I love Prezi … the best new way of making presentations since PowerPoint began its relentless quest to make us all stupid in 1990.
Here’s a great example. Just enjoy:
Earlier this week I set up a Meetup group for coworkers in BC’s Fraser Valley. It contained some information about coworking, some hints on the kinds of people who might enjoy coworking, and a link to our current landing page for coworking in Abbotsford.
Today I was informed that the meetup group had been terminated:
Needless to say, I was totally flabbergasted. Our meetup group was for people who wanted to help start a coworking community in the valley. It wasn’t about porn, and we weren’t selling anything. So why were we being closed? How were we not in compliance?
For more information you can review the Terms of Service
This is one of those cases where something that is simple is not easy. Here are the Meetup’s terms of service – to the right. As you can tell … there are a lot of terms. And a lot of words. And a long, long, long web page full of reasons why we were not in compliance.
But which one was applicable?
After a lot of reading, I think it was this one: 5.3(b)(vii). Yeah, that’s number 5, section 3, subsection (b), sub-subsection (vii). Which reads under a heading titled “Grounds for removal, sanction, and/or suspension:”
[Posting any material] that uses the Platform primarily as a lead generator or listing service for another website;
Well. Perhaps the link to our coworking signup page violates that stipulation.
Here’s how you should treat that scenario, Meetup
Here’s a wild, crazy idea. I know it’s out of left field, so brace yourself. Be seated. Hold on to your hat.
How about: you send me an email, explain that stipulation, and ask me to remove it?
I know it’s ground-breaking and earth-shattering … but do you think that might be better than arbitrarily booting a paying customer with no reasonable explanation?
No, I didn’t read your terms of service
I’m sorry, but there are 14 pages of TOS, totalling 8319 words. And I have a life.
So no, I didn’t read your TOS. And I don’t think your TOS is reasonable or customer-friendly.
So please …
So I’m asking … please reinstate the group. I’ll remove the offending link (if indeed that is the problem).
What should you know about Facebook Marketplace and privacy? The short form is, you don’t have any by default.
I was idly browsing Facebook Marketplace early this morning when a message popped up from a friend:
Send me the info as I don’t want an auto app on Facebook 🙂
My first reaction
What the heck?!? How did you know I was browsing an item for sale on Facebook Marketplace?
My next reaction
When I read the context, I wondered: why the heck did Facebook post a status update for me on an item I was browsing? Without my permission? Without asking me? Without alerting me?
Here’s the conversation that ensued:
It does, actually make sense
The answer of course, is that at some point, perhaps months or longer ago, I authorized Facebook Marketplace to do all kinds of things on my behalf.
These sorts of things:
So … what’s the problem?
The only problem: I had totally forgot about that.
Worse, I had no idea when authorizing Facebook Marketplace to do all those things that it would post to my timeline when I was just surfing a listing! My assumption was that it would post to my timeline when I posted an item for sale … which I did recently.
There’s a few lessons learned from this episode …
5 lessons for users:
3 lessons for marketers:
. . .
. . .
On a related issue, this is why I haven’t (knowingly) installed any apps that autoshare based on activity. For me, it crosses the creepy line when you auto-share for a user that he or she visited a page or looked at an item or listened to a song. Perhaps even more dangerously for the social fabric of the web, it divorces sharing from conscious choice … robbing it of curation and value. This is why I don’t install the Yahoo! app, which autoshares stories its users read. It’s creepy, it’s oversharing, and it’s robotic.
Amazon.com is an interesting adventure in user experience.
For a time, it was the sine qua non of web UI, just because it was so successful. And many tried to copy it. Then most of us realized: Amazon can do what Amazon is doing because Amazon is Amazon … and you can’t because you’re not.
Circular, illogical, and annoying, but unfortunately true.
Remember the millions of tabs? I grabbed this screenshot from WakeUpLater. I think that at points there were even more:
Listing to the left
And then, of course, the weighty left-hand nav, loaded with things you might want to do, places you might want to go:
Amazon has always had a busy, cluttered, confused user interface, but they’ve always gotten away with it because when ecommerce buyers grow up with you, they learn you, they know you, they grok you, and they love you. And Amazon was our first buy-online girlfriend.
But something is a little different at Amazon.com today:
What’s this at Amazon? White space? No tabs? No heavy left nav? It’s almost Apple-like in its simplicity, you might be tempted to think.
Well, no. It’s still ugly. It’s still unbalanced – a UI only a mother could love.
There is space and breathing room – must have been an edict from Jeff Bezos. And obviously there’s a massive focus on one of Amazon’s key strategic weapons, the Kindle e-reader/tablet. But the overwhelming change is massive, perhaps almost complete personalization.
Almost every single item on the Amazon home page is focused squarely on me:
The site is mine
Gone is the heavy nav and million tabs. The site is not what Amazon is, the site is what Amazon is for me (yes, with some corporate strategy driven exceptions, I concede).
Personalization? Where’s the social?
That’s an interesting shift, of course, and one that has been happening for years of course, but it begs the question: where’s the social? I could imagine some juicy cool integrations with Facebook, the social graph, and Facebook’s new actions.
Unfortunately, I imagine, both Facebook and Amazon would have strategic concerns with such an alliance.
If you’re clicking to see photos in an embedded gallery on a page, you should still be able to see the story, right?
Wrong, according to Gizmodo:
Not only does clicking the gallery links obscure the story, you can’t get back to it via your browser’s Back button … because with the miracles of AJAX, you haven’t really left the page. Which makes on wonder: why can’t they still show you the post?
They must be angling for more comments …
Apple is the epitome of simple, right?
Well yeah, but not always. And one example is right in your pocket: the well-known iPhone lock screen.
Do we really need it?
Seriously, how often does the home button get pushed in your pocket? I know the lock screen is intended to stop spurious input and the infamous pocket dialing, but has that every happened to you? Not me.
To me, the unlock screen is just a time-waster that puts 2-3 extra seconds between me and whatever tasks I’m trying to accomplish. I don’t like it, I don’t need it, and I don’t want it. I’d at least like an option to remove it.
Extra-bad with password
The lock screen is one thing, but when you pair that with a password-protected phone, it’s even worse.
I hate password-protecting my phone, and I would not do it personally, but there are corporate email accounts on it that require safety settings.
So, now I have to:
It’s pretty obvious that your password is a pretty effective unlock screen protector in and of itself. So, at a minimum, Apple should automatically disable the lock screen functionality if you have a password-protected phone. The password protection, when in place, is the lock screen.
Any functionality on the lock screen – alerts, etc. – can still be implemented on the password screen.
Simpler, faster, better
Anything that gets me faster to my apps, phone, email, or whatever, is better.
I know a lot of people get very upset when Facebook changes things. I like things that just work to stay just working as much as the next person.
But I love the changes Facebook has recently made. The ticker is awesome and quick. Timeline is very cool and nicely executed, although some are worried about privacy implications.
But I’m wondering about one design choice Facebook made: to keep the status update window closed by default:
You actually have to click on “Update Status” to start telling people what you’re doing:
That seems odd, especially since I’m getting used to Google+, where the “Share what’s new” box is always open:
Seems more welcoming, somehow. More designed for creators, no?
The only reason I can think for Facebook to keep it closed, besides to encourage consumption over creation, is the automatic sharing in the new Facebook platform, in which songs you’re listening to, games you’re playing, and articles you’re reading will automatically be shared to your friends on Facebook.
Still, seems odd.
I tend to think that Sparkplug9 is fairly readable. It’s black text on a white background, and the text size is not tiny.
Or so I thought.
Take a look at this screenshot of the Forbes website. I scrolled past the myriads of ads and assorted site chrome:
I know it’s a little small in the image, but you can click the image to get it full-size.
In my opinion, that’s almost the most-readable website I’ve ever visited. And that includes Jakob Nielsen’s useit.com, theoretically the poster-boy for usability and readability.
Hmmm … thinking I’ll need to increase the font size.
One thing it certainly does: increase reading speed and enjoyment.
You don’t have to be a developer to need to find apps on Facebook. Almost all Facebook users end up adding some kind of app to their account – even if it’s just to super-poke a friend.
The problem isn’t in adding apps. The problem is after you add them – they can be so hard to find (and edit or turn off) that one developer has created an app to help you find your apps.
My Facebook apps are so hard to find in the Facebook menus that I just end up typing in the address: https://www.facebook.com/developers/. But those are developer apps. What about apps that general users add to their Facebook account?
Blame the usability features
Thanks to Facebook’s quasi-adaptive user interface, things you don’t use often don’t show up as often. So if you don’t use a lot of apps, you’ll never easily see the link to them … they’ll be hidden from view by default, and you’ll only see them if you click to reveal them.
For example, in the image to the right, you’ll see that I have used apps recently enough that Facebook has put the link above the More/Less line, making it easily discoverable, clickable, and accessible.
Adaptive interfaces are just what they say: they adapt to the user. So for instance, as on BlackBerry, most-often used tools graduate to screens where they are more accessible.
Here’s the problem:
Since the adaption is not user-nitiated, it is not remembered (or even known), and it is therefore often not even used. Adaptive interfaces sound great in theory. Unfortunately, in this case, like so many others, while in theory theory there is no difference between theory and reality, in reality there is.
In the real world, when you move a cup, it stays where you put it. Adaptive interfaces break that connection with reality and therefore can violate a basic law of the universe we learned as infants: object permanence.
So unless it’s done in a super-smart and super-useful way … most adaptive user interfaces are less friendly, less usable, and less adapted to a user’s needs than a standard static interface.
Facebook links remind me of Facebook’s EdgeRank algorithm … the one that shows you the status updates from your friends that it thinks you might be interested in, not all the status updates that exist.
You’ve see the mini-maps on a thousand websites, right? The one on the corporate website that’s going to give you a clue where the offices are?
This is great, helpful and good … it gives you a sense of where the business is, it doesn’t intrude too much into the page, it looks neat, tidy, and modern.
No, not on the Google logo, which would make some degree of sense. Not in any drop-down menu (although that may be coming at some point). Nor just a single click on the map itself.
Rather, a click on the tiny “powered by” link.
Fairly non-obvious, I would think.
Like most Canadians, I’m mad about hockey (both in the British sense of being crazy about it, and the American sense of being ticked off that there are not enough Canadian teams).
So when I can’t watch the game … iPad helps.
Just download the official NHL app. All of the day’s games are listed on the home screen. Pick one, and click watch.
Instantly (almost) you’ve got a 6-8 minute highlight reel of that game – in the comfort of your chair, sofa, or bed.
Now that’s not bad.
I can’t believe how shockingly bad some major companies are when it comes to user interface design.
These days there are just so many resources out there, so many knowledgeable people, and testing is so easy to do … there’s just no excuse for really horrible, hostile user interfaces.
Notice the empty text entry field. In the top screenshot, the field is empty, and there is no clue what the user needs to do with it. It’s only when the user actually clicks into the field that a context-sensitive help note appears: “Please enter your student number.”
It goes without saying: help is nice, but you shouldn’t need help to complete standard operations. More importantly: important UI information should not be hidden like clues in Myst.
Three options to get your tickets! Wow, better read them all! Which is better? Which meets my specific needs?
The user is bound to be disappointed after his or her limited time has been invested in reading through all these three options … they are exactly the same. Every one of those options is print-at-home, and pay for the privilege.
(Naturally, every ticket takes up an entire 8.5×11 page – full of color ads – and warns you to present the entire page at the venue when entering. Nice … and more than a little self-serving.)
A cardinal rule of user interfaces: only present a choice when a choice is needed and a choice is necessary. If there is no choice, don’t waste the user’s time, patience, and good will by presenting the illusion of choice.
. . .
. . .
I’m graduating this month with a Master’s degree in Educational Technology, and just ordered tickets for my wife and kids. But you don’t have to have a master’s degree in applying technology to learning to understand that these UI decisions deserve a failing grade.
Windows Phone 7 utilizes a start screen built from tiles, all of which are dynamic and customizable. Tiles can be used as-is, as “glanceable” heads-up displays to the information you care about, or you can jump into specific topic areas, task-specific destinations, called hubs, by clicking on one. Some hubs include People, Music+Video, and Pictures. You can also promote (“pin”) apps and other things to your start screen. This means that a tile for that app will appear there, and you can of course move it around, positioning it wherever you like. The list of things you can promote is pretty vast. For example, Belfiore pointed out that you can even promote a playlist. And apps? They’re not really called apps. They’re called experiences.
Usability is like cooking: everybody needs the results, anybody can do it reasonably well with a bit of training, and yet it takes a master to produce a gourmet outcome.
One of the discount usability movement’s basic tenets is that we need a drastic expansion in the amount of usability work done in the world, and to make this happen we need more people to take on usability assignments.
From Brian Cray’s excellent recent post:
- Web form design guidelines: an eyetracking study
An in-depth comparison of three form designs—Google mail signup, Hotmail signup, and Yahoo! Mail signup. The selection of forms are ideal because each form is long as well as unique in terms of label positioning, field grouping, and identification of required fields. Here are my major takeaways from the study:
- Make the form fields vertical, not horizontal
- Left-aligned labels are clearer
- People tend to fill out all form fields regardless
- The Best of Eyetrack III: What We Saw When We Looked Through Their Eyes
This study focused on the layout of regular content and whether users scan or read. Here were my major takeaways from the study:
- Headlines draw eyes before pictures
- People scan the left side of everything
- The first few words of headlines are very important
- Single column designs produce the most eye fixations
- Scrolling is okay
- Introductory paragraphs get read
- F-Shaped Pattern For Reading Web Content
This is a classic eye-tracking study by a classic guru: Jakob Nielsen. If you don’t know who he is and you’re in web design, read his books or get out of the biz. Anyway, this particular eye tracking study reveals that users read content in a “F” pattern. Here are my major takeaways from the study:
- People read the headline and the first paragraph before scanning the left side of the content
- Headlines should start with keywords to pull the eyes from the left margin
This is far too cool for words, but I’ll try:
It’s a reality-bending fusion of sketch, art film, computer UI, and video by a Dutch artist, Evelien Lohbeck. Maximize the video and watch it fullscreen – you’ll enjoy.
Two things that come to mind:
One: this creative genius deserves a Mac, not XP.
Two: as I noticed while scanning Evelien’s website, she needs something better than a Hotmail account.
Credit: I saw this on Neatorama.
If you don’t really want people communicating on your site … you don’t really want feedback on your articles … you do really want to spam people … you do really want to “monetize eyeballs” … and you don’t really care that your brand is in the toilet …
Then you act very web 1.0 and have a comment registration form like ZDNet’s:
I wanted to comment on Michael Krigsman’s latest pay-attention-to-me-I’m-relevant flamebait article, only to be met by that monstrosity of a sign in form. And it’s only part one!
Note that all fields are required. Odd, for some reason they’re not asking for your credit card too! Perhaps a copy of your fingerprints or DNA would be appreciated.
Nothing says “we don’t care about our users” like a sign-in form that is so completely, so obviously, and so unashamedely commercial and self-serving.
How very web 1.0.
David Malouf, professor of interaction design at Savannah College of Art & Design, explains that “while usability is important, its focus on efficiency and effectiveness seems to blur the other important factors in UX, which include learnability and visceral and behavioral emotional responses to the products and services we use.”
I like that:
It includes a lot of overlap from my recent post, User-friendly: how to know your software is usable. Satisfaction however, which is the work I used in that post, is a pale reflection of “visceral and behavioral emotional response.”
The one thing I’d add: there are a lot of visceral emotional responses that Are Not Positive. (Using some features in Windows come to mind here, unpleasantly.)
Creating a user experience that people love and want to share … now that’s money.
Sometimes when doing business online, you want to know where your users are coming from. If you don’t do it the right way, they’ll waste little time telling you where you can go.
Zinio, a digital publications company, wants to know where you live:
But they don’t geo-locate IP addresses, which would accomplish the goal without any user intervention. Instead, they provide this “handy” layer over their webpage.
How many chances to do you get to make a first impression? Yeah, I thought so too.
When you fail on your first impression, you’ve got an uphill climb for your second and subsequent interactions with potential clients. Now they already think you’re a difficult-to-work-with company.
Save the trouble and make it right from the beginning!
Everyone agrees that software should be user-friendly. But what does that actually mean? I’ve been architecting a LOT of desktop software in the past few months, and I’ve been revisiting some of my ideas about usability.
Can users do what they want to do quickly, simply, and without a lot of fuss? Or do they need to fight your software and perform circus contortionist acts to do what they want to do?
Have you designed your software, menus, buttons, and tabs so they are easily understandable, even for a first-time user? Or is a first-time user completely lost and unable to proceed without a manual or a training session?
This is strongly related to learnability – how many errors do new users make? Do they continually make the same or same kind of errors? If they make an error, how easy is it to reverse, correct, or undo the error?
How do users feel while they are using your application? After? Is it frustrating? Do their stress levels rise? Does the software give them a feeling of competence and power, or ignorance and failure?
. . .
As mentioned previously, there are a million other factors that influence software usability. And it can be hard to measure – there’s usually not a binary yes/no answer.
But if your software scores high on these five attributes with users, chances are you have strong usability. And, chances are people will like the software well enough to use it, talk about it, and maybe even purchase upgrades for it.
I’m working on a usability project for desktop software right now, focusing on “UI strings.”
UI strings are the messages that you see in an application … what it tells you. Obviously, the better these are written, structured, and presented, the easier the application, and the better your experience with it.
Four things are really coming to my mind as I’m going through this. Three of them are directly related to UI strings. They enhance usability when …
The fourth thing is not really about UI strings, but an aspect of the application itself: revocability. Revocability, of course is the opposite of irrevocable (as in: can’t be undone).
The connection to UI strings is that if you know something is revocable … you’re less hesitant to try it and see. And that makes you a more confident and therefore happier user.
The overall goal of UI strings is giving the user the right amount of information at the right time. And the only way to know if you’ve got it right is to do usability testing during and after launch.
Complaints are too easy – I like to blog raves as well as rants.
Blurb recently printed the book I did for my parents’ 50th wedding anniversary. A number of books arrived with scratches. I emailed them, they asked for a photo, I emailed a photo back, and they immediately shipped out new copies.
Nielsen Norman Group publishes usability studies, among other things. I ordered a downloadable product from them, not realizing it was only part of a study and not terribly useful on its own. Upon getting and reading through the study – and realizing that it was not what I needed – I emailed customer service. They immediately refunded my money, and asked me to delete the PDF from my computer, which I did.
Simple, fast, helpful.
In both cases: wow and thanks. You exceeded my expectations.
This is bloody amazing:
(Saw it here.)
Every time I see something like this in the mainstream press I think: clueless.
There’s little question the iPhone pulls a lot of great wireless functions and applications into a very cool package. But most of those features aren’t exactly new. Google Maps for mobile? Practically any smartphone user can download the application to his or her device.
It’s not about: is it possible. It’s about: is it elegant, simple, natural, obvious, easy, beautiful, friendly. Most importantly: is it normal. Does it just feel normal to surf the web on your phone, locate and listen to music on your phone, to make make phone calls even.
(In case you’re wondering why Linux isn’t mainstream, that’s why. The answers are no.)
That’s Apple’s primary genius. Not always to be first – but almost always to make wizardry easy, even commonplace … while still being elegant and sexy.
Rather, I suspect they are defective by design.
Today my wife and I fought with our cordless phone system (tip: if it’s a system, it automatically sucks). It’s been phantom-ringing, not connecting, connecting only if you waited three rings, connecting if it felt like it, connecting if the moon was in the right phase and you had thrown a skunk over your left shoulder the previous night.
In other words, haunted.
Does anything suck more than phone usability? I’m talking about cell phones, about home cordless phones … anything but the old-fashioned rotary brick that never died.
We have three phones hooked up on one network, which we futzed with for about half an hour. In the end, we de-registered all the phones (i.e., told the main base station to forget about their existence) and then re-registered all the phones (i.e., told the main base station that they existed).
And now there is domestic bliss in the Koetsier household again, our fifth-grade daughter can phone her friends with impunity, and my wife’s sister can tie up the phone all night. (I, of course, regard phones as instruments of the devil and never use them unless poked with almost-molten cattle prods. After all, mothers might be calling. Or people who – ugh – might want me to do something. Cell phones, on the other hand, I will relunctantly answer, if no other alternatives exist. But that’s business, and I get usually paid for it, so I have no choice.)
But the point – and yes, there is a point – is that a couple times throughout the whole process we felt like chucking it all in, boxing up all the phones, and returning them. Obviously, they were broken. Obviously, they were not working. Obviously, we should be given a full refund.
I wonder how often that happens. How often does perfectly fine gadgetry (read: functioning with specs as designed) get returned simply because people can’t figure out how to make it work?
I would not be shocked if the answer is more than half.
And that’s got to cost somebody a whole lot of money. In comparison to which designing in usability starts to look cheap.