Posts Tagged Usability

And I’m back, fun at UXCamp – Switzerland

123 After taking a hiatus to figure out how to settle down and find a new rhythm in a new country; with a family; another language; and an amazing old (yes, really old.. hundreds of years old), new home, I decided to break back into the world of usability gently, with one of my favorite UX bonding events, a conference. In this case, I visited my first un-conference, or bar camp. This was my first event of the kind, but it will definitely not be my last. This past weekend, I attended the UX Camp, in Zurich.

I have to admit, I initially felt unprepared for the conference. I usually have a list of “must see” sessions prior to arriving. Instead, one of the first interactions I had upon arriving was, “will you present today?” Present? I haven’t prepared anything! What would I talk about? I think I’ll just sit back and watch the first time.

The opening session provided my first look into the types of topics we’d have to choose from. I was relieved, definitely several sessions I wanted to attend. All was well. I made my selection for the first session, a university project regarding the evaluator effect. By the end of the session, I’d decided I wanted to do more than just be an observer, I wanted to join in on the fun. Most sessions seemed to be more technical, so I opted for a topic in team interactions… in other words, how to you convince other members of your team, who are not as exited about UX designs/feedback, that we are there to help?

Immediately after the session, I put in my presentation card and signed up for an afternoon slot. Thus followed one of my more interesting conference experiences. I alternated between soaking in as much as I could about Design Sprints and new tools to download and play with (e.g. Principle – for UI animations),  pretending to be Alexa in a fun Amazon Echo session, and building an outline for an ad-hoc presentation in front of a UX community I was meeting for the first time.

It all worked out. I had so much fun. The presentation was successful. And, I even finished with a surprisingly fun session about writing pitches, interlaced between some of the craziest memes around. The day ended with drinks, great conversation, and a new UX community to call home. Do I really have to wait another year for the next UXCamp Switzerland? I’ll just have to join in on other local UX events. Watch this spot, I’m back!

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St. Louis Innovation Camp

Innovation Camp LogoFor those of you in St. Louis working for a small business and wanting to know more about design, drop by the upcoming St. Louis Innovation Camp. While you’re there, drop by and say hi!

Want to learn more? Check out the list of design speakers or learn more about the event.

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EHR Usability

Dilber Usability Comic

As I’ve mentioned in past blogs, usability is even more important in the development of EHR systems. Dr. Halamka gives an insider view of why usability is so important for the development of EHRs. Its a good read for anyone interested in healthcare and the implementation of EHR systems.

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The Fable of the User Centered Designer

Book Image

I heard about this on Twitter the other day (sorry, I forgot who posted it!). It’s a wonderful little story to help explain some key usability points to teams who have a little time and want to learn more about what we do.


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Issues with Skype’s Firefox add-on, slows down Firefox (and, thus, Protoshare)

Just as a quick heads up to all of you out there, I was working in Protoshare and it was running painfully slow. It turns out that Skype’s Firefox add-on can slow down Firefox tremendously. By uninstalling the add-on, everything came back up to regular speed and Protoshare was working beautifully again!

So, if any of you are having Protoshare speed issues ( or Firefox browser issues) and also have Skype installed, check out your versions and try uninstalling (or, at least, disabling) the add-on.

Some other people were having the same issue:

The versions I’m using…

Firefox: 3.5.3


Good luck and happy prototyping!

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World Usability Day – St. Louis, Activities


For those of you in the St. Louis area, come to the Science Center on November 7th to see our World Usability Day (WUD) exhibits. This year’s topic is Sustainability. Our confirmed activities include:

Interacting with the Metrolink Touchscreen System
Toilet Designs – Comparison of dual flush and other, more complex functionality
Thermostats – How easy are they to program?
Sustainability Websites – User Testing
Recycle Rally – How fast can a pile of recycling be sorted? What would make it easier to sort?
Mobile Devices – How do websites look on different mobile devices?
Animal Rescue/Recycling/Reuse – “Recycling” dogs into new homes
I hope to see you there!!

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Helping Remote Teams Visualize User Data

EarthHow do you communicate user data with teams that are not co-located?  This can be a common problem with larger companies. If you’re able to, you can travel to their location and run usability interviews with them as guests. If you’re lucky, you’ll have a team that will actually read your notes from individual interviews (yes, I have actually had teams read notes from EVERY participant – amazing! While this can mean a lot of time typing, it works well with some people. Just make sure they read more than one participant, so they do focus too much on one person’s needs/issues.).

I attended a UPA conference a few years ago. One of the more memorable presentations  (Usability Analysis Visualization to Improve Communication and Build Trust by Rally Pagulayan, Oracle) included a method of sharing data with teams: affinity diagrams. The method was labor intensive, but effective. Each piece of data was put on an individual post it note. Then, the notes were organized hierarchically on a wall in their lab. Any duplicate data grew into larger stacks. When other team members would come into the lab to see how the sessions were going, they could immediately see all of the important points. Also, for those team members that normally ignored feedback from the usability team (yes, you know they’re out there!), they were able to see all the data and had less inclination to argue.

I thought this method was interesting, but I tended to work with remote teams at the time. So, I came up with a similar method. Instead of using post it notes, I created PowerPoint and Visio presentations. Each page contained a grouping of data. The first page would contain information about the user group (age, computer experience, occupation, location, etc.). Other pages would cover a theme of user data (e.g. a specific portion of the website or task completed). Then, I would organize the data hierarchically. I wanted to convey the large amount of user data for certain points and make sure interesting, if not regularly brought up, data was easily found. I also wanted to put down some thoughts I had while looking at the data and watching sessions. A piece of sample data can be seen here:


I used a few visual differentiators:

  • Thick borders are used to point out repetitive data.
  • Dotted lines are used for comments from the UX tester.
  • Red borders are used for issues on the site, again using the thickness to illustrate highly repetitive issues. Other methods of differentiation may be needed if you work with someone who is color blind.
  • Participant numbers for each comment is listed to follow specific user needs. If one of the users was a manager and all other users are worker-bees, their approach to the website can be very different. Being able to track comments from both user types can be useful.

While I know this method requires a lot of work, it can be really useful for a couple situations. First of all, if you are new to a team and the team is unsure where you get your suggestions/designs from, creating these documents will help them see the huge quantity of data obtained via user sessions. They can also easily see where the repetitive data is. The data can be used for talking points to explain the design. After a while, hopefully you can earn the trust of the team and will no longer need to use these diagrams. Another time the diagrams can be handy is when you have an issue that is a “hot topic” for various members of the team. You can create a mini diagram for the area of interest. Seeing user data that is specific to the issue can help with discussions, although there are always people who will not change their minds, even with the data!

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