The User Experience Blog
Dialogue around issues and ideas that impact user experience

Friends and Enemies of a Customer-Centered Culture

I have had the opportunity to observe and operate within many corporate cultures. These days, every organization knows they’re supposed to be customer-centric. I hear companies say it all the time, but what does it really take? How do you know

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if you really have it?

Read the rest of this entry »

Fred’s 10 Rules for Working With Axure

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p>I’ve been working with Axure for seven years now, and I’ve

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learned a thing or two about working with it efficiently. What follows are 10 rules that will help you build your Axure prototypes efficiently too.

Read the rest of this entry »

Evantage at the eMetrics Marketing Optimization Summit

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Next week the eMetrics Marketing Optimization Summit begins in San Francisco, and once again someone from Evantage will be presenting. And, as it

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United Airlines and the Terrible, Horrible, No Good, Very Bad Experience

Last night my mom needed to buy a ticket for my 17-year-old brother to fly from Minneapolis back to San Francisco where they live. I was on the phone with her twice, walking her through the United Airlines website for over 20 minutes each time.

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This is unacceptable. My mother, who is 55, isn’t very computer savvy but she does own a computer with an Internet connection, has taken programming classes, has done online dating, and has even managed to book

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Requirements-Driven Software Development Must Die

The process by which most enterprise software is developed is fatally flawed. There are flaws in any software development process, but in the past 13 years I’ve seen one approach produce more bad software and blow more budgets than any other: r

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equirements-driven software development. Thankfully, I’ve also had the opportunity to see the success of an alternative type of process, a process in which user experience design drives what gets developed. This type of process helps teams deliver good software on time and within their budgets.

Read the rest of this entry »

A Hole Is to Dig: Google+ Is Cool, But How to Fill It?

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few weeks since Google rolled out Google+, its latest attempt at social media, to a significant number of users. If estimates are to be believed, there are now well over 10 million interaction designers using it right now, “just to

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see where this all goes.”

My view of Google+ is admittedly colored by the crowd I’ve fallen in with, but the impression is hard for me to shake. Most of the conversations in my stream are still about Google+ itself. The consensus opinion, which I share, seems to be that Google has created something pretty exciting, and that people can’t wait to see how it will be used. One friend exclaimed, “I had somewhat figured my pattern of sharing on FB and on Twitter, and now I’m staring at this Google+ ‘Share what’s new…’ box thinking, this doesn’t fit into my content strategy yet!”

These “what is essay service it” reactions remind me of the reaction to Google Wave, but with a difference. Wave was complex and offered a capability that most people didn’t need on a daily basis, whereas Google+ is instantly recognizable as something similar to the social networks used by millions of people every day. It has status updates, and connections, and profiles. The obvious comparisons to Facebook and Twitter, however, gloss over the fact that Google+ is more complex. Social networks are generally designed to be used in specific ways—ways that reinforce or emulate offline relationships—and there are clues within their designs that suggest what that use is. Google+ lacks these clues, however, which makes it interesting, powerful, and confusing all at once. Read the rest of this entry »

Accountable Care Organizations and Patient Engagement

Evantage has been working in the healthcare realm for over 12 years now in a variety of projects. For the past 2 years, we have been working with a large hospital system to redesign the way they care for patients with chron

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ic conditions. We’ve helped them establish and implement standard care guidelines for all providers and staff to proactively monitor and manage people with conditions like asthma, diabetes, heart failure, kidney disease, heart disease and hypertension (high blood pressure). This is a big change for providers, who today generally treat these patients only when they have complications or their condition worsens. Read the rest of this entry »

How Usability Testing Adds Value to Accessibility Evaluations

Whenever I am presented with steps on how to conduct an accessibility evaluation, user testing with real users is always listed as a step. What I rarely see is information on why testing is so important, what the benefits from testing real users are, and what you get by testing with real users that you can’t get by using accessibility tools

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or testing with your own screen reader.
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The Most Dangerous Game

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p>This month marked another milestone in game show history. On February 14-16, Jeopardy! champions Ken Jennings and Brad Rutter defended their trivial supremacy against Watson, a computer program created by IBM. Drawing on vast stores of

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information and a complex algorithm for selecting the most probable answer, Watson all but ran the board on its way to a $1 million prize for IBM, which the company pledged to donate to charity. Yet the hype around Watson’s victory obscured a more important contest—that between humans and our ability to understand our own technology—and we’re not doing so well in that one, either. Read the rest of this entry »

How to Work with an Agency to Recruit Participants for User Studies

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As Lori discussed in the post Recruiting Agency + User Testing = Nirvana, Evantage typically uses a recruiting agency to recruit participan

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ts for user studies. Recruiting agencies can be invaluable when identifying and scheduling participants for studies, but I have learned that is important to work closely with them to ensure the participants who are recruited are the ones that everyone intended they be. Likewise,

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it is important to find a firm that you have confidence in and that has the ability to find the participants you need. Based on my experience of working with recruiting agencies, I have put together a list of tips that you may find useful when working with agencies.
Read the rest of this entry »

UI Guidelines for Skeuomorphic Multi-Touch Interfaces

Gestural, multi-touch user interfaces have made using a computer interesting again. This is good and bad. But two big names in usability, Jakob Nielsen and Don Norman, are concerned that it’s canadian pharmacy cialis

_a_step_backwards_in_usability_6.html”>more bad than good

. I am concerned that their response to the situation, a call for new guidelines, is a reactionary backlash that could hinder innovation and beauty in interaction design.

After scoffing at the idea at first, I sat down to think about whether it was possible to develop guidelines that are open enough to allow for innovation, playfulness, and beauty but strong enough to keep usability high. I think it might be, and these are my first thoughts about it. What follows is a series of conversation-starters, potential guidelines that need to be tested and vetted before they can be solid. For now, the discussion will be limited to skeuomorphic interfaces, but additional guidelines are necessary for multi-touch UI in general and novel UIs specifically.

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The Key to the Hover Craft: An Axure Expedition

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Hover interactions are everywhere. Netflix shows you movie details when you point at the DVD image. Google’s image search results shows you a magnified thumbnail, filename, and dimensions. Yahoo! News displays the first sentence of a news article

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when you point at a headline.

Hover overlays can add a lot of value when used judiciously, but they have their pitfalls. One factor that can make or break a hover is timing. If you’ve ever tried to read a page containing contextual advertising pop-ups, you’ve probably been irritated by how hard it is to avoid them—they’re on a hair trigger. A short delay between the time the user

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points at the trigger object and the appearance of the extra information helps avoid accidental triggering and ensuing rage.

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Personal Health Records Meet Limited Needs of People with Chronic Conditions – Research Study

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Personal Health Record (PHR) usage remains low, despite conventional wisdom that it could improve the health outcomes of pa

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tients with chronic conditions. Evantage Consulting created an internal project to understand the factors that are contributing to the low use of PHRs and evaluate if a caregivers involvement could help drive its use and improve the health outcomes of people with chronic conditions.

Based on the qualitative study conducted with 20 chronically ill patients and/or their caregivers, we found that the caregiver’s involvement in managing a patient’s PHR could drive its use. However the current PHRs meet limited needs of patients with chronic conditions. To drive PHR use and improve health outcomes, patients and caregivers need simpler and more effective PHRs that can fit in their everyday life. The study was conducted in the months of August-September, 2010. All the people interviewed were using one of the available PHRs (Google Health, Microsoft health Vault,

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a provider-sponsored PHR, or payer-sponsored PHR).

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Axure Training: Coming to a City Near Us!

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Since we started planning a public Axure training , I have been thinking about what I was going to say in this blog post and when I would get

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to tell you all. Is it strange to get this excited about training Axure? Not really, at least for Evantage folks.

Ever since Fred Beecher started to extol the virtues of Axure in 2005 (well, mostly since we started listening to what he was saying,

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some time in 2007), we have loved how easy it is to create interactive prototypes using this tool.

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Axure helps us easily communicate a design to clients, it makes usability testing more realistic, and it allows us to include our requirements in the prototype for business analysts and developers. Then Fred went

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and developed a half-day workshop for the 2007 IA Summit. It sold out, and the folks at Axure asked him to start traveling the country, training companies to use this awesome tool. That’s worked out so well that Fred brought me—and now we’re bringing Jeff Harrison—into the training fold.

Alongside the regular project work we do, we love sharing what we learn. Often, our students have some great idea that earns them a high five during class and an update to our training materials.

So, if you want to learn more about Axure, join Jeff and me on Wednesday, November 3, for the Basic Axure Training and Thursday, November 4, for the Advanced Prototyping class at Aloft in Minneapolis, MN. Each class is $600, but taking both will give you a 20% discount off the total cost. Bring an Axure project you’re working on, or a project you think

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Does your website legally need to be accessible?

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The other day I was asked the question

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“To what level does any website legally need to be made accessible?”

    “The influence of web accessibility on business and industry is more significant when the demands of a client, or potential client, like the US federal government, must be met.” (WebAim.org)

The law that exists today says that if you are the federal government or supply electronic and information technology goods and services to the federal government, then yes, you must comply with Section 508 of the Rehabilitation Act (Section 508 Standards). This law requires “Federal agencies to make their electronic and information technology (EIT) accessible to people with disabilities.” (section508.gov)

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Tips for Women Submitting to Conferences

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Evantage Consulting is about 75% female. I know a lot of women personally who work in technology, and yet I still see that the majority of the “experts” in our field are male. Of all the technology conferences I have attended, there have always

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been more men than women attendees and presenters. I’m not entirely sure why this is. There are two sides to this debate: whether women submit for conferences or whether conferences don’t do a good enough job of recruiting women to speak. I recently attending a one day conference for women in technology, and it was interesting what bubbled up to the surface on why women don’t submit or why women submissions aren’t selected. Read the rest of this entry »

Online Personal Health Records (PHRs): Could caregiver involvement drive PHR use for people with chronic conditions?

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Personal Health Records, or PHRs, are health records that are initiated and maintained by a patient. Government incentives to promote adoption and “meaningful use” of EHRs (Electronic Health Records) by physicians has also raised the healthcare community’s interest in online PHRs such as Google Health and Microsoft Vault. A recent California Healthcare Foundation survey revealed that PHRs can empower some people to take better care of themselves, especially people with chronic conditions. However, the growth of PHR use remains low even for this high-potential segment.

Evantage believes that a key component

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of this issue is the involvement of caregivers in a patient’s PHR. To dig deeper, we are conducting primary research with patients and their caregivers. We want to learn how to improve the design of PHRs to incorporate the needs of patients who have caregivers. We want to learn whether a better designed PHR could empower patients and their caregivers to use it more and experience improved health outcomes as a result.
Read the rest of this entry »

A Detailed Look at HTML5 for UX Designers

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Lately, I’ve been preaching about how it’s important for UX designers to understand the technology our designs will be implemented in. I’m going to try to put this gospel into practice by unpacking for you the hidden treasures that HTML5 offers UX designers. HTML5 is a big deal. Maybe the biggest deal in Web technology since JavaScript. (I’m still in denial about Flash.) HTML5 is going to make it easy for developers to make websites with desktop application interactivity, performance, and functionality, which is going to open up vast horizons of possibility for UX designers.

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Insecure Footing: How Bad Usability Endangers Internet Users

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How do you communicate danger to people who don’t speak your language? How do you not only alert them, but give them enough information to act even though you will never meet face-to-face? These questions were behind an effort to design a warning for the proposed nuclear waste storage facility inside Nevada’s Yucca Mountain, and they’re similar to the ones you face when trying to design for user security online.

In 2003, the Desert Space Foundation, a Nevada arts organization, hosted an exhibition that showcased novel ideas for a warning sign that would retain both its meaning and its structural integrity for the 10,000 years that Yucca Mountain was projected to pose a hazard. The difficulty of the task manifested itself in the variety of entries. Several artists assumed that familiar symbols like the yellow and black radiation icon would carry the scent of danger across the divide, but not everyone agreed, according to a Los Angeles Times article at the time.

The risk of radiation burns is lower for Internet users (especially with modern LCD monitors), but being online can be dangerous all the same. The recipients of the communication are separated not by time but by their lack of technical expertise. However, the complexity of the threat and the jargon used to describe it is at least as opaque to many people as ancient pictograms can be to us.
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Mobile Prototyping Tools (Part 1 of 2) – Axure

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In the recent past, I have been tasked with designing mobile applications for iPhone. Axure is the prototyping tool we use at Evantage and it has served me well in terms of creating prototypes for mobile applications and demonstrating them on a l

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However, I have had trouble viewing the prototypes on an iPhone. The screen size shrinks on the iPhone making it difficult to read the content on the screen. In the near future we expect to use these prototypes to gather feedback from users and design applications for other devices (Android, Blackberry, iPad, etc). To ensure that we have the tools at Evantage to meet the demand, I spent some time looking at the workarounds with Axure and pros and cons of other mobile prototyping tools designed for the UX community.
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