The Usability of Usability
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The Usability of Usability



Sometimes, they just don’t get it. ...

Sometimes, they just don’t get it.

We’re just trying to do the right thing here. Isn’t our success dependent on our users being able to shop, buy, apply or contact us through our web site or app? So if we’re dependent on our users, shouldn’t we at least involve them somehow in the design process?

Not so easy.

For some of “those” people, design is easy. Don’t we already know what the problem is and what design we can use to fix it? Can’t we just leverage best practices? Why do we even need to test the design if we’re experts? No one ever says these things, right?

In the real world, user-centered design and usability is ironically, not that easy to adapt. It’s counterintuitive because it’s such hard work to make things easy. What we have to do is to make what we do easy to understand and easy to choose. This session may not change your reality, but by sharing in some lessons learned, hopefully you’ll have the tools to help change some minds.



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The Usability of Usability The Usability of Usability Presentation Transcript

  • The Usability of Usability A ND R E W CHA K F E B R UA R Y 20 1 4
  • About Me • 19 years spanning visual design, front end coding, information architecture, usability research, and digital strategy • AVP, Digital Customer Experience at TD • Klick Health, OnX, Immersa nt • Connect with me on LinkedIn if you’re interested in a contract UX position • I’m an avid runner and overshare about it on Twitter @andrewchak
  • Why are we here? View slide
  • Why are we here? View slide
  • About today I share You share
  • Pick a partner… “Hi there… I’m…” “What’s the best thing that has happened to you recently?”
  • Now pick a role… Tappers Listeners Keep eyes open Read instructions Get a pen & paper Close your eyes
  • The Mystery Song “Twinkle, Twinkle Little Star”
  • Instructions Tappers When prompted, start tapping the song Listeners Write down song names until you are correct
  • So… how was that?
  • The Problem We know everything, they don’t
  • What we do Our job is to do the hard work to make something so easy that people don’t even notice
  • In other words… It’s hard to be easy but most people don’t know that
  • Great designs are deceptively easy
  • Great designs are deceptively easy • • • • • Weather Stock Quotes Time Sport Scores Sunrise & Sunset • • • • • Calculator Book Search Earthquakes Unit Conversion Synonym Search • • • • • Local Search Movie Showtimes Flight Tracking Poison Control Currency Conversion
  • When it comes to our work… • It’s like we get challenged with the same questions over and over and over again…
  • So… What are the recurring issues you encounter about our practice over and over again?
  • For me, there are 5…
  • #1 Defining solutions before problems
  • Bertrand Russell “The greatest challenge to any thinker is stating the problem in a way that will allow a solution.”
  • Ever get requirements like this? “We just need to add this button”
  • Ever get requirements like this? “We just need to improve the functionality”
  • Ever get requirements like this? “We just need to redesign it”
  • “Delivers hot and cold water”
  • “Delivers water at a desired temperature”
  • “Help to wash hands clean”
  • The most important question you can ask is… “Why?”
  • How to have great problems • Identify your users unmet needs through customer journies – low points, break points • Diary studies conducted over time • Summative usability test of existing experience • Base problems on direct observation or feedback • Don’t take users feedback at face value – ask the “why?” behind their feedback too • Define problems based on desired customer behaviours or responses • The right problem statement = innovation
  • So… What are your examples of “poor” requirements and how did you deal with it?
  • #2 Everyone’s a user so everyone’s a designer
  • A rhetorical question “Why is that when people watch a movie, they don’t necessarily think they can be a director, but when they use a web site, they think they can be a designer?”
  • Who we often design for
  • Our self-image isn’t often accurate
  • The compromise: Design for everybody
  • What do you get when you design for everybody? 32 flavours of vanilla
  • The Paradox: Designing for a specific somebody is much better than a generic anybody
  • Designing for a specific, more “difficult” user • The user that isn’t motivated • The user that doesn’t know much • The user that is a newbie • Designing for someone specific & more “difficult”: • Makes design decisions easier – gives us the courage to make tradeoffs • Hones us in on creating a robust solution
  • So… Any examples of “extra” designers in your work?
  • #3 Thinking that the little design details are simply “cosmetic”
  • Sabre Reservation System From: LGA To: DTW Search 50%+ selected first result 92% selected in first screen Source:
  • Sabre Reservation System From: LGA To: DTW Search • In 1981, New York Air added a flight from La Guardia to Detroit which competed with AA • 8 flights / day • Guess where they put the New York Air flight search results? Source:
  • How do you increase return completion rates?
  • How do you increase return completion rates?
  • Every little thing matters in context • Some things that worked well for certain products didn’t work at all for others • Sometimes it’s better to have more clicks – there is no such thing as a 3-click rule • Be suspicious of “best practices” • The only correct answer is “it depends”
  • So… What are some of your learnings on the “little things” that have made a big difference?
  • #4 Lack of time, money, or desire to do user research
  • A common usability testing question “Isn’t it the same thing as a focus group?”
  • Do you wash your hands every time you use a public bathroom? 96% 88% 89% 66% Claimed Observed Women Claimed Observed Men Source: Harris Interactive – Hand Washing Survey, 2007
  • Analogies for explaining usability testing • The Hockey Team • Imagine assembling a new team of hockey players • Each player is like an element of the experience • You would want to have them practice against other teams to see how they work together and identify strengths and weaknesses • The Flight Simulator • Suppose you had a student pilot • Would you allow that student to fly a jumbo jet before at least trying it out in a simulator? • Wouldn’t testing in a simulator be much more cheaper than making a mistake in the real thing?
  • Remember what we did in the beginning? “Twinkle, Twinkle Little Star” We can’t “undo” our knowledge
  • “Your first usability test” • The intent of this test is to find out where the gaps are in the experience – it’s perfectly OK for us to find mistakes as that is what this test is for • Your role is to listen and observe – please make note of what users struggle with and try to identify what the real issue is • You’ll be given an opportunity to ask your questions at a prescribed time so please don’t yell at the participants if they don’t navigate through the experience with flying colours
  • So… What’s your tip for selling user research?
  • #5 The use of foul language
  • There is one thing that is true across all UX practitioners We’re anal about definitions of artefacts
  • We (and our stakeholders) are often confused about these terms • User Experience • Information Architecture • Wireframes • Mockups • Lorem Ipsum • Usability Test / UAT / Focus Groups • Business Requirements Document • Use Cases • Creative Brief / Experience Brief • Vision / Demo / Prototype
  • The #1 tip for clarity Always show don’t just tell
  • So… What UX words are in your “foul” language?
  • In closing… Usability is like oxygen – you don’t notice it until it’s missing