Think Info

Exploring the information space

Category Archives: User experience

The biological imperative (ICC2014)

The highlight of Intelligent Content Conference – at least for me – was Noz Urbina’s presentation that caps over two years of research into how the mind works, and the consequences of this on how we communicate… on how we need to design our communications so they are most effective.

To influence behaviour, we must understand behaviour. And behaviour begins and ends in the mind.

So, to the mind. As humans, we are born with our brains unformed. The new-born’s brain is a single large mass: not yet divided into hemispheres, the cortex lacking the crinkles we expect to see. That definition of the brain’s structure comes from learning. And learning is the construction of semantic models. Indeed, we have a natural need to create models. (Infants who are aware there are models they could be creating, but denied access to the experimentation to build them – e.g. they can only watch others play, not participate themselves – will express their frustration loudly.)

But… Read more of this post

Advertisements

Usable Usability (EuroIA 2013)

Kicking off EuroIA in Edinburgh, I attended Eric Reiss‘ workshop – really, as he admitted, a master class – on Usable Usability. The theme echoed his book of the same name, released last year.

Summary

Eric didn’t hold back with his class; it was heavy with information, ideas and practical approaches to improve usability; not by focusing on any specific, but largely by poking fun at the endless stream of counter-examples.

In all, usability is about people interacting with things. While it is easy to claim that usability stops at the point of “does it make the action achievable?” (whatever it is that is supposed to be done with it), the reality is that there is far more to something being considered usable. It is about the ease with which it can be used. Read more of this post

Content Strategy for Slow Experiences

After a manic couple of days, it’s only fair that the closing note – pre panel – of CS Forum should be Margot Bloomstein discussing the need to slow down a little – to consider that not all things need to happen at a breakneck pace.

Summary:

There is an industry trend towards efficiency; usually read as getting them in and out the door as quickly as possible. But is this really the best thing to be doing? There are many aspects of our lives where we want to move more slowly – where we want to stop and smell the roses. If we want to do that, doesn’t it make sense that others might not be in such a rush either?

Alongside the idea that speed might not be all-important, there are other scenarios where we need to consider slowing things down a little. If there is some external factor that limits speed – that imposes a wait – what can we do to make it a more engaging, interesting and enriching pause? Read more of this post

Leveraging Community Management (CS Forum 2013)

Speaking on a subject that I, personally, have trouble understanding, Misty Weaver delivered a rousing call to embrace people’s passions -to help them get the most out of what they love – thereby knitting together a community that will turn to you also as a supplier of choice.

Summary:

We hear constantly about community, especially as an empowerment of business: engage your community, the rallying cry goes. But what is this community, and how can one truly harness it. Given human nature, a community needs a guiding hand; it needs to be managed. Otherwise, its dynamic nature will result in it evolving away from being “your” community. Management implies some for of order.

There are many activities businesses think initially will help them manage their community, in the misguided belief that they are somehow dealing with people who do not conform to human nature. Specifically: Read more of this post

Bridging Content

A short while ago, I attended a Content Strategy event: nine people each gave a five minute talk – an intense format that can throw up some real gems. On this occasion, the gem came from Chris Atherton (@finiteattention), and is a concept I can only describe as the principle of Bridging Content.

You can lead a horse to water…

The background to Chris’ presentation: design agency Numiko was selected by the UK government’s Time to Change initiative to build a digital engagement strategy aimed at younger people. Considerable research was done with the target audience: both with and without direct exposure to mental illness and its impact. According to Chris, this resulted in thirteen – yes, 13 – personae. Read more of this post

What does your CMS actually do?

You’ve shelled out the money – six figures very likely. You have the license. The wonderful CMS they sold you is yours to use. So, what are you going to do?

In other terms

I am no musician. My fingers do not obey my instructions when it comes to evoking the melody. But, I wanted to learn. The piano is supposed to be a fairly basic instrument; maybe not the easiest, but the notes are all laid out in front of one is a fairly obvious way.

I went into a music store and asked a salesman which piano I should buy. I was honest about not having a clue; not knowing how to play. But I have a good ear for sound. I know if I like the tone of something. All smiles, he took me to one special piano he had; I closed my eyes and listened while he played. The piece was hauntingly beautiful – a minute and a half of lively bounce. Chopin, he told me; Étude Op. 10 n. 5. A piece that demonstrated no lack of skill.

Sold. I handed over my money and awaited delivery.

Maestro
Was I ever in for a shock? A week later, the very piano the salesman had played me that demo piece on arrived and was set up in my living room. I lifted the lid to see what my new toy sounded like in my home – and discovered that half the keys were missing! On the right half of the keyboard, there was only the single white key; an F. Read more of this post

KISS and the black box

I have been told, over and over, to keep the systems I design simple. The mantra is familiar; we all know it well: KISS – keep it simple, stupid.

Everyone and his half-brother is quoted saying something of the sort:

“That’s been one of my mantras – focus and simplicity. Simple can be harder than complex: You have to work hard to get your thinking clean to make it simple. But it’s worth it in the end because once you get there, you can move mountains.”

Steve Jobs

Now, I have a big problem with how many people choose to interpret this concept of simplicity. There are several ways in which KISS can be applied.

KISS and the black box

KISSing the system

This is the aspect of KISS that people like Jobs have referred to: it is about reducing the set of requirements; eliminating second-tier functionality.

KISSing the system is about identifying the tasks that really need to be supported, and eliminating the rest. If you can halve the number of tasks the system supports, thereby halving the overall complexity, while maintaining 90% of the user-task needs (i.e. the retained tasks are used more than the discarded), your return on effort will increase.

Of course, just because a task is not frequently performed does not mean it is not critical (e.g. a purchasing process involves putting items in a cart, and a check-out; just because the average shopper selects five items before checking out does not mean we can do without the less-used step). Read more of this post