Wednesday, July 22, 2009

We've moved

The UX Pillow blog has moved to it's new home.

Come on over.

Thursday, May 28, 2009

That's quality man.

This is nice. Instead of just a video still, the designers of this site took the opportunity to tell us a little about the video and encourage us to press play. This is a good example of staying on our game, little things like this can go a long way towards accomplishing our strategic goals but opportunities like this can be easy to miss when we are working on larger layout, architecture and interaction parts of the site.

I like that the message sets your expectations for what you are about to see. I would speculate that the quality of the view is much greater if you are prepared or already feeling engaged when you start the video. I also like that the real estate taken up by video player adds some value even if you don't want to watch the video. Just reading the message relays information and strengths brand perception.

Quality of the view is an important metric to measure. The definition will vary depending on the purpose of the video, but understanding what a quality or successful view is, is an important step in creating the interaction and even the content of the video.

Is it successful if they watch 50%? 20%? Turn up the volume? Send to a friend? Watch more than once? Only watch the first 10 seconds but then navigate to exactly the right place in the conversion funnel? Is it a less than quality view if, they finish it then leave the site? Send it to a friend but as a joke? Navigate to a page that takes them further from conversion?

Just something to think about.

Tuesday, May 19, 2009

Please Tag this Art

The Brooklyn Museum has jumped right into the "community pool" They're working with most of the tools available: collecting members for their "Posse", utilizing Flickr & Twitter, publishing member blog posts to the site, soliciting and posting member videos and what I'm looking at today, they have implemented a community tagging program on their site.

Art is the perfect candidate for this type of cataloging. Imagine all the many descriptive words you could come up with for this this photograph.

Now think of the words your father or grandfather might use to describe it, today or 30 years ago. The potential value of a cataloging public perception of art over time is extremely exciting too me.

Here's how they are doing it and using it.

click to enlarge
Logged in "Posse" members can add tags to the full catalog of images. Tags can be added and removed. This removal function moves the tag into a state of limbo where the community can "play the game to decide the tag's fate"

"Here's how this works: you'll be presented with tags that have been flagged for removal by other posse members and your job is to provide a second opinion about the relevance of the tag. Consider these examples as guides:
What I think is really successful about this is the tone, it's positive and productive. It empowers the users without creating a climate of competition or negativity.

Users also receive points for participating and are rewarded with special views of art not available to everyone else. I love these very appropriate awards, organization and companies should take a look at why their users are participating and find ways to strength this reason. In the case of the museum rewarding with more exposure to what the users love is brilliant. Although it may seem obvious many site might have given a t-shirt or points towards partner products instead of what the users really want.

In addition to viewing all of the tags associated with a piece you can also see who contributed to the tags. Great for helping you explore other pieces that are related by a particular users taste.

The museum also does a bit of curating, as you would expect. It pulls out a few specific tags and links to other works tagged the same. It appears that these tags aren't necessarily included in the community tags and are more similar to a standard controlled vocabulary system.

Users can also comment and indicate that a piece is a favorite.

There's a lot going on here, I think I'll explore some more and continue to come back to see the growth of the community and the health of this community tagging program over time. Over all you guys at the Brooklyn Museum are doing a really nice job:) and are an example for other organizations to watch.

Monday, May 18, 2009

Space: What's it doing to your research?

There is a nice article over at Scientific America about how humans interact with and react to the build environment. I thought it was a nice reminder of for those of us who spend our days designing digital environments that what we create, though not wood and drywall are spaces that people spend time in but what I found really interesting was on of the experiments they discus.

" In 2007 Joan Meyers-Levy, a professor of marketing at the University of Minnesota, reported that the height of a room’s ceiling affects how people think. She randomly assigned 100 people to a room with either an eight- or 10-foot ceiling and asked participants to group sports from a 10-item list into categories of their own choice. The people who completed the task in the room with taller ceilings came up with more abstract categories, such as “challenging” sports or sports they would like to play, than did those in rooms with shorter ceilings, who offered more concrete groupings, such as the number of participants on a team. Because her earlier work had indicated that elevated ceilings make people feel physically less constrained, the investigator posits that higher ceilings encourage people to think more freely, which may lead them to make more abstract connections. The sense of confinement prompted by low ceilings, on the other hand, may inspire a more detailed, statistical outlook—which might be preferable under some circumstances"

Wow. I'm pretty cognizant of the impact of environment on how you feel and your ability to think. Personally I'm extremely effected by it, I've even had to leave a couple jobs due to the environment. Reading this article has me thinking about the research I have conducted and how I will conduct it in the future. I also love that they use a card sort! (great validation for the method).

Here are some thoughts:

1. Is it possible that the answers a user gives in the lab could differ enough from the answers they would give at home in front of their own computers, as to make the data false or at least misleading? I'm not just thinking about the difference between ethnographic or contextual inquiry research, I'm thinking about the lab experience might actually change the way people think they think about something. Just as the tall ceiling affected the subject of this research.

2. How does the experience of conducting an interview over the phone effect the data. When you are on a call your mind almost creates a "mental room" that that the conversation is happening in. If the connection is bad, the volume is uncomfortable or the voice of the interviewer reminds you of someone you know, the environment of that call could effect the data. As a researcher over the phone you have no way to know what the interviewee is experiencing so you can't help to adjust the environment.

Full disclosure on this thought: I'm not really a fan of the phone interview, so I'd selfishly like to learn anything that could help me convince stakeholders to spend money on in person research.

3. All of the research labs I have seen have a similar layout and feel. What if this typical research environment has been effecting the results of research in a particular way all this time. What if sitting in a room with a one-way mirror causes you to answer questions with less intensity then you actually feel or causes you to prefer blue over green? Hummm....

We All Need a Window Seat!

This isn't particular to UX but a great topic to bring up when selecting a new location for your office or are planing to rearrange or remodel your current space.

"In addition to ceiling height, the view afforded by a building may influence intellect—in particular, an occupant’s ability to concentrate. Although gazing out a window suggests distraction, it turns out that views of natural settings, such as a garden, field or forest, actually improve focus." "They found that kids who experienced the greatest increase in greenness as a result of the move also made the most gains on a standard test of attention." "In their analysis of more than 10,000 fifth-grade students in 71 Georgia elementary schools, Tanner and his colleagues found that students in classrooms with unrestricted views of at least 50 feet outside the window, including gardens, mountains and other natural elements, had higher scores on tests of vocabulary, language arts and math than did students without such expansive vistas or whose classrooms primarily overlooked roads, parking lots and other urban fixtures."

This stuff just gets me going. I believe we all deserve a nourishing environment to spend our time in, whether we understand or realize the impact or not, but unfortunately many people aren't as lucky as many of us in our beautiful agency offices. This may have to be my next philanthropic project.....

Go read the whole article, I'm sure you will find ten other points that could be applied to our work. I'd love to hear them:)

Friday, May 15, 2009

Next week in PDX

It's a big week in Ptown for techy/designy types. In addition to these formal events, I hope and assume there will be plenty of impromptu meet-ups in bars around town. If you know of other things let me know! See you all there. Tweet me if something fun happens and you don't see me there:

Wednesday-Friday 20-22


Tuesday 19th

Schmooze Networking Event
at Grand Central


Thursday 21st

The Dawning of the Age of Experience

Friday 22nd

Show and Tell PDX

The Whuffie Factor: Reading & Discussion by Tara Hunt
at Souk

Wednesday 27th

WTF is Social Media

Thursday, May 14, 2009

Lessons from the Volatile

I just submitted a proposal for Ignite Portland. The topic is about applying what I've learned working with essential oils to design and the creative process. Sound interesting? I think so. Now I just have to flush it out.

If I get in this will be my first presentation outside of work since high school. Kinda crazy. Hope I can do it:)

You can check out the full list of proposals here. If you participate in the voting (which you can) I hope you will vote for me and John from MilkMuny (because his presentation will be truly inspiring)

Ok, sorry for the slowed posting lately, I have a bunch of balls in the air right now, but they are all providing me with good writing ideas (if I can get around to it!)

Wednesday, May 6, 2009

Traits of the Creative Thinker: Notice the less than obvious

Ever since I was a kid I've spent a lot of time looking at the ground directly outside of the car as it speeds down the road. I like to notice the different types of dirt and dust and the particular way it drafts up to the curb, edge of the grass or the highway median. There are always little bits of metal, sometimes trash. Little plants grow, bugs crawl around, it's about what you would imagine.

What I've always thought to myself when looking at these particular moments in time and place is how completely unique each spot is. I could never recreate it and I will never see it again, but all of these little views add up to a larger sense of what happens in a particular place. Not sure what I learn from it, maybe nothing but I believe in NOTICING THINGS.

The people I know who have great ideas and amazing creative vision are all NOTICERS. They look for the OUT-OF-FOCUS THINGS and make LESS THAN OBVIOUS CONNECTIONS. They allow the unimportant to seep into their daily narrative.

I've learned that spending time contemplating things you already understand or expect, does nothing to stretch an exercise your mind. To be a true creative thinker you have to take the many opportunities available to NOTICE SOMETHING have to develope an original perspective from these opportunities.

Yossi Milo has a series of photographs that embody this concept of noticing.

These are all stolen moments from driving down the highway. Brilliant.

I found this artist via: NOTCOT

Tuesday, May 5, 2009

Only when you need it

We are all trying to create something that will be used and the path to this sucess is designing for a particular group of people.

It isn't just about solving a particular PROBLEM or coming up with a particular IDEA.

Only when you match a PROBLEM with a PERSON or an IDEA with a PERSON are you at the place where you can start making design decisions.

There's always more than one way to do something and what validates one choice over the other is if it's the best choice for someone specific (this often means a group of someones)

This example is super simple (maybe too simple) but it expressed my point.

This site has a main navigation just like most sites because like most sites it needs to solve the problem of getting peeps to some major chunks of content so they may interact with it. They also have an idea (to share information about the company)....

but where is the Navigation? If this was a store or a bank site we would have a problem. But it isn't a store or bank. It's a creative company that is hoping to attract companies who are ready to engage the creative process to improve their businesses.

These people don't have the same needs. There is no need for a persistent, in your face navigation. They will enjoy the page and then when ready roll over the little box, expose the navigation and choose another topic to explore. They are willing to discover and uncover (woo, i like that)

I'm just a fan of the O.W.N (only when necessary) approach to design (yes, I just made that up) Not everything needs to be shoved in our faces, and for some PROBLEM + PERSON combinations, the more standard, blatant approach is the wrong one.

Screenshots are from MilkShake , who you already know I *heart*

Sunday, May 3, 2009

FAQ: More than a link in the footer

While doing some looking around after I made the discovery in my last post about the lack of Author pages on Amazon I came across the BBC's FAQ page. Couple things struck me about the page.

1. Their FAQ is pretty good.

We should all think a bit more about FAQ's and how we can make them useful and work on behalf of the site goals and the health of the Brand.

I like that they give a quick list of the answers available below. I like that the answers appear to have some good thought behind them. FAQ's often leave you with more questions then they answer or use it as a place to dump content that has no other place to live. They seem to really want to address reader's questions not just lower the calls to customer service.

2. Loving their very open approach to adding a new feature to the site.

They have taken the opportunity to explain to the readers that they are trying something new and they ask for feedback.

We can't ignore that the websites we design are places that people care about, take time out of their day to visit and often become an intimate part of their life. Being transparent and open about the innovations of the site shows a great amount of respect for the people who care enough to come back day after day. And if you decide the new stuff isn't going to work it might not be as hard for the users to take since they have been with you all along.

3. The Topics pages are a great idea. Hope it works out.

So much news is being produced everyday. It comes and goes. Great content is pushed down the page till it disappears. News organization should take the time to catalog and curate the best most desired content.

Friday, April 24, 2009

Authors where are you?

Alright. there are many points I could make about the experience I just had but this is the one (ok, maybe two) I'm choosing.

Amazon doesn't have pages for authors and this is confusing and problematic for people. The best evidence I can give you without doing some user research is found right on the site in plain view, so why haven't they fixed it?

This is what I discovered while trying to find a list of books by a particular author.

You can't click on an Authors name and get a list. Some of the big Authors names are hot and these took you to a search results list, not an Author page. This is kinda good but really actually bad because it breaks the pattern. If one Author name is hot, they should all be hot or you start to think you are going crazy.

I thought...this can't be right, maybe I'm missing something (please tell me if I am). So I search for Authors and look at the suggestions! I'm sure these are generated by the most commonly searched terms.

Seems other people are trying to find this illusive author page and list of authors

Now being in the web industry I can see a few reasons why they do this, but what seems so interesting is that they have diverted so far away from creating an experience that mirrors the physical world. Book stores are organized by author. I wonder what the larger impact of all this is?

Whatever the impact, it is lame and annoying. boo.

Concept Cheat Sheet

(as always, click to make bigger)

I want to share this very interesting deliverable that a designer I am working with produced. We are working on a redesign of the Big Brothers Big Sisters: Columbia Northwest site as a volunteer project through the AMA Community Outreach program (if you have skills you should check it out and do what Obama would do)

I had already done a very prescriptive wireframe when the designer joined our team and the next step we thought was needed as a mood board to get the visual design process going. In addition to the typlical mood board that experiments with type, color, imagery and tone he put together the above piece to demonstrate how the ideas in my wireframe had been realized on other sites. Kind of "concept cheat sheet."

Kinda cool. Still waiting to see how it actually works with client. I could see it being very useful or kinda confusing. But client aside it's an good communication tool for our internal team. Nice job Damon!

Have you done anything like this before?

Here's the original wire. If your into that kinda thing.

Wednesday, April 22, 2009

My life in tags

So this is me, or at least the topics that interests me. It's a tag cloud created from my delicious bookmarks. I feel a bit vulnerable putting this out here like this. don't judge me...that is unless you like what you see:)

You can make your own at Wordle. Thanks Wordle it's a lovely tool (i like tools, as you can see)

Guess what these words are.
You can browse the gallery and find out here.

found link from: Whitney

hey, when did delicious remove all the .'s?

Our Creative Personalities

This diagram and the associated definitions is wonderful. I think I'm going make a large print out and hang it at my desk.

What strikes me is how useful it could be in one, setting up a team, but two realizing who you are in a team make up so you can be the best you. I imagine we all have a bit of all of these, although I think as soon as you read the article you will immediately see yourself in one of them. I also think that the other people we work with will influence which of these actually manifest in us. If your naturally a dreamer and there are two other dreamers on the project, either the project is going to fail or someone is going to have to shift to one of the other types (at least try too)

The other thing I really like about this is that it provides a methodology for building good design teams, a methodology that isn't fixed on particular job titles but what you bring to the creative table. A well balanced multi-disciplinary team is beautiful thing but often, the confines of our particular roles and the lack of attention paid to the less concrete (our creative personalities) results in the assembly of a wobbly group of mismatched characters trying to work together.

Nice job Michael. I'm looking forward to reading the follow up posts about how each of these personalities work together.

So which one are you??

I like Candy.

I would encourage you to read this article over at A List Apart.
In Defense of Eye Candy by Stephen P. Anderson

He makes and illustrates a lot of great points about the role of beauty and attractiveness in the effectiveness of interfaces.

What I really like about the article is that is supports the need for "complete collaboration" between the UXer and the Graphic Designer. Neither one exclusively holds the power or skills to create the most successful experience. The work is so intricately joined. I'm starting to think you can't do your best work unless you are actually sitting next to eachother working each step of the way together.

I have a little dream of finding the perfect design partner, someone to develope the ultimate collaborative relationship with and create mind bending experiences together (maybe even take over the world). What if no one hired a single designer, you had to come with your design twin? Could be fun.

A few good passages from the article:

"As user experience professionals, we must consider every stimulus that might influence interactions"

"In other words, aesthetics is not just about the artistic merit of web buttons or other visual effects, but about how people respond to these elements. Our question becomes: how do aesthetic design choices influence understanding and emotions, and how do understanding and emotions influence behavior?"

"Basically, when we are relaxed, our brains are more flexible and more likely to find workarounds to difficult problems. In contrast, when we are frustrated and tense, our brains get a sort of tunnel vision where we only see the problem in front of us."

Head on over and have a read.

Thursday, April 16, 2009

Nagivation: Icons

i like icons in the navigation. i just do.

this is from Smile & Move.
you should watch the video. pretty neat and refreshing (thanks John)

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