'user interface' posts
Have you read an article recently about the number of Eftpos transactions over Christmas? Every other article about shopping quotes Paymark transaction statistics. No one seems to ever discuss or report the steps leading up to a transaction?
“I’ve always been a fan of EFT-POS (Electronic Funds Transfer at Point Of Sale) since I got my first card in 1992. But just lately I’ve been frustrated with the inconsistency of the whole customer experience.” – Trent
That’s from Optimal Usability’s third ever blog post, from 2003. Has much changed in close to 10 years since that post? Or in over 20 years since Eftpos arrived? Is it still a frustrating, inconsistent experience? Are these three simple steps…
Swipe » Select your account » Enter PIN & press enter
…always that simple?
“You’d think by now that the banks, supermarkets and retail outlets would have it sorted. But I still struggle with the simplest of tasks: how I’m supposed to present my card. Do I hand it to you? Or do I swipe it myself?” – Trent
Sound familiar? I call it the ‘Eftpos nod’. Watch as people nod up and down attempting to figure out from visual cues who is going to swipe the card. The most obvious cue is the cashier holding out their hand for your card, or simply, there’s no reader slot on the terminal. Read more »
As a UX guy who’s worked in and out the web industry for about 20 years I’ve been exposed to some of the worst written web content you’re likely to see. I wrote it. Well, no one else was going to and that included the client and all of his/her colleagues.
“What are we going to put here on the homepage?”
“Oh I think Sarah’s got something.”
Except she hasn’t. So the web producer [me] hacked something together with a cheery, tongue-in-cheek tone that didn’t fit the brand nor addressed the audience as they would wish. I fully expected the client to see this awful copy and rush to replace it through the development server CMS. Except that never happened and the site went live with the howler still in place. Three years later it was still there. Read more »
By Annika Naschitzki
As you are probably aware, we test a lot of web sites. Quite often we see test subjects overlooking key content or functionality, causing our customers to wonder what’s wrong with their designs – or even the test subjects – ‘It’s there can’t you see it?’ We hear the term ‘banner blindness’ referred to quite frequently, and we’ve often wondered how much this behaviour is specifically related to advertising banners, or how much it applies to homepage sliders, carousels or large homepage content banners -you know, the bit at the top of the homepage swaps between several banners and that promotes the latest this or that.
So, with the arrival of our shiny new eye-tracker (“I see what you see”), we decided to run a little experiment to see when, if ever, users overlook banner-like homepage elements on websites and to find out if there might be any way of designing to avoid this behaviour. Read more »
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Are all those mundane, admin tasks sucking your time and getting you down? User-centred design might be that elusive but effective answer.
Have you ever drifted into a kind of zen-like state when you were mowing the lawns? All of a sudden the lawns are freshly mown; what were you thinking about? Or when your Nonna is making that penne arrabbiata for the umpteenth time, it’s like she’s doing it without thinking.
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In June, I had a 3-month sabbatical from Optimal Usability and went to work for a US-based user experience consultancy called User Centric. As well as interacting with the smart people from User Centric I also spoke with IDEO, Adaptive Path, Chicago Institute of Design, Paypal, McDonalds, Salesforce.com and SAP. Read more »
Recently I used an airline’s touch-screen kiosk to check-in, and made the mistake of touching the No button on the ‘dangerous goods’ screen. I’d anticipated that the question would be worded something like ‘Are you carrying any dangerous goods?’, like it would be if I was physically checking in. Unfortunately it wasn’t worded that way, and pressing No kicked me out of the system. An airline representative, who had been hovering nearby, moved in and cancelled the process. He then took us through the whole process again, this time doing every step for me. How embarrassing.
This got me thinking. Shouldn’t a successful self-service kiosk interaction be one where I can do it myself? Read more »
This month, we welcome back Larry Marine, to respond to last month’s newsletter about link-rich home pages. He writes about when lots of links might not be the right answer, and what to do about it. Larry is a founder and principal of Intuitive Design & Research, and holds a degree in Cognitive Science. He is an expert in user research and user-experience, and has worked with companies of all sizes, from start-ups to Fortune 500.
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This month we’d like to welcome back Donna (Maurer) Spencer. We last interviewed her nearly a year ago, on card sorting. Today she is talking about link-rich home pages, a subject that is near and dear to my heart.
I recently had a conversation with a manager of a large government website. He boasted about the recent changes to the department home page. He was particularly proud of one of his developments. “I reduced the number of links from 67 to 17″, he told me. Read more »
Last week I was walking through a proposed site design with a client who had a limited usability budget. They wanted to make sure they had a very usable site, but couldn’t afford to run a full research study. My advice? That they straight out copy. Imitate the date-picker widget at Cathay Pacific. Base the booking engine on expedia.com. Use a sign-in process like at Google.
You don’t need to reinvent the wheel every time you are trying to solve an interaction problem. Many companies have significant usability budgets, and the result of their work is publicly available on the web. While these designs might not be perfect, they offer a great starting point. Here are a couple of things to take into account if you decide to copy other’s designs.
Firstly, think about WHEN to copy. You should consider copying a design when:
- It’s a common problem solved in a common way. If you are doing something new or unique, then copying might not be for you. If it is a common problem, then there are a lot of reports you can buy that identify common solutions. For example, Jakob Nielsen has just released his ‘Top 10 intranets of 2007’ and User Interface Engineering has a report entitled ‘Web Apps Tour 2007 – Learning from Successful Designs’ for only US$39.
- The organisation you are copying from is likely to have a significant usability budget. This can be a bit tricky to guess, because some large companies spend a remarkably small amount of money on the user experience (especially when compared to their advertising budgets). Also, just because a company spends money on usability doesn’t mean that the exact thing that you wish to copy has been usability tested. But, this whole copying concept is about having a robust starting point for your design, and an organisation that spends money on usability will, on average, produce more usable designs than a company that doesn’t.
Think carefully about WHAT to copy. Consider copying:
- Widgets. Date-pickers, sortable table headers, and pagination controls are all examples of common controls that are being implemented in a predictable ways. The standards around these are starting to congeal.
- Layout. Where is the ‘Remember me’ checkbox located? Where do they place buttons? How are the forms designed so that the relationship between labels and their fields is clear? Having a quick scoot around some of the best websites will soon reveal what works.
- Tooltips. Tooltips can be very useful to users unfamiliar with your site. Go to Hotmail and Google Adwords and see how they do it. What do they use as tooltips over sortable table headers? How do they describe what a ‘select all’ check box does?
- Flows. The forgotten password process, the shopping process, the search process – these have all been around long enough to have some reasonably well-understood approaches. Copy them, don’t invent your own.
Finally, another way of avoiding a lot of potential usability problems is to make sure that you are consistently applying external standards. The trouble is that there are a lot of these guidelines around, and many contradictions. The National Cancer Institute has come to the rescue though with a list of heuristics ranked by both the Strength of Evidence (is the guideline something some guru proclaimed, or is it a result of scientific study?) and the Relative Importance. Best of all, the book they produced is available as a free download.