9 / 05 / 2009Both stories are incomplete…

“The underlying problem is that design is a holistic discipline while data-analysis, applied dogmatically, is a reductive discipline.”

“The interplay of all disciplines (engineering, design, research, marketing, sales, QA, product, legal, customer care, etc) is where the magic happens.”

Please read the whole/old debate of “Why Data and Design Need Each Other” by Tom Chi from the OK/Cancel blog, following Doug Bowman’s departure from Google for Twitter which sparked a lot of heated discussion this week.

21 / 04 / 2009Web Site Affective Quality and Features Quantity in relation to Customer Online Satisfaction

On Saturday April the 4th, I have presented this research framework (pdf) at the 3rd Student Conference on Business Research (SCBR 2009) organized by HEC Montreal.

It extends the notion of feature fatigue to usability – that is when too many features add up to complexity – and it explores how the presence of affective quality features might compensate for such complexity.

I am not ashamed to say that I won the ‘Best paper‘ award in the marketing category at the SCBR 2009 for this paper! 🙂

Here is the paper’s abstract:

“The more the better” goes as a saying. Resorting to this quantity heuristic, consumers tend to decide on products which present more features than less, forgetting that features quantity comes with product complexity and less satisfaction in its use. In this paper we extend the construct of feature fatigue (Thompson, Hamilton and Rust, 2005), which derives from the cognitive complexity of a product with too many features, to Web sites usability. So far, previous research has investigated the impact of Web site quality as a key determinant to online success focusing on what makes a site “better than another” in general or for some type of industries. It has identified a large number of factors that have been found to influence the online experience satisfaction such as visual design, quality and quantity of information, personalization and last but not least: usability. Based on a literature review in marketing and human-computer interaction about affect and its interplay with cognition, we develop a model that link the affective dimension of a product and features quantity to satisfaction. The model is suggesting that perceived ease of use mediates the combined effect of the affective dimension and features quantity. We propose to test whether a task-related set of features would positively impact satisfaction via perceived ease of use when the features possess an affective quality, and if it would hold true even in a perceived case of complexity. In the proposed research framework, we would test whether a task-related set of features would positively impact satisfaction via perceived ease of use when the features possess an affective quality, and if it would hold true even in a perceived case of complexity. Hence, the purpose of this conceptual paper is to contribute to the field of electronic service quality product evaluation by incorporating both the affective and cognitive dimensions of evaluation in a single research model that could be empirically tested in the very specific context of a goal-oriented task and its related set of functionalities.

1 / 04 / 2009Do-it yourself usability: free software to replace consultants…

“The user experience scene will soon experience a paradigm shift from consultant services to software for do-it-yourselfers”

Sounds too good to be true? Well, I wish I had read this article’s statement today amidst the other “UN moving from NY to Montreal” and the akin jokes posted on the Web for April’s fool…Even though I clearly understand what is meant by this type of bold statement and can foresee the tendency in our industry, I cannot help but feel annoyed and only partly agree with such stance which you can read often and more lately…and which resonance goes beyond an April 1st joke…

A tool can consist of a software solution or a methodological approach in the scientific sense of the mesuring tool (the survey for instance), it still remains just a tool though. Tools are instruments, they are means not brains, no matter how much built-in intelligence can be considered in some cases… Computers are undoubtedly useful but haven’t replaced the need for people to use them to achieve their various professional and personal goals.

To what purpose?“, “How to optimize the tool’s use?” or “How to exploit the results obtained?” are still crucial questions which answers require saavy professionals with background experience in their activity domain, combining Art and Science approaching/reasoning modes in a creative process that no software can mimick. “Because that’s how information is – it’s all just bits – and the software can’t make those decisions for us“, to quote Lew McCreary, even though his comment concerned more specifically information and Privacy (What was Privacy?, HBR, October 2008).

As far as automated user testing is concerned for instance, I definitely believe that sofware-based solutions can solidly assist us in our day-to-day work as usability consultants: Camtasia Morae and Uservue solutions from Techsmith have been incorporated in our toolbox for a while now and there is no turning back, except maybe switching for quasi-equivalent software solutions which are now available to download for free…

But to go any further than that with automated tools and claiming a paradigm shift in usability implying consultancy retirement is clearly prematured, not to say oversimplistic (or unrealistic). It is underestimating how in parallel, user experience is a phenomemon that keeps getting more and more complex, with a growing number of electronic channels (e.g.; computer, tv, mobile) to be synchronized in order to harmonize all the customer touch points. A little try-out of automated solutions shows us that simple and complex testing case scenarios should be distinguished before announcing retirement…

The economic downturn surely comes with budget restrictions at all levels and is accompanied by a demand decrease in consultancy services. This strained situation spurs opportunities for consulting firms with creative solutions, and even if the usability paradigm shift announcement does not alarm me yet, I find it very interesting to keep an eye on these innovations and trials…Here is a new one I just heard of for instance:

“A New Zealand company called Optimal Workshop is trying to disrupt the usability space by offering free software that replaces consultants. Instead of hiring someone, you can use Optimal’s web-based products to test mockups, usability, navigation, and site architecture”.

Challmark and Treejack are the 2 web-based usability tools they are offering for free, but for a limited time period of 2 months only.. so go download them and check out how much they can replace “you”…;-).

Read the full article on Optimal Workhop tools.

Related previous posts (in French) about: 14 free tools that reveal why people abandon your site and Speed testing.

11 / 03 / 2009Mesurer l’expérience usager

Measuring the User Experience est une nouvelle ressource bien utile que je viens de découvrir via la liste Ergo-IHM. Articles, présentations, outils, gabarits de feuilles de calculs, etc. sont fournis gratuitement.

Il s’agit du site Web compagnon du livre du même nom publié en mars 2008, et écrit par Tom Tullis and Bill Albert (Nouveau directeur du Design and Usability center de l’Institut Bentley).

Enjoy! 🙂

13 / 01 / 2009Qu’est-ce qui se passe sur votre site?

…et voici la réponse en 14 outils gratuits!!!!!
14 free tools that reveal why people abandon your website

Une revue gratuite réalisée par l’équipe de la compagnie internationale Conversion Rate Experts.

C’est une excellente liste de ressources de qualité gratuites ou presque pour suivre le comportement des usagers sur votre site. Sans pouvoir remplacer l’expertise qui permet de formuler les bonnes questions, déterminer et recruter les profils appropriés, et croiser du data à plusieurs niveaux d’analyse, ces outils ne peuvent qu’aider à la conduite d’activités d’évaluation continue et approfondie de sites Web, et ainsi contribuer à mieux orienter la refonte et conception de ceux-ci.

Un autre outil non-mentionné dans la liste est Userfly, lire le billet Userfly: Get Usability Insights with One Line of Code.

9 / 01 / 200910 most common misconceptions about UX design

An excellent reminder article to start the year fresh and new!

Here is the complete list of misconceptions:

User experience design is NOT…

1. …user interface design
2. …a step in the process
3. …about technology
4. …just about usability
5. …just about the user
6. …expensive
7. …easy
8. …the role of one person or department
9. …a single discipline
10….a choice

And my favorites among the ten goes like this:

5. …just about the user??!
The biggest misconception of UX design is the “U”. There are a set of business objectives that are needing to be met. We just can’t always do what is best for the users. As user experience designers we have to find the sweet spot between the user’s needs and the business goals, and furthermore ensure that the design is on brand.

8. …the role of one person or department??!
At best, it’s a common awareness, a thread that ties together people from different disciplines who care about good design, and who realize that today’s increasingly complex design challenges require the synthesis of different varieties of design expertise.

10….a choice??!
Nobody sets out to achieve a bad design as a goal. It’s always a risk. Bad designs and bad experiences happen. The most common flaw, according to Jared Spool from UIE, is that companies think “good experience design is an add-on, not a base requirement.”

23 / 12 / 2008Cher Internet: donne-moi ce que je veux pour noël!

Avis aux internautes!
“Pour l’anniversaire du livre, la description et nos recommandations autour des 60 modèles de navigation est accessible en html.

Experts du web, webmasters en herbe, utilisateurs, venez débattre, argumenter, poser vos questions, donner votre avis, commenter quoi (!) sur les modèles de navigation.”

Télécharger un extrait pdf gratuit du livre. Sinon, la version en ligne (licence 1 utilisateur) est 27 Euros et papier 31 Euros. La version agence en ligne (licence pour 3 postes utilisateur) est 97 Euros.

Joyeux nowell à tous!!!!

10 / 12 / 2008Wikipedia: strategic non-usability?

A WYSIWYG interface for contribution or not?
Is that the real question??!

“Putting up a WYSIWYG editor will cost like $50,000.
It’s not that big of a deal”
(says Jason Calacanis, CEO of Mahalo)

“Calacanis thinks (and blogged about a few years ago based on conversations with insiders) that the site’s editing platform is intentionally designed to be complex so as to lower participation and thus make it easier to manage, and that if they open up the floodgates, “the site will probably come to a grinding halt.” In this sense, he admits Wikimedia would need plenty of time and money to make sure the transition is done right.”

While it is so often hard to justify usability budgets and convince stakeholders of its ROI beyond any figures…I cannot help but find interesting to stress this very UGC-related usability issue…even “free UGC” hides non-usability costs!!! 😉

Without throwing the baby with the bath water, here is so much for democratic principles and “open” ideals so easily associated with Wikipedia and such online participative environments…food for thought in an era of uncritiqued 2.0…

Read also: Wikipedia simplifiera son processus d’édition de texte

16 / 10 / 2008Usability roundtables: mixing a diversity of academia and industry experts

TechSmith are sponsoring a series of roundtables on the subject of usability. The 1st roundtable (March, 23rd 2008) took a high level view of the area and investigated the importance of usability, what barriers there are to it being implemented, and how it can be imbedded into the development process.”

Read the Complete report of the 2nd roundtable on “How to Design and Test for Usability” by Peter Abrahams, Practice Leader – Accessibility and Usability (Bloor Research) who chaired it.

An interesting element of the roundtables that I would like to insist upon is the fact that “The roundtable was made up of representatives of academia, large enterprise, web development, internet psychology, journalism, and usability testing”.

Cheers to the well-rounded understanding of the roundtable composition reflecting the necessary complementary expertises on the usability topic and its practice! 😀

Seen today on IT-Director, Oct. 16th, 2008.

25 / 09 / 2008Typography as texture of a Web page design

“Type dances on the page, which is why I think of type as a gazelle: always swift, capable of running at high speeds and jumping high.”
Dr Mario R. Garcia, Sept. 2008

Go check this typos basics video from The Mario blog.

Found on the new PoynterOnline Beta.

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