Tag Archives: information architecture

Lunchtime learning – The Architecture of Understanding

6 Jun

The team at Experience Solutions are partial to a lunchtime learning session to share ideas and discuss the latest trends in UX. We thought we’d share some of the videos we’ve been watching to inspire you during your lunch hour. For the next few weeks, every Friday, we’ll share a lunchtime learning video with you.

This week’s video is a great presentation from Pete Morville (@morville) lasting around 30 minutes

Peter Morville quote

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Damian Rees

About Damian Rees

Damian has worked as a usability and user experience consultant for over 13 years. He has worked in senior roles within companies like the BBC and National Air Traffic Services where he has researched and designed for users in a variety of different contexts including web applications, voice recognition, and air traffic control interfaces. Follow Damian on twitter @damianrees

10 great user experience blogs

15 Oct

Finding sources of inspiration and new perspectives on user experience keeps us fresh and motivated. There are plenty of people who are passionate about designing good experiences for users. Here’s a round up of the most notable blogs we’ve stumbled across in the past few weeks.

 

Wireframes

Wireframes

A great source of tips, advice and resources for wireframing and information architecture.

http://wireframes.linowski.ca/

 

 

101 Things I Learned in Interaction Design School

101 things I learned from interaction design school

Useful posts covering the fundamentals of interaction design.

http://www.ixd101.com/

 

 

Quotes from the User

Quotes from the user

Funny and insightful quotes from people taking part in user research.

http://userquotes.tumblr.com/

 

 

UX Array

UX Array

Beautifully presented and well developed user experience concepts and ideas.

http://www.uxarray.com/

 

 

Researching Usabilty

Researching Usability

Very thorough and well founded posts covering all aspects of usability research and practices.

http://lorrainepaterson.wordpress.com/

 

 

UX Movement

UX Movement

A comprehensive resource packed full of interaction design and user experience articles.

http://uxmovement.com/

 

 

UX and all

UX and All

Opinion and ideas on improving websites and mobile user experiences.

http://www.uxandall.com/

 

These things matter

These things matter

Nice collection of experience design articles from an LA based UX Designer.

http://www.sgmitch.com/blog/

 

 

Information Architecture Television

IA TV

Fantastic source of videos covering IA, usability, design and much more.

http://iatelevision.blogspot.com/

 

 

Experience Rethink

Experience Rethink

Well established inspirational blog about the business of experience design.

http://experiencerethink.wordpress.com/

 

What do you think? Do you have any great blogs to share?

 

 

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Damian Rees

About Damian Rees

Damian has worked as a usability and user experience consultant for over 13 years. He has worked in senior roles within companies like the BBC and National Air Traffic Services where he has researched and designed for users in a variety of different contexts including web applications, voice recognition, and air traffic control interfaces. Follow Damian on twitter @damianrees

Online security questions. Is there an easy answer?

24 Aug

To survive the day to day dangers of using the Internet I use a range of passwords, user names, and email addresses, all created to make my online world more secure. And, like most people we observe in user testing, am pretty used to having to answer or create a security question when registering on websites.

But this one caused me quite a while of hesitation…

Can you see why?

 

Why do security questions cause such a usability problem?

I was applying for tickets to the 2012 London Olympics (above), and I was offered three security questions. I provide these below with an explanation of why I was unsure what to do:

What is your best friend’s name?

This caused me a few concerns. Firstly, I consider myself to be pretty even to my close friends and don’t regard any of them as a ‘best friend’. Secondly, I would actually feel guilty if I had to choose one over others. Thirdly, I wouldn’t remember which friend I chose when I come back to the site in January to get my tickets. Maybe I should have chosen my wife!

Who is your favourite sportsperson?

I’m 34. I like football. When there is no football, I follow a bit of tennis, some athletics when it is on, and the odd game of rugby. I don’t have a favourite sportsperson. If I had to choose one now, how would I remember this in five months time when I return to the site?

What is your favourite food?

I’m a bit of a foody. I dabble in cooking but am lost without Jamie Oliver. So I like lots of food. Asking for my favourite food is like asking for my favourite song, or movie. It completely depends on how I’m feeling. So when I’m asked this question in August, I’m feeling summer food; barbeques, Mediterranean, crazy salads, summer fruits. When I’m asked in January it will be comfort food, hearty food, soups and pies.

So the common issue I had with all these questions was that I simply could not answer any of them with confidence. I had a discussion with my wife. I pondered. I questioned. In the end I just had to jump in a choose one with the expectation that I’ll struggle with this next time I come to use the site. What kind of user experience is that?

 

What makes a good security question?

The reason for these security questions is to back up who you are should you forget your other security details (username, passwords, etc.) and testing often proves inconclusive in finding the ultimate security question, especially if your audience is international.

When asking a security question, the question and answer should be:-

  • Easy for an individual to answer confidently
  • Not obvious enough for hackers to guess or research
  • Not subjective, open to interpretation, or reliant on mood and feeling
  • There can clearly be only one answer

Yahoo! attempt and tackle this with a range of options for users to choose. As long as you’re not a young and single only child to a single mum who has no siblings! Which just shows how difficult a problem this is!

The commonality with good security questions that we come across are those asking for firsts; your first pet’s name, your first school, your first musical instrument. But like any security question we can come up with, there will be a percentage of users who can’t answer it.

In some cases, users are able to write their own question and answer. However, this poses an issue for websites that need good security because users may choose an easy question (for someone else to guess), i.e. Who won the World Cup in 2010?

 

How do we instil good usability and incorporate a security question?

I’m no expert in online security, but we use PIN numbers for our bank and credit cards, so could this system be added to secure websites?

If we must use security questions, allow users to have some control but ensure the answers are not easy. Ask users to complete a question, and provide an answer. For example:

Alternative secret question

This would require usability testing in contex before it was used. But it may help to make the process easier for users to create a more secure secret question.

We would be very keen to hear how other people have resolved this issue. What good and bad examples of security questions have you come across?

 

 

Related services: Usability Testing & Information Architecture

 

 

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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

How to do quick and effective user profiling

8 Jun

quick and dirty user profiles

Your website can attract a wide variety of visitors. Trying to appeal to them all can be troublesome and the results can leave you with more unhappy customers than happy ones.

When user profiling, there are two very distinct ways to go; methodical and thorough with a reasoned and structured analysis, which is our typical user profiling project, or ‘quick and dirty’.

In the agile, nimble world of the modern Web, we appreciate you don’t always have the time to do things perfectly so here are three steps to help you with the quick and dirty approach.

 

Step 1. Decide on who your customers are

Break down your users into five groups, based on what they need from your site. One way to do this is with an ad hoc meeting with your team. In the meeting explain what you want, without explaining why until the end, this way you get original thinking and not prepared, canned answers.

We challenged our client Bob Barbour at the MS Society to do this. He set up a ‘flash’ meeting – putting it out as a desperate appeal for help at very short notice. He got great results as the attendees had no time to ‘over think’ the exercise and so didn’t try to serve their own objective by pushing one user group over another.

Don’t underestimate the challenge of only coming up with five user groups, it will be hard, but it is important to set a limit to help you focus. If you come up with too many groups, look at how you can merge some together.

 

Step 2. Come up with questions for each group

Now come up with questions for each group that they are likely to ask when looking at your website. Make sure the questions are actionable, i.e. “Is this company reputable?” Then, focus on what are the most important questions for that user group.

Choose the top three priority questions for each user group, and focus on these. For example, if we did this for our website, it might look something like this:

Group 1 – Asked to investigate usability suppliers by their boss
1.    Do they appear trustworthy and competent?
2.    What is different about their approach?
3.    How much will it cost?

Group 2 – Understand more about usability testing
1.     What is usability testing?
2.    What else should I consider?
3.    Can I do it myself?

 

Step 3. Focus on the high priority users

From your five groups, select the two most important, as a primary and secondary group. These should be your number one business priority to serve, i.e. the users that will lead to you reaching your business goals for the site.

 

Next Steps

After completing your quick and dirty approach to user profiling, you will have a better idea of who your essential customers are, what they need and where to focus your efforts on your website to help your users.

We will discuss how to use the profiles that you have created in a future article, but for the time being you can use your new user profiles to focus your website planning on addressing user needs instead of internal guesses.

What methods have you used to get a better picture of your users?

Related service:  User Journey Design

 

 

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Damian Rees

About Damian Rees

Damian has worked as a usability and user experience consultant for over 13 years. He has worked in senior roles within companies like the BBC and National Air Traffic Services where he has researched and designed for users in a variety of different contexts including web applications, voice recognition, and air traffic control interfaces. Follow Damian on twitter @damianrees

The three disciplines of User Experience (UX)

20 Jan

User Experience

We’ve spoken to three different companies in the past couple of weeks who are all recruiting a ‘UX practitioner’.  Yet when we asked what they were looking  for, we found that each of them is looking for a different role. So we started to question the value of the term User Experience (UX) which seems to have become an over-used label to refer to everything from design, to internet marketing.

As a term, user experience is too broad and lacks clear definition. In fact, there is no agreed definition of what user experience is even within the UX community. There are some excellent examples of people trying to explain what user experience is and what it is not , but in terms of a role within an organisation it seems too broad to be useful because everyone contributes and a user experience practitioner can’t control every aspect of a site.

Before the term ‘user experience’ rose to popularity, the web industry relied upon terms such as information architecture, interaction design, and usability testing. They may not be as sexy or marketable as user experience, but they provide a much more structured way to consider roles and responsibilities for an organisation keen to improve users’ experience. Let’s look at each in turn:

Information Architecture

The origins of Information architecture lie in library sciences and is defined as “the art and science of organising and labelling websites, intranets, online communities and software to support usability” by the IA institute

Typically, an information architect will help you to restructure, categorise and label information into a structure users will find easy to understand. A better way to explain it is provided by Christina Wodke:  “You know when you’re on a website and you see a bunch of navigation choices to click on? I’m the one who decided what the choices are, what they are called and where they take you when you click”

Interaction Design

Interaction design comes from the academic discipline of Human Computer Interaction. The IxDA provide the following definition: “Interaction design defines the structure and behaviors of interactive products and services and user interactions with those products and services”

An interaction designer works out what the user goals is, and then decides what tools users need achieve their goal as quickly and easily as possible. This is explained further by Bill Verplank in a Video on YouTube

Usability Testing

Usability Testing or Usability Engineering  “is a discipline that provides structured methods for achieving usability in user interface design during product development” according to Deborah Mayhew in her excellent book The Usability Engineering Lifecycle

Usability Engineering also has its roots in Human-Computer Interaction and is a critical tool in ensuring a website meets the needs and expectations of its users. According to Jakob Neilsen, usability testing has three core activities “get representative customers, ask them to perform realistic tasks, and shut up and let them do the talking”

 

So, before you recruit a UX practitioner or ask for help with user experience take a moment to consider what type of help you are seeking and which discipline this would fall into. Bear in mind that there are lots of organisations like us who can provide all three services, but when recruiting or searching for a freelancer bear in mind that a good usability engineer isn’t necessarily a good interaction designer, and a good information architect won’t necessarily know how to design, facilitate and interpret usability research.

Related services: Usability testing, and Information Architecture
 

 

 

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Damian Rees

About Damian Rees

Damian has worked as a usability and user experience consultant for over 13 years. He has worked in senior roles within companies like the BBC and National Air Traffic Services where he has researched and designed for users in a variety of different contexts including web applications, voice recognition, and air traffic control interfaces. Follow Damian on twitter @damianrees