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.

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?

FitnessBuddy – Great App, Can Be Even Better

Some of us here at the office use FitnessBuddy for our workouts.  Great way to get some guidance when you hit the gym.  The app helps you choose a workout plan, shows you how to do each exercise (in a highly visual animated gif-like style), and more.  They recently released a new version with lots of changes, including:

  • Some kind of audio guidance feature (wasn’t immediately understandable to us)
  • More step-by-step tracking for a workout (“do this workout” button
  • Slightly updated user interface: buttons, icons, typefaces.

Overall, there are some improvements, but we think there is room for a lot more.

 

For example, here’s the screen you see after tapping a particular workout.  We think there’s too much unformatted text here (if we recall correctly, there was less text in the previous version).  Text fills almost the entirety of the screen (iPhone 5), and most folks simply don’t read (old, but good information).  Further, the text is likely only useful to first or second-time users.  Repeat users (like us) have to swipe down to proceed.First thought would be to cut-back on the text, if possible.  Next thought would be to format it in such a way that it’s scannable (using bullets, paragraphs, boldness, etc.).  Another thought would be to hide most of the text and intuitively enable the user to reveal more, if they’re interested.

 

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In the following screen, we see a list of exercises that comprise the workout.  We find the images to be especially valuable here, and we’re not sure why they’re so small.  They could be significantly increased in size (probably 30% or so without even changing the app design), which we think would be a big improvement in the user experience (again, most folks don’t read and the images convey most of the information, at a glance, especially if the users, like us, have done the same workout many times before).

 

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Lastly, here we’ve tapped on the “Barbell Bench Press” exercise, and we’re shown how to do it.  Great.  We’re also presented with a whole bunch of icons, which aren’t especially clear.  What do they do?

The top-right icon, for instance, shows an actual video of how to do the exercise.  It’s a really useful feature! And one of us used the app for one year before we knew it existed (we tapped the icon by mistake one day).

FitnessBuddy may want to consider:

  • Removing / consolidating some of the features
  • Re-organizing the features visually on the screen in such a way that what they do becomes more apparent.  Grouping them logically, for example.  Introducing a global menu system, for example.
  • Improving the icons / adding labels.

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Overall, we find the app very useful.  We think the company can significantly improve the user experience, accelerate new user adoption, and increase engagement with some additional investment in user interface design.

WinDirStat – See treemap of your file system, easily find big files

WinDirStat is still a really great tool, even after all these years.  Very useful!

I don’t know of any other way of quickly and intuitively finding out what’s taking up my disk space.  Perfect use of the treemap visualization.

Excel “Comment” Bubbles Need to be Improved

It’s about time that Microsoft improve the “Comments” functionality in Excel:

Wow. Just plain ugly. Shooting from the hip:

  • That shadow technique (angled lines) is a bit…dated.
  • Square corners? Rounded would be much better, especially given the grid-like nature of Excel. Rounded corners would create a nice contrast to the rest of the display.
  • 8 ways to tug / pull / stretch?  Totally unnecessary.  Why should this be resizable to begin with?
  • Default size: about four rows of text high.  Doesn’t automatically resize.