Looking Back, Again: 10 More Key Usability Concepts: Part 1

If you just rode in here from a link on Twitter or Facebook or from some other far flung place from the Internet Universe you must wonder what all of this “Looking Back, Again” business is going on in the title of this article.

Way back last summer in the August of of 2011 Newman and I decided to learn more about web usability and user testing. We originally said we’d go from August to the middle of December and see what happens.

The middle of December came and what happened was that we summed up what we learned in a series of posts called Looking Back: Part 1 and Part 2.

Rather than call it a day and go learn about something else, we kept on doing it. It’s been about 18 weeks or so since we’ve done another review of all of our posts, so we’re due.

That’s why last Friday we kicked off review week with a preview of this week’s posts. If you have 90 minutes, get yourself over to the podcast and take a listen. It’s good stuff.

If you don’t, you can catch numbers 10-6 here today and 5-1 on Wednesday.

Now, with that foreplay out of the way, let’s get down to the sweet, sweet lovemaking.

10. Personal Analytics

Personal analytics

Data is a life and death business

Products like the FitBit and Sleep Cycle iPhone app record your personal habits.  And, They translate those habits into data, visualizations and understanding.  You translate them into changes in your habits and into improvements in your lifestyle.  And, “Hey! Is that what we do with websites and user experience testings? Translate observations into improvements into websites?”  The answer is yes.

People either get the idea of data and analytics or they don’t.  Some are natural Analytics Ninjas.  They understand the connection between measurement and change. It clicks. They get it.  Some need help.  They can be taught. Thank you Anivash and Mr. Ries.  But, for me, it’s very difficult to learn a concept out of context.  And, a design project can be a very abstract thing.  Personal Analytics makes the abstract concepts of data and analysis more concrete, more pertinent and more easy to learn.

Check out the posts: Personal Analytics: You and Your Data | A Better User Experience

9. Time Tracking

ship's clock

It's about time...for some kick ass clocks. And, yes I'm talking about being connected to the cloud.

The beauty of time tracking is the control it gives you over your most precious resource: Time.  By measuring time in a systematic way – as a scientist, as an empowered person, as the captain.  For instance, the clock above made it possible to navigate the oceans in relative safety.  With the feedback I get from a time tracking app, I can experiment with time, play with it, visualize it and ultimately take back some control over it.

We did a review of Havest and Paymo, which was the outcome of a huge survey of 18 different time tracking apps.  If I’d had Paymo running when I wrote that post, it would have told me I spent way too much time on that.  But, I did garner some good understandings of time tracking tools.

The big takeaway: Time tracking is ever more necessary in a fragmented and speedy culture.  These tools are good now and will increase in value as our culture continues to require more productivity from it’s workers.

8. Choose Your UX Tools Wisely

mechanics tool chest

Tool Time!

With all these choices in UX tools,  it’s more important than ever to choose wisely. Recommendations are good.  Asking trusted, respected colleagues is great.  But, what it really comes down to is knowing yourself.  If you can approximate your needs and wants, you can approach the decision with confidence that the tool will fit you.

There is no such thing as ‘The perfect tool’.  No tool is going to do the work for you.  No one tool will be a perfect fit for everyone. Establishing that fit relies on how well you know what you need and what the tool can provide.

It’s a good thing that most tools offer a free plan or trial. Check out my thoughts on the free plan at “No Money User Testing”. The takeaway is to jump in an experiment.  That experimenters spirit will reward you on many levels in the new innovation economy.

7. You Have to Know Why You Want to Test

science experimenter in the lab

You don't need a lab coat to be a scientist anymore.

A user experience researcher or designer must be a creative and inquisitive.  It’s no longer enough to know how to solve problems.  Now it’s imperative to understand the problem you are solving – I know, it seems obvious. Understanding the problem is what aligns the entire process of data collection and experiments.  This helps avoiding the mistake of solving the wrong problem and not understanding Why you are solving it.

Having a scientific experimenters spirit or Genchi Genbutsu (roughly translated as “go and see”) is great, if you have it.  If you don’t, look for a heuristic to remind you of all the different facets of a UX problem and help you understand Why you are testing in the first place.  Understanding Why will give you a vision and a direction – for yourself and for your team.

6. How meetings go bad – Roles vs. Expectations

happy people meeting

Smile for the camera!

Oh my God. We learned just how terrifying meetings are and how easily they can go south and wreck an entire project.

In particular we looked at six ways you make bad meetings worse. (Yes, you in particular.)

6. You’re not speaking the same language
5. You lack empathy
4. You’re treating your meetings like a political battleground
3. You beat your designer
2. You treat your differences as weaknesses
1. You’re having the wrong conversation

The key takeaway here is that the various participants in the meeting have different levels of commitment to the project. Not everybody has bought in but most everybody is happy to play the ego-trip game.

Of course, if you don’t have any problems with meetings, then you work with a uniquely great group of folks. But for the rest of us, we need to take a hard look at the above list and then make copies to hand out to all the members of your team. It’s a good way to check yourself before you wreck yourself. (Oh no you didn’t!)

2 comments on “Looking Back, Again: 10 More Key Usability Concepts: Part 1

  1. Pingback: Looking Back, Again: 10 More Key Usability Concepts: Part 1 | A Better User Experience | UXWeb.info

  2. Pingback: Looking Back, Again: 10 More Key Usability Concepts: Part 2 | A Better User Experience

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