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Using the Characteristics & Principles of UX

So a couple of years ago I made this diagram/poster thing because, well, apparently that’s what I do. I liked it enough to present it at the IA Summit, I even created a separate blog for the idea, but I could never really find a real-world project to apply it to.

Well, I found one. We’re starting a large “blue sky” design project at work and we’re in need of some UX principles – so I thought i’d dust the Characteristics & Principles of UX off, rework the diagram slightly to include everything on one page and see if it works “in the wild”.

I’ll let you know how it goes.

The Characteristics & Principles of UX (8MB PDF because of screenshots)


Unfriendly’s, or: How to offend all 5 senses

I went on a date on Sunday, and not with my wife.

I took our 3 1/2 year old daughter for dinner at a local Friendly’s restaurant that I hadn’t eaten at for a couple of years. Either my memory is failing, or this particular Friendly’s has gone seriously downhill. They tried very hard to turn what should have been a pleasant 45 minutes with my wonderful daughter into a 1 1/2 hour assault on the senses.

Hearing: While I appreciated the Christmas music, I did not appreciate the mildly offensive language some of the staff were using in their (many) casual conversations with one another.

Sight: The restaurant was dirty and run-down. Many of the staff were unkempt.

Touch: The sticky table and booth seating had clearly not been wiped thoroughly.

Smell: The section of the restaurant we were in actually had a faint smell of urine!

Taste: The entree I had (soup and sandwich) actually wasn’t bad (for Friendly’s), however, the soda was bordering on flat and the ice cream sundae was obviously thrown together – all of the ice cream on the bottom and all of the brownie on top.

And as a bonus …

Time: The waitress was awful. We waited 25 minutes before ordering, she didn’t stop at all to see if we were okay or needed more drinks, we even had to order our sundaes from another waitress because she went AWOL for so long.

In my opinion, Friendly’s need to do some more quality control and think a little more about their customer experience.

The only redeeming factor of this particular Friendly’s was that my adorable daughter was in it.

Update (12/27/2011): Kudos to Friendly’s for seeing my tweet & blog post and for following up. Today I received a $10 Friendly’s gift card in the mail, should I return to the Pottstown Friendly’s to give them a follow-up report?

Qwikster: What we’ve got here is a failure to communicate

If Netflix had given as much thought to their change management & communication strategy as they (historically) did to their overall user experience they could have been successful in their Qwikster spin-off.

I say that as someone who has spent the last 9 months focusing on designing change management experiences. It’s been an eye-opening adventure! Typically i’ve been focused on designing enduring experiences, mainly websites, for people to use from now to the end of time. Focusing instead on transient experiences intended to help people overcome changes to something they use a lot, know and love brings different challenges. I’ve spent a lot of time combining traditional UX tools (personas, content inventories, task analysis, etc.) with newer techniques like KANO analysis to …

  1. Build a catalog of the changes.
  2. Understand how each change will be perceived by each persona.
  3. Position how we would like each change to be perceived.
  4. Design a cross-channel experience to communicate the changes (before, during and after they happen).
However, all this takes a lot of thought. If Netflix had gone through a process like this I think they could have achieved their goals without upsetting as many people and without ultimately having to back down.

Is Netflix intentionally culling it’s DVD customers?

“Screw you, i’m going to cancel my DVD subscription and just have streaming!”

“You idiots, i’m going to cancel my subscription altogether!”

These are the types of comments streaming in from Netflix subscribers all over the country because of the latest price changes and the divorce of streaming from the DVD service. Everyone with a blog or twitter account is pointing out that Netflix is going to lose customers hand over fist.

But wait – perhaps that’s exactly what Netflix wants.

What if they’ve figured out that the cost of running the “DVDs by mail” business is too high and they cannot continue to support it? What if they’ve figured out that they have to change the company to a streaming-only model? What if they’ve figured out that they have to do it quickly to survive? What if they would rather have 15 million streaming-only customers than 25 million streaming-and-DVD ones?

Please understand, i’m not advocating the way they structured or communicated the changes, i’m just pointing out that Netflix is a public company that has to do what’s best for its investors. If they said “we have to do this or go out of business in 5 years”, would it be any more palatable for their customers? Sometimes radical problems need radical solutions – perhaps this is one of them?

[disclaimer – I am not a Netflix customer, so i’m not feeling the anger and resentment that everyone else is!]

Full-day workshop on Quantitatively Measuring UX for just $20?

Do you know someone in the Philadelphia area who would be interested in attending a full-day workshop on the Quantitative Measurement of UX for just $20? All they have to do is be willing to be the first group to take the workshop and give me honest and candid feedback.

I’m hosting the event for a limited number of attendees in Philadelphia on Friday, October 21st, 9am – 5pm,

If you know someone who might be interested, please let them know – thanks!

Why Robert Hoekman, Jr’s reaction vindicates Whitney Hess

I’ll keep this short.

Robert, in his post “That’s enough, Whitney Hess” [now removed from his blog], challenges Whitney’s right to be considered a leader in the UX community. I think Robert is missing something though – the major focus of most of Whitney’s speaking engagements (in my opinion) – is that anyone can have a voice. She’s been very open about the fact that she was unknown in 2008 and yet now regularly speaks and keynotes. That’s very inspiring to many, many UX professionals.

I consider it a mark of her success that members of the “UX establishment” – generally older, male, more experienced and published – don’t “get her” (and lets face it, it’s not just Robert). They’re not her target audience.

I’m not suggesting that Whitney’s message is the only one that should be told – and to paraphrase Robert himself – i’m certainly not attacking him, however, isn’t there room for multiple messages appropriate to all of the different audiences out there?

That is all.

IA Summit Kano: Great content is satisfying; Community is delightful

This past weekend at the IA Summit (and subsequently on twitter) there was a lot of discussion about what makes the Summit a valuable conference. Many people believe that it’s the great content but I think it’s more than that. Don’t misunderstand me – great content is a necessity, but attendees paying money for any conference need to be satisfied by great content. The real differentiator for the Summit is the engagement in the community (both at the event and on-going afterwards).

At work we’ve recently been using the Kano model to analyze our experiences and the model describes this situation well. The four main categories of the model are: Delighters, Satisfiers, Expected and Inconsequential.

The IA Summit’s content is satisfying – great content makes people feel good, bad content makes them feel bad. The community that attendees are immersed in, however, is delightful – it’s really not something that attendees expect – so there’s no downside if it’s not there, but it’s a wonderful thing when they experience it.

It’s easy to see this from typical tweets:

uxluis (Luis A. Lopez) By far and without a doubt it is the quality and passion of the people that make this the most significant event of my career, thanks #ias11

Kalabird (Michaela Hackner) Awesome time at #ias11! Thanks to everyone for being so warm and collaborative, and welcoming me into the fold 🙂

johannakoll (johanna kollmann) @uxable the interactions, hallway discussions and spontaneous skillshare sessions are worth every penny of the #ias11 ticket

So by all means – lets make sure we have great content – but every conference organizing committee does that. Lets also make sure that we do everything we can to enable the Summit to be a place that encourages and nurtures the amazing community that already exists.

A Practical Guide to Measuring User Experience

What do helicopters, HAL9000 and parrots have in common? None of them have anything to do with Vanguard but all appear in the presentation I gave recently at Adaptive Path’s MX conference and the IA Summit. I highlighted some of the techniques we’ve been using at Vanguard to measure our user experience and some of the cultural challenges we face when using data to inform our decision-making. I gave out copies of an example Capability Strategy Sheet, here is the PDF.

And although I hate seeing myself on video, if you really must see it, here it is from MX 2011.

Evil Design: Blueberry Crumb Pound Cake

Ok, perhaps “evil” is too strong, but using design techniques to intentionally mislead the consumer really pisses me off. I bought this for lunch a week or so ago. It’s clearly individually wrapped for a single person with “150 calories” in large type. A closer look (closer than I gave it at the cash register) shows a much smaller “per serving” under that – in itself misleading since it doesn’t say how many servings it is – for that you have to look above the “150 calories” to see that this is 2 servings! Bastards!

Getting stakeholders to say “yes” to the dress

RandyMy wife and I watch Say Yes to the Dress on TLC (I know, I know) and during an episode tonight I realized that Randy and his team of bridal consultants are absolute masters at giving their ‘stakeholders’ both time and space to adjust their initially negative reactions into something more positive without losing face or appearing to back down.

This was illustrated tonight in an episode featuring the guy from American Chopper, Paul Teutul, Jr. and his fiancée Rachael. After trying several dresses, Rachael appeared in the viewing room in a dress that she loved, Randy loved, her family and friends loved, but her mother did not. This didn’t faze Randy though, he knew that he just needed to give Rachael’s mother a) some time to observe how much everyone else liked it and b) a way to justify to herself (and everyone else) why she now liked it. He accomplished both of these by having Rachael try on several accessories (veil, headpiece, etc.) and voila – Rachael’s mother suddenly started seeing the dress in a new light and loving it.

UX professionals can learn from this, when our stakeholders are split in their opinions we need to develop techniques to help the detractors gracefully change their opinions. What are some ways you’ve seen this work?

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