A List Apart

Menu

Topic: Usability

  • Shades of Discoverability

    ·

    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

    ·

    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

    ·

    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

    ·

    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

    ·

    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

    ·

    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

    ·

    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

    ·

    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

    ·

    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

    ·

    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

    ·

    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

    ·

    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

    ·

    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

    ·

    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

    ·

    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

    ·

    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.

  • The Problem with Passwords

    ·

    Abandoning password masking as Jakob Nielsen suggests could present serious problems, including undermining a user’s trust by failing to meet a basic expectation. But with design patterns gleaned from offline applications, plus a dash of JavaScript, we can provide feedback and reduce password errors without compromising the basic user experience or losing our visitors’ trust.

  • You Can Get There From Here: Websites for Learners

    ·

    “Content-rich” is not enough. Most websites are not learner-friendly. As an industry, we haven’t done our best to make our content-rich websites suitable for learning and exploration. Learners require more from us than keywords and killer headlines. They need an environment that is narrative, interactive, and discoverable. Amber Simmons tells how to begin creating rich content sites that invite and repay exploration and discovery.

  • Can You Say That in English? Explaining UX Research to Clients

    ·

    It’s hard for clients to understand the true value of user experience research. As much as you’d like to tell your clients to go read The Elements of User Experience and call you back when they’re done, that won’t cut it in a professional services environment.  David Sherwin creates a cheat sheet to help you pitch UX research using plain, client-friendly language that focuses on the business value of each exercise.

  • The Myth of Usability Testing

    ·

    Usability evaluations are good for many things, but determining a team’s priorities is not one of them. The Molich experiment proves a single usability team can’t discover all or even most major problems on a site. But usability testing does have value as a shock treatment, trust builder, and part of a triangulation process. Test for the right reasons and achieve a positive outcome.