Michael Gaigg: Über UI/UX Design

9Nov0

User-Centered Design (UCD) Methods: Comparison and Overview

Posted by Michael Gaigg

This is the first in a series of blogs describing User-centered Design Methods. My goal is to summarize my experience, insights and findings across multiple literature and compile them into easy and quick to digest pieces for you to consume. I want to encourage you to comment your own experiences and give me feedback on why your company applies certain methods differently or not at all or something else altogether.

I personally don't like the term Usability too much, it's an empty buzz word. It means SOMETHING to everybody but isn't scientific enough to be taken serious. It's often interpreted wrongly and purely misunderstood by most. It's kinda like Psychology, we know it is important to understand fundamental human behavior, their problems and remedies, but I wouldn't pay a dime to go to a Psychologist. But who knows, just as Psychology got its scientific relevance and acknowledgment - partly maybe through the 'invention' of the IQ - hopefully Usability rises up to similar levels (Jeff Sauro offers interesting metrics via SUM (Single Usability Metric).

That's why I like the term User-centered Design. It works wonders with Project Managers and the-like, probably because Design is such an important term in their daily work. And when asked about Usability testing I can conveniently point out that this is only one tool of many in my UCD toolbox. But the really important sales trick is to know which UCD method is best used at what time in the project management cycle.

The following chart compares the most common user-centered design methods, outlines their cost and shows when to use them:

Overview of user-centered design methods

Comparison of User-centerd Design (UCD) Methods
Method Cost Output Sample Size When to Use
Competitive Studies Medium Stat. & Non-Stat. 5 Requirements
Focus Groups High Non-Statistical 6-9 Requirements
Field Studies High Non-Statistical 2-3 Requirements
Heuristic Evaluation Low Statistical 2-3 Design
Paper Prototyping Medium Stat. & Non-Stat. 5 Design
Card Sorting High Statistical 15-20 Design
Participatory Design Low Non-Statistical n/a Design
User Testing Medium Stat. & Non-Stat. 5 Design & Evaluation
Surveys Low Statistical 20+ Requirements & Evaluation
Interviews High Non-Statistical 3-5 Requirements & Evaluation
Server Traffic Log Analysis Low Statistical n/a Evaluation
Search Log Analysis Low Statistical n/a Evaluation

Not long ago, after having completed a full project management cycle (requirements, design, implementation and evaluation) the PM proudly announced to perform a Focus Group with his stakeholders. Showing the ready application, he thought, would surely impress them and lead to valuable feedback for the next milestone. This impulse isn't uncommon but has to be fought before it becomes reality. Does he really want to produce MORE and EXPENSIVE requirements? Because that's the output of Focus Groups. Wouldn't he be better off running 2 iterations of User Testing to reveal usability issues or a Survey to receive input from outside the development environment?

Recommendations

  • Requirements:
    • Competitive Studies
    • Interviews
    • Field Studies
  • Design:
    • Heuristic Evaluation
    • Paper Prototyping
    • User Testing
  • Evaluation:
    • Surveys
    • Server Traffic Log Analysis
    • Search Log Analysis
    • User Testing
  • The Usability effort is NOT proportional to the size of the project. Bigger projects spend less percentage on UCD with same effort. Regardless, as a rule of thumb assign 10% of the projects budget for UCD.
  • Faster iterations of prototype design require less testers

References

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
20Oct0

Design Guidelines: Content

Posted by Michael Gaigg

When writing content for the web it is essential to speak the language of your users. Become a word detective, use google trends. Words are the basic elements of links, get them precisely right to provide strong information scent. Identify trends, don't invent them. Look at the evolution of language.

Get to the essence of the message! Stop 'waving' on your webpage ('Welcome to the webpage of our company. We are proud to blah-blah...').

Always remember that the user is in charge, the user is impatient, nasty, demanding, in a hurry and in control to spend its time somewhere else (according to Jakob Nielsen: 'Users spend most of their time on other sites'). Online marketing is about giving attention (versus offline marketing is about getting attention).

Design Guidelines for Content

  1. Make information easy to find with clear headings and meaningful sub-headings (not ‘clever’ ones).
  2. Break up the information into manageable pieces.
  3. Put the pieces in a logical order for your readers.
  4. Keep your sentences short and employ one idea per paragraph.
  5. Use the ‘inverted pyramid’ style: conclusion (context) first, results later.
  6. Talk to your readers. Use "you".
  7. Write in the active voice (most of the time).
  8. Put the action in the verb, not in the nouns.
  9. Use your readers' words.
  10. Use half the word count (or less) than conventional writing.
  11. Use bulleted lists where appropriate – for a list of items and for parallel "if, then" sentences.
  12. Employ scannable text like highlighted keywords.

Best Practices

See my blog entry for Best Practices for accessible Content

References:

Suggested reading:
15Oct0

Design Guidelines: Links

Posted by Michael Gaigg

"If links were married they'd get divorced all the time! That's because they can't keep their promise." (Gerry McGovern)

What Gerry means is that what links say they will do and what they actually do are total opposites. How many times have I believed, clicked and followed a link that promised me to 'Download this or that' just to find another page describing this piece of software. There I had to muddle through even more links just to find another 'Download version' link that yet again takes me to another page acknowledging the terms and conditions. The story could go on and on.

Remember: Good links are like magnets - they drive users to them.

With that in mind, here are the

Design Guidelines for Links

  1. Color and underline link text (exceptions include lists of links like a navigation menu)
  2. Reserve underlining for links (do not underline text that is not a link)
  3. Use different colors for visited and unvisited links (e.g. shades of blue)
  4. Avoid using color for text unless it is a link and never use blue for non-text links (even if your links are not blue)
  5. Avoid changing the font style on mouse over
  6. Avoid tiny text for links
  7. Use appropriate spacing between links or use a clear separator
  8. Use links primarily for navigation between pages
  9. Link text must be describe the target as short and precise (clear call to action) as possible AND hold this promise!

Best Practices

See my blog entry for Best Practices for accessible Content

References:

 

Suggested reading:
13Oct0

How to Create a Color Palette for your Website

Posted by Michael Gaigg

A palette is a complete set of colors one should adhere to when designing a website. This includes a color scheme (typically 2, 3 or 4 colors) plus some additional colors to work with. The goal along the design process is to stick to these colors without the need of inventing and introducing new ones.

Here are some tools and knowledge on how to design and create an effective and appealing color palette for you website in just minutes:

Know your primary color

Many times you will be constraint by your clients' need for a primary color, be it because of the logo, corporate identity (CI) or corporate design (CD) guidelines. Consider yourself lucky!
For the other times when you have to come up with a color for yourself, think of what best represents the company's target audience - young, fashion, pop, serious, technocratic, playful. All that will determine your ultimate choice. The best description I've found so far of what different colors actually stand for is in Jason Beaird's book 'The Principles of Beautiful Web Design'. Even though I'm sure you find tons of other sources on the web be aware of easy color-meaning mappings like black=death - in web design black is also a color that conveys power, think of tuxedos, limosines, Batman etc.

Create a Color Scheme

I've found the Red-Yellow-Blue color wheel the closest to traditional color theory and that's what I am using and writing about now. I acknowledge the CMYK (Cyan-Magenta-Yellow-Black) color wheel but found it less useful for my purposes (feel free to convince me otherwise 😉 )

Color Wheel

I highly recommend the WellStyled Color Scheme Generator 2 (http://www.wellstyled.com/tools/colorscheme2/index-en.html). It allows you to use your primary color and your knowledge about your target audience to play around and find the most suitable of the five classic color schemes:

  • monochromatic (your primary color in different tints or shades)
  • analogous (your primary color plus two colors next to it on the wheel)
  • complementary (=contrast; your primary color plus the opposite color on the wheel)
  • triadic (three colors equally separated on the wheel)
  • tetradic (basically two complementary schemes combined)

The Color Scheme Generator will calculate the correct RGB values in hexadecimal notation for you and even offer variations (pastel, contrast, pale) to further experiment. Once done, simply print or note the colors and values computed and you are ready to roll.

Ensure good Contrast

Contrast is not only a good design principle but also an Accessibility requirement for many websites (W3C, Section 508 in the US). So before you make your final choice on the color scheme ensure that your main color provides sufficient contrast to background/foreground colors.
Test your colors using Colour Contrast Check (http://www.snook.ca/technical/colour_contrast/colour.html) making sure the brightness difference is greater 124 and the color difference is not less than 500!

Finalize your Color Palette

To finalize your color palette all you need to determine is which other tints and shades of the existing (as determined above) color scheme you want to use - black and white included.
As a basic rule try not to 'overload' your page with the amount of colors used, but certainly a number of 5 or 6 seems to be about right (remember to count black and white).

Done, wasn't that easy?

Here are some interesting links I recommend together with an excellent book:

Suggested reading:
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