Shame on Korean Airlines!

20.04.2012 | Author: Stepan Doubrava

A few days ago I got so frustrated with Korean Airlines’ online booking system I decided to share the horror with the rest of the world.

I admit, because of what I do I am a bit more sensitive about bad web pages. Sometimes I overreact and get cranky (you web designers know what I mean). But this is the second time I’ve ever gotten so far as to write about my bad experience on the web.

The whole thing started the previous night, when I lost my patience with their web site and called the sales line to make the order with a live person. I was surprised that the toll free number connected me to the USA (I live in Europe). The overseas call was paid by Korean Airlines so I did not care. I was connected to a nice lady, who spent about 20 minutes with me trying to find the right flight. What was very surprising to me was that she couldn’t email me the options she found, that my only options were either to buy the flight right then and there or write down all the times and flight numbers and hope I could find the paper again the next time I call the sales line. The lady was so kind and helpful I took a deep breath and wrote down all the details. Which I lost the next day, so I had to give the web a second chance.

I was buying two long distance flights for approximately three thousand dollars

Korean web page

The next morning I opened the Korean Airlines site, which is a narrow (760px) stripe looking a bit funny in the middle of my big monitor. Approximately 90% of the narrow space was covered with ads, menus and options I did not care about. What I needed was the flight booking form displayed using gray on gray tiny font, where the select boxes with dates are so small the data does not even fit and is partially hidden.

booking form

(This is a screenshot in actual size, the letters blending into each other is what gets displayed on the actual site)

When filling this form one has to choose the continent and then the city for the departing and return destinations. It is not possible to type in the airport code, or the date, which has to be selected from a miniature calendar. This turned out to be quite annoying when I filled out the form for the tenth time.


The next page showed the date I had selected with a price matrix displaying three previous and following days. I was flexible in the dates, so I wanted to make sure the previous or following weeks are not significantly cheaper, but I could not change the dates in the matrix, I had to go back to the home screen and keep filling the booking form again and again. Filling the stupid form from scratch every single time!

After about ten iterations I found the flight I wanted for $1200 and proceeded to selecting the flight times and other usual stuff. After 10 minutes of fine-tuning our journey to the maximum degree of perfection I realized I forgot to add my soon-to-be wife (I was booking a honeymoon) and I could not add another passenger at this point.  I had to start all over again.

At this moment I was getting really irritated, so the next obvious thing was that I made a mistake in the date. My excuse:  I could not clearly see the date in the booking form, because it was half hidden in the small “select” box. When I discovered my mistake, the only option was to start all over again.

The next attempt got me almost there. I had gone through the price matrix, times, and even the inconvenient login form, this time I typed my and my girlfriend's names and proceeded to the checkout, gave my card number, billing address, expiration date, security code and all that. At the final check I realized my girlfriend will have different name after the wedding. Being so far in the process I could not believe I could not go back to change the name and my only option was to start all over again!

No way back

I thought it will go fast this time. But after filling the destinations, dates and number of passengers, the price had changed and the flights were now $350 more expensive. 

And here I have to admit I lost control and almost broke the keyboard.

I had spent almost two hours with this, did not accomplish anything and felt angry and defeated for the rest of the day.

How is it possible that airlines with billion dollar budgets give such a poor user experience when they’re booking a ticket - the most crucial part of their business? Fixing this problem by adding a back button is probably less expensive then the tickets I have bought. Changing the layout of their web, such that users can see the important information, would cost less than what KA must have paid for the phone call I made the to customer support centre? How can a company be so ignorant and blind about how users interact with their systems?

Stepan at the WebTop 100 conference

04.11.2011 | Author: Stepan Doubrava
On 25th of Novemeber I have visited the conference WebTop100 and here is some notes and interesting quotes I have heard:

First presentation was given by Jiri Suchy, the man who stands behind the redesign of O2 web pages. Link
  • His team tends to speak to the stakeholders and collect expectations not requirements, because expectations do not necessarily have to be implemented.
  • When redesigning in the corporation one good solution is sometimes forced on behalf of another good solution.
  • Give the job to good and motivated people. Give them the authority and trust that they will do a good job.
  • Programmers should not design UX but need to know the reasons behind particular decisions.
  • It is not possible to satisfy 100% of the users, stakeholders and your ego.

Second presentation was by Petr Štědrý from Dobrý Web. Him and his team has redesigned a web of Sencor in just 14 days.
  • Petr believes, that the problems in design needs to be communicated visually and that everybody can draw sufficiently to be able to participate on the "discussion".
  • They have started the project by the design workshop, where all the stakeholders did 3 round of drawing of their vision.

Next in line was Daniel Frouz, the owner of InetPrint, company providing not just promo materials and prints. He spoke about the redesign of their extensive portal/eshop, where they have reached some remarkable improvements in conversion rate.
  • Recomendation: leave enough time for the usability testing. Which should come as soon as possible in the design phase. During the implementation it is too late.
  • They started the project by setting the main goals and did a brainstorming using the mind maps.
  • When cooperating with external agencies, it is important to communicate extensively.
  • Various visual designs have to be done by multiple visual designers.
  • They decide to provide the prices on the web, but they plan on blocking suspicious request from their competition.

I did not make much notes from the presentation of Jiří Chromát from Seznam.cz. Not that it was not interesting, but because I do not know much about czech Pay Per Click and their system sClick.

The next presentation was given by Petra Brodílková from Google. The only woman on the agenda (as she has presented herself). She has revealed some nice features for the online marketers, to be used in the very near future.
  • Remarketing - you will be able to identify the visitors of your web pages, for whom your specified adds will be display when they browse the web. How cool is that!
  • She has introduced a google optimizer. A tool which automatically creates the online marketing campaigns and while it runs the campaigns, it learns itself and optimizes along the way.
  • She has mentioned an application Our Mobile Planet, which shows statistics of mobile usages. For some it might be a well known thing, but for me it was a cool new application.
  • Then she has advertised the AdMob. A system for online advertisement on mobile phones. In the Czech Republic it has 1.7M users and over 100M impressions.
  • Petra also spoke of the TrueView, a system which allows you to post video ads before the Youtube videos. I personally find those ads annoying and skip them, but important thing is, that the advertiser only pays, if the viewer sees the whole clip!

The next presenter came late, so after 5 minutes of waiting I left for a coffee and got sucked into the discussion with Jiří Suchý and Ondřej Kratochvíl about what it is like to be a UX designer in the big corporation.

The next presentation was by Ondřej Kratochvíl, about the critical state of the UX in the Czech Republic. From my point of view this was the best speech - bold and critical.
  • From Ondrej's perspective thee is 3 main problems when it come to czech web pages: Trying to be different no matter what, Putting everything into the menu, Not explaining clearly what is the company about.
  • It is important to deal with UX as a whole, not just the usability testing.
  • It is important to deal with UX across the all channels, not just web.
  • It is important to communicate with external agencies.
  • UX can not be measured, and therefore it attract lots of incapable people.
  • The most important marker is the "customer satisfaction" (even more important then sales)
  • Constant patching is often so expensive, that it is better and more effective to do a complete re-design.

For the next presentation of Martin Kalda from Mather, my attention has been weakening, so even when the presentations were interesting I just could not keep my full concentration:
  • Designers use the filler texts "loren ipsum", which they later replace. However they also use the filler images from the databases, which the don't! And so we have the webs full of annoying young professionals shaking hands.
  • We do the webs for the companies, not for the CEOs.
  • By default, companies should have the brand manual and use it!

Michal Špaček from Skype has complaint about the security of the webs. One of the sites he found so offensive, that he decided to punish the owners by hacking it (live). Unlike everyone else, I did not find this so amusing. I was thinking about the owners of the page who will have to spent their money to fix this and everyone else who has to spend our money to protect agains hackers like Michal.

At the end Jan Havel from Actum had an interesting presentation, not just visually, about our fears and phobias when it comes to designing webs.
  • What stops us from doing things properly is the fear.
  • Clients do not improve the agency by micromanaging it. Give them the trust and authority.
  • Agencies fight the micromanagement using the method of ugly green stain. They place something horrible on the design, for the client to complain about it, winning this battle and not complaining about anything else.
  • Every self-respecting agency is counting the time and charges for extra work.
  • If we make a bad decision, but quickly, it can be fixed. However, if we hesitate with the decision nothing is done and nothing can be fixed.
  • It is important to see where the money is.

FatDUX Prague sponsoring EuroIA in Prague

22.08.2011 | Author: Stepan Doubrava
ENG:
I am proud to announce the opening of FatDUX Prague. Our offices are located just minutes from the famed Wenceslas Square in the heart of the Czech capital. Over the past few years, our sister company, ExperienceU, has grown to become one of the most respected usability testing facilities in Central Europe. Now, working hand-in-hand with FatDUX Prague, we are able to provide a full range of UX services – from strategy and design to usability and search optimisation.

To help celebrate our new company and build our local user-experience community, FatDUX Prague is subsidising 20 registrations for residents of the Czech Republic to the upcoming EuroIA conference. The conference is possibly the most important event of its kind in Europe. We are honoured that this year, it will be held right here in Prague on September 22-24.

Rather than the normal registration fee of EUR 430, with our discount code, you will only pay EUR 150. We will take care of the rest. For details and your personal code information, please write to me directly: stepan (at) fatdux.com

CZE:
Rádi bychom oznámili oficiální otevření pražské pobočky dánské designové agentury FatDUX. Naše kanceláře se nachází na okraji historického centra Prahy. Díky spolupráci s agenturou ExperienceU, respektovanou zejména v oblasti testování použitelnosti, dodáváme celé spektrum služeb v oblasti UX, přes strategii a design po audit použitelnosti a SEO.

Abychom oslavili oficiální vznik nové pobočky a zároveň podpořili místní UX komunitu, FatDUX Praha sponzoruje registraci 20 zájemců z České republiky o nadcházející konferenci EuroIA. Tato konference, která se řadí mezi nejvýznamnější svého druhu v Evropě, se bude konat v Praze 22 – 24. září.

Místo plné ceny 430 Euro zaplatíte pouze 150 Euro a FatDUX doplatí zbytek. Případní zájemci, neváhejte mne prosím kontaktovat na: stepan (at) fatdux.com

Should information architects be code-monkeys?

08.04.2011 | Author: Eris Reiss

At the recent IA Summit in Denver, CO, the inimitable Jared Spool suggested that information architects could do their jobs better if they knew how to code. This provocative statement did indeed provoke a lot of comment. So in answer to Jared, and as a little bit of Friday fun from the team here at FatDUX Copenhagen, let me offer my own bit of code (as opposed to cipher).

0041701        1071510        0391309        0791505        0050808        1120614

2021501        1901014        0890405        0881501        1712310        1071506

1600911        1040809        0670103        1600911        0042509        0450413

0041701        0820306        2021501        0570104        0040811        0391309

1140107        1890811        1162003        1591801        1050401        1962901

0920702        0680407        1151302        1901014        0671903        1081303

0670103        0990805        0750204        0031301        0572512        0052814

0671903        0960309        0391309        1762707

BTW, Jared, we love your most recent book, Web Anatomy. Cheers from the DUXlings.

Dopamine and the mind – why good designs go wrong

14.02.2011 | Author: Eric Reiss

Over the years, I have noticed a strange pattern: when executives (site owners) are asked to comment on design layouts, they often say there is too much text and demand larger pictures/graphics – whether these are relevant or not. These executives are disappointed and frustrated with the design proposals they see. On the other hand, if you listen to users (during usability testing, for example), they complain that these same pictures/graphics are getting in their way. Like the executives, they also exhibit frustration, but in a diametrically different way – “Why are you making me scroll past this crap to get to the information I really need?” 

My question was simple: was there a scientific reason for these dramatically different reactions to essentially the same designs? And I think the answer is “yes”.I’ve included a few salient footnotes for those of you who are scientifically inclined.

Thesis in brief (1)

Why do two groups of people seem to consistently disagree regarding the “attractiveness” of a website design? Could it be that there was a physiological reason for these reactions? In short, was our brain playing tricks on us or misleading us? Were our development and presentation techniques actually encouraging inappropriate client reactions?

Early research

I have known about the functions of neurophysiological “reward chemicals” since my pre-med studies at Washington University in St. Louis 1972-1976. In late 2007, having spotted the curious reaction pattern described above, I started to do some more serious research, focusing on the limbic system (2) and the nature of reward chemicals (3).

I made the assumption that if the pattern I had identified was universal, voluntary intake of recreational reward chemicals (e.g. nicotine, caffine, cocaine, etc.) was probably not at the heart of these reactions. So I looked for chemical rewards produced by the body itself. Soon, my inquiry zeroed in on dopamine, a chemical messenger similar to adrenaline. (4)

Dopamine – friend or foe?

Dopaminergic neurons appear to code environmental stimuli rather than specific movements. (5) This, in layman’s terms, means that pretty pictures stimulate dopamine release, which perhaps explains why executives favour graphics over blocks of text in dummy design layouts.

Although this reaction seems obvious (pictures are more attractive than text), it was reassuring to know that there was a scientific reason for this.

Task-solving activities

The second part of my question dealt with why test subjects so often reacted badly to eye-candy (i.e. gratuitous pictures/graphics).

There are various viewpoints as to the role of dopamine and the task-completion process. For example, Pennartz et al. (6) asked in 2009:

“Given the parallel organization of corticostriatal circuits, the question arises how coherent behavior, requiring integration of sensorimotor, cognitive, and motivational information, is achieved.”

Perhaps part of the answer to this critical question can be found in Taizo Nakazato’s research, published back in 2005 (7):

“During the task performance, dopamine concentration started to increase just after the cue, peaked near the time of the lever press, and returned to basal levels 1–2 s after the lever press.”

By way of background, this study deals with rats pressing a lever to receive a food reward. In internet terms, I equate this behavior with humans pushing a button/clicking a link to receive an informational reward. In other words, task accomplishment produces a reward – in this case chemical.

Actually, though, it appears that the anticipation of task-completion triggers dopamine release (8). And it could be that executives about to see a proposed design for the first time may be anticipating the presence of pretty pictures.

Yet the essence of the problem seems to be that if something delays/hinders task completion, dopamine release actually causes post-action frustration. Dr. J.G. Fleischer describes this phenomenon quite succinctly: (9, 10)

“If the [subject] does not receive the reward when it expects to receive it, then there is a depression of dopamine release, which is consistent with the negative preduction error that would occur in that situation.”

In other words, if something gets in the way of task completion, dopamine doesn’t get where it’s needed (“depression of dopamine release”). I suggest that perhaps the pretty pictures and eye-candy that were anticipated and appreciated during the presentation phase, are actually getting in the way of test subjects who expect a more relevant response to their query (i.e. clicking on a promising link). If we make people scroll to get to the stuff they want (and expect to receive), they experience dopamine depression.

That said, a more recent study by Wanat et al. (11), suggests that further research is needed:

“[The] enhancement of reward-evoked dopamine signaling was also observed in sessions in which the response requirement was fixed but the delay to reward delivery increased, yoked to corresponding trials in PR sessions. These findings suggest that delay, and not effort, was principally responsible for the increased reward-evoked dopamine release in PR sessions. Together, these data demonstrate that NAcc dopamine release to rewards and their predictors are dissociable and differentially regulated by the delays conferred under escalating costs.”

In other words, the tougher it is to achieve a result, the greater the dopamine reward. This somewhat contradicts my thesis – and yet these findings also indicate that the response is situational. Hence, I feel certain that Wanat & Co. are actually looking at a different side of the problem, unrelated to task-based frustration, but that related to task-completion in a triumphal ”I just made it to the summit of Mt. Everest” kind of manner.

Drawing on my network

In late 2009, my online research led me to my grade-school best-friend, Jon Kassel. (12) Jon is now Professor of Psychology at the University of Illinois. Jon’s speciality is addiction. Naturally, the effect of drugs on emotions represents a key part of his own research.

Jon and I chatted informally about the problem with which I was wrestling. And without putting too many words in Jon’s mouth, it seems my thesis holds water – certainly from a cognitive point of view, and more and more from a clinical-psychology point of view, too. I hope that Jon and I can work on this in more detail sometime.

Please note: my conversations with Jon served merely as litmus tests and should not be construed as formal endorsement of my theories on the part of Dr. Kassel or the University of Illinois.

Community research

Of course, it could be that the pattern I thought I had detected was merely a fata morgana, Maybe my community wasn’t seeing the same things I was. So in January 2010, I published a simple survey on SurveyMonkey, which I broadcast to the interactive-design community via social media and list serves. (13) All of my questions could be answered with a simple yes/no. Here they are, along with the results of the 144 people who responded within the first week:

1. Have you ever been at a client meeting where you or your company have presented detailed page mockups for a proposed website (a “comp” complete with graphics and “greeked” text)?

Note: This may or may not represent the culmination of a longer discovery/strategic/IA process, but exactly where this presentation occurs in the overall process is not particularly important in terms of this survey.

Yes: 97.9%
No: 2.1%

2. If you have been to a website design presentation meeting as described above, have you ever heard the client say, “Very pretty, but there’s too much text. We need more/better/prettier graphics.” (this is when clients start talking about including pictures of their pet cat.)

I see this mostly when senior officials have not participated in an earlier discovery/IA/wireframing process.

Yes: 70.5%
No: 29.5%

3. Having been present at the original design presentation, have you later observed (probably through a one-way mirror during a usability session) that respondents say “Don’t make me scroll through the damned eye-candy to get to the substance. Get rid of the picture of that dumb cat!”

Yes: 58%
No: 42%

4. So in short, do you see any correlation between requests for more eye-candy during the layout approvals, and irritation with the same eye-candy during task-based usability testing?

Yes: 59.9%
No: 41.1%

About 62% of the respondents were from North America, 30% were from Europe, 8% were from the rest of the world.

Even though this is a primitive survey, the statistical results are significant; the pattern I hypothesised is recognized by others by a factor approaching 2 to 1.

Today, “dopamine” seems to have become “flavor of the month”

I first mentioned this research en passant in blogpost I published in January, 2009. (14) I talked about it again briefly at the IA Summit in Phoenix, AZ in April, 2010. Today, the subject seems to be finally taking hold – most recently at the IxDA’s conference, Interactions 11, in Boulder, CO last week (February 2011). Here, Charles Hannon, presented the subject formally (e.g. as the main subject of a talk) for the first time in our community. (15) Although the subject has also been broached tangentially at EuroIA 2010 and elsewhere, I look forward to speaking with Prof. Hannon at some point; alas, I was not able to attend the Boulder conference.

A second empirical observation

When I first suspected that comprehensive design mock-ups might be creating problems, we tweaked the development/presentation process in my own company, FatDUX. Subsequently, we spent much more effort in guiding senior management through our decision-making process prior to showing actual color design mockups. Although we had always involved our clients in the earlier stages of the development process, we had never previously insisted on top-management participation.

My empirical observation is that if C-level administrators are made part of the comprehensive design process, there is less chance they will insist on bigger pictures or cuter kittens on the website. In situations where we have not been able to obtain face-time with senior officials, our designs are more often open to challenge. Only expensive rounds of usability testing have enabled us to reinstate the graphic-design best-practices we normally espouse.

Some background

Both of my parents were scientists and the value of the scientific method and controlled studies was something I learned in parallel with my ABCs. As a pre-med student at Washington University in St. Louis, I continued my scientific studies, although I did wind up in a so-called “unrelated field” (encouraged by my father, who helped me send my first e-mail back in 1982 (no typo) to his secretary at the University of Miami). I have since been involved in the creation and/or critique of over 1500 websites and online apps.

So in closing, I encourage you to do your own research to prove or disprove my contention. And if you’d like to share your own empirical observations and/or research, I hope you’ll leave a comment here or write me directly at er@fatdux.com.

Here, I use “thesis” in the literal Greek fashion: as an “intellectual proposition” (θέσις), not a “dissertation” (dissertātiō).

http://rossmed.drbuschman.com/notes/semestertwo/limbic.htm

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Substance_dependence

http://www.utexas.edu/research/asrec/dopamine.html

http://biopsychiatry.com/dopaminerev.htm

http://www.jneurosci.org/cgi/content/abstract/29/41/12831

http://resources.metapress.com/pdf-preview.axd?code=j1392rk26327525j&size=largest

http://www.buzzle.com/articles/dopamine-neurotransmitter.html

http://nsi.academia.edu/JasonFleischer/Papers/26012/Dopamine_Signaling_and_the_Distal_Reward_Problem

http://books.google.dk/books?id=BA8kvh7jgFEC&pg=PA26&lpg=PA26&dq=when+an+individual+expects+a+reward,+dopaminergic+neurons+are+fired&source=bl&ots=JMINA_81vP&sig=9fC8tPBQ6hGBzweK0B9y0Og3rIg&hl=da&ei=9_tYTeDyEozoOaTzsJIF&sa=X&oi=book_result&ct=result&resnum=6&ved=0CEkQ6AEwBQ#v=onepage&q&f=false

http://www.jneurosci.org/cgi/content/abstract/30/36/12020

http://www.uic.edu/depts/psch/kassel-1.html

Twitter, plus the SIGIA list maintained by the American Society for Information Science and Technology, and the discussion list of the Interaction Design Association. The survey was published on 10 January 2010.

http://www.fatdux.com/Blog/2009/01/10/a-definition-of-user-experience

http://www.ixda.org/interaction/ppllightning.html#CharlesHannon

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Michael_Strangelove

Content strategy for dummies

14.11.2010 | Author: Eric Reiss
Have you heard about “content strategy”? If you work in website development, the chances are you have. But what is it exactly?

What is content?
In the online world, “content” means stuff you put on a screen – words, pictures, videos, animations, sounds. Of course, there is also offline content. For example, when Tommy Hilfiger stations cute little pippins in tight dresses around your local department store to hand out white paper strips that stink of some expensive smell he’s created, well, that’s content, too. The sexual allure is content. The fragrant strips of paper are content. The Tommy Hilfiger logo is content. In my world view, “content” affects all five of our senses.

But for the most part, “content” means words and pictures on a website or application. OK?

What is “strategy”?
In the military, there is talk of “strategy” and “tactics”. Mostly, strategy relates to goals whereas tactics relate to the methods needed to achieve these goals.

Strategy (as expressed by the Lieutenant): “We need to take that hill, men.”

Tactics (as expressed by the Sergeant): Fat guys behind rocks. Skinny guys behind trees.”

What is “content strategy”?
“Content strategy” means giving visitors – to a website or department store – whatever “content” they need to make a decision or carry out a task. The strategy part lies in how we present this content to influence these decisions and tasks. If we’re doing a sitemap for a website, we call this “information architecture”. If we station a girl in a department store, we call it “service design”. But it’s all closely related.

Here’s an article that shows how many content strategists view themselves:
http://knol.google.com/k/content-strategy#

Please note: I take exception to a couple of the things said in this article. I include it mainly to provide equal time to the hard-core proponents. I’m not out to declare war on anybody – but I do have a low tolerance for bullshit.

Birth of a buzzword
How did the web survive for so many years before “content strategy” came along? Surprisingly well - because “content strategy” has always been part of the picture. It just got a new name and has since become a buzzword. I’ve had it on my business card for years simply because my clients didn’t understand the term “information architecture”. Incidentally, when I googled “content strategist” back in 2004 (when I first put the title on my card), there wasn’t a single hit.

My story isn’t unique. Many folks came to information architecture from a writing background. Think of “content strategists” as librarians who read and write. Since we understood the content and were often providing it, too, we were the ones who got to create the sitemap.

Just for the record, my very basic description of information architecture is this:

- We gather stuff into convenient categories
- We call stuff by names people will recognize
- We put stuff where people can easily find it.

Remember, this is IA on a high, strategic level. Naturally, when you get down to the tactical nitty-gritty of information architecture, you’d better understand taxonomy development and the other cool stuff they teach at library school. This is also why there are no easily defined borders between the worlds of IA and CS. And if you ask me, who really cares as long as the job gets done properly – and in a way that provides measurable benefits.

Content becomes valuable by virtue of context
Here’s a piece of content:

“Strandøre 15. A ten minute walk north from Svanemøllen Station”.

For 99.99% of the readers of this blogpost, this snippet of content is irrelevant and therefore worthless. But if you were taking public transportation to the FatDUX office in Copenhagen, the content becomes useful and therefore acquires value. If content is king, then context represents the kingdom.

Information architects need to understand content. Content strategists need to understand context. In terms of traditional sitemaps, the boxes have no value without the interconnecting arrows. And the arrows have no meaning if there are no boxes to which to point. And that’s why there is so much gray area in the definition – and why the pedants will spend years fighting over definitions in the years to come.

Form cannot exist without content
There’s a video on YouTube that has achieved cult status. It is of the Russian singer, Eduard Kihl, featured in a 1966 video where he “sings” his hit song, “I Am Glad I'm Finally Going Home”. Actually, in the repressive Soviet Union of 1966, the lyricist apparently was unable to write a suitable poem that would meet with Party approval. So Kihl simply trololo’ed his way through the melody and today we giggle at the results.

My point in mentioning the "Trololo Video" here is that form without content becomes absurd. And now that I've provided some historical context for the video, perhaps you'll see that it is actually more tragic than comic.

The most attractive website cannot survive without meaningful and useful content – content that is arranged in a meaningful and useful way. And somebody needs to do the work - no matter what their official title.

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=2Z4m4lnjxkY&NR=1

FatDUX Ottawa Welcomes Kristina Mausser

21.09.2010 | Author: Jeff Parks
It is with great pride that I announce the addition of Kristina Mausser to the FatDUX Ottawa team!

Kristina is one of Canada's leading Web Content Strategists whose expertise in identifying, positioning, and creating online content and messaging through best practices in web content writing and strategy has earned her accolades from clients and web industry professionals alike.

Her portfolio includes client work for Microsoft Corporation, Sephora, Fusion Brands Inc, the Canadian Air Transport Security Authority, the Government of Jamaica and McGill University. A firm believer in UX centred design, Kristina is an active member of the UX Book Club Ottawa and founder of Canada's first Web Content Strategy Meet-Up.

Kristina has been interviewed on both radio and television in Canada and Jamaica, and has guest lectured on the subjects of Information Management, Writing for the Web, and Web Communications at the University of Maryland in the U.S. and at the University of Technology in Kingston, Jamaica.

A graduate of Wilfrid Laurier University with an Honours Bachelor of Arts in English Language and Literature, Kristina studied advertising, web publishing and e-business at Centennial College's School of Communications, Media and Design in Toronto.

In 2007, Kristina was nominated for Canada's Top 40 Under 40 Award, in recognition of her vision, innovation, and impact within the web industry.

I have had the pleasure of working with Kristina on several projects within the private and pubic sectors here in Canada; she is a brilliant asset to an incredible International team of User Experience professionals!

Wall of Tweets

08.07.2010 | Author: Jeff Parks


Download MP3

I recently had the pleasure of connecting with colleagues in Croatia Vibor Cipan and Darko Čengija about Wall of Tweets.

My first experience with Wall of Tweets was while watching talks at the TEDxMälaren event in June; and I really enjoyed the interaction!

Context is easily lost, and often misunderstood on Twitter. Live tweeting is another popular process, but unless one is sitting in on the presentation it is very difficult to convert the value of the ideas into meaningful actions in only 140 characters.

At the TEDxMälaren event I was able to watch the presentation (from Ottawa, Canada) and connect with others around the world simultaneously.

As TechCrunch recently published:
While current solutions like Twitterfall are free, they don’t look as nice and end up showing some of the tweets late, due to a limit on the API calls from the centralized Twitterfall server. Wall of Tweets is a paid service, so they do guarantee it will work, as well as letting you host it on your own server if you really want to.

As a special promotion, Wall of Tweets is offering all UX, IA and design-related conferences worldwide with free licenses – both online HTML versions and rich, venue-based versions. All you need to do is to send Vibor an email and ask for a free license. You can reach him at vcATfatduxDOTcom

Recent examples of Wall of Tweets:

ted


atd5


ws7

Five myths about user experience

23.06.2010 | Author: Eric Reiss
My two cents...

1. “There is no definition, so we can make up our own.”
No. The definitions are there, although the details may differ. User experience (UX) deals with how people interact with stuff – it represents the sum of their reactions and subjective perceptions. So, don’t go off on your own until you’ve bothered to do a simple search on Google. If nothing else, it will keep you from making a complete fool of yourself by confusing UX with usability.

2. “If the experts disagree, then the discipline isn’t really mature.”
No. Experts disagree in all fields. Doctors argue about the best treatments. So do designers. If you’re looking for a “mature” field, stick to horseback riding, which hasn’t changed much the past couple of hundred years. Instead, consider that most fields are “evolving”. User experience is one of these.

3. “User experience is only about computers and stuff.”
No. User experience is all around us. Eat a freshly picked strawberry. That’s a user experience, too. The problem seems to stem from the word “user”, which turns up in “user-friendly” and other computer-worldly clichés. But until we find a better word, it will have to do.

4. “If it’s on a screen, it must have something to do with IT.”
No. Just because a book is printed on paper, it doesn’t mean Tolstoy was working for the lumber industry. Granted, computers may be involved. But in the online world, UX focuses on what goes on the screen and less on how it got there.

5. “User experience is a subset of [some other discipline]”
No. User experience is the umbrella under which many other highly structured activities take place – from information architecture to service management to graphic design to usability evaluation. If you put UX on equal (or lessor) footing with other disciplines, it’s easy to ignore it in favour of something more tangible – yet the forest continues to exist even if you only focus on the trees. And like a real umbrella, you'll first notice you’ve lost UX when it starts to rain.

Got a myth to add to the list? Post a comment - the floor is yours.

The 10 dos and don’ts of website development

14.12.2009 | Author: Eric Reiss
For about a year now, FatDUX has been sharing the following article with business leaders and potential clients around the world. The feedback has been tremendously positive. We'd now like to share it with you. Happy holidays.

Feel free to use this in your own work. Here's an easy-to-distribute PDF (25 kb):

Download: 10 do's and dont's of web development

The 10 dos and don’ts of website development (that every CEO should know)With the current economic downturn and significant layoffs among sales staff, the web has become more important than ever as a means of communicating with customers/clients/membership. But I have yet to meet a CEO who likes website development. It makes business leaders uncomfortable. The web experts speak in a cryptic language – CMS, KM, XML, CSS. The site seems to take forever to build, costs more than expected, and invariably provides less value than the organization had hoped.

No one likes signing a big check without some idea as to what they’re getting. So if you’re a business leader, here are a few basic, non-technical tips that will significantly increase your chances for online success. And they let you do what you do best – lead.

1. Don’t confuse marketing with communication

Most marketing efforts are concerned with gaining the attention and interest of a particular target audience – often quite aggressively. But on the web, your audience has come to you voluntarily. So, lighten up on the promotional hype. Yes, your site can become an important sales tool, but it should do so in straightforward, conversational language. Don’t let an eager salesrep talk you into blinking banners on every page. Instead, regard your website as part of your service mix first and your marketing mix second. It’s about creating a valuable experience for your site’s visitors, about starting a dialog with your customers (and potential customers). Therefore, make sure your web team represents a good cross section of disciplines in your organization.

Do: View your website as part of your customer-service package.

2. Don’t view your website as a software development projectCreating and maintaining most informational websites is no more a “software project” than publishing your annual report. You write reports using a standard word processing program; you publish to the web using a standard content-management system. There are dozens of superb systems available, and hundreds of excellent add-ons (survey systems, social networks, video channels, wikis, etc.) so don’t let anyone talk you into building one from scratch. That’s also why this activity shouldn’t be handed over to your IT department. Granted, a site with very sophisticated functionality will probably require special programming, but don’t count on your in-house skills as being enough.

Do:  Whenever possible, purchase professional web-publishing software from a single-focus vendor (Important note: Microsoft, IBM, and SAP probably shouldn’t be on your shortlist, despite anything your IT department tells you).

3. Don’t couple unrelated initiatives

Just because one project concerning computers and customers is in the works, you won’t necessarily create synergy by tacking on other initiatives that also involve computers and customers. Customer Relationship Management (CRM) is a frequent sinner. But unless you have a huge budget and sophisticated needs, both your website and your CRM activities will be far more successful (and much cheaper) if you tackle them one at a time. Keep your intranet development out of this, too (although you can probably use the same publishing software used for your website). In other words, don’t let HR take over the project either. And don’t turn your website into a software development project.

Do: Deal with your website – and just your website. Then take care of the other stuff.

4. Don’t be afraid to set measurable goals for your website

Your website can be an active part of your business plan. In fact it should be. Don’t just view it as your extended business card or think that a graphic redesign is going to help you attract new customers/clients/members. Your website should be assigned targets just like every other department in your organization. And don’t just go for easily measurable numbers. Merely increasing the number of visitors is a poor goal. Shortening the sales process is better. Increasing your conversion rates is great. Streamlining logistics is a good goal. Reducing manual intervention in a sales or service process is a good goal, too. And there are dozens of others that have a direct effect on the bottom line – even for companies that don’t run an e-commerce site. So get your web team to tell you which needs they have identified, the goals they have set, and how they intend to achieve them. Since most in-house teams have limited experience in web development, this is one of the key reasons for hiring an outside strategic consultant.

Do: Insist that your website become an integrated part of your company’s business activities.

5. Don’t confuse your needs with those of your visitors

You may want your website to communicate your company’s values, service offerings, products, or something else entirely. But visitors to your site will have their own agendas. Your web team needs to identify these needs and address them with relevant content and functionality. The simple truth is, unless a site fulfills the needs of its visitors, it will never fulfill the needs of the site owner. Give your web team the time and budget to do their homework and actually talk to potential users. Very few companies truly understand how their customers use the internet.

Do: Encourage research. Accept surprises that go against your basic assumptions.

6. Don’t view your website as a fixed-term project

Your website is a process, not a project. Unlike a printed brochure that might have a useful lifetime of a year or so, your site’s content should be reviewed regularly (even daily) so that it remains accurate, interesting, and dynamic. For the most part, maintenance only takes a few minutes a day. But someone has to keep the process going, studying the statistics that tell you who has visited and what they did, and adjusting the content so that it becomes even more compelling. And that means you need to allocate resources to this critical task. Your website needs to be included in your annual budget each and every year.

Do: Once you start the process, make sure to keep it going.

7. Don’t confuse print design with web design

You probably have an ad agency. For them, “concept” means look and feel. But on the web, the “concept” is what your site can do. Your brand consists of how your website “acts” just as your brand is affected by how your employees act. Don’t let an old-school art director force you to sacrifice usability for the sake of a design guide developed for printed communications.

Do: Acknowledge and embrace web best-practices that run counter to your design guide.

8. Don’t let personal opinion cloud your focus

When it comes to websites, everyone has an opinion. But don’t just assign tasks to the people who are most enthusiastic or most vocal. Instead, find people with proven expertise and then do everything you can to help them do their jobs efficiently. And as the project progresses, try not to let your personal taste get in the way either. The only opinions that really matter are those of your website’s visitors – not your friends, family, or the well-meaning wife of the chairman. Ask yourself: “Do I want to get my way or do I want to get rich?”

Do: Seek out proven experts and support their work.

9. Don’t be afraid to ask stupid questions

There are no stupid questions. And no one should make you feel like you’ve asked one. But be prepared to remember the answer – asking someone to walk you through the same subject six times is bound to create friction.

Do: If in doubt, ask. Always.

10. Don’t hide in your office

Your active support for a web project can make the difference between success and failure. Make sure everyone on the team is pulling their weight – particularly those who are responsible for writing and updating online content. Make sure the team leader has access to you when policy questions arise. That said, don’t become a micromanager - hire the best and let them get on with it.

Do: Demonstrate your active support for the project. Keep the whole team inspired.

My thanks to the dozens of CEOs who have critiqued this piece. You've all contributed valuable information. Thanks for sharing with me so I can share with others.