Mostly Avoid Sidebar “Hamburger” Menus

Many of you might have noticed Facebook’s change from a “Hamburger” menu to a more traditional, docked-to-the-bottom-of-the-screen menu.

Luis Abreu, a blogger and UX / UI Designer suggests that Hamburger menus should be avoided in many cases because:

  • Stuff is hidden and hard to discover
  • It’s less efficient; requires one tap to reveal the menu options, and another to tap the item you want
  • It can clash with standard navigation patterns like the “< Back” button, causing confusion

In our experience, Hamburger menus make sense for some audiences, but straightforward bottom-navigation menus work for everyone.

Phones are Getting Larger; Design Appropriately

Scott Hurff explains that “Apple’s iPhone 6…officially signaled the Dawn of the Era of Huge Screens.”

The “natural” zone for your thumb has changed; it’s harder to tap things at the top of the screen, for example. If you upgraded to an iPhone 6, you probably noticed this in the first few minutes.

Be sure to design accordingly. Don’t put important buttons / icons / targets in areas that are hard to reach.

P.S. You may not be aware of an iOS feature called “Reachability” – double tap (don’t press but just tap) the Home button and whatever app you’re using will slide down within easy reach of your thumb. See here.

How We Conduct User Testing and User Interviews

Usually “Informal” User Testing is the Best ROI

Too often “user-testing” can mean a months-long process that only creates reams of documentation that go unread. We typically focus on getting the highest-value results as quickly as possible. Our staff is trained in methods of identifying target customers, segmenting them, and then building understanding of how to optimally design for those target groups. We do this in a way that balances the need to move fast with the rigor and balance of an unbiased experiment.

7483010074_cd45e2bfcd_oWe work with our clients to develop an understanding of the target market, and then challenge those assumptions to create a nuanced view of the target customer. Then we’ll identify ways to quickly reach people in those markets (including Facebook ads, attending industry meetups, finding enthusiasts on Instagram, and more) and schedule a series of interviews with those users (in the office or at a coffee shop), which are recorded, transcribed, and mined for insights.

Once a prototype has been developed, we’ll sit down with additional users in the target areas to gauge the usability of the prototype and ensure that it’s meeting their needs. In our experience, no other methodology works as quickly to ensure that we’re building products to delight customers.

 

If Needed – Formal Usability Testing in a Lab

In these cases, we handle the entire project “turn-key,” including recruiting and compensating the participants, preparing the testing facility, and reporting the results.  We expect the following work will be required, in ongoing collaboration with the client:

  • Kickoff / Assessments
    • Discuss top-level goals, what is good and bad about the existing product, areas for improvement, advantages / disadvantages, motivators, drawbacks, calls-to-action. Discuss hypotheses (e.g. “we think it breaks because of x”).
    • Discuss metrics that might be available that suggest current product performance or areas for improvement.
    • Discuss demographic breakdowns (e.g. lean more towards customers that are shopping for more expensive items or just an “across the board” type of customer sample).
  • Develop a screener that successfully selects for the right participants from the general population. Attempt to screen for certain recent qualifying activities related to the task (i.e. visited a competitors web site, purchased books on the subject, etc.).

Lab

  • Recruit participants from the general population. Recruit “floater” participants to be available as-needed in the case of no-shows or disqualified participants. Compensate the participants.
  • Develop test materials including the moderator guide. Handle the multiple ways and platforms in which the product should be tested (e.g. mobile, web, tablet, etc.).
  • Run the usability testing and handle the testing logistics.
    • Prepare the testing facility, prepare the technology (including video recording and live stream if necessary), prepare the observation room with large screen, and prepare all of the devices that are to be tested.
    • Expect several days at the usability testing lab.
    • Testing conducted by UX Researchers under the supervision of our Engagement Manager. Detailed logging and note taking.
    • Some participation by client, e.g. two to five people in attendance per day observing the testing in progress. Parking and meals to be provided.
  • Conduct analysis and report testing results. Review and crunch the resulting data.  Report on the results, issues, and recommendations in an actionable presentation format.

Expectations are Changing; UI Designers and UX Designers Take Note

In recent years, the massive shift towards web apps and mobile apps have completely changed user expectations around how software should look and work.

When most folks are using the computer, they’re on the web (and increasingly not in a Windows app, except, of course, for the web browser that they’re using to access the web) and at these web sites:

Google
Facebook
YouTube

Yahoo
eBay
Amazon

MSN
Pinterest
Hotmail

Bing
Wikipedia
Twitter

 

And, these same folks have a smartphone and are using these apps:

 

 

 

Users are expecting apps to be simpler, dynamic, “active” or “alive,” personalized, and responsive:

  • 3 days ago”; relative date/time formatting
  • Content first; labels and other items demoted
  • Mixed Case vs. all UPPERCASE; natural and easier to read
  • Hierarchy represented with whitespace and lines vs. rectangles within rectangles
  • Minimal horizontal scrolling
  • Modal; focus on one thing at a time
  • Beautiful and actionable dashboards
  • Progressive disclosure (show stuff as-needed)

What does this mean for the user experience design of your enterprise applications?

Iteration Group’s Yossi Langer: Keynote Speaker at CMLS 2014 (Real Estate Industry Conference)

IMG_1557Approximately one-million real estate agents rely on Multiple Listing Service (MLS) software to buy and sell homes on behalf of their clients.  The Council of the Multiple Listing Services (CMLS) is the premier forum and resource for the many Multiple Listing Service associations in the united states (there are about 1,000 of them).

Iteration Group’s Yossi Langer, an expert in product-strategy and user-experience design, was invited to be a keynote speaker at the CMLS 2014 Conference this September in Huntington Beach, California.  Yossi talked about the importance of great design and the impact that it could have on MLS’s, and, more broadly, the real estate industry.

The event was a smashing success – Yossi’s talk was well received and we thoroughly enjoyed meeting executives and staff from some of the most powerful and successful players in the industry.  The event was sponsored by CoreLogic, Homes.com, Homesnap Pro, Real Estate Digital, Trulia, Realtor.com, Zillow, and others.  Special thanks to Teryll Hopper (of marketing agency eight11.com) and Art Carter (of crmls), organizers of the event who did a fantastic job.

And it was great to meet the Clareity Security team – it looks like we may do some interesting things together with them.

We’ll be posting the video of Yossi’s talk when it becomes available.

How to Choose a Company Name? Ask Google!

An entrepenuer, working on an RV / Mobile Home rental business, writes:

“At first I was set on naming it Recreationist, but the more I thought about it, the more irrational it seemed to choose a domain based on my own preferences. While I had a good feeling about Recreationist, I’m fundamentally skeptical of my own and everyone else’s intuition”

winnebago.145259

So he went ahead and tested 17 names by creating identical Google Adwords campaigns for each name.

“The winner, by a landslide, was rvmenu.com

It had a much higher click through rate than the other names, suggesting that it can be an overall better domain name / business name (especially if online advertising will be a key customer acquisition tool).

Read More!

P.S. Panabee and LeanDomainSearch are great for coming up with new (and available) domain name ideas.

For Inspiration: Uncover Invisible Motion in Video

Here’s one of those simple ideas that can yield incredibly useful results.

Take a video of something (like a baby sleeping), take notice of the tiny little changes that are barely visible (to the human eye), and amplify those changes.

WOW – a stunning visualization technique that could enable a person to see things with the naked eye that were previously invisible.

This NYTimes article (and must-see video) is incredible and inspiring.

We’ve seen the technique used by Philips Medical in their iPhone app: by taking a short video of your face (or someone elses of course), it can detect the heart rate.

Imagine this used with Google Glass when playing poker (what would an elevated heart rate reveal!?)

User Interface Designers: Create Crude Prototypes in 15 Minutes

PopApp is a really simple tool, for iPhone and Android, that lets you:

  • Draw-out your idea for an app
  • Take photos of those drawings, and
  • Stitch them together.

The result is a crude prototype and lets you see and feel how your app might look and work.

We use it often (with final screens that our mobile designer has created in Photoshop) in user testing: before we write a single line of code, get a sense of how users might interact with the app, what they might find confusing, etc.

Consider Text Messaging: Sign Up, Notifications, and More

Ding! You’ve received a text message. I dare you to try to ignore it! It’s almost impossible.

For many consumers (including younger ones), text messaging is vastly preferred over other channels (including voice and email). Think about how many text messages the average teenager sends in a day. (Take a look at this – can you guess which phone number belongs to the teenager!?)

On several client projects, we’ve used Twilio to integrate text messaging into a user experience, such as:

  • For instant, on-the-spot sign up: “Text hello to 818-555-1212”. User gets a response: “Thanks for signing up! Get started now: http://www.acme.com/abc123”
  • For relevant, time-sensitive notifications: “We just sent you a new lead – take a look: http://www.awesomeleadgenerator.com/abc123”
  • For customer service: “Your car is ready to be picked up. Thanks!”
  • For customer-to-business communications. Consumer texts a restaurant – “running late – will be arriving at 1PM”

Like email, we expect text messaging to be a productive customer communication channel for many years to come. And, like email, its utility will exceed far beyond most expectations.

How can you improve your app or business with text messaging?

Maps are Everywhere; Make Them Useful

So many top consumer and business apps use maps extensively. Think about Yelp (local listings and reviews), Zillow (residential real estate), Loopnet (commercial real estate), Waze (navigation), Foursquare (social), Uber (taxi service) and others.

Mostly these companies are using the Google Maps API or the Bing Maps API to draw maps and put “pins” on various locations.

That’s basically it. Two huge providers (Google and Microsoft) are the “default” go-to sources for maps for all startups and tech products.  And there’s been little to no innovation here. Maps can be more useful and can be dynamically rendered based on the exact needs of the user (at that moment in time):

 

  • unnamed-3-They can be skewed, morphed, and distorted.  Think about the iconic Disneyland Map. See this incredible map of Queenstown New Zealand that shows the slope of the streets. See these maps by The Atlantic that visualize the world’s population.While, historically, a cartographer’s life’s work might have been to perfectly map, say, the coastlines of South America, today, for most consumer and business applications, nobody cares. The geography isn’t sacred.
  • Information can be hidden or shown. See this Google map for “tacos” in San Francisco.  And here it is on Yelp. In both cases, the amount of data being displayed is incredible. And how does it serve the user? Does the user really need to see all of those street names, all of those streets, all of that detail?
  • Typography, landmarks, and roads can be promoted or demoted in visual priority. Bigger or smaller. More black or more gray. The actionable data can be brought to the forefront.

Now, all that said, you wouldn’t possibly dare to draw your own maps, from scratch. That would, for most dev groups, be an insane technical challenge and probably a wee bit outside of your company’s core focus and competency (I assume you’re busy tackling some consumer or business application).

Meet our client, MapSense, a killer-team of Computer Scientists, that is just starting to build mapping technology from scratch. Creating beautiful, actionable, user-centered maps.

For the first time ever, because of advances in technology and crowdsourced map data, it has become economically feasible for a modestly funded startup to do so.

Want to re-imagine how Maps serve your users? Contact us (or Mapsense directly) and get early-access to their product and API.