Adobe Photoshop at $9.99 per month- improve Development and UX reviews

August 3, 2014 by · Leave a Comment
Filed under: General News, ROI, UX / UI 

Are your developers or UX people wanting more details from the rich mockups produced by the graphics department but you have been unwilling to spend the money on a license for them to use Photoshop?

Now Adobe has a $9.99 a month option for access to this usefultool.

https://creative.adobe.com/plans/photography

Other departments will be able to access the details behind mockups without having to continually go back to the graphics department to get an explanation.

This of course should not be a substitute for a guidelines document that explains look and feel of your product. However it can speed things up in the near term when the guidelines documents is still under development.

Are you UX designers documenting the UX rules for your product?

If you think it is great to have wonderful graphics or industrial designers that claim to know UX and will help you build your wonderful whatever, think about how they will maintain consistency.

Time and time again, I run into situations where there is no documented rules followed by the UX folks. They do as they please with different designers adding in their own flavor. Products comes out in different blends of colors because one designer preferred a color over another.

It is like reading a book with chapters written by different authors.

Without a foundation of the rules being captured and documented it can be hard weeks, if not months later to work out what something should look like from a UX perspective. Time is wasted revisiting design decisions that were made in the past.

Make sure that whatever shop you use for your UX design actually knows how to do the job professionally.

Ask up front for the UX guidelines to be documented as they are defined. Don’t ever assume that just because everybody who works on your product comes from the same design shop that they will somehow know what is expected.

 

Jeep.com almost misses the mark

As I have talked in the past about the importance of web sites working, it was sad to see that Jeep.com failed a simple test.

Today I went out and typed in various parameters for the build of a new Jeep. Just in case Jeep.com is reading this article I will be specific in what I chose:

  • 2014 Wrangle Unlimited Rubicon
  • Bright White clear coat
  • Max Tow Package
  • Automatic with 4.10 axle ratio
  • Premium Black Sunrider soft top
  • Interior – default

So where does it fail.

Initially there are no exact matches with 25 miles of my Zip code of 30301.

I bump the search area up to 200 miles and now I am getting told of an exact match.

However when I click the link to view the vehicles via a popup page and then click on vehicle details such as powertrain they do not match – it gave me manual transmission after I had selected automatic – it seems from a quick scan that the details just shows the standard vehicle information before the changes I applied.

Jeep.com saves itself via one link on this vehicle details popup page – When I go to print off the “Window Sticker” it shows how Jeep.com was able to claim the exact match. All the details of the vehicle I am looking for is listed in that “Window Sticker”

My recommendation to Jeep.com – make “View Vehicle”  details actually represent the details of the vehicle being shown or ditch those details from the page as they cause user confusion. If it was not for the window sticker, the web site would have truly missed the mark.

It is important that features of a web site or application actually present the information a user expects.

 

Lessons in Lawnmower maintenance and product design

I wanted to use the analogy of a lawnmower to describe the impact of complexity on your product design.

Having had the joy of fixing lawnmowers over the years, let me describe the different experience two small walk behind machines gave me.

In both of the machines, they had a belt that drove a set of wheels on the lawnmower to make it easier to mow the grass.

One machine however was more deluxe:

  • Electric Start
  • Rear Drive – less slippage on wet grass

So which machine gave me the most problem? The more deluxe machine was the killer.

In terms of ownership costs the features of the deluxe machine made it a throw away device as parts started to fail. Compared to the simpler machine with less features.

The battery failed on the Electric Start – vibration caused the battery terminals to literally fall off. When the drive belt failed, it was an expensive job to replace. Numerous parts had to be removed (including the useless battery) to get at the belt and additionally the complex rear wheel drive gears were stripped adding to the cost of repair. In contrast the simpler front wheel drive motor just required some plastic shielding removed and the belts swapped out.

From a product perspective which is the whole point of this post, additional non critical features add cost. The product will cost more up front and cost more to maintain. Ask yourself what it is that your customer is looking for.

However there is one caveat to all this. If the features are required to sell your product, whether from the point of your user base being motivated into using it or from customers actually buying it, then there may be justification for going beyond non critical features.

Review your brand identity to work out what features do your customers expect. If I had bought the deluxe lawnmower from a reliability perspective I would have been turned off of the brand from my experience. However if I had bought it for the features with the knowledge that it was a throw away piece of equipment, then it was a great piece of work.

When selling changing products, filters have to be continually reviewed – BestBuy.com example

The other day I was looking for a new laptop computer on BestBuy.com and I have to say with all the features on a laptop computer, this is one of those tougher filter opportunities for companies to present the choices.

If you look at the basic purpose of the filter, it is to allow a user to filter the results displayed on screen to be exactly or as close to what they desire to see. In terms of ecommerce web store fronts, this ability to give the customer what they are looking for, can make or break a sale.

Now if you look at the complexities of computer purchase, this can get into a very difficult situation. There is a reason why people can get a degree in being a librarian. Content Taxonomy is dedicated to providing content in a way that users can find what they are looking for. In this case, the Content Taxonomists have to consider the filter terms for each possible variation in a computer, the Tech guys have to build a system that can cope with all the filters applied and the UX guys have to find room on the screen to display the choices.

Overall I think BestBuy.com does a great job with a Laptop search however there are some opportunities for improvement.

I am going to use an example of what I found when looking on BestBuy.com for a Laptop and what additional filters could be added:

1 – Ability to select SSD instead of standard disks since Solid State Drives are becoming more common.

2 – Battery life expectancy – since some laptops will put in 8+ hours but others will not even be close

3 – Weight for ultraportable is set to one value (around 5.4 lbs) even though laptops can be almost 1/2 this weight today

4 – Graphic Card MB is important but not an option to filter by

The above is just some samples of how product changes can render an existing filter list short of choices. BestBuy.com has done a good job at staying with the trends “Touch Screen”; “Blu-ray player” to name just a few filters they have added as products change.

A company that is selling changing technology has to continually review their products to see if new filters will need to be created and old filters removed to maintain a strong ecommerce shopping experience.

 

Why Microsoft Windows 8.1 will create more Apple Customers

May 19, 2014 by · Leave a Comment
Filed under: General News 

Microsoft has jumped on the App bandwagon with Windows 8 but at the same time successfully drives users up the wall.

If you are yet to try adding applications to a Windows 8 device but are familiar with the Apple process all I can say is stick with Apple. Microsoft application store “Sucks” with a capital S and the stability of Windows 8 post logoff after trying to add applications is back to the days of Windows ME.
Just do a search on “Please Wait” or “Pending download” and you will see what I mean.

Unlike Apple which asks you to enter your userid/pwd to get your applications, Microsoft has tried hard to get the user to login to both their computer and to the store at the same time creating a terminal always between you and Microsoft. They do this by forcing you to replace your local ID with a Microsoft store ID.

Never have I seen Microsoft miss the mark as badly as they have done this time. This truly is the Crap from Hell when it comes to productivity. There is nothing redeeming to justify this nuclear wasteland of failure.

In my recent attempts to add applications to my windows 8.1 laptop via the Microsoft App Store I have had the joy of seeing the computer spend more time doing nothing with a nice “Please Wait” or a “Pending” download than actually doing work.
The Blue screen of death has basically been replaced by a “Blue Screen Please Wait”. Worse still is that it can actually prevent you from being able to log back into the machine making for an expensive doorstop.

There is nothing desirable enough about Windows 8.1 that justifies the user torture that this software brings to the masses.

Save your soul and stick with Apple or change over to Apple. After all money can’t buy time and Windows 8.1 is a death beetle when it comes to the time it can suck out of you.

Let us all hope that Windows 9 will save the PC market.

DollarPhotoClub.com why the grocery store image purchase approach works for me

May 3, 2014 by · Leave a Comment
Filed under: General News, UX / UI 

If you write for a living eventually you will need to get pictures to post with your content.

For several years know I have created the images I used but due to change in circumstances I needed to locate a supplier that could provide me with royalty free images. If you have ever looked into this, you will understand how complicated it can be:

1 – Images having different licensing restrictions.

2 – Cost variation between images.

3 – User interface to get images over complex.

www.DollarPhotoClub.com rose to the top of my choices and here are the reasons why:

1 – Business model is simple to understand. Each photo costs a dollar to use and follows the same license agreement with certain provisions on how the image is used.

2 – User interface is simple and straight forward. I paid my annual fee, searched for the images required and then downloaded those I could use.

3 – Decent selection of images for my needs and I could verify that before I even paid for membership.

 

What are the cons then of this service?

1 – Minimum membership is either $10 a month or $99 a year at time of writing. For a person only needing a couple of images, that is an expensive option.

2 – I can save image choice to a gallery that I create on the web site but I cannot save an image choice to another gallery for cross reference. This becomes a problem if you are trying to categorize images across two different definitions.

3 – The image search is decent but dependent on user supplied image tags. I don’t see the tags at this time as being computer generated meaning if a Tag is not added, then the image may not be found by your search.

On the whole, the service works for me and I look forward to working with their images over the next 12 months of my membership.

 

When is the UI too simple? A study of www.mojomotors.com

Today I will tackle the subject of when the User Interface is simplified to improved the user experience at the expense of other users.

I was reading an article about car buying that suggested that existing sites like www.AutoTrader.com and www.Cars.com were cluttered sites and that people considering buying a used or new car should try www.MojoMotors.com. Since I buy used cars on a fairly regular basis, I was intrigued and decided to give it a look.

Unfortunately I found the site a disappointment after reading the hyped up article but I do not think it all bad, just that I was not one of the “Personas” of users that was considered.

In User Interface and User Experience, we have to consider who are the people that are likely to be using our product. We then group people with like attributes together to create various personas. To go further, we would tie the personas into market research to see which group is likely to make our product the most successful by identifying some agreed upon measure that could be applied across the different personas – could be number of users, amount of income created by the product etc… This would then be used to justify the strategic investment in the development of the solution. Unfortunately it is cost prohibitive to develop a solution for all personas identified.

As I landed on the site I was not greeted by some open white space as I expected from reading the article – think early Google – but instead by a top navigation bar, data entry line, lots of stuff about the company, links to how wonderful it is and of course a picture that has nothing to do with cars but rather a person – at least Cars.com has a car in their picture. So strike one. However please note that it is lighter in look than AutoTrader.com  – as it has the large banner advert at the top – but Cars.com looks a lot more inviting to use.

The icons in the top navigation bar, I could guess at what they mean but I could not see a help option to walk me through them above the fold. In today’s world, I would expect a video welcome to walk me through the benefits of this web site – above the fold or at the very least some help icon. By the way if you click on “Reviews” in the bottom navigation – you lose the icons at the top and no matter how often you click on the top “Mojo” icon it does not bring them back – Strike 2.

Now that I have the site at 2 strikes, let me explain why I strike out completely for my use. I buy used cars regularly every couple of years but at the time of my purchase I do not know what make or model of car I am going to buy because car availability varies by time of year, geographic location, fuel costs etc.. I have a budget and I look for cars that have features – such as 4 doors, pick up, convertible etc.  With the results of my search I narrow my search down to specific models that come within my price range for the location I live in. MojoMotors does not seem to allow me to do the initial search. www.cars.com, www.autotrader.com and even somewhat www.craigslist.org all allow me to get in there and do a generic or advanced search. www.mojomotors.com is therefore by itself useless for my user persona. Strike 3.

What is the saving grace for www.mojomotors.com? For people that know exactly what model/s they are looking for (but you can’t specify year – another issue) , I think it is possibly a good site because they can let the site keep an eye on the market for them and let them know when a car price drops. I presume it also allows the dealers to track what cars are being watched/purchased the most so that they can steer their inventory in that direction and be aware of what price they are selling for.

Looking back at the original article I read on MojoMotors.com, it made me visit the site but the site failed to come close to my expectations. In its current form I would be very unlikely to use it to purchase my next used car. Simplicity of site that was inferred by the article did not fit my user persona at all. I do however wish them luck as they grow and develop. If you come back to that site in a year, I am sure it will have some of the changes that make it not work for me in its current form.

If I have missed or misrepresented something on the web sites mentioned by writing this article, I will gladly correct it once it is brought to my attention. My purpose is not to harm the owners of the web sites represented but to explain why a particular web site does not always work for everyone.

 

 

 

ui – Tactile feedback – Why BA’s need to consider cost of failure without it.

In this article I want to ask Business Analysts to consider risk cost calculations when it comes to UI that reduces or removes Tactile Feedback from a user interface.

I like to share examples of User Interfaces that seemed good in the lab but not in reality.

In the book  Yeager by General Chuck Yeager / Leo Janos,  the pilot Chuck Yeager makes reference to the one time the F16 airplane had a “Fixed Force” sidearm control. Basically a control stick that did not move but relied on the amount of force the user applied to it to determine what the controls would do.

It was not a success as the lack of tactile feedback made it difficult for the user to know how much force they were applying. In his case, they replaced the fixed with a moveable stick that could move about an inch in two directions.

Even then, moving of a stick by itself may not be enough as witnessed by the crash Air France Flight 447 on June 1st 2009. The article link below explains how lack of Tactile feedback may have led to the crash of the flight. In the article it is suggested that since the co pilot could not see or feel what the other pilot was doing (they were using a sidearm control) he was unable in time to rectify the situation.

http://www.telegraph.co.uk/technology/9231855/Air-France-Flight-447-Damn-it-were-going-to-crash.html

With the advent of more touch screens devices, we are bringing the lack of tactile feedback to the masses. Certainly we can feel a swipe of the screen but when it comes to pressing something, we have no clue by our touch that the event took place. Even with the swipe, it is possible that the screen was dirty and thus did not register our swipe. In not all cases will it be possible to follow our hand / finger movements with a glance by our eyes thus making the Tactile feedback more critical in those situations. We could add sound to each contact but then that can lead to over abundance of sounds which in themselves become a distraction from the task. Military pilots in various recent wars have complained about having cockpits full of various informational sounds all at one time that if they can turn them off they do. This act of silencing the sounds nullifying the benefit the sound was meant to serve.

While we can see the advantage of the flexibility of the touch screen in that we can change the controls displayed to match the task at hand, the risk of the task needs to be considered. As Business Analysts helping business introduce new technology, we must make sure that the risk of limited or no tactile feedback is calculated against the cost if something goes wrong. This information will help fund the UI/UX department in their quest for the best/affordable UI interface for the situation.

 

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