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Topic: Usability

Creative problem solving. Designing for your audience. Designing for contingencies. Designing feedback loops. Conducting meaningful user testing—even on the cheap. A primer on A/B testing. Testing accordion forms. Good "Help" content is hard to find. Quick and dirty remote user testing. Web standards for e-books.

  • Kids 4–6: “The Muddy Middle”

    by Debra Levin Gelman · Issue 398 ·

    Full of knowledge and creativity but not yet quite able to read, kids from ages 4 to 6 occupy a “muddy middle” for designers—they’re too old for toddler games, but too young for most apps and games made for “big kids.” Learn how to understand this group in this excerpt from Deb Gelman’s book, Design for Kids, out now from Rosenfeld Media.

  • Designing for Easy Interaction

    by Sarah Horton, Whitney Quesenbery · Issue 389 ·

    Whether you contribute to the user experience, development, or strategy of your website, you have a business, ethical, and (in many cases) legal responsibility to make your site accessible. And an equally compelling duty to your stakeholders, creativity, and career to achieve accessibility without sacrificing one whit of design or innovation. So what’s a site and application maker to do? For starters, read this book! We are thrilled to present an exclusive excerpt from Chapter 5 of A Web for Everyone: Designing Accessible User Experiences by Sarah Horton and Whitney Quesenbery, available now from Rosenfeld Media—and with a 20 percent discount for ALA readers, even.

  • Flat UI and Forms

    by Jessica Enders · Issue 384 ·

    Though some decry flat user interfaces as pure fashion, or as the obvious response to skeuomorphic trends, many designers have embraced the flat approach because the reduction in visual styling (such as gradients, drop shadows, and borders) creates interfaces that feel simpler and cleaner. Trouble is, most flat UIs are built with a focus on the provision of content, with transactional components (i.e., forms) receiving very little attention. So what happens when flat UIs and forms collide? User experiences can, and often do, suffer. Keep your flat forms from failing by using controlled redundancy to communicate difference.

  • Seeing the Elephant: Defragmenting User Research

    by Lou Rosenfeld · Issue 381 ·

    Silos: good for grain, awful for understanding customer behavior. Just as we favor the research tools that we find familiar and comfortable, large organizations often use research methods that reflect their own internal selection biases. As a result, they miss out on detecting (and confirming) interesting patterns that emerge concurrently from different research silos. And they likely won’t learn something new and important. IA thought leader Lou Rosenfeld explains how balance, cadence, conversation, and perspective provide a framework enabling your research teams to think across silos and achieve powerful insights even senior leadership can understand.

  • Shades of Discoverability

    by Cennydd Bowles ·

    Many modern digital products enable complex, emergent behavior, not just pure task completion. We’re building habitats, not just tools; yet we often think of discoverability only in terms of task execution.

  • Douglas Engelbart and the Means to an End

    by Karen McGrane ·

    ENIAC, the world’s first programmable digital computer, was completed in 1944. Today, more people have access to mobile phones than have access to toilets. There are more mobile internet users in the developing world than in the developed world. It took just seventy years to get from a device the size of a two-story building to a device that fits in your pocket.

  • Designing for Services Beyond the Screen

    by Andy Polaine · Issue 377 ·

    You redesign the website for an airline, but who is designing the check-in machines, the CRM systems used by call center staff, the print materials, or the policies the cabin crew must adhere to? Like it or not, these channels are part of the overall user experience. Your website or mobile app might be great on its own, but customers experience services in totality, and base their judgments on how well everything works together. Learn to design beyond the screen. By creating visual and tangible artifacts that can be experienced and tested, you can build a bridge between business and design.

  • Your Website has Two Faces

    by Lyle Mullican · Issue 369 ·

    Your website must serve human and robot masters. An interface that reflects too much of a system’s internals will confuse human users; but if data doesn’t conform to a specific structure, it’s likely to confuse the machines that need to use it. How can your designs serve these very different masters? Jon Postel's Robustness Principle, although usually applied to low-level protocols like TCP, offers a clue to designing experiences that meet human and machine needs with equal grace. Lyle Mullican explains.

  • Translation is UX

    by Antoine Lefeuvre · Issue 366 ·

    We—the people who make websites—now study almost every aspect of our trade, from content and usability to art direction and typography. Our attention to detail has never been greater as we strive to provide the best possible experience. Yet many users still experience products that lack personality or are difficult to understand. They are users of a translated version. While good localization boosts conversion rates, bad or partial translation may ruin a user experience, giving people an uneasy feeling about the whole company. If we care equally about all our users, it’s time we start thinking of translation as something slightly more complex than a word-to-word job. Antoine Lefeuvre shares why translation matters, and what it takes to get it right.

  • Beyond Usability Testing

    by Devan Goldstein · Issue 357 ·

    To be sure we're designing the right experience for the right audience, there's no substitute for research conducted with actual users. Like any research method, though, usability testing has its drawbacks. Most importantly, it isn't cheap. Fortunately, there are other usability research methods at our disposal. The standouts, expert review and heuristic evaluation, are easy to add to a design and development process almost regardless of budget or resource concerns. Explore these techniques, learn their advantages and disadvantages, and get the low-down on how to include them in your projects.

  • Audiences, Outcomes, and Determining User Needs

    by Corey Vilhauer · Issue 345 ·

    Every website needs an audience. And every audience needs a goal. Advocating for end-user needs is the very foundation of the user experience disciplines. We make websites for real people. Those real people are able to do real things. But how do we get to really know our audience and find out what these mystery users really want from our sites and applications? Learn to ensure that every piece of content on your site relates back to a specific, desired outcome , one that achieves business goals by serving the end user. Corey Vilhauer explains the threads that bind UX research to content strategy and project deliverables that deliver.

  • Dark Patterns: Deception vs. Honesty in UI Design

    by Harry Brignull · Issue 338 ·

    Deception is entwined with life on this planet. Insects deceive, animals deceive, and of course, we human beings use deception to manipulate, control, and profit from each other. It’s no surprise, then, that deception appears in web user interfaces; what is surprising is how little we talk about it. All the guidelines, principles, and methods ethical designers employ to design usable websites can be subverted to benefit business owners at the expense of users. Study the dark side so you can take a stand against unethical web design practices and banish them from your work.

  • A Primer on A/B Testing

    by Lara Swanson · Issue 333 ·

    Data is an invaluable tool for web designers who are making decisions about the user experience. A/B tests, or split tests, are one of the easiest ways to measure the effect of different design, content, or functionality, helping you create high-performing user experience elements that you can implement across your site. But it’s important to make sure you reach statistically significant results and avoid red herrings. Lara Swanson shows us how to do that.

  • Designing Web Registration Processes for Kids

    by Debra Levin Gelman · Issue 323 ·

    Designing websites for kids is a fascinating, challenging, rewarding, and exasperating experience: You’re trying to create a digital experience for people who lack the cognitive capacity to understand abstraction; to establish brand loyalty with people who are influenced almost exclusively by their peers; and to communicate subjective value propositions to people who can only see things in black-and-white. Fortunately, it’s possible to create a successful registration process for these folks with an understanding of how their brains work. Debra Levin Gelman explores how to design effective registration forms for kids based on their context, technical skills, and cognitive capabilities.

  • Testing Accordion Forms

    by Luke Wroblewski · Issue 314 ·

    Web forms let people complete important tasks on your site; web form design details can have a big impact on how successful, efficient, and happy with the process they are—especially details like form length. Enter accordion forms, which dynamically hide and reveal sections of related questions as people complete the form, allowing them to focus on what matters and finish quickly. How do your smallest design decisions affect completion speed? Which design choices make these innovative forms feel familiar and easy? Which choices make them feel foreign and complex, leading people to make errors?

  • Good Help is Hard to Find

    by Lyle Mullican · Issue 312 ·

    Help content gets no respect. For one thing, it is content, and our horse-before-cart industry is only now beginning to seriously tackle content strategy. For another, we assume that our site is so usable, nobody will ever need the help content anyway. Typically, no one is in charge of the help content and no strategy exists to keep it up to date. On most sites, help content is hard to find, poorly written, blames the user, and turns a mildly frustrating experience into a lousy one. It's time to rethink how we approach this part of our site. Done well, help content offers tremendous potential to earn customer loyalty. By learning to plan for and create useful help content, we can turn frustrated users into our company's biggest fans.

  • Quick and Dirty Remote User Testing

    by Nate Bolt · Issue 306 ·

    User research doesn’t have to be expensive and time-consuming. With online applications, you can test your designs, wireframes, and prototypes over the phone and your computer with ease and aplomb. Nate Bolt shows the way.

  • Design Patterns: Faceted Navigation

    by Jeffery Callender, Peter Morville · Issue 304 ·

    Faceted navigation may be the most significant search innovation of the past decade. It features an integrated, incremental search and browse experience that lets users begin with a classic keyword search and then scan a list of results. It also serves up a custom map that provides insights into the content and its organization and offers a variety of useful next steps. In keeping with the principles of progressive disclosure and incremental construction, it lets users formulate the equivalent of a sophisticated Boolean query by taking a series of small, simple steps. Learn how it works, why it has become ubiquitous in e-commerce, and why it’s not for every site.

  • Web Standards for E-books

    by Joe Clark · Issue 302 ·

    E-books aren't going to replace books. E-books are books, merely with a different form. More and more often, that form is ePub, a format powered by standard XHTML. As such, ePub can benefit from our nearly ten years’ experience building standards-compliant websites. That's great news for publishers and standards-aware web designers. Great news for readers, too. Our favorite genius, Joe Clark, explains the simple why and how.

  • Accent Folding for Auto-Complete

    by Carlos Bueno · Issue 301 ·

    Another generation of technology has passed and Unicode support is almost everywhere. The next step is to write software that is not just "internationalized" but truly multilingual. In this article we will skip through a bit of history and theory, then illustrate a neat hack called accent-folding. Accent-folding has its limitations but it can help make some important yet overlooked user interactions work better.

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