All posts by jodibollaert

2014 New Year’s Resolution

Revisiting this WordPress page after dabbling in it a few YEARS ago.  So sad.  I was inspired by someone who let me know he couldn’t view it well on his iPad.  Shameful.  I’m still not sure I have time for this, but perhaps I’ll try again.  I learn new stuff about UX everyday.  I keep telling myself I should share it, but beyond a few LinkedIn and Twitter posts, I rarely do.  My job as UX Research Director at a major ad agency in metro Detroit keeps me extremely occupied, as do my numerous other “hobbies”.  But I think at least a few folks who happen to land here might benefit from an occasional post.  As I look back on the few I’ve written, it helped me remember things I learned long ago.  That alone could be reason enough to maintain a blog…before my memory skills wane.  If you’re reading this, stay tuned…my learning experiences this year will likely center around global UX research (expert reviews, ethnographic studies, usability testing, etc.).  The global aspect will be new territory for me, and perhaps for you, too.

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UXcited Tries New WordPress Template

The original WP site that I startled dabbling with in 2009 was so, so, sooooo boring compared to this new template!  It wasn’t easy to pick out a new look though.  While there are lots of .com templates available, many of them are NOT free, and that was one of my requirements.  So, with renewed energy (as a result of attending WordCamp Detroit last Saturday) I’m dabbling again with a new look, and more features than I can get my head around in just a few days.  One learning resource I’m finding helpful is Lynda.com.  Their video-based online training is awesome, especially in the early morning with my first cup of espresso.

Wordcamp Detroit 2011

Attending Wordcamp Detroit today. Hoping it renews my interest and enthusiasm about WordPress. I’m mostly interested in learning whether WP is a stable CMS for a few projects that have been in my queue for awhile now. There are so many awful websites out there (guilty), so it seems like WP could only help. There are a zillion templates to choose from, but it seems some work better than others. Interesting info: 19% of Alexa’s top 100,000 websites use WP.

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Intercept Recruiting for Web Site Usability Testing

I am really, really excited about intercept recruiting for web site usability testing.  I recently experienced this method of recruiting for some usability testing we did on a major auto manufacturer’s web site.  Basically, it works like this:

  1. Site visitors are randomly “intercepted” at a designated location within the site by a pop-up asking them if they’d like to participate in a usability test RIGHT NOW in exchange for a reward;
  2. Person who says “yes” answers a few questions (screener) to ensure that they match the target profile;
  3. Remote facilitator scans the answers and, if they qualify, contacts them immediately by phone to engage them in a remote usability test (using online conference tool). 

What I loved about this method of recruitment is the quality of the participants we encountered.  These were not just folks who were interested in earning a few market research bucks; these were people truly interested in shopping for a vehicle at that very moment.  In my opinion, the quality of the participants’ comments as they shopped the site were unusually insightful and helpful.

What made the testing even more interesting is that we allowed participants to proceed with shopping the site as they were planning to do anyway.  Rather than a rigid discussion guide, we focused more on observing the participants look for answers to THEIR questions, and made note of instances where they had difficulty.  By studying this natural shopping behavior, we gained some significant insights that we may not have encountered with a more scripted test.  (If time permitted, however, we did throw in a few specific, task-oriented questions.)

This was our first usability test using this method of recruitment.  While I still feel there are some projects better suited to traditional, face-to-face testing, our experience was so positive, I expect we’ll be doing much more of this, with continued analysis of natural shopping behavior.

Competitive Website Analysis Made Simpler

Sometimes when you simply wish for a new feature, and express this out loud, a little techy angel hears you and says, “Oh, that feature already exists!”  While in the midst of a competitive web site analysis recently, one such angel appeared (thanks, John), and my competitive analysis task became simpler.  That feature — the ability to open a whole bunch of web sites in separate tabs at the same time, is available in Internet Explorer 8.  Read the instructions below to learn how to make this little bit of magic happen.

Instructions

  1. Open the web sites you want to open, each in a new tab.
  2. Click on Favorites.
  3. Click on the “Add to Favorites” dropdown.
  4. Select “Add Current Tabs to Favorites.”
  5. Create a folder name.  All tabs will be saved to that folder.
  6. In a new browser session, open the Favorites menu again.
  7. Find the folder you just created, then click on the arrow to the right of the folder name.

Voila!  All your tabs in that folder will open.  (May take a minute for all pages to load.)

Two Days of Remote Usability Testing

I’ve been looking forward to remote usability testing a major manufacturer’s website for some weeks now.  While some people may have doubts about the value of remote usability testing compared to face-to-face testing, I’m here to attest that the value is comparable, and in some respects, perhaps even higher.

In our arrangement, we observed the testing in a conference room on a large projection screen, while a facilitator (in another state) moderated the test sessions, and the participants sat at home at their own computers.

While you don’t typically see a user’s facial expressions in this remote testing set-up, here’s what you do get:

  • You hear what the user is saying (and perhaps listen better since you’re not distracted by what he/she looks like).
  • You see the user’s on-screen activity including what browser they use and how it’s set up (e.g., number of toolbars).
  • You get a better understanding of the user’s natural environment (whether their speakers are hooked up, whether there’s a dog in the house, etc.).
  • You may get more honest feedback.  I’m not sure what the research says about this, but my impression was that people not meeting face-to-face with a facilitator may be more comfortable saying what they really think. 
  • No need to sit in a dark room behind one-way glass, nor keep our voices down when we wanted to discuss users’ comments during a test.  (Our conference line was on mute, of course.)
  • No travel costs!

A few things that I thought made our remote testing experience even better included:

  • A two-way video conference set up with the remote facilitator so that we could see and talk to her after each session — as if she were in the room with us.
  • A research director who sat with our team and could chat online with the facilitator when we wanted to interject a question in the middle of a test.
  • Because the usability vendor was local, it was feasible for more project team members and the client to attend the test sessions.  This should help ensure that the findings are seriously considered, since nothing beats seeing users interact with your site first-hand. 

A few things I would keep in mind for next time include:

  • Add a question in the screener to ensure the participant has a LAN line which can be called for the test session.  Cell phone connnections can be unreliable.
  • As in face-to-face testing, consider hiring floaters who can be available to replace a participant who doesn’t answer the telephone for the test, has technical problems, or turns out not to be a great match to the target audience.

I look forward to more remote usability testing experiences!

Letting ‘Em Loose During Usability Tests

Most often, when you think of usability tests, you think of a facilitator guiding and observing a test partipant as they complete a set of predefined tasks.  Recently, I’ve been considering a different approach to testing that involves letting participants loose on a web site (still encouraging them to think-out-loud) and observing what is perhaps a truer user experience, since the user is making most of the decisions about where to go and what’s worth doing (e.g., Download, Share).  One reason that a facilitator may still be of use in these situations is that sometimes a user will leave the site to do research elsewhere and spend less time commenting on the site being tested.  While this may be an important learning, it may not be the best use of time, and having a facilitator available to guide the user back to the focus of the study can be important.  I’m curious to know if anyone has experience with this “let ’em loose” approach, and would love to hear suggestions.

Best Practice Resources for Mobile Web Design

I was recently jolted into learning more about mobile web design when called upon to perform a usability evaluation of a mobile web site and create some wireframes.  Mobile web design is a new frontier for many UX types — although surprisingly some folks have been working in this area for several years.  As a consequence, there’s some good info available to us newbies.  Here’s what I’ve come across so far.   Additional recommendations welcome!

WEB SITES

W3C – Mobile Web Best Practices

Safari Reference Library – Getting Started with iPhone Web Apps

Safari Reference Library – iPhone Human Interface Guidelines 

Design for Mobile Wiki

 
BOOKS 

Mobile Web Design by Cameron Moll

Designing Gesteral Interfaces by Dan Saffer

How to Make Your “Buzz” Worthy

I’m working on integrating a “Buzz” section in a web site focused on a new technology product.  So what exactly is “buzz” anyway? SearchCRM.com defines “buzz marketing” as “a viral marketing technique that attempts to make each encounter with a consumer appear to be a unique, spontaneous personal exchange of information instead of a calculated marketing pitch choreographed by a professional advertiser.”  This reminded me of posts that I see more and more of on LinkedIn.com. At times, a user posts a positive comment about a new product, and I find myself wondering if the writer is a real user or a copy writer hired by the manufacturer.  Sometimes it’s hard to tell (which I imagine is an attribute of good buzz).

So how can one integrate buzz into a product web site and make it worthy of inclusion?  In other words, how do you make it valuable to your audience without making them distrustful of its content?  Based on a review of various product-oriented web sites, and through some experience asking consumers about what constitutes good buzz, here’s what I conclude:

Big Things You Can Do to Make Your Buzz Worthy

  • Keep buzz content fresh.  There’s nothing worse than a consumer thinking the buzz is over since the last post was 6 mos. ago.
  • Integrate the bad with the good.  If you’re going to include buzz in your site, don’t just include positive comments.  Be brave.  Allow for some constructive criticism.  Consumers will be pleasantly surprised and trust your brand all the more.  (I’ve actually heard them say this in usability testing.)
  • Integrate buzz teasers rather than full articles, but link to the full articles on the source web site.  Showing your customers that you’re willing to relinquish some control over buzz content will also earn you respect and trust.
  • Link to a variety of buzz sites, again to build trust and credibility: Digg, Facebook, Flicker, Twitter, and YouTube to name a few.  Having more than one source say your product is wonderful will be good for sales.
  • Integrate buzz as part of your product pages.  While it’s not prominently featured content, Volkswagon includes buzz on its vehicle shopping pages.
Volkwagon Buzz on Rabbit Home Page
Volkwagon Buzz on Rabbit Home Page

Little Things You Can Do to Make Your Buzz Worthy

  • Include the date the article was published in the teaser and put the newest articles first.
  • Consider a search feature, sort capability or content filtering options.  The Direct2Dell site allows users to filter content by Most Recent, Most Viewed and Most Commented.
  • For an advanced audience, consider opening third-party web sites in the same browser window or a tab.  If your audience includes novice web users, consider opening third-party web sites in new browser windows.
  • Include an RSS Feed feature.  The Volkswagon Buzz page includes an RSS Feed so that savvy online vehicle shoppers can stay informed of VW updates.

I’d love to hear from others who have experience with buzz integration in their web sites.  This is fairly new territory for lots of UX professionals — so there’s lots to learn!

Hello world!

Hello world!  Or, user experience (UX) world, that is.  I kept the WordPress default, first post, blog headline as that really is how it feels when one first creates a blog.  The truth is, I’ll be thrilled if I get a handful of regular, UX readers.  What I hope to accomplish through this blog is a way to share things I find especially interesting, from my own experience as an information architect and usability specialist, as well as what I learn through the work of others.  In fact, I’m a big proponent of learning from others.  There’s so much UX knowledge out there — it’s impossible not to be UXcited when one starts to poke around for it.

So what do others want to hear about?  I’d love to hear from you.  Without input, I’m likely to start venting (I mean writing), about my own mistakes (I mean experiences) and hope that something proves to be lift-worthy (I mean helpful ) to someone else out there in UX world.  Expect more soon!