Responsive Design – the past repeats itself and when you should not bother about it

Google has been sending out emails to websites advising that the web site position in Google search results will be negatively impacted if the website fails to implement responsive design.

Google’s argument is that they want to serve their customers the content that is most viewable on the device being used by the customer. Responsive design being that the website adjusts itself to the screen size of the device being used.

All of the above is the past repeating itself. The print industry has been dealing with this for years.

If you traveled through airports back before e readers, there were lots of small bookstores selling books. Most of the books for sale were of a certain size – the small paperback. Book size was dictated by limited shelf space in the store and what travelers were willing to carry with them on the plane.

Like Google, the bookstore would not stock your book (as in appear in Google search results) if it did not meet their size criteria unless you were some incredible author (book guaranteed to be wanted by travelers no matter the size). Readers were less likely to buy your book if it was larger as it was more hassle to carry around.

However if you were the author of a coffee table size book, you did not care about the getting into the airport bookstores as that was not your market.

Big companies like to be everywhere on the web since they need to maintain brand recognition / market share / income. They also have a large budget to handle the design challenges responsive design creates. For some reason, however, big company still are not able to implement smooth Responsive Design.

Looking at the facts –  BBC.com recently changed their website and introduced moving click points and lengthier navigation (top menu items now moved to sub menu). ABCnews.go.com prevents the user from being able to pinch zoom on their pages. These are just some of the many examples out there of issues with responsive design implemented by large companies.

With large companies failing to implement responsive design well where does that leave the little guy who has the much smaller budget and the less brand recognition?

To answer the above question we first have to consider some others:

1 – Are the people visiting your website likely to be on mobile devices now or in the future?

If you answered yes, then you have to weigh up the % of mobile visitors against the cost of supporting them. Basically, can you afford to lose the mobile visitors if google no longer promotes you?

2 – Does your brand need to increase market share?

Can you afford for your website not to be listed in the mobile search as it will reduce the amount of instances that your brand is visible? If you are trying to build up your brand, the loss of presence in mobile search could negatively impact you especially if a competitor’s brand is present while yours is not. But then again, maybe you are the coffee table size book author and it does not matter. Or you are leveraging other channels such as YouTube / Facebook so losing on mobile search is no big deal.

3 – Will I lose significant revenue if my web site is not found in mobile search?

Does the effort justify the cost. For e-commerce sites, being mobile friendly is almost a requirement but for content sites this is debatable. Do people really want to read the news / advice on the screen of a small telephone.

If you have to go down the responsive path on a limited budget, probably the best bet is to find a vendor that has already developed the web site software to support your web site. For content, Word Press now has themes that are responsive.

Don’t expect a magic wand solution to responsive design as even with off the shelf packages there will probably be something not quite right.

In the long term, screen size will become stable as consumers decide what works and what does not and will chose to purchase the most useful mobile devices. When that happens, the software solutions will be robust and the whole Google conversation on penalizing those that do not implement responsive design will be part of history.

2 reasons to think physical product when designing Web UI

February 22, 2015 by · 1 Comment
Filed under: Business Analyst Skills, UX / UI, Web Sites 

Previously I have talked about tactile feedback in good product design. Today I want to suggest that anytime you design an interface you think of a physical product.

Why has this come about?

With the easy availability of touch screens, any web page is effectively a physical product as opposed to the days when we were limited to point and click via a mouse.

Some of you may argue that this is already being handled by having mobile versions of your web pages or mobile applications. This however does not take into consideration the larger touch screens that are coming into play as monitors or even when a user decides to browse your regular web site via their Tablet device. Some web sites are also assuming the network / server speed and graphic processing power will be able to cope with large pages (size in kb)without impact to the user but this is not the case.

Too illustrate the point of two bad touch interface design for a web site I will transfer the problems to a physical laptop.

1 – Laptop keys move around when laptop lid initially opened and every time a page button is clicked

Nobody is going to buy a laptop where the keys move as you try to use them but for some reason large web site owners such as CNN.com (page moves up by a row once it has finished loading) / abcnews.go.com + autotrader.com (banner advert expands and pushes page down) expect that users of their web sites will put up with this when the user opens a web page.

Why does this happen:

A – We see examples where banner adverts bounce page text up and down so when a user tries to select a link or read an article they are stuck with a moving target. In the worst case, the banner advert expands for a short while and then shrinks giving a user a double hit on a moving web page.

B – Web page has become bloated and parts of style sheet is loaded last meaning the layout location of some web page elements will move after the page has been presented to the user.

Page below initially loads without banner advert.

Bad UI - Banner advert causing web page moving text

Bad UI – Banner advert causing web page moving text

 

Then the banner advert appears pushing text on page down.

Bad UI - Banner advert causing web page moving text

Bad UI – Banner advert causing web page moving text

 

2 – Laptop keys made incredibly small that you can’t be sure which key is pushed.

Yet again, nobody is going to want really small keys on their laptop but we still see this on some web sites. Mainly it still crops up in paging where the site still focuses on using a small number to allow the user to select next pages. These small numbers are hard to touch accurately with your finger and even with a mouse it requires some dexterity.

www.Realtor.com is an example of this.

Difficult to select web links

Difficult to select web links

When designing for the web, think beyond the actual web page.

Ask yourself how well would the user interface on this web page work if the UI was part of a physical object such as  the keyboard on a laptop?

 

14 tips for surviving Senior Level meetings.

At some point in your Business Analyst career you may be asked to meet with Board level staff. This should not frighten you if you follow some logical tips.

1 – Don’t go it alone.
Find someone to help you setup, run and share results/minutes of meeting.

2 – Make sure someone in the room can vouch for you.
Someone in the room of a senior enough level has to be able to support you when things get tough. If you don’t know anyone, reach out to at least one individual prior to the meeting to introduce yourself and get them on your side. Failure to do this could leave you in front of a firing squad.

3 – Know who the most senior people are in the room and respect their authority.
If you don’t know who a person is that has the power to end your job, better to find out before you challenge their meeting behavior or statements.

4 – Define the rules and objective of the meeting.
Always good to define the rules and objectives. Please note however, the higher the level of meeting the less the participants are willing to listen to the rules, in those cases you have to go with the flow.

5 – Dress to match the meeting participants.
If the meeting is a suit and tie affair, wear them.

6 – When things go astray.
Ask the participants if they are open to taking a break.

7 – Be Bold but not Reckless.
Be careful of how you control the meeting. Being respectful to participants is key and don’t get sucked into arguing with them. Note and accept their objections then move on.

8 – Meet one on one post meeting to resolve issues.
Since you avoided the argument, afterwards is when you meet with the individual or subordinate and work to resolve their issues.

9 – For long meetings, meetings at lunch or dinner make sure the food and drinks match the level of staff.
Quite often you can reach out to the personal admin of the highest of the participants and work with them to schedule the right food and drinks.

10 – Be flexible.
Senior level staff availability changes at the last minute. You may find your meeting getting shrunk or bumped. Often these people are used to meeting in the evenings post the regular work day.

11 – Learn the individual personalities before hand.
Knowing what to expect from the individuals involved in the meeting keeps the surprises to a minimum.

12 – Know the terminology / acronyms
Either learn the stuff before the meeting or have someone with you who can whisper / Instant Message you what is being said.

13 – Use IM to get live meeting feedback
If you or your companion is not presenting, have your senior friend in the room (point 2) let you know if you are going off track by Instant Messaging you feedback to the computer that is not presenting – don’t want the IM to appear on screen.

14 – Prepare psychologically.
Follow whatever routine you use to relax and stay relaxed during the meeting.
http://www.bbc.com/capital/story/20140904-jitters-act-like-a-starfish

Four components to measuring success of your product / release.

Whatever you are working on will eventually end up with a new or updated product being released. Prior to that release date, consideration should be given to how to measure success.

There are four components to measuring success:
1 – Determine what is to be measured.
What is the new or improved product supposed to achieve? Hopefully you already know the answer to this prior to even starting development.
A business should have clearly defined goals as to what is expected via the release of the new or improved product. These goals should be quantifiable in a mathematical way even if you have to hire a PHD mathematician to determine the formula that quantifies it.

Examples:
a – Game averages 1000 downloads per day over a 3 month period.
b – LED Lightbulb increases market share for our brand over others.
c – New website design increases revenue from marketing and attracts more visitors.

2 – Identify Channels to supply the measurement information.
Now that you know what you plan to measure for success, the next question is where to get this information from?
Channels of information can come in many different ways:
a – Data could be collected from social media site such as Facebook to see how many positive comments a new product gets.
b – Sales information could be tracked from online and physical stores.
c – Surveys could be performed on potential and actual customers.
d – Certain key words/phrases could be searched on in the Search Engines.

3 – Integrate and absorb the data from the Channels.
Once the source of the measurements has been identified, the next step is the actual integration of this data into your reporting system so that it can be sliced and diced to provide the measurement of success reports. Your PHD mathematician may also be needed here to weight the data accordingly so that no one channel skews the results unrealistically.

4 – Present the success data to the consumers.
Finally with all the data, reports can be designed / generated or data outputted for consumption by those who will make the determination that the goals have been achieved. At this point knowing who the consumers of the information is becomes critical as you need to present the data in a format that the consumers can understand and consume. You may need to engage UI/UX experts at this point if the presentation is using new technology so that they can help design the presentation.

Not knowing Business Terms can affect your hireability.

Since I have been working for so long at different clients I have gotten a good understanding of terms used in the business world. However others of you may not have the same experience. This lack of understanding can affect you doing your job and even getting hired in the first place since you may have to do a scenario interview.

To help you with this, I have added a link to a online dictionary of terms used in the work place to my blog and also provided it below.

Office Business Terms

Happy reading!

Do your client’s business protocols match the current physical environment?

October 27, 2014 by · Leave a Comment
Filed under: Business Analyst Skills, Project Management, ROI 

Businesses can spend a lot of time documenting protocols for how certain events are to be handled when they occur. However, these protocols can be left to gather dust until the next event happens.

From a business point of view, the business needs to consider all protocols it currently has defined and weigh them up against priority of use – meaning that just because an event has not happened for a while does not meant that a slow response will work as gaps in protocol are uncovered due to changes in the environment. Protocols that require immediate response will be considered higher priority for review of relevancy versus those that can have a delayed response.

Examples of protocols:
1 – What to do when the stock market crashes?
2 – How to handle regulated products?
3 – Backup locations for offices if the current ones can no longer be used?
4 – Bad weather grounds plane throughout the country, how to get the planes back on schedule?

What usually gets businesses is an event that does not happen very often that has a high priority resolution required. As there is lack of practice some protocol steps may no longer be valid when the event occurs, people may not be trained in their use and the right licensing may not be in place to perform the task. Failure to respond quickly and correctly to the event can lead to significant income loss for the business involved.

Ebola case in Dallas 2014 highlighted several failures of protocol:
Lack of training / proper equipment lead to further infections.
Inability for toxic waste to be carried off site immediately because of transportation license restrictions placed on the waste which the transportation company did not have.
Limited ability for Hospitals to deal with their own sterilization as this has been outsourced in a lot of cases requiring the receiving location to be licensed to transport / handle the waste at a level they may not be used to.

As business analysts, we need to mentor our business clients through the risks of these often ignored protocols and ensure that they get the review they deserve. At the same time we need to limit the effort spent on protocols that do not have high priority resolution associated with them so that we can be good advocates of our business client’s expenses.

Project behind schedule it must be because of the Business Analyst

Often I hear a fellow Business Analyst say that the sponsors of his project and the project manager are complaining that they, the Business Analyst are taking too long.

Assuming that the Business Analyst is competent then why does this project delay occur?
1 – Business did not really know what they wanted or needed from the project but they thought they did.
2 – New Technology or unproven technology is involved.
3 – Project schedule was unrealistic to begin with.
4 – People that need to answer questions are not making themselves available or are not available.

Business Analysts need to determine the above issues as quickly as possible and bring them to management attention. Delay in recognizing these problems will lead the blame on project delay to be directed towards the Business Analyst instead of people working to find solutions to the obstacles.

Note: Not all managers are created equal! Business Analysts have to be aware of how a project runs and be willing to bring issues to management attention hopefully with recommendations on resolving them.

Is the development of your product missing an objective?

Sometimes we invent an wonderful product for a job but then find out it is missing a supporting component.

While watching a recent program about fighter planes in the US Vietnam war it talked about how initially the planes were only equipped with missile technology to shoot down enemy aircraft.

What was found in practice was that shooting down an aircraft from a distance was great but unfortunately at the time the pilot firing the missile did not know if the aircraft was friendly or not. The pilots would then close into investigate and end up in a dog fight where their missiles were not as good as a gun. Eventually guns were added back to the aircraft.

Taking from this lesson 2 points that were missed during the design / testing phase:

1 – Tests carried out were too controlled and did not reflect reality of the environment. It is not enough to be able to  shoot down an aircraft at a distance, we also need to know if it is meant to be shot down.  This identification piece did not come up in testing since the pilot picked a target he was given and shot it down.

2 – Focus was on single objective without consideration of supporting objectives. Objective of being able to shoot down an aircraft at a distance, did not include a secondary objective of how to identify if it was to be shot down.

If we look at a High Level requirement statement for the above:

“Pilot of airplane needs to be able shoot down an enemy plane first”

Main points of the requirement:

1 Airplane:

a) Needs to work with the device that will shoot down the plane

2) Shoot Down

a) Enemy plane needs to be removed from the sky somehow

3) Enemy

a) Need way to identify the Enemy from friendly

4) Pilot

a) Needs way to target device against Enemy plane to be shot down

5) First

a) Hit the enemy before the enemy hits them.

All but points 3/5 were completed successfully. Since the understanding of the word Enemy is common place, there is the assumption that technology will also understand what an enemy is without instruction. This was the failure of the project.

Lead Business Analysts need to maintain authority in communication

When working with clients, it is important that your role as a Business Analyst is not degraded.

In my last post, I talked about how Business Analysts are involved with negotiation. Part of negotiation is maintaining a tight control on communication so that mixed messages are not communicated that can lead to misunderstandings of roles / responsibilities.

Never allow someone on the development / production team (builders of solutions / project managers etc.) to contradict a statement that you have made to the users of your products / lines of business that you are doing the analysis for. It is fine for the development / production team to make suggestions on changes with you personally so that you can craft a response to share with your users / lines of business that does not alter your perceived position.

If the communication is not managed, then the users / lines of business can start to wonder if you are the person they need to be talking with since others can present statements that make them seem as if they have the final say on what is analyzed. Nobody wants to waste time talking to the assistant. If others can contradict you, it makes your role seem like the assistant role. You will then find that people will make themselves less available to talk with you or will question your ability to do your job because they perceive someone else as being the lead.

Make sure therefore that all understand the rules of communication after you have presented information to your users / lines of business.

Negotiation benefits of defining Risks.

Negotiation is an important part of the work I do and sometimes the clients I work with are stuck in the mud when it comes to accepting progress.

When a client refuses to move on after the benefits of the new product / solution are explained, then I move at them with the risks.

Simply put, I document the risks of staying with the existing option and get them to accept that they are willing to live with those risks.

Purpose of the exercise is to make the client think about their current approach from their point of view, not with me trying to sell them on it. If the client has managers further up the food chain, and they are advised of risks being present they also help to put pressure on the hold outs to think carefully about their approach.

Usually after a few days of discussion on the client’s side around the risks, the client is willing to adopt some part if not all of the new product / solution. Even if they do not adopt, I have not wasted my time negotiating against a brick wall.

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