Michael Gaigg: Über UI/UX Design

23Oct0

For which generation are we designing for?

Posted by Michael Gaigg

I just came back from a webcast held by Human Factors International titled "Who Are We Designing For? The Generation Dilemma". It reminded me that even though most designers - me included - belong to the Generation X (or maybe especially because of that) we need to understand and recognize behavioral differences between generations when designing web sites.

Sidenote: This generalization must not prevent us from continuing to identify and define our target audience through personas or applying all the other UCD principles based on representative users. It is solely meant to raise awareness that we as designers need to be aware of these differences.

So, what are these generations?

"Baby Boomers"

  • 78 Mio (US) / 1.11 Billion (worldwide)
  • born between 1943-1960 (age 65-48)
  • think of technology as a tool
  • computer at work or at home (often not the latest model)
  • use computer mainly for email or work-related activities
  • use sites that help save time or serve relevant information

"Generation X"

  • 55 Mio (US) / 1 Billion (worldwide)
  • born between 1961-1981 (age 47-27)
  • are technology savvy and career-focused
  • keep their computer (desktop) in a separate room or office
  • start their day with practical activities like reading news or checking stocks
  • utilize computer for work but still keep balance of life and work
  • use sites for practical tasks like online banking, news, travel preparation

"Net Gen"

  • 80 Mio (US) / 2 Billion (worldwide)
  • born between 1982-2000 (age 26-8)
  • technology is inherent and part of life
  • have their computer (laptop) by the bed
  • start their day checking social activity online
  • look for and do things that make them laugh, might be silly
  • attention span is short, impatient
  • use social networking sites like Facebook

How does the knowledge about these generational differences affect our designs?

The same guidelines for accessibility and usability like consistency or efficiency hold true but it is to be emphasized that certain guidelines must be enforced stronger for some generations while others can be loosened up. Here is a rough overview:

Baby Boomers:

  • Simple look and feel
  • Safe to use, more error-prone than usual
  • Navigation in predictable places
  • Hierarchies of information
  • Step by step instructions
  • Provide options to enlarge font sizes
  • Things that don't move, flicker, or play automatically

Generation X:

  • Focus on quality content
  • Provide 'do-it-yourself' tasks
  • Give control and allow customization

Net Gen:

  • Content has to be attractive, innovative, can be quirky
  • Design can be highly interactive
  • Audio and video is not only accepted, it's expected
  • Entertainment is important
  • Avoid pictures of elderly people (yes!)

How can a design satisfy all generations?

The answer is (as always): it cannot. Designs have to be focused on and implemented towards your key audience. A university web site needs to satisfy its customers, the students. The press, teachers and parents are without doubt important as well, but without satisfied students the university doesn't even have to think about getting the press to visit the site.

There are ways to generalize your site's content though:

  • Identify the user (login) and present a customized UI
  • Identify the content (landing page) and predict its likely customer
  • Identify user preferences by explicitely asking
10Oct0

What is Usability?

Posted by Michael Gaigg

Before I dive into guidelines and tips of designing and implementing usable websites I feel it is important to define and outline what Usability is. Please allow me at this point to cite several sources that I find essential.

Usability is the

  • Effectiveness (accuracy and completeness to achieve goals)
  • Efficiency (resources expended in relation to the accuracy and completeness)
  • Satisfaction (comfort and acceptability of the work system to its users)

with which specified users achieve specific goals in particular environments. [ISO9241]

Basic Principles

Alan Dix formulates in his book 'Human-Computer Interaction' that above definition can be concluded into three basic principles:

  • Learnability (the ease with which new users can begin effective interaction and achieve maximal performance)
  • Flexibility (the multiplicity of ways the user and system exchange information)
  • Robustness (the level of support provided to the user in determining successful achievement and assessment of goals)

Five Quality Components

Jakob Nielsen uses human characteristics to extend these principles by saying:
Usability has five quality components:

  • Learnability: How easy is it for users to accomplish basic tasks the first time they encounter the design
  • Efficiency: Once users have learned the design, how quickly can they perform tasks?
  • Memorability: When users return to the design after a period of not using it, how easily can they reestablish proficiency?
  • Errors: How many errors do users make, how severe are these errors, and how easily can they recover from the errors?
  • Satisfaction: How pleasant is it to use the design?

with the addition of 'utility' (functionality): Does it do what the user needs?

Implications for Usability Design

Implications drawn out of above definitions are that pages shall strive (devote serious effort or energy) to provide:

  • Consistency of presentation and controls across the site
  • Logical and natural organization of information (clear structure, systematic, clear and meaningful labels)
  • Contextual navigation (how much information is given for providing a context for the user; where is he/she in the site? Where can he/she go? How can he/she go back?)
  • Efficient navigation (the amount of time and effort the user needs to exert in order to move around the site)
  • Adequacy of feedback (are user interactions clear, are requests answered, do commands elicit the right response?)
  • Searchability (how effectively the site content can be sought in search engines?)
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