Michael Gaigg: Über UI/UX Design

23Apr1

Highlights of Week 16/2011

Posted by Michael Gaigg

20Apr0

Successful Map App = Frame the Question

Posted by Michael Gaigg

What makes a Map App successful?

It sounds so easy and obvious. It's the basic, the 101 of analysis, Input-Analysis-Output. Usually I skip over introductions of books and that's especially true when I know the subject matter like GIS, but for some reason I started reading "The Esri Guide to GIS Analysis, Volume 1" (by Andy Mitchell, Esri Press) and it struck me like lightning, this is exactly what we should be doing:

You start an analysis by figuring out what information you need. This is often in the form of a question. Where were most of the burglaries last month? How much forest in each watershed? Which parcels are within 500 feet of this liquor store? Being as specific as possible about the question you're trying to answer will help you decide how to approach the analysis, which method to use, and how to present the results.

Other factors that influence the analysis are how it will be used and who will use it. You might simply be exploring the data on your own to get a better understanding of how a place developed or how things behave; or you may need to present results to policy makers or the public for discussion, for scientific review, or in a courtroom setting. In the latter cases, your methods need to be more rigorous, and the results more focused.

Frame the Question

Framing the question correctly will tell you:

  • The problem you are trying to solve
  • The approach of the analysis you want to use
  • Which methods to use
  • How to present the results

Who & How

Other factors that influence the analysis are:

  • Who will use it?
  • How will they use it?
  • How are the results being used?

Design Implications

All this will impact your design, on what you should focus and how to lay the elements out on the page. Consider:

  • Get the user to the location they are interested quickly
  • Create clear call to action that allows the user to get answers to his/her question
  • Simplify the methods on how to do analysis
  • Provide means to use or export the results
12Apr1

Implications of the Inability of Users to Search Effectively

Posted by Michael Gaigg

Jakob Nielsen outlines in his latest alertbox newsletter (http://www.useit.com/alertbox/search-skills.html) the inability of users to search effectively.

Findings

My colleague Neal Dinoff, Esri Usability Lab Manager, summarized the article and outlined Jakob Nielsen's core findings:

  • People (even highly educated people) have remarkably poor search skills.
  • Once they head down a keyword path, no matter how fruitless, they seldom change their search strategy
  • Users will enter search terms into any open text field with no understanding of whether they are searching the whole site, the World Wide Web, or only a discreet section of the site.
  • Users are overconfident in the reliability of results.
  • Almost no one uses Advanced Search. When they do, they use it incorrectly.

Lessons

Neal continues to conclude lessons for our search design:

  • Don't assume that advanced search will help your website; you might build such features, but people will use them only in exceptional cases.
  • Spend the vast majority of your resources on improving regular search (simple search).
  • Design for the way the world is, not the way we wish it were. This means accepting search dominance, and trying to help users with poor research skills.

Implications

I believe more implications can be deducted:

  • Curate (make sense of) content (!!!):
    • Aggregate (most relevant in one location)
    • Distill (more simplistic)
    • Elevate (identify and describe trends/insights)
    • Mashup (create new points of view based on multiple sources)
  • Every page is a potential landing page, so help user to:
    • Locate themselves (titles)
    • Provide context (the bigger picture)
    • Find the content/functions they were originally looking for
    • Navigate further (well thought-through navigation architecture + good links + meaningful footer links)
  • Create pages so that they can be found through:
    • Search Engine Optimization (metatags, headings, etc.)
    • Write in the language of your users, that’s how they will search

What are your Experiences?

5Apr0

Esri Redistricting App on Frontpage of ArcNews (Spring 2011)

Posted by Michael Gaigg

Redistricting app featured on ArcNews, Spring 2011

Redistricting app featured on ArcNews, Spring 2011

It's always exciting to see your designs come to life but it's even cooler to be featured on the front page of a ArcNews Spring 2011, one of Esri's main publications.

"Esri Redistricting is a Web-based solution for state and local governments, legislators, and advocacy groups to create political and geographic redistricting plans." The app is hosted by Esri and delivered as software-as-a-service through annual subscriptions (30 days free trial available).

Mockups in MS PowerPoint

First of all I want to mention that the project became a success only for the dedicated and hard work of so many talented people, my part was really only the literal drop on a hot stone.

Very early on I had the feeling that this project would benefit from higher graphical fidelity (maps, charts, colors were important) so I decided to use Microsoft PowerPoint to communicate the designs. Using my wireframe stencils to draw the UI elements we iterated through multiple versions and approaches.

Main Lesson: Use slide master layout as background

Mockups in MS PowerPoint

Mockups in MS PowerPoint

My biggest lesson was the need to create a new layout to the Slide Master which would serve as the background. This layout included the banner (logo, user information), the menu (ribbon) and the map area.

Advantages:

  • Changes propagated to all slides (e.g. modify a label)
  • Easy manipulation of elements on top of static background
  • Remove source of errors (forgot to update a slide)
  • Cleaner in general ;)
4Apr0

Cheatsheet: Preparation for User Testing

Posted by Michael Gaigg

I find the following list really helpful when planning and conducting user testing. I collect and refine it constantly and would greatly appreciate any comments or additions I have missed (and I'm sure I did).

Setup:

  • setup web meeting
  • tell secretary to not delete account and associated recordings
  • test connection, equipment and recording capabilities
  • setup schedule for participants
  • send connection info to stakeholders
  • remind everybody to mute their phones (or whatever else is necessary)
  • prepare necessary data and files

Test machine:

  • hide windows toolbar
  • close mail program

Meeting:

  • enable full screen for all users
  • show host cursors to all attendees
  • allow access to observers
  • share desktop

Session:

  • clear user generated content from previous user
  • reset application
  • remove cookies
  • start blank application (if that's part of the test)
  • take a break/breather for yourself
  • prepare your personal notes taking material
  • get acquainted with name and capabilities of next participant
  • provide water for participant
  • start recording
  • greet participant and get going

Post-test:

  • clarify time line for test results (findings & analysis)
  • send thank you emails to participants
30Mar2

An Elephant? Really?

Posted by Michael Gaigg

Go figure...

Go figure...

I think she has a valid point here... But just to make sure I ask the audience...

Which one is your answer? Why?

Pardon the off-topic, can't stop laughing.

Filed under: Go figure 2 Comments
28Mar1

JavaScript Pop-ups – Good or Bad?

Posted by Michael Gaigg

Having witnessed a recent discussion on the WAI Interest Group list I asked myself, are JavaScript Pop-ups good or bad (or evil)?

Conclusion

It depends. But mostly bad ;)

Con's

John Colby's from Birmingham City University arguments on why pop-ups are bad:

  1. Because people are warned about them (http://www.bbc.co.uk/webwise/guides/about-popups)
  2. Because of their association with scams, viruses, malware, sites using popups are 'less trustworthy'
  3. Users with sight or cognitive problems (http://soap.stanford.edu/show.php?contentid=47)
  4. (And personally) if they insist on using popups I'll go away.

Richard from Userite remembers us that:

...the pop-up almost certainly takes the focus away from the current window. Blind users will not know this unless you tell them AND provide a clear method to close the pop-up and return the user to the point immediately after where the pop-up activated. Also remember to provide a text based alternative for those who do not have javascripting.

with Charles McCathieNevile from Opera adding:

...that many users have pop-ups blocked by default now, so won't actually see it even if they are not blind.

Pro's

Harry Loots of the IEEE has a point when he says:

If it will supply useful information to the user, then don't kick against it, but make sure that the feedback / information so provided is accessible. For example, if the pop-up is used to confirm the product has been added and the user's browser does not support scripting/popups, a physical line of text may be displayed to confirm the product has been added (which can be hidden in the view seen by users who get the popup)

My Take

When a client asks for a specific design element, one needs to wonder where this need came from in the first place.

In the case that the client is not satisfied with visibility of system status. Try

  • Improving titles and labels
  • Adding non-obstructive instructions
  • Providing feedback in an alternative way (as Harry pointed out), additional confirmation page always helps
  • Keeping elements and its status (e.g. shopping cart belongs to the top right corner) in its user-anticipated location
  • Using visual cues to show what just happened
25Mar0

Accessibility Events in May

Posted by Michael Gaigg

Jennison Mark Asuncion just posted 4 upcoming accessibility events in North America:

Missed one? Post it in the comments section.

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