Thursday, September 30, 2010

When and how to involve UX

Objective post by Jason Buck on econsultancy, who has both become a victim of, and noticed an increase in, the connection between UX people being given no access to end users and clients AND mutterings about the high expense and 'lack of ROI' for user experience.

He presents a solution in the form of how to successfully engage UX professionals so that you do in fact get the intended result.

His points for getting UX involved successfully listed below are from the full article on
To prevent UXDs becoming known as purveyors of digital snake oil and maximise the real benefit of a UXD’s skills here are my suggestions from behind enemy lines:
  • Check your UXD’s skills. Anyone can draw wireframes. They must be able to research, facilitate discussions and workshops, present and debate with clients, be excellent verbal and visual communicators and be focussed on getting the job done well.
  • Involve the UXD early on. It costs more to rectify dodgy designs and change cemented thinking than it does to get it ‘right first time’. Get a proper brief from the client, or get the UXD in on the briefing.
  • Allow a UXD access to the client. If they aren’t good face-to-face, they’re not a good UXD. Working on a consultative basis will get you (and your client’s) money’s worth and again ... gets it ‘right first time’.
  • Ensure a common understanding of the UX deliverables and what the final outcome of the project will be. Templates may mean a single standardised wireframe to one person and a working prototype of the complete site to someone els
  • Let your UXD present their work. They did the thinking, wireframes aren’t good at describing design strategies – and clients often wonder where the colours and spinning globes have gone.

Wednesday, September 29, 2010

Have we changed how we develop apps or wasted opportunity created by a perfectly good crisis?

In a January 2010 report, Mike Gualtieri, John R. Rymer, Jeffrey S. Hammond, Mike Gilpin and Adam Knoll from Forrester provided 5 key challenges for development teams that strive to stay abreast of leading edge approaches to application development.

In addition to providing some great guidance around building a lean project portfolio and business-savvy approach to setting goals thereby helping to drive a positive P&L for our business, they also gave the 5 following key areas of change that would help development teams brace for the awesome future.

Change No. 1: Embrace Cloud Computing As An Emerging Platform

Change No. 2: Find Your Inner Startup

Change No. 3: Favor Flexibility And Cost Over Platform Loyalty

Change No. 4: Become Passionate About User Experience

Change No. 5: Find And Coach Your Talent

Looking at their 5 challenges, how do you think you are doing, or maybe what are you doing differently that was a key challenge for you?  We are about to head into the last quarter of 2010 - what do we want to focus that helps us build a case for continuance, growth or change in 2011?

Niccolò Machiavelli said it best: “Never waste the opportunities created by a good crisis.”

(ed. I'm good on #4 and #1 to some degrees and am introspecting on the others now)

Tuesday, September 28, 2010

RIM drops first look at their QNX-powered future

Sweet looking tablet - can't wait to get my hands on one.

Amplify’d from
The newly unveiled Playbook has a 7-inch touch screen and is just under 10 millimeters thick.

As was widely rumored, RIM did unveil its first non-smartphone device Monday at the opening keynote event at its DevCon developer conference here. The company is calling it the PlayBook.

RIM also showed that its strategy is not limited to just offering new hardware. Even though it only recently announced its new BlackBerry OS 6, the company has also created a brand-new tablet OS for the PlayBook. It's called BlackBerry Tablet OS, and it's designed by QNX Software, a company purchased by RIM earlier this year.

The company went with a new system because, as Lazaridis put it, "You don't build a skyscraper on a house foundation." RIM clearly feels that what it has for tablets is a much more robust OS that will run well on its 1GHz dual-core tablet.

While RIM emphasized how powerful the OS will be, the system also has something very non-businesslike built in: OpenGL support.

Developers use that to build games with cool 3D graphics. Dan Dodge, CEO of QNX, said that support will make the Tablet OS a serious gaming platform, which elicited applause from the developers in the audience.

Of course, there's still much we don't know: when it will ship, price, availability, and even some core features like battery life.

To underscore how RIM feels about Flash, Lazaridis brought Adobe's CEO Shantanu Narayen up on stage today to talk about how closely the two platforms are linked. It was mostly for the benefit of the developers in the audience, but the idea that all Web video will be displayed is one way to differentiate its device for potential consumers.


Sunday, September 26, 2010

KPIs for Great Experiences

Educating and equipping yourself and your existing organization to build great experiences and set KPIs for how those experiences are rendered and consumed requires some faith in your own R&DIY methodology - Research and Develop It Yourself.  Even for organizations with no intention of building teams with dedicated user experience skills, it is necessary to have some framework for stakeholders in any project to evaluate skills, work plans, resource models, wireframes and other artefacts of the user experience outcomes and process. 

I would encourage anyone thinking about this for the first time to stretch your mind a bit - often new methodologies that can bring considerable benefit don't work right away simply because organizations and individuals hold onto beliefs, practices and organizational paradigms that no longer fit the modern software development process.  So here are 10 things that I am confident everyone will benefit from and that will light the path to better customer experiences. There are some specific focus areas for each theme as well as some ideas for key user-centric KPIs that you can set for each.

1. Branding
User Experience is the front-facing evidence of a true focus on great customer experience.  Some people interchange UX with brand as it relates to interfaces on the web, essentially acknowledging that brand is something we influence in everything we do. The brand becomes an experience when designers wrap the online or in-store presence of an institution or organization in the promise of the brand and this powerful reality can lead to both good and bad brand experience.  A positive user experience has a direct correlation to positive brand perception. Authors such as Dirk Knemeyer who has worked on software design for Microsoft, Apple, Oracle and many other well known brands, expanded on this theme recognizing that both online and offline customer experiences contribute to brand image and \highlighting the importance of consistency between the customer experience across all touch-points.  Therefore working from the premise that an organization engages in a broad, complex set of interactions with its customers, of which the brand experience portrayed through its websites and applications is only one.  At minimum here, we need to verify that:
a.   The system provides all types of visitors, customers and employees with an engaging and memorable experience.
b.   The visual impact of the system is consistent with the brand identity and actually delivers on the learned and trusted promise of the brand.
c.   The system leverages the capabilities of the internet or application in order to enhance or extend the promise, values and mission of the brand.

Example Branding KPIs - Brand affinity, brand awareness, referral, comment/rating, sentiment, NetPromoter

2. Functionality
Less may in fact be more, but simple is never simple.  This subjective evaluation that drives a lot of application and online thinking needs to consider the goals of both the user and the business, and needs to reflect the capabilities and policies (e.g. security, privacy) of the IT organization responsible for deploying and managing the application.  When building interaction based on functions we should strive to minimize the cognitive load required to absorb information and complete tasks.  One way to think about this is to understand how much concentration the task requires to complete. A good way to reduce the amount of ‘thinking work’ the user has to do is to focus on what the computer is good at and build a system that uses the computers skills to the best of its abilities. To optimize interaction with sophisticated functionality consider the following key attributes of a system or application:
a.   The system helps its visitors accomplish common goals and tasks.
b.   Online functions are integrated seamlessly with both real-time data and transactions as well as offline or asynchronous business processes.
c.   Can users apply knowledge that they might have gained from using other sites or in-person situations?
d.   Accelerators—unseen by the novice user—may often speed up the deployment of an application and introduce best practices that cater to both inexperienced and experienced users. Can a one size fits all approach be used?  Can you extend systems and products in such a way to specifically target your use cases?
e.   Visibility of both system health and progress allows you to keep users informed about what is going on at all times and reduces abandonment during issues that may be out of their, or even your, control.  Ensure that task progress is clearly communicated at all stages.

Example KPIs for functionality - Adoption, abandon rates, customer service escalations, social feedback

3. Visual Delight
The balance between psychology, human factors, HCI (human computer interaction) and the magic of design is all based on one common principle, the notion that people want to be engaged by the things that they do.  People may learn in different ways, keep track of tasks in different ways but there is a fundamental need to be and feel immersed in experiences.  In a world of constant distractions, it is no small feat any longer to stay focused on tasks.  How well they can do that is a reflection of design, not just the design of the system or process they are engaging with, but also the surrounding distractions and plethora of options that are often unnecessarily pushed into interfaces.  Bear in mind that personalization can enhance the impact of design - allowing users to customize presentation maximizes utility to them.  Site design should accommodate personalization and utility, not force users to accommodate the design.  While design and engagement are subjective and need to reflect both brand and functionality as outlined above, we can do a few basic checks to ensure we are on the right path, such as:
a.  All graphics and multimedia add value to the specific experience or potential adoption of a system or tool. Engage and guide user's eye, mind and navigational system appropriately.
b.  Page length, content depth and screen elements are relevant to the task at hand - such as providing data visualizations to aid decision-making or help content and comparisons to help with product selection and configuration.
c.  Does the application use standard iconography and adhere to brand guidelines, as well as style guides that may be in use across other interaction points in both the organization or even the industry in general?
d.  Remember, not everyone gets visually engaged and that there are myriad forms of difficulty people may have with complex interfaces.  Balance the need to engage and delight with a practical approach to accessibility and use of standards.

Example KPIs for Visual Delight - Adoption, abandonment, page depth, time on site, transaction success, transaction times

4. Navigation
Now that we have some of the basics in place it's time to tackle the difficult tasks of information architecture, interaction design and navigational tools in order to shorten the distance between users and their goals.  Someone once said that architecture is 80% of usability - whether or not that is true is irrelevant to users but what they do know is that if they cant find what they are looking for, then it doesn't work. The Pareto principle is that oft repeated gem that informs us that 20% of the functionality is used 80% of the time - some people interpret this as 80% of people only ever use 20% of the features. Therefore we should make the most common or important functions easiest to find.  In various studies it has been proven that problems with navigation can be the #1 reason for abandoning transactions or support requests online, resulting in costly interactions with frustrated users to solve problems they should have been able to tackle on their own.  While this is a matter of much debate, and many experts weigh in with different approaches, there are some fundamental points that are universal to how we navigate applications and websites.  Consider the following:
a.   Is there a convenient, obvious way to switch between related pages or different sections based on an efficient navigational paradigm?
b.  Are you using any unknown, non-standard keyboard shortcuts?  Education is in order.
c.   Minimize user 'wet memory' load (brainpower requirement) by making all objects, actions, and options appropriately visible and reflective of their significance.
d.   Have you provided easy entry into the system and are fundamental links obvious in their intent and destination?
e.   Can a user get help quickly and efficiently, perhaps even collaboratively within the session?
g.   Have you given users freedom?  Do you support undo, redo, go back and reset appropriately and with safeguards in place to prevent loss of effort?
h.   DO you aggressively monitor traffic through your system. Which pages pique user interest? Which pages make users leave? Adjust your system accordingly.

Example KPIs for Navigation - Purchase, registration, page depth, time on page, time on site, path through site, adoption, abandonment, social feedback

5. Consistency
This is harder than it sounds.  To tackle consistency let's look at the sources of inconsistency.  Acquisitions often result in different product/service lines being represented, voiced and navigated differently.  Pre-registration (marketing) and post-registration (business process) applications are often broken into silo'd operations and this can result in confusion right at the point of transaction.  The need to release projects at different times can also result in inconsistencies across everything from brand to content presentation to navigation.  The source of inconsistency is valid.  The challenge is keeping a unified approach to how we present ourselves to users, and this is hard enough with a single project.  Maintaining consistency ensures that users learn and adopt more quickly and can apply learning to one part of the application based on their prior experiences from another.  We should use inconsistency only where users will clearly understand that things do not work the way they might expect.  How do we tackle this?
a.  Know the user (YOU are not the user)  and ensure that interfaces conform to user-centric and goal-oriented tasks.
b. Provide constant hints and reassurances that the current user is in fact the intended audience.
b. Speak from the outside in, in the users' language, rather than system-oriented terms.
c.  Users should not have to wonder whether different words, situations, elements or actions mean the same thing.
d.  Consider earlier areas like navigation and brand.
e.  Help users understand not only what the can and should do, but what they cannot do.

Example KPIs for Consistency - Success rate, abandon rate, support escalation, social feedback

6. Content
Sweat the small things.  This is a big area.  Well presented content is the exception rather than the rule simply because it is hard to do. Also many teams do not recognize the value of investing in a great copywriter or strong multi-media (lean-back) content.  The reality is that people wspend an overwhelming amount of their online time reading words on a page. On a PAGE - it is no accident that we refer to them as pages.  You need to adopt, develop or use a style guide in order to codify the rules and standards that are right for you.  You need to make several key decisions - languages and grammar, editorial voice, column layout, font, image handling, media handling, page depth/length, above and below the fold, the ability to rate or interact or share content and the ability to print for example, but most importantly you need to determine how to best present it based on your user's goals in order to get the right content to the reader as quickly as possible and in the most easily consumable manner.  Here are a few general themes that are must-haves:
a.   Content is appropriate to customer needs and business goals and help user to make a decision.
b.   Content is complete, up-to-date, accurate, with no redundancy.
c. Content, media, navigation and transactional capabilities work as an integrated whole
d. Nothing is included that is irrelevant.
e. Tags, keywords, categories and subheads are distinctive, descriptive, balanced and easily findable.
f.   Content across multiple languages is comprehensive.
g. Search works!  Do not underestimate the effort required or the power of getting search right on your site or within your application.

According to the W3C guidelines/standards for content, content should be:

    •    Perceivable – Information and user interface components must be presentable to users in ways they can perceive
    •    Operable – User interface components and navigation must be operable
    •    Understandable – Information and the operation of user interface must be understandable
    •    Robust – Content must be robust enough that it can be interpreted reliably by a wide variety of user agents, including assistive technologies (see Accessibility below)

Example KPIs for content - Engagement, time on article, sharing, social feedback, purchase/conversion, site path optimization

7. Performance
Scalability, availability, load times, wait times and how these are represented to the user ultimately determine if users refer to your site as 'slow and annoying' or 'awesome and easy' - great performance empowers users to give you great feedback and ensures that you are always on and building trust and credibility with your users.  This is ultimately an IT task as it relates to network, server horsepower, application server choices, etc but a lot of performance issues can be introduced by content owners and designers.  Two simple rules to observe from a user POV are:
a.   Does the system perform fast enough for users and when it is not performing correctly do you have a way to let them know what the problem is?
b.  Are all load times appropriate to the value of content, even on a slower connections - or do you provide specific services to those with slower connections?

KPIs for Performance - page/application loads, load time, simultaneous users, transaction processing time, abandons, feedback

8. Error handling
Well-written, helpful error messages are crucial to a quality user experience. Poorly written error messages result in low product satisfaction, and are a leading cause of avoidable technical support costs. First and foremost there are essentially two types of errors - system errors and user errors - and we should group our work into the functional areas of error prevention, detection and recovery.  You, the designer and developer, are ultimately responsible for how these are put in place.  Also there are two types of messages that happen when an error takes place - error messages and warning messages. An error message alerts users of a problem that has already occurred. By contrast, a warning message alerts users of a condition that might cause a problem in the future. Error messages can be presented using modal dialog boxes, in-place messages, notifications, or balloons.  Effective error messages inform users that a problem occurred, explain why it happened, and provide a solution so users can fix the problem. Users should either perform an action or change their behavior as the result of an error message.  Consider:
a.   Even better than good error messages is a careful design which prevents a problem from occurring in the first place. Either eliminate error-prone conditions or check for them and present users with a confirmation option before they commit to the action.
b.   How are you capturing user error levels, breakpoints, feedback and assessing that information and acting on it?
c.   Can a user recover all by themselves? What do users have to do to recover from errors? For example, Error messages should actually mean something to the user and tell the user how to fix the problem.

Microsoft and many other software developers have already put an extraordinary amount of effort into this space and we can learn from some best practices in the packaged application world to help us sort out graceful handling of errors.

    •    Is the user interface (UI) presenting a problem that has already occurred?  If not, the message isn't an error. If the user being alerted of a condition that might cause a problem in the future, use a warning message.
    •    Can the problem be prevented without causing confusion? If so, prevent the problem instead. For example, use controls that are constrained to valid values instead of using unconstrained controls that may require error messages. Also, disable controls when clicking would result in error, as long as it's obvious why the control is disabled.
    •    Can the problem be corrected automatically? If so, handle the problem and suppress the error message.
    •    Are users likely to perform an action or change their behavior as the result of the message? If not, the condition doesn't justify interrupting the user so it's better to suppress the error.
    •    Is the problem relevant when users are actively using other programs? If so, consider showing the problem using a notification area icon.
    •    Is the problem not related to the current user activity, does it not require immediate user action, and can users freely ignore it? If so, use an action failure notification instead.
    •    Does the problem relate to the status of a background task within a primary window? If so, consider showing the problem using a status bar.
    •    Are the primary target users IT professionals? If so, consider using an alternative feedback mechanism, such as log file entries or e-mail alerts. IT professionals strongly prefer log files for non-critical information.

KPIs for Errors - number of errors, time to error, recovery from error, abandon rate, customer service escalation reductions, social feedback, success rates

9. Accessibility
When we build interfaces it is important that we use systems to display information in the way that it was originally intended, to encode meaning rather than specifically focusing on appearance. Jakob Neilsen has long been a proponent of the theory that as long as a page is coded for meaning, it is possible for alternative browsers to present that meaning in ways that are optimized for the abilities of individual users and thus facilitate the use of the Web by disabled users.  Bear in mind though that buildings still have stairs, that is to say that it is probably best if you can optimize your onramps and sites for different types of users with different types of limitations, while still maintaining a high fidelity and optimal experience for users without these challenges.  It is a matter of balance and preference, but an interface that has been optimized for every possible use case is probably not ideal for any one type.  Some simple and basic rules to follow are:
a. Check and understand any legislation impacting your presence and be sure to comply with that
b. Study and understand the various challenges users may have, and how they overcome them, and use that information to guide your ability to help them further.
a.   Know the technology limitations: Identify and optimize for target browsers and user hardware.
b.  Think about adding collaboration or live help features if possible to ensure an optimal experience in the event of a problem or barrier that is unforeseen.
c.   Remember that not all disabilities impact users the same way or to the same degrees, for some users being able to magnify type might be enough, for others you need to be sure your site or applications work with the major screenreaders.
d. Allow users to customize presentation, without destroying the usability of the content.
e. Text is used to convey information rather than images of text.

KPIs for Accessibility - all KPIs so far as it pertains to unique audience requirements, compliance to standards

10. Help and documentation
I deliberately left it last to make a point - people always leave it until the end - and often don't spend enough time on it at all.  Ideally a system and the model for interaction should be discoverable and if it is based on common metaphors for navigation and interaction and follows the first 9 guidelines effectively users may never have a problem but you still need to be prepared for this.  For your organization it is an insurance policy on usability, and its also a great way to verify that a system works the way it was intended.  If the help file sounds too complicated, the system likely is too complicated. 
a.   Instructions for use of the system should be visible or easily retrievable whenever appropriate.
b.  Any information required in order to make a decision needs to be there when the decision is being made.
b.   Any documentation should be findable, searchable and written in neutral form.
c. Focus on the user's task not how the system works
d. List concrete steps to be carried out and help users understand at all times where they are in the journey

KPIs for Help and Docs - users helping themselves, users helping others, customer service escalations, social feedback

You may also want to better understand UX theories such as affordance which is essentially the quality of something that tells us or hints as to it's function and interaction model, or more sophisticated theories such as hierarchy of control or Fitts' Law which both have to do with the controls for an object and how we interact with them through mouse or touch or other means.  Once you are on the right path with the functions, design, brand and other key aspects of your application it makes sense to dig deeper into the patterns of interaction and controls that you are surfacing and start thinking about how to standardize them.

Growth in the user experience space and attention to the craft continues to grow.  I constantly find new folks to follow on Twitter, the discussion continues to flood my inbox, there are constantly new topics springing up in the IxDA forums, and more and more enterprise project discussions are revolving around the end user goals.  The job boards are also lighting up and this is fuelling even more interest in education, books and ways that people can get started in or transition their careers to a focus on user experience.  A lot of these discussions around acquiring skills lead to comparisons of education institutions but many of them also point to a few of the key thought leaders in this space.

No newbie to this space could go wrong understanding two critical thinkers in this space in order to get a grasp on the depth of information and help that is available and to understand some of the fundamentals.  Alan Cooper and Peter Morville, in order to help a get a grip on the basics.  Interaction design, information architecture and usability are essentially the fundamentals of user experience and as three key focus areas they complement each other to

Alan Cooper - Twitter - Interaction Design
An advocate of interaction design and agile methodologies, Alan runs cooper and writes books such as The Inmates Are Running The Asylum and the About Face series, which are mostly about how to make software user interfaces address user's goals. Cooper is sometimes called "the father of Visual Basic", and was the leading force behind Visual Basic 1.0, pioneering the use of an IDE to create a GUI via wrapped calls to system routines in the API (this is now referred to as the Adapter pattern).  Check out his blog for a rich history of the world of Interaction Design as many have come to know it.

I had the pleasure of working with Alan and his team when I was in product strategy at Yahoo! on a very interesting project - essentially thinking about design tools for designers and advertising tools for agencies.  Together with members of my team who were driving the project, we mapped out the entire agency ecosystem and actually built persona of the people that generally build persona.  Alan's iterative workstyle and deep insight provided the frank picture of opportunity that we needed to progress the business.  One of my favorite presentations from Alan is located here - The Wisdom of Experience.

Peter Morville - Twitter - Information Architecture
Peter Morville is president and founder of Semantic Studios, a leading information architecture, user experience, and findability consultancy.  He is probably best known for helping to create the discipline of information architecture as we know it, and he is a tireless advocate for the critical roles that credibility, findability, trust and other human desires play in defining user experience.  Peter's new book Search Patterns (co-created with Jeffery Callender) illustrates patterns of behavior and design across the categories of web, e-commerce, enterprise, desktop, mobile, social, and covers such diverse topics as relevance ranking, faceted navigation, multi-touch, and augmented reality.  Peter is a founder and past president of the IA Institute and serves on the advisory boards of Rosenfeld Media, Faz, Clueray, the Journal of IA, the Encyclopedia of Library and Information Sciences,, and Project Information Literacy.

Morville's honeycomb serves as both a companion and checklist for making great experiences.

honeycromb – Peter Morville
Peter Morville (P.Morville – Facets of the User Experience)
Let's take a look at how Peter explains the 7 facets of the UX honeycomb:

    •    Useful. As practitioners, we can't be content to paint within the lines drawn by managers. We must have the courage and creativity to ask whether our products and systems are useful, and to apply our deep knowledge of craft and medium to define innovative solutions that are more useful.
    •    Usable. Ease of use remains vital, and yet the interface-centered methods and perspectives of human-computer interaction do not address all dimensions of web design. In short, usability is necessary but not sufficient.
    •    Desirable. Our quest for efficiency must be tempered by an appreciation for the power and value of image, identity, brand, and other elements of emotional design.
    •    Findable. We must strive to design navigable web sites and locatable objects, so users can find what they need.
    •    Accessible. Just as our buildings have elevators and ramps, our web sites should be accessible to people with disabilities (more than 10% of the population). Today, it's good business and the ethical thing to do. Eventually, it will become the law.
    •    Credible. Thanks to the Web Credibility Project, we're beginning to understand the design elements that influence whether users trust and believe what we tell them.
    •    Valuable. Our sites must deliver value to our sponsors. For non-profits, the user experience must advance the mission. With for-profits, it must contribute to the bottom line and improve customer satisfaction.

You might also find his User Experience Treasure Map useful to guide you through the tools and artefacts of UX.

Another prominent fixture in the UX space is Jakob Neilsen and his writings and work around better practices for HTML may be useful if you are concerned with basic approaches for usability, accessibility and standard ways of presenting textual information.

It is important to understand how some of the more prolific and thoughtful leaders in the space are thinking but don't stop there.  Now more than ever there are tons of people posting around the web about and on user experience. The badge below keeps track of all tweets that are tagged #ux and for the most part the UX conversation on Twitter can be both enlightening and engaging.  It also provides a lot of jumping off points to other articles on the subject.

Avaya focuses on business UX to deliver a solid enterprise tablet

The VOIP and social integration makes the first contender for significant improvement in productivity and utility in tablet form. Others will follow I imagine and I know that platform vendors are all thinking about integrating these touch points already. In this case, the killer app is the device - or at least it promises that it could be.

Amplify’d from
Avaya's not a name you generally hear when circling the consumer electronics water cooler, and even though it just introduced a new tablet, you still won't ever see this guy in Target, Best Buy or Walmart. Expected to cost between $1,500 and $2,000, this 11.5-inch enterprise tablet is designed primarily to be used at a cubicle, doubling as a SIP phone and tripling as an office collaboration tool. Dubbed a "Polycom killer" more than an iPad killer, this unit relies on Aura 6.0 and the newly designed Flare user interface (detailed in the video past the break), which enables touchscreen operation and supports multi-user video calling, email, web browsing and support for Android applications. Specs wise, it's "slightly thicker than an iPad," has a trio of USB 2.0 ports, inbuilt WiFi, 3G / 4G WWAN support and an integrated battery for those days when you simply have to clock in from the comfort of Venice Beach. Hit that More Coverage link for a live report at the device's unveiling, and feel free to start hassling your manager to order up a few dozen of these. Or use that money for office-wide raises -- whatever floats your boat. Read more at

Friday, September 24, 2010

Integrating SAP with Flex using LiveCycle Data Services

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Andreas Tan, Sr. Architect at Adobe IT, discusses with SAP Mentor Matthias Zeller how Adobe integrates rich Internet applications created with Adobe Flex with SAP and other backend applications using LiveCycle Data Services. Recorded at SAPPHIRE 2010.Read more at

Wednesday, September 22, 2010

In defense - UX principle

I was encouraged by the following - a friend shared some principles from an application mantra being tabled for new applications in a category that is increasingly focused on productivity, decision-making and front-facing application strategy - military and defense.  These principles are clearly not top secret to anyone working in the space and would be well adapted by any application or business team considering users in their mission statement.

This obviously does not preclude requirements for security, surety, scale, trust, privacy, secrecy and other requirements.  This simply addresses the interaction layer that in turn represents all other requirements.

I cannot share the source at this time, but this is very well thought out and provides a pragmatic sensibility to how UX can contribute to the success of projects and adoption of applications.

There is clearly a place for 'Principle 16' in our taxonomy.


Principle 16: Ease-of-Use


Applications are easy to use. The underlying technology is transparent to users, so they can concentrate on tasks at hand.


The more a user has to understand the underlying technology, the less productive that user is. Ease-of-use is a positive incentive for use of applications. It encourages users to work within the integrated information environment instead of developing isolated systems to accomplish the task outside of the enterprise's integrated information environment. Most of the knowledge required to operate one system will be similar to others. Training is kept to a minimum, and the risk of using a system improperly is low.

Using an application should be as intuitive as driving a different car.


* Applications will be required to have a common "look and feel" and support ergonomic requirements. Hence, the common look and feel standard must be designed and usability test criteria must be developed.

* Guidelines for user interfaces should not be constrained by narrow assumptions about user location, language, systems training, or physical capability. Factors such as linguistics, customer physical infirmities (visual acuity, ability to use keyboard/mouse), and proficiency in the use of technology have broad ramifications in determining the ease-of-use of an application.

Requirement 16:

All enterprise development must strike a balance between business requirements, IT standards and practices, and user experience.

Requirement 16 lends itself EXACTLY to the post I wrote on Saturday about settting practical guidelines for the adoption of UX expertise.

This is timely because I am working on a broader principles post that encompasses 10  key principles for UX that anyone can use to evaluate and drive better experiences.  If only I had 15 - then I could just add this one ;-)

Dark patterns #ux

To view the presentation follow the link to Engadget.

Amplify’d from
When we pulled up this little presentation by Harry Brignull on "Dark Patterns" in UI design we assumed we'd be seeing some new nefarious techniques that designers were just happening upon. Instead we were confronted with a concise examination of the sort of anti-usability / anti-user practices that are commonly used by designers (on purpose) in order to trick, lull, or goad users into doing stuff they don't want to do. These techniques are seldom talked about, but they're so near ubiquitous that you'd recognize most all of the examples: online retailers sneaking something into your shopping cart, services that are easy to opt in to but near impossible to opt out of, tricky checkboxes that obfuscate whether you're signing up for spam or opting out, and so forth. Sure, we expect this sort of behavior from our friendly neighborhood online scam, but the fact that so many big, "good," brands use the same practices shows just how little of a stigma has been attached to it.

Harry Brignull, in his excellent talk which is embedded after the break, calls for a UI design code of ethics that "good" designers can shove in the face of pushy bosses, and that users can shove in the face of "good" brands. The site is serving as a repository for specific examples of UI abuse, and hopefully meaningful pressure on the named companies can start to push back on some of what Harry calls "black hat" UI design. We'll try to keep an eye on the movement as it progresses and publish a well-defined code of ethics once there is one. In the meantime feel free to shame any worst offenders that spring to mind in comments below. Read more at

YOU i Labs - Ottawa company lands in a sweet spot.

Great to see the Canadian UX quotient getting attention, funding and staffing up.

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YOU i Labs

YOU i Labs is an Ottawa software company that's landed in a technology sweet spot.

They help companies improve the "user interface" or UI. Translation: That's how you and I operate devices such as phones, gaming and GPS units. Usually that means a touch-sensitive screen. YOU i's co-founder and president Jason Flick says a half a billion devices already use their software.


Monday, September 20, 2010

Interactive video, HTML5, Breakouts, Augmented Reality and Optimization will drive video advertising's future.

Bit of a blast from my recent past, having a foiled launch of what could have been a great video advertising platform well behind me now, I was redeemed by interactive video being the first of 5 trends driving web video from an advertising and marketing standpoint.

Enhanced analytics and targeting were key themes of my work in 2008/2009 for video as well but having a great idea and a vision is never enough.

Hats off to Innovid for keeping the gas to mat on this one.

Read the full article here:
Future Web Video MarketingAs online video sites are growing in popularity, web video marketing is becoming more and more of a necessity for brands looking to get their name and message out there.  But web video marketing isn’t what it used to be—simple video commercial spots, sidebar ads and pop-ups are being replaced with more technologically advanced breakout ads, interactive video campaigns and more, and analytics and ad targeting are becoming more comprehensive as well.  Read on to find out about five upcoming trends that you can expect to see from web video marketing and that you should become familiar with if you want to maximize your brand’s web video marketing success in the future.

Interactive Video Will Become The Standard For Advertising

HTML5 Campaigns Will Offer More Creativity Than Ever

Brands Will Break Out Of The Box With YouTube Breakout Campaigns

Augmented Reality & 3D Will Let Consumers Explore Products From Home

Enhanced Analytics & Targeting Will Increase Effectiveness of Video Marketing


Saturday, September 18, 2010

Realistic expectations for enterprise user experience

Back in 2009, I started to tackle the problem of slow adoption for user experience methodology and design thinking in the enterprise and government.  While both enterprise and government had unique needs from a UX perspective, it quickly became clear to me that they had more in common with each other than all other UX areas of practice, i.e. internet startups, media companies, mobile applications, etc.

Ultimately the craft and tools are the same regardless of where it is applied. The difference I am referring to between enterprise UX and consumer applications is perhaps akin to the differences one might find between a commercial aircraft and a two-seater prop plane.  Inevitably in different domains there are a unique set of constraints and complexities that come with designing application interfaces and these are magnified when we expand across the spectrum of an intended user experience.

The second part of the complexity in the enterprise domain is that there are a significant percentage of people in leadership, marketing, product and development roles who do not believe user experience is important at all.  Perhaps rightfully so, given their role and the company they work for, they focus instead on cutting cost out of the supply chain, reducing the cost of taking products or services to market and speeding projects out the door in order to maintain competitive footholds.  Let’s put that thought aside for now, mostly because there are a growing number of business professionals who do see great experiences as differentiators, design thinking as a way to either save or grow a company, and user experience as the evidence of a broader focus on great customer experience.

UX professionals may be partially at fault for this problem in the enterprise – the purity of craft and focus has lent itself to disregard for the complexity of the realization for the ‘user at the center’ edict that they work so hard to craft.  Few user experience documents, wireframes or prototypes come with a set of options to make it easier for IT to implement nor safer for the business to adopt.

Having realistic expectations is left to the overall owner of the project who now sits between three equally squeaky wheels each with unique problems, constraints, needs and goals that are often at conflict with the user.  Registration forms, for example, are consistent and constant proof of the tension between UX, IT and business needs.  At the simplest level here are three distinct views I have seen come up again and again in discussions about a registration form:
  1. Business: The business would like to capture as much data as possible, generally in order to qualify that someone is a lead or valid customer.  Much berated fields like household income and company size are examples of a business need.
  2. IT: Technologists may want the form to be completely distinct and separate from customer databases from an architectural perspective.  This is a measure of protection for customer data and avoids expensive look-ups and connections to back-end systems.
  3. Users: Users want as few fields as possible, auto-population wherever possible and no personally identifying information whatsoever , until such time as they are actually providing that out of necessity. i.e. shipping address.
I honestly believe that the best way to establish guidelines for effective adoption of user experience within the enterprise is to consistently balance the needs of the 3 groups from the onset.  Over time this has the effect of actually seeding user-centric capabilities into IT systems and business processes, and has the short term effect of quickly arriving at needed approvals to move forward with projects.  A project that is well heeled in the corporate culture that funds and supports it, is not only more likely to see the light of day, it is actually more likely to succeed and to be revisited and optimized over time.

There is already an expectation for agility between the business and the needs of IT.  BPM and SOA already co-exist; in fact many thoughtful leaders (how I like to think of thoughtleaders) argue that the two are inextricably bound together in all successful IT departments that serve global, profitable companies.  Now we add this new complexity of pure customer focus and the craft of user experience.  Fortunately there are two associated skillsets and outcomes that help with the translation of need to expectation and its resulting outcome.

Between UX and IT we need to establish and observe guidelines for Information Architecture.  This ensures IT has a voice in the realization of great experience and ensures that users have a voice with the systems they interact with.  Done correctly, IA frees the flow of user information in exchange for information assets and digital properties in a harmonious trade-off of complexity and utility.
Between UX and the business we take advantage of existing business processes (BPM) to build models of ideal interaction and this is the point of inflection for Interaction Design to assert it’s command and control over unruly processes.  When we design beautiful interfaces and adopt familiar metaphors for interaction, this serves as a dialect for success and turns the infinitely complex into the seemingly effortless.

In the middle of these three distinct and different worlds is the land of realistic expectations – the acceptable complexity for users, the attainable throughput for business, and the desired governance for IT.  If three shake hands first and agree to disagree where necessary then we have a path for enterprise user experience that should prove successful – interaction after transaction after optimization.

Businesses with customer experience managed.
IT teams with wildly successful, instantly adopted applications.
Customers that are engaged and pleased with the way their goals are being met.

I find it both notable and no accident that from an enterprise perspective Adobe is building a story for customer experience management with a strong focus on user experience that is enterprise class, on a legacy of BPM leadership and on top of a set of enterprise server products that are built with and support the best practices of SOA.

Monday, September 13, 2010

Galaxy Tab vs iPad Tablet

Objective viewpoint and good comparison chart - after the link

Amplify’d from
Samsung's Galaxy Tab is set to challenge the Apple iPad.

Samsung's Galaxy Tab is set to challenge the Apple iPad.

Samsung has finally unwrapped its Galaxy Tab tablet just a week after releasing a teaser video of the device, which is set to go head to head with the Apple iPad.

Similar to the Dell Streak — they both have smartphone capabilities — the Samsung Galaxy Tab's form factor is a big talking point. With a 7in display, it's smaller than Apple's iPad and therefore easier to carry around. This means it's a hybrid device that sits somewhere between a largish touchscreen phone like Samsung's own Galaxy S, and the iPad.

Naturally, comparisons to the iPad are inevitable — the Samsung Galaxy Tab is one of the first of many tablet devices that will be released this year, aiming to steal sales from Apple. While it has a smaller footprint than the iPad, the Samsung Galaxy Tab will be used in a similar manner: as a media consumption device that's ideal for browsing the Web, viewing multimedia and reading books, newspapers and magazines. Much like the iPad, the Samsung Galaxy Tab is not a meant to be a complete netbook or notebook replacement, nor is it a smartphone — even if you can make phone calls with it.

Samsung Galaxy Tab

Like the iPad, the Samsung Galaxy Tab will be used in mainly as a media consumption device

With this in mind, how does the Samsung Galaxy Tab stack up against the Apple iPad?


Sunday, September 12, 2010

One app, five screens

LiveCycle Collaboration Service adding some interesting new features.

Original post on
The focus for our August TSUNAMI release has been all about responding to our top (at least 1 and 2) feature requests. So, what’s in the box? (Sign up or log in to the Collaboration Service Developer Portal to download the SDK and get to work!)

Available now. Just as you have components for publishing and subscribing to audio and web cameras, there’s a simple set of new components : ScreenSharePublisher and ScreenShareSubscriber.
We’re exposing the add-in technology used for ConnectNow to allow screen capture – when invoked within the Flash Player, the ScreenSharePublisher pops up an (almost) invisible add-in, which it controls. The publisher (in the regular Player) has a full set of APIs for controlling the add-in, and the experience it quite good. We’re still working on getting the right branding in place for the add-in, and we’re looking at remote-control for a future release, but the standard screensharing features are all there for you to develop with. Viewing a shared screen is a matter of using a ScreenShareSubscriber within the regular Flash Player. As always, we’re releasing early and often, so there’s lots of time to make improvements – if you spot bugs or things you don’t like (or just want to praise us, that’s cool too), the forums are staffed with our fanatical dev team.

Just like it says – record and download, then playback everything that happened in your collaborative session, whether audio, video, or data. We’re playing this one a little closer to the vest, and releasing it as a private beta – we still need to work on stress-testing the service at high loads, so we want to let developers in a little more gradually to help out. If you’d like to join the recording beta – send us a mail with “Recording Beta” in the subject, to LCCS@<the company offering Adobe LCCS>.com.

We’ve heard a lot of folks tell us that they’d like to add real-time audio / video to their HTML forms, as well as make the forms collaborative. Our standard question was “so, are you willing to replace all your existing HTML UI with Flash?”, the answer to which was often the sound of crickets chirping sadly in the distance. The JS APIs are nice in that if you need audio/video, put a SWF next to your HTML content, and code the collaborative form by adding simple JS code to your existing HTML. No more rip-and-replace of work you’ve already done!

Yes, our old domain was confusing. Our new one is just common sense. The developer portal? Room URLs?<accountName>/<roomName>. No need to worry, all your old domains and URLs will continue working as they always have.
If you are attending FITC in San Francisco, be sure to check out our session to learn more about these new features, Wednesday, 2:30pm. We’re also thinking of hosting a webinar to demo some of the new goodies – reply in the comments if you’d be interested, so we can see if it’s worth scheduling.

Saturday, September 11, 2010

Persuasion design. Catalyst design. Performance design. Designing with intent...

Issues of sustainability and social change are forcing designers to reconsider their detached role. Many are adopting new modes of direct engagement and influence.

Great article on designing with intent...

Friday, September 10, 2010

iPhone and iPad added to target clients for LiveCycle ES as Apple lifts restrictions on building apps with CS5!

While I was on a plane back from the UK yesterday, Apple announced some significant changes to its licensing terms, a change that has immediately gotten a large amount of press coverage and a ton of positive momentum already with our community of partners and customers at Adobe.

I am encouraged to see Apple lifting its restriction on the tools, giving developers the freedom to choose what tools they use to develop applications for Apple devices.

This means that Adobe’s Packager for iPhone, a feature in Flash Pro CS5, can now be used to create and distribute applications for iOS devices. Apple’s restrictions on Flash content running in the browser on iOS devices remains in place.

We have been working on several instances where our application end points had to be completely rebuilt in order to talk to the Adobe LiveCycle services on the back end and this will make those jobs a lot more productive and allow us to leverage assets in a much more reusable fashion.  That is good news for our customers - architects and developers and UX professionals - who love what we give them on the back end and the 'outside the browser' story for their applications, but still want to target iOS as well.

This officially adds iPhone and iPad to the list of targeted clients for LiveCycle ES.  We already have a LiveCycle Mobile ES client that can initiate and manage form-based and document workflows but this expands the target use cases to include Enterprise RIA and custom clients that will work with the RIA server products in the LiveCycle ES platform.  More to come on this...
Of course we are already way down the road with Android and it's too late for me personally - I love my Android - but I know what we need to do to help enterprise customers and this makes all our lives a little easier and gives us the full range of mobile devices to target when we deploy controlled applications.

Abbott Labs' Sybil Dahan on why people fear Getting Naked (from an interview w/ @dawnamaclean)

The “naked” approach, described by Patrick Lencioni, is about service providers behaving like partners instead of consultants when dealing with clients. Two weeks ago Dawna Maclean launched a new blog series featuring some of her fellow “naked” fans.

Patrick Lencioni has just over 1,000 followers on Twitter but he doesn't follow anyone back (he basically broadcasts on the account), his site has no comments or feedback at all, so I think I will stick some masking tape on the cover of his book and write 'Getting Naked, by Myself'.

Jokes and commentary aside, I love Sybil's take on why people fear getting naked...(snipped below)

Amplify’d from

-      Fear of losing the business can be interpreted as leaders should not make their tenure all about a popularity contest and focus on their own career development. Leaders should instead focus on understanding and improving the organization’s performance, i.e. ensuring the leadership team performs well together and articulates the vision and values clearly to the entire organization, and ultimately communicating the organization’s performance – good and the not-so-good. Focusing on the organization’s successes, not your own, is what this is all about.

-      Fear of being embarrassed can be interpreted as leaders should not behave as if they have all the answers and solutions. Leaders should ask the “dumb questions”, but should also ensure they are surrounded with people who can provide the answers. Leaders will face the situation of having to move forward without all the answers, so how they behave when the results come out is crucial – if the decision was not the optimal one then will the leadership’s reaction be of hiding the outcome, or deflecting the responsibility onto others, or perhaps punishing the organization for their failure? Leaders should instead take full responsibility for the failure and put mechanisms in place for the organization to learn from their mistakes. Learning from the organization’s failures, not punishing, is what this is all about.

-      Fear of feeling inferior can be interpreted as leaders should not fear in participating in the every-day activities, or as some might call it “doing the dirty work”. By no means am I suggesting that leaders should become micro-managers and do their staff’s activities, but instead apply the concept that you should never ask another to do a task that yourself would not be willing to do. This is about building respect and trust because of who you are and what you can do – not to be confused with what title one holds and what was done in the past to get there.”


Friday, September 03, 2010

UX Community Day, NYC

Last week I had the pleasure of hosting Adobe’s first UX Community Day targeted at our enterprise partners in NYC. The day proved to be a hit with the attendees, and even though I felt like we pushed the boundaries of traditional enterprise comfort zones around UX, we still inspired several great discussions and QA periods, and the hallway/side conversations were both inspired and engaging.

We are turning a page with our enterprise business, and that page turn is metaphorical in that our traditional document-centric approach to enterprise solutions is turning into better experiences, more engaging applications and a specific focus on building from the outside in, from the user goals and desires back into the systems we sit on top of and integrate to.

One could, and many do, argue that forms themselves are a customer-facing experience, and that maintaining the fidelity of the form and document is an instrumental part of making great experiences.  This is true, but being able to position documents and forms in a broader context that embraces all the elements of a user’s path through onboarding, configuration, service requests and ultimately being able to interact with their communications is fundamental to how and why this is changing in the enterprise.  We too cannot solve the problems we solve in silos any longer, its not enough to integrate – we need to motivate, inspire and captivate.  This is the journey we, and our enterprise customers are on.

I found many of the presentations, and the panel I hosted, to be very inspiring and I think what I love most about our partners at Adobe is their frank honesty, deep experience and ability to work with us on this journey.  My intent is to specifically dig more into the topics that were discussed, such as how social media is changing the enterprise, how UX unlocks the ROI in our systems today, how we can rethink our organizations, skillset and approach in order to maximize our work in this area and more – but for now you can take a look at the sessions yourself (below) and see if you agree that this page has been turned and there is no turning it back.

Original Schedule with links to presentations and slides (as available)
The State of Customer Experience
Megan Burns, Forrester
Play Slides
Crafting the climate for UX innovation
Jonathan Anderson, UX Magazine
Play Slides
Adobe Flash Platform roadmap for UX
Christophe Coenraets , Adobe Systems
Play Slides
The Art of Storytelling
Christian Saylor, Universal Mind
Intuitive, contextual composition with LiveCycle Mosaic
Joe Sanfilippo, Adobe Systems
The ROI of User Experience
Anthony Franco, President, Effective UI
3D Methodology and Experience Oriented Architecture: Bringing Technologists and Designers together
Steven Webster, Adobe Systems
Play Slides
Case Study: UX in workflows
Helmut Nachbauer, ecomplexx
Coming soon
Panel discussion: Best Practices UX for a Social Enterprise
Ben Watson, Adobe System
CMO Challenges Today: How to Electrify Customer Interactions
Kevin Cochrane, Day Software
Introduction to Acquity Group and Adobe’s Latest Acquisition – Day
Andy Peebler, Acquity Group

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