Thanks once again for encouraging me to write this blog, this really keeps me going! THANK YOU!
I also started a blog about Map UI Patterns where I summarize and publish my experience by describing common patterns, principles, and practices when working with map apps.
Highlights from last year
- Web Mapping Application Interface Design Best Practices and Tools | Slides | Follow-up
My Tech session talk at the Esri DevSummit 2013 in Palm Springs, CA
- 10 Design Lessons learned from my Sons
- Top 10 Design Influencers
- The best way to predict the future is to shape it
Map UI Patterns
Jakob Nielsen outlines in his latest alertbox newsletter (http://www.useit.com/alertbox/search-skills.html) the inability of users to search effectively.
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.
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.
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?
Who doesn't remember Forrest Gump? One of the all-time greats in movie history, the comedy turned drama, the 'dumb' guy that teaches us lesson after lesson. You gotta love this movie, at least I can watch it over and over again and so it just happened and I started wondering, why do his stories touch us so much and what can we learn? Bruce Temkin puts it elegantly: "People relate to stories because it is part of their evolutionary makeup. Stories cause our mirror neurons to fire at similar experiences, helping us remember and relate." That's why.
And here are the 10 and 1/2 Lessons Learned from Forrest Gump:
That day, for no particular reason, I decided to go for a little run. So I ran to the end of the road.
You just start! Start somewhere, anywhere. Then you take one step, then the next, baby-steps to the elevator, right? Once in motion you take the next bigger step, one leads to the other and soon you hit the Atlantic Ocean 😉
Some could interpret this as 'get inspired', but whatever it is, it eventually boils down to... sh*&%$# happens! Don't give up, innovate and renovate.
Jenny, it looked like there were two skies one on top of the other. And then in the desert, when the sun comes up, I couldn't tell where heaven stopped and the earth began. It's so beautiful.
Regardless of the circumstances, perspective can change everything. So don't loose perspective.
My mama always said you got to put the past behind you before you can move on.
What happened yesterday is over.......unless you choose to put it in your future!
And cause I was a gazillionaire, and I liked doing it so much, I cut that grass for free.
Enjoy what you are doing and greatness will be your harvest. Never become so obsessed that you loose touch with the little things in life, many times this is what counts most.
I'm not a smart man... but I know what love is
Care about what you are doing, care about who will be using it. Don't try to be smart, follow your heart.
Momma always had a way of explaining things so I could understand them.
Find a mentor, learn from others, learn from yourself, learn from your successes, learn from your mistakes, whatever it is... learn!
Give and take
Jenny taught me how to climb. And I taught her how to dangle
It is ok to borrow ideas, to get inspired. Nobody needs to reinvent the wheel, but return the favor, contribute, share, help!
I’m sorry I had to fight in the middle of your Black Panther party
Yes, bad idea hahahaha. Well, he got away with it that's why you could/should too. You screwed up? Be honest, be bold, appologize and explain!
Don't get distracted
Have you found Jesus yet, Gump? Forrest Gump: "I didn't know I was supposed to be looking for Him, sir."
Follow your believes, be true to yourself. Don't get side-tracked. It's good to expand your horizon, but stick to your plan.
Don't do stupid things
Stupid is as stupid does
Need I say more? Just don't do it!! And especially, don't do it again! KISS - keep it simple, stupid!
Bonus: Repetition helps remembering
My Mama used to say...'Life is like a Box of Chocolates'...you never know which one you're gonna get!
Repeat 100 times. Yes, it's nonsense. Just read the label and you know, but hey, repeat it often enough and you'll believe (and remember).
Some of the inspiration for this article (and good reads regardless) are the following links:
A friend of mine sent me this link to an article called The Secret Of Pixar’s Success (How to make great movies and billions of dollars) by Helen O'Hara.
Besides being an interesting and worthwhile read I'd like to share my lessons learned and how they can apply to web design:
- Innovate (basically: use new technology when the time is right and only when it’s absolutely necessary but continuously try solving real problems, not inventing fictitious ones)
- Genius (have a great team)
- Keep learning (Field studies 😉
- Fail early and often (Prototyping)
- Advice (Heuristic evaluation, expert reviews)
- Don’t be afraid of failure (should be part of the company culture to be successfully applied)
- Share (should also be part of company culture, but mostly isn’t)
I just came back from an extended trip to Las Vegas, a fascinating city for a multitude of reasons. Not only is it the fastest-growing city in the US, it is also constantly transforming and reinventing itself, a Disneyland for grown-ups, gambling capital of the world, vacation spot for one and Sin City for others. It became evident to me that this city offers more than just pleasure, it teaches us how to attract, entertain and keep us happy despite the fact that we are loosing our money, which means they must be doing something right. Here are my 10 Webpage Design Lessons learned from a trip to Las Vegas... seriously:
1.) Don't Listen to Users
"What happens in Vegas, stays in Vegas", the motto of Las Vegas is a true #1 (who ever came up with that slogan is a genius in my eyes)! When asking your fiance/fiancee about his/her bachelor party ... pardon ... when designing an easy-to-use interface, pay attention to what users do, not what they say. Jacob Nielsen states that self-reported data is typically three steps removed from the truth:
- People bend the truth to be closer to what they think you want to hear or what's socially acceptable.
- In telling you what they do, people are really telling you what they remember doing.
- In reporting what they do remember, people rationalize their behavior.
Lesson: Perform user tests as early as possible (e.g. design phase).
2.) Optimize your Top Task
Marriage is wonderful and so is the wedding day, at least mine was. Of course I blacked out the six months of preparation and swet that lead to that event. Now, Vegas wasn't Vegas without finding a way to optimize the wedding experience: A 24-hour drive-thru wedding chapel called A Little White Chapel Tunnel of Love. "Ahem, yes, Combo 2 with two wedding rings, a bouquet and the Elvis... can you make it 'Love me tender' please?" - "120 Dollars at the first window please."
Lesson: Identify and optimize your top task.
3.) Direct your Users
Once inside a Casino it is incredibly difficult to find your way out - I'm not certain but I would take any bet that exactly this is the purpose of a Casino designer. More than once I found myself in a maze of slot machines surrounded by their ringing noise and flashing lights. Whatever I was looking for (except ATM's) seemed always to be at the other end of the Casino.
Design your page in a way that helps users find their way around but at the same time support your business model, e.g. Amazon has perfected the process of returning articles and submitting online or email support request but made it really difficult to find a phone support number which would seriously compromise their business income.
Lesson: Create a logical Information Architecture; add links to related items; cross-reference articles.
4.) Make it Easy to Learn
Casino games are mostly very easy to learn, don't you agree? It can't get any easier than inserting your bills, hitting the main button on the front panel or operating the lever to the side, wait until the reels have stopped spinning, compare the pattern of symbols on the reels with the possible winning combinations stated to the top of the machine and cash in the jackpot.
The actual difficult part is to get the people to play or use the machines. That's when the Casino offers free lessons and sections with machines that pay well, everything to get you started.
Lesson: Help novice users to learn and avoid frustration by offering easy entry tasks.
5.) Provide relevant and attractive Content
Vegas has realized very early that sex-appeal and show makes a great combination, but it was limited to mostly the male population and that's when the city started to transform itself into a family-friendly, theme-park like vacation destination with Castles, Musicals, Rollercoasters in and around the Casinos, 3D rides and more. Free drinks, cheap buffets, Day-Spa's and a variety of other promotions added to the perfect experience. Attractive entertainment options could still be found at any corner in the form of bars, clubs and shows but lately I recognize a shift back to more go-go style entertainment in newly created bars in between the slot machines and tables. I guess the family-style hasn't really worked out.
Lesson: Create attractive content that is relevant to your target audience; test and adjust if necessary.
6.) Make it Easy to Enter
Casinos do everything to get you into their building. Almost free (two dollar tip is ok) valet parking allows you to drop off your car quickly and one-directional moving walkways (obviously you need to walk back) shovel you inside, that's where the music plays... Get the people where they want to be as quickly and easy as possible, show me the money!
Lesson: Avoid splash screens and flash intros; keep page sizes small.
7.) Avoid Windows and Clocks
There are two things you will never find in a Casino: windows and clocks. Right, nothing should distract your focus on the slot machines to the other wonderful Casinos outside and nobody wants to encourage you to make time-sensitive decisions (leaving the Casino early) by realizing how much time (and money) you have already spent during your visit.
Lesson: Avoid popup windows and time-sensitive triggers or forwarders.
8.) Make Sign-up Easy
Even though 100% of players think they can win only 1% will win. The only safe way to win in Las Vegas is to sign up for a Players Club. Handing over your name and address to the Casino will in many cases give you an immediate bonus of 5 or 10 bucks in free slot play, discount coupons for drinks and shows as well as little Thank you presents (wink-wink, Tropicana gives you a free T-Shirt and a deck of playing cards). Gambling itself is then rewarded through comps like more gifts, free buffets, free hotel rooms, free show tickets and more. I'm 11 cards richer now 😉
Well, the sign-up process was easy enough, the only interaction with the clerk was handing over my drivers license and entering a PIN twice. Guess what, sure enough I always hit the Enter key after entering the PIN which wasn't very well received by the system and the clerk. I don't even know why I ended up apologizing. Why in the world can't the system take care of that? Another day, another Casino, another Keypad, yes, another keypad, it was an actual computer keypad which is reverse to an ATM keypad and thus reverse to ALL the other keypads. Try your ATM PIN on your keyboard right now ... exactly!
Lesson: Anticipate input errors and handle them gracefully; use common and widely accepted interfaces.
9.) Monitor User Behavior
There is no way one could walk into a Casino and cheat undetected. The famous 'Eye in the Sky' is omni-present. 24/7 'Surround'-Surveillance captures every movement, every face and every deal. That doesn't really worry me as long as they keep on bringing the free beer. It is clear that this kind of monitoring helps the Casinos to optimize their winnings not only by preventing cheats but also by detecting patterns in playing behavior and machine pay-out/malfunctions. I don't see a threat in it as long as my face isn't connected with the data collected.
Lesson: Use Server Traffic Log Analysis and Search Log Analysis to optimize your website.
10.) Make it Sexy
Sexy is probably the attribute I hear most often lately, it's not 'slick' or 'beautiful' anymore, it's 'sexy' now. That's fine with me if only I knew what that means. Any ideas? Send them to me...
Anyway, what would be a blog about Vegas without mentioning sexy at least twice, huh?
Cheers and good luck!