in just to write the code or does coding take time away from UX architects and visual designers?

Try it and see.

The best way to know is to try it. I’ll always defer to real, empirical data. If your UX process goes faster with coded prototypes over someone REALLY good with Axure building in Axure, then coding wins.

But be fair. Don’t put someone new to Axure up against an experienced coder. I’ve found that people new to Axure or uncomfy with it are sometimes slow or inefficient. Get them training! 🙂

Also consider each practitioner’s process. It’s faster for me to design right into Axure and see my ideas come to life rather than pass it to someone for prototyping. It’s a better UX process to design right into a prototype rather than designing static wires and then finding out later what the interface really feels like to use. I’d rather spend my time prototyping in Axure than troubleshooting my code.

I’m still biased toward Axure, and no, they don’t pay me anything. I am just a fan.

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Surely you remember the unnamed person in Hawaii who sent out an alert that a missile was headed for Hawaii. The initial explanation was user error. It was supposed to be a drill, an exercise, but the person hit the wrong buttons, sending it out as a real alert and not a test.

So many UX blogs rejoiced in a big moment to jump on the news and hashtags and write about better interfaces.

Even Nielsen Norman Group jumped on. I grabbed a screen shot in case they take the post down or edit it. NNG is always about “don’t blame the user for a poorly designed system,” which is where they go with this situation as well:

I had it on my list of things to blog about…

But the more I looked at the system, the more I said to myself OK… this is a non-modern-looking system. The UX can certainly be better. But it’s not the UX failure everybody is making it out to be. There are safeguards in place to make sure you mean to send a real alert vs a test. They’ve never sent a false alert out before. I’m not sure this is a user-error-thanks-to-bad-UX issue.

And now we know that the person who sent the alert intended for it to be a real alert.

Newspapers are now reporting that the worker didn’t hit the button by mistake. He didn’t hit the multiple menus and buttons and things he’d have to hit to have sent a real alert by mistake.

The person who was running the exercise started by saying, “This is not a drill.” The worker responded to that, thinking the missile was real. The person running the exercise later said it was an exercise but it was too late. The worker thought it was real and sent a real alert.

Be careful Monday morning quarterbacking headline-making UX.

Yes, there’s room for improvement in the emergency alert process and interface. But for so many blogs to say AHA the guy made a mistake, look at how bad this is… is perhaps not the most responsible blogging.

It would make more sense to look objectively at the interface and say IF someone intended for this to be a test and not a real alert then wow, he or she would have to have messed up in SO many places. Perhaps the official story that someone hit a wrong button isn’t true. Or CAN’T be true. Since it wasn’t just one button to possibly hit incorrectly.

As UX practitioners, we must stay objective. We should know that what a user (or his boss) says about what he does may not be true. A self-assessment may be incorrect. Or in this case, a “cover your ass” was rushed out and wasn’t true. We have to look more closely and stay objective.

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Non Solution to a Non Problem

Posted By on Jan 15, 2018

A few months ago, I was cold emailed by a company that wanted me to sign up for their preview. I think they found me on LinkedIn because I describe myself as someone who does some voice acting. That makes me their target audience.

They have a new service for voice talent. OK, let’s learn more.

The Pitch

Their first email said that they are, “a web app for voice over talents that allows you to create a professional voice portfolio to manage your demos online in a beautiful way.”

The “coming soon” web page says that they are, “an easy-to-use platform to engage your clients and make your voice stand out. We are transforming the way voice talents share their work.”

Well, I created a website for my voice work using WordPress and I have my demos on SoundCloud (until they implode and then I’ll move them elsewhere). But there is no lack of where I can organize and post audio clips.

So I told them I wasn’t having a problem creating a portfolio or managing my demos. I asked how they were going to engage my clients (do they help me find clients) and how will they make my voice stand out?

The Reply

They responded that they are, “a portfolio builder, not a casting site. You’ll have full control over your demos and profile, you can include your direct contact information or forward to your existing website. It’s intended to be a tool for demos management and beautiful audio presentations. Very soon we’ll release a whitelabel and embed option allowing you also to insert on any web.”

They sent me a link to a video with more info about what they’re doing.

You Have A Non Solution to a Non Problem

I replied again telling them that in my other life, I’m a UX chick and I am concerned they’re not going to find success without pivoting. Here are some of the things I told them in my reply:

  • I went to voice school (part time) for a year. We were prepared for a LOT of things. I never heard anybody say they were having trouble managing or posting their demos.
  • There is something strange about “beautiful” audio presentations. Audio is sound. Beautiful is sight. Their video made it look like if you add a logo to an audio file, it’s now beautiful.
  • The video tells me no rules, I can make my own thing. Well, yes, I can already do that on Wix, WordPress, SquareSpace, and everywhere else. I’ve been putting audio on websites since 1996 and it just keeps getting easier.
  • Doesn’t my portfolio on your site end up at your domain? So links and SEO go to you? Why would I want that? Yes, I can load up audio on your site, make my own website at my own domain, and then embed the files… but I can do that now. Don’t give me another freaking site where I have to load my files. That’s not helping!
  • Aren’t there endless WordPress plugins for embedding audio?
  • Whitelabel? Sounds like a good word for a startup to throw around but what does that mean to me, the voice talent?

Their response was basically that many people in voice acting aren’t as tech savvy as I am.

User Research Is Endlessly Important

So who are these modern voice actors looking for work in 2017 (when I got this pitch) who have not found a way to put their demos online because they are not tech savvy… they didn’t use SoundCloud or BandCamp… but they WILL be tech savvy enough to use your system?

User research is endlessly important but especially for startups. It’s easy to imagine HEY let’s build something for voice actors. Or hey, I know one guy who was bad at tech and didn’t know how to get his demos online. Sure, but is that so wide a problem that it needs a startup? And this solution?

One of the many services we offer is user research. We can interview users, narrow down and create personas, make sure the problem is really a problem, and work on innovative and strategic solutions that fit the audience and solve the problem.

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