Userfocus Usability Newsletter, December 2011

Welcome to the December edition of the Userfocus usability newsletter.

Message from the Editor

I'm currently working on a multi-country study for one of our clients. It's turned up a familiar set of results: behaviour is pretty much consistent with technology whether you study people in London, Lagos or Ljubljana. But there are always interesting cultural differences that crop up.

It reminded me of a year I spent living in Manhattan. As I was there over December, I wanted to recreate a traditional British Christmas lunch which, as any Brit will tell you, requires Christmas crackers. This is New York, remember, where I was told you can get anything you want — except, as it turned out, Christmas crackers.

"So let me get this right," one store assistant said. "A Christmas cracker is an oversized sweet wrapper that you and your friend pull, like a wishbone. Then out pops a silly hat along with a crappy plastic toy that nobody wants and a slip of paper containing a joke that nobody laughs at."

"That's it!" I said.

"No, that's certainly not something that we stock here," came the frosty reply.

I learnt two important lessons from this. First, people are different. That's why designing for yourself is rarely a good strategy.

And second, I learnt you can make an authentic Christmas cracker by taking a cardboard tube from a loo roll and covering it in giftwrap.

Talking of prototypes, I'm sure you'll enjoy this month's article by Ritch Macefield with ideas on how to prototype faster.

I hope you have a peaceful Christmas and a successful 2012.

David Travis

Feature article: 4 ways to prototype faster

“Lean UX” is the new black. We can summarise the philosophy behind it by saying: If a picture is worth a 1000 words, then a prototype is worth a 1000 pictures (with apologies to Ben Shneiderman). But given that we are increasingly working in environments where we need to deliver more with less, how can we speed up the process of prototyping? Read the article in full: 4 ways to prototype faster.

What we're reading

Some interesting usability-related articles that got our attention over the last month:

Like these? Want more? Follow us on Twitter.

What were the most popular articles on our web site in 2011?

We used Google Analytics to identify the 5 most popular articles we published over the last year. If you missed these at the time, now's your chance to give them a try.

  • A CRAP way to improve usability. Amazingly, this article from August has now been viewed by over 30,000 people. It describes four key principles of visual design that can create more usable interfaces. These principles are Contrast, Repetition, Alignment and Proximity.
  • Do you make these 4 mistakes when carrying out a usability review? Published in September, this article reveals four common mistakes made by novice reviewers: failing to take the user's perspective; using only a single reviewer, rather than collating the results from a team; using a generic set of usability principles rather than technology-specific guidelines; and lacking the experience to judge which problems are important.
  • 4 forgotten principles of usability testing. In this article from March, we argue that many usability tests are worthless. Researchers recruit the wrong kind of participants, test the wrong kind of tasks, put too much weight on people's opinions, and expect participants to generate design solutions.
  • Five kinds of 'alt' text. In February we described the 5 different classes of image used on web pages, each of which requires a different approach to writing the 'alt' attribute. The 5 different classes are: eye candy; clip art and stock images; images that express a concept; functional images; and graphs, complex diagrams and screenshots.
  • Why you need a user experience vision (and how to create and publicise it). This was our first article of 2011 and it describes how to use the 'Design the Box' activity to develop a user experience vision, and then describes three ways of publicising the vision: telling a short story; drawing a cartoon showing the experience; and creating a video to illustrate the future.

Like these? Want more? See all 81 of our articles on user experience.

Usability Training: Now Booking

Design Thinking, December 19, London.

In this new course, you'll learn ways of generating many different design solutions to user experience problems. Now fully booked.

Web Usability: Designing the user experience, January 23-24, London.

A fast-paced, 2-day immersion seminar that shows delegates how to boost sales and conversion rates, increase usage and improve customer satisfaction. More information about this training course: Web Usability: Designing the user experience.

Axure Essentials, February 20, London.

This training is designed for people who are starting out with Axure RP Pro and who want to take their first steps in creating prototypes. More information about this training course: Axure Essentials.

User Experience quotation of the month

“It took me a few seconds to draw it, but it took me 34 years to learn how to draw it in a few seconds.” — Paula Scher.

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