Archive | October, 2011

That’s not my tweet! #fail

27 Oct

Twitter desktop applications – they can be such handy little things. And up until last week everyone at Experience Solutions was quite happily using TweetDeck. However, the little frustrations that we had with the app became magnified due to some unrelated technical issues we were having with our internet. So the hunt for a new Twitter app began.

We chose to use TweetDeck because of some very useful features; multiple account feeds, searches, lists, and the ability to schedule updates. Personally, being able to schedule tweets in advance means that I can get on with my work safe in the knowledge that a part of our web presence is being taken care of.

After searching for other highly rated apps with similar capabilities and a perceived good UI we chose to use Seesmic desktop. But on the first day I encountered the same frustrations I had with TweetDeck.

The Problem

When using a twitter app that allows for multiple accounts there will be an option, typically a button (picture/icon/name) representing each account, to toggle between the user’s Twitter accounts. Thus, allowing the user to Tweet from one account or another.
TweetDeck Update Post Field

TweetDeck uses small icons to represent each linked account

It took me a while to get used to using TweetDeck and I had to be careful to make sure I was not tweeting from the wrong account. However, I found that occasionally I did Tweet from the wrong account. This normally occurred when I wanted to send a Tweet from an account that wasn’t my default, and then forgot to select the correct account before hitting the ‘Send’ button.

Having chosen to switch Twitter applications, on the first day I used Seesmic I accidentally replied to a tweet from the wrong account, repeating the mistake Damian had made earlier in the week.

Which brings me to my point; do you notice which icon is highlighted every time you send a tweet?
Seesmic's Update Field

Seesmic has the account names underneath the update field


The Solution

After sharing our frustrations, like true UX pros we started to look at how the design can change to reduce the chances of human error. We agreed that the Twitter app needs to reaffirm to the user that they are tweeting from a specific account.

Perhaps a message of some sort that questions the user just before they send it (we noticed that Seesmic have introduced this for retweeting)? But no, that could easily become very annoying. We still want it to be simple after all.
Seesmic's Retweet Box

Seesmic has introduced an extra step in the process

A very close solution is CoTweet’s solution of having an overlay appear when you want to write an update that makes you choose which account you want to send it from (including multiple accounts). But this is also an extra when all I want to do is quickly write my Tweet and get on with my day.
CoTweet's Update Post Box

CoTweet asks the user to choose an account

The simplest solution that we could come up with was for the send button to be different. We all have to click ‘Send’ for our 140 characters to reach the digital abyss, meaning that we engage with the send button when we click it. So what if the choice of which account to send it from was also the send button?

Here’s an example of something that I think would certainly help us at Experience Solutions when dealing with our tweets.
Wireframed Example of Update Field

Wireframed version shows where the buttons could go

Each button represents a twitter account that has been added to the app. Once you have written your tweet you press the account button of choice to send it. When the tweet is sent from the first account the tweet will remain for a short period of time allowing the user to select other accounts or delete it and tweet something else.

So, now you have ‘heard’ our idea, if you have encountered this problem and have some ideas yourself, or know of an app you think comes close to solving our problem, let us know!



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Samantha Harvey

About Samantha Harvey

Sam recently graduated from Visual Communication. She joined our team in April 2011 and has been conducting user research and has been making sure our user interfaces follow good design principles. She's keen to point out our poor selection of fonts... er I mean typography (sorry Sam). Follow Samantha on twitter @samharvey_ux

Asking users the right questions at the right time is critical to good user experience

17 Oct

A few years ago I was walking through Bournemouth town centre when I was stopped by a young lady, clip board at the ready, she asked, “Can I ask you a quick question?”

Me: “Yes, of course.”

Lady: “What is your favourite chocolate bar?”

Me: “Umm…A Mars bar”

Lady: “Thank you” whilst placing a big tick next to Mars on her list

A few minutes later, reflecting on my answer I realised I hadn’t eaten a Mars bar for ages. In fact, I couldn’t remember when I last bought a Mars bar. So how can it be my favourite chocolate bar? Had I lied?

This may have been a very clever question to establish what the strongest brand was in the chocolate bar market, in which case she may have got the question right. But if this was a study to find out the publics’ favourite chocolate bar the young lady who stopped me had at least one false response, and I expect many others.

Now, had this researcher observed me in a confectioners/garage/corner shop as I approached the chocolate bar stand, watched on as I pondered, then reached for a Crunchie only to change my mind and pick up a Yorkie bar, then have another scan of chocolate bars to confirm I’ve made the right decision, and then asked me what is my favourite chocolate bar, the response will be real (I don’t really have a favourite but I probably buy a Crunchie bar more than any other).

Not only is my response more accurate, if the research was not restricted to tick boxes, the conversation can continue to establish why I normally go for a Crunchie, and what made me buy a Yorkie this time.
The critical aspect of this research method is observing users in context while they are engaged in the experience rather than asking them to reflect on it at some point in the future.  This highlights one of the problems with choosing traditional market research techniques over usability testing when you’re looking to understand why users make the choices they do.

We often see this in action when asking users at the end of a usability test to describe the experience they have just had with the website. They often say it was ‘really easy to use’, but what we observed was them getting very frustrated with the site and failing to complete the tasks we gave them.

What examples can you give of asking the right question at the right time? Oh, and what’s your favourite chocolate bar ;o)



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Ali Carmichael

About Ali Carmichael

Ali (or Alasdair) is an experienced project manager who loves his Gantt charts and milestones! He has over 12 years' experience managing successful online experiences for world class brands. Ali is responsible for ensuring our clients love what we do for them. Follow Ali on twitter @AliJCarmichael