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Usability Interview: Jake Rocheleau

Posted by Jacob Creech on September 27th, 2011

Following on from our Interview with Jon Phillips of JonPhillips.ca, this time around we’ve got an interview with Jake Rocheleau.

Jake is a very prolific blogger (as a quick Google search will show), and his writing has been featured on a number of popular sites, including Speckyboy, WebDesignLedger, FreelanceSwitch and SixRevisions, along with many other great design blogs. If you’d like to hear more of his thoughts, I suggest you also check out his Twitter feed.

Please read on to see his answers, and to learn a little more about Usability in the design community:

An interview with Jake Rocheleau

User experience is truly the most important topic to consider because we build applications for the user. Without anybody to access the Internet our websites would empty scripts idling on a server somewhere. - Jake Rocheleau

Would you give us a brief introduction of yourself?

I’m a freelance writer and web developer out of eastern Massachusetts. I’m currently 20 years old, have been working in web design & development for about 5 years.

How did you get involved with usability/user experience/design?

I took my first class in basic HTML and web design at the age of 15. I quickly moved on to JavaScript/jQuery, CSS, and backend PHP/MySQL. This gave me the skills to build a couple web apps in my free time. This also introduced me to the world of freelancing where I began to work on a laundry list of UI design projects.

Why do you think usability and user experience are important?

User experience is truly the most important topic to consider because we build applications for the user. Without anybody to access the Internet our websites would empty scripts idling on a server somewhere. And it’s always simpler to make a good interface look pretty.

The study of building a productive user experience isn’t very tough, either. Most of the ideas are common sense processes. But it does take some practice to apply these into your own design work, for web or mobile or whatever.

Any words of wisdom to people learning about UX and usability?

Stay true to what you feel is right. You’ll always get scattered feedback from users, so take this with a grain of salt. Usability is always about the easiest and quickest route to completing a task. Keep this in mind when you design interfaces and you can’t go wrong!

Any favorite sites or resources you’d like to share?

Here are a few places I frequently visit:

What do you think?

How does this line up with your experience? Do you have any interesting insights to share? Who do you think we should interview in the future? We’d love to hear your feedback in the comments below, on Twitter @IntuitionHQ, or at Facebook.com/IntuitionHQ.

Thanks again to Jake for answering our questions, and don’t forget to subscribe to our RSS feed to follow the next in our series of interviews.

Next in our series we have an interview with Des Traynor of Intercom.io – a fantastic web app for managing relationships with people in web apps, Contrast.ie, where he blogs about a lot of things related to design and usability, and on Twitter @DesTraynor. He’s a very interesting fellow, and I suggest you have a look at those two sites – you’ll immediately see how much care they put in to developing a great user experience.

Thanks for dropping by.

 

Usability Interview: Jon Phillips of JonPhillips.ca

Posted by Jacob Creech on September 16th, 2011

One thing we firmly believe in here at IntuitionHQ is learning from experience. We always try to share our views on all things usability, but often there is a lot of value in hearing what others have to offer.

Following along with this idea, we’ve decided to put together a series of interviews with professionals in the usability and user experience design areas so we can all learn from their experiences.

Today we’re featuring the first of those interviews, with Jon Phillips – formerly of Spyre Studios, along with a range of other sites as he explains in the interview below – clearly a very busy man.

Jon is someone I have a lot of respect for, and who always creates, beautiful, usable designs, and writes well written, interesting content as well. You can see some examples of his work on Dribble to get an idea of what he does.

I think he has some very interesting insights into the worlds of design, usability and user experience, and so without further ado:

An interview with Jon Phillips

I think UX and usability are not optional. If you design for the web and have no idea what usability or user experience means, you need to start reading and learning—fast! - Jon Phillips

Would you give us a brief introduction of yourself?

Hi, I’m Jon Phillips, I’m from Montreal, Canada. I design websites, consult and work with companies and online publishers on content creation, website design, UX and usability. I also write a personal blog where I share my thoughts on design, UX, technology and sometimes photography.

I used to run FreelanceFolder, SpyreStudios, Design-Newz and more recently MediaLoot, which I co-founded and helped launch. I now focus mostly on freelance work as well as some other personal projects like CSSFTW and IconsFTW.

How did you get involved with usability/user experience/design?

As far back as I can remember I have always been interested in various creative outlets, from music to typography, design and writing. In fact I’ve been a guitarist for over 17 years now and I guess you could say that designing websites is, in some ways, an extension of this in terms of creativity.

Being in a band is also very similar to running a business, and solving problems is something you need to work on every single day to keep the ship afloat.

I started designing websites about 7 years ago for friends at first until I realized I could do this for a living and started learning more and increased my customer base as well as improved my skills (something you always need to keep on improving).

While I love designing and writing markup & CSS, what I enjoy most is solving problems and figuring out the hows and whys of how things work and how people interact with them. Finding a viable solution to a UX problem is what I enjoy most.

I think UX and usability are not optional. If you design for the web and have no idea what usability or user experience means, you need to start reading and learning—fast!

Why do you think usability and user experience are important?

I think that no matter what your job title is, whether you’re a designer, a developer or whatever else people call themselves these days (ninjas and rockstars?), usability and user experience go hand in hand with everything else you do. Similar to the ‘should web-designers know how to code’ debate that we seem to hear about all the time, I think all designers should have more than just a basic understanding of usability and UX in order to completely fulfill their role.

UX is related to pretty much everything we do. It is what defines a great website from a bad one, it’s what people perceive and feel and how they interact with your interface.

Designers and developers are not the only ones who need to understand what makes a great user experience. Artists, business owners, project managers and even musicians and movie producers, to a certain extent, need at least some basic understanding of usability and UX in order to satisfy the needs, feelings and goals of their clients, fans, shareholders, partners, etc

Any words of wisdom to people learning about UX and usability?

Always keep learning and improving your skills and understand what makes a great user experience (quick tip: don’t take anything for granted). Don’t forget that amazing Photoshop skills won’t help much when faced with a usability problem to solve.

Also, while there’s a ton of design blogs out there with some great tips and tricks about usability and UX, what you want in order to get a deeper understanding is not just tips and tricks, you’ll want to read articles, studies, personal experiences from people in the field, books and even go to conferences and seminars.

I personally really enjoy reading case studies from web-designers on how they solved certain problems—I prefer reading about the reasons behind a design decision rather than the technologies used to make it possible.

Favorite sites or resources you’d like to share.

After reading everything ever written by Jacob Nielsen, Steve Krug and Luke Wroblewski, there’s the obvious sources like Twitter, Facebook and Google+ where you can get a great deal of information about UX, usability and design—granted, not always the best advice, but they’re great tools for finding other resources.

I have some favorite online publications and blogs like UXBooth, UsabilityPost, UXMag, SmashingMagazine, DaringFireball and others which I visit almost everyday. Sure those sites aren’t always about usability and UX, but still they’re very good resources.


We want to thank Jon for his insights, and for being kind enough to share his experiences with the community. If you’d like to read more from him, you can find his blog at blog.jonphillips.ca or follow him on Twitter @JoPhillips.

What do you think?

How does this line up with your experience? What was your favorite part of this interview? Who do you think we should interview in the future? We’d love to hear your feedback in the comments below, on Twitter @IntuitionHQ, or at Facebook.com/IntuitionHQ.

Thanks again to Jon for answering our questions, and don’t forget to subscribe to our RSS feed to follow the next in our series of interviews. Coming up next? Blogger extraordinaire Jake Rocheleau – whose posts you can find on almost every design blog on the internet – be sure to check it out next week.

Thanks for dropping by!

 

The Ultimate Usability Resource Roundup: 60 Great Posts

Posted by Jacob Creech on September 13th, 2011

As you may or may not have noticed, we are quite prolific Twitter users here at IntuitionHQ. We love to share everything and anything related to usability and user experience, and judging from our 5000+ Twitter followers (and 700+ on our Facebook page), you’ve enjoyed reading it as well.

Thanks to our favorite Twitter tool, Buffer, we can even view analytics of all of our Tweets, and from that we’ve found our top 60 posts from the past few months.

All of these have been retweeted and clicked many times – with the most popular post garnering more than 1000 clicks thanks to a couple of (well, 30+) great retweets. We’ve also added a summary of the most popular sites at the end of the post which anyone with an interest in usability and user experience should really keep an eye on.

These post are in no particular order, but all are worth a look. Without further ado:

60 Great posts on Usability and UX

  1. The $300 Million Button
  2. A personal favorite as it shows the value of user testing

  3. How To Quantify The User Experience
  4. An interesting post because it looks at something many people think of as unquantifiable

  5. Usability Testing: What You need to Know?
  6. A great discussion of the key information you need to know in order to run successful usability tests

  7. Why Users Fill Out Forms Faster with Top Aligned Labels
  8. A great look at logic of form field layouts
    Top aligned labels - UX Movement

  9. Why Your Form Buttons Should Never Say Submit
  10. An interesting discussion on button labels

  11. What is Usability?
  12. Want to learn about usability? You should start here

  13. Personas: Putting the Focus Back on the User
  14. For anyone interested in learning about personas and user centered design, this is a great post

  15. 10 Things to Know about Usability Problems
  16. Measuring Usability is on of my favorite sites, and this post is a great example of things to remember about usability issues

  17. Website Usability Test: Gizmodo.com
  18. Another usability case study giving you a great starting point of how to run your own website usability tests

  19. Do You Know the 5 Keys to Designing Friendly Websites?
  20. 5 handy tips for designing more user friendly websites

  21. Facebook Rolls Out Privacy-Centric Design Changes
  22. An in depth examination of privacy controls on Facebook – really interesting

  23. Why Users Click Right Call to Actions More Than Left Ones
  24. If you have a call to action you want to convert on, read this post

  25. Swiss Army Knives (and web design)
  26. The Contrast Blog is always very well done, and this post is no exception. It even motivated us to do our own blog post on choosing features for your site or service
    Swiss Army Knife - The Contrast Blog

  27. Why Do Chairs Have Four Legs? The Cornerstones of Usable Websites
  28. Hard to argue with a post title like this; nice, simple tips too

  29. Why Rounded Corners are Easier on the Eyes
  30. This answers once and for all the debate about rounded corners… Right?

  31. Hotel Booking, from Start to Finish
  32. A well done examination of the entire hotel booking process

  33. Website Usability Testing: What To Test
  34. For all those wanting to know what to test on their sites or services, this post is the place to start

  35. Online banking – do we want safety over convenience?
  36. The (information) age old question – convenience vs security

  37. Wireframes are dead, long live rapid prototyping
  38. Not a rapid prototyping fan yet? Maybe this post will convince you

  39. 7 Steps to Avoiding User Adoption Problems with Site Redesigns
  40. Something a lot of sites could learn from – how to make your users not hate your redesigns

  41. Website Usability Test case study: TED.com
  42. A neat case study on usability testing looking at the TED.com site
    TED website usability review

  43. Nobody reads your dialog boxes
  44. Apparently no one likes to read on the internet – learn more about it

  45. SEO and User Experience Work Together
  46. A good way to sell people on the benefits of a good user experience – improved SEO

  47. 7 Tips for a More Engaging Website
  48. Helpful tips on how to improve engagement on your website

  49. How Users Read on the Web – Hint: They don’t
  50. Jakob Nielsen on how users read on the internet; evidently not very much

  51. Some UX Lessons I’ve Learned From Offline Experiences
  52. I really like this post; lessons we can apply online from offline experiences

  53. 4 forgotten principles of usability testing
  54. Handy tips you should bear in mind whenever you are running usability tests

  55. Creating a Usable Contact Form
  56. Want your users to contact you? Make a contact form they can use

  57. Usability versus composability
  58. User friendly vs programmer friendly software

  59. Bing vs Google: A Usability Face-Off
  60. A neat look at Google vs Bing in terms of usability. The verdict? Closer than you might think
    Bing vs Google website usability test

  61. Only five users?
  62. Looking back at the idea of 5 users for usability testing, and the law of diminishing returns (which is different with online/remote testing tools)

  63. Things Web Designers Do That People Love
  64. Want to make people love you? Here are some simple tips

  65. 8 Ways your Landing Page Design is Sabotaging your Click-Thru Rate
  66. Unbounce are landing page experts, and this is a great look at improving landing pages

  67. Another 10 UX mistakes to avoid
  68. 10 common UX mistakes you need to watch out for

  69. An interesting look at UX design
  70. A brief insight to the dark side of UX design – who knew?

  71. Why Users Fill Out Forms Faster with Unified Text Fields
  72. How unified text fields make for a better user experience

  73. Five Low-Hanging UX Tips
  74. 5 simple UX tips anyone can work on

  75. A CRAP way to improve usability
  76. Great examples and explanation of the principles of CRAP

  77. 10 Absentee UX Features on Top e-Commerce Sites
  78. Must read post for anyone involved with e-commerce

  79. The Newspaper User Experience
  80. I really like this post on the design of News sites on the internet, and makes you reconsider why things are the way they are
    The Newspaper UX

  81. A Few Notes from Usability Testing: Video Tutorials Get Watched, Text Gets Skipped
  82. We’ve already learnt that people don’t read, but apparently people do watch videos

  83. Web Accessibility, Usability and SEO
  84. How improving your website’s accessibility can also help with SEO – interesting post

  85. Designing Web Application Interfaces from a User Experience Standpoint
  86. Great post with well illustrated examples on improving user experience on the web

  87. (More) Useful Web Usability Testing Tools
  88. A huge roundup of super-useful usability testing tools

  89. Why the password “this is fun” is 10 times more secure than “J4fS!2″
  90. I love this – complexity and security are not equal

  91. 10 Usability Nightmares You Should Be Aware Of
  92. Learn from others mistakes so you don’t make them yourself

  93. 12 Website Usability Testing Myths
  94. 12 common myths about website usability testing, and why they are wrong

  95. Love the diagram – Have you tried talking to them?
  96. Great post on the UX designer as the man in the middle
    The UX designer as the man in the middle - The Contrast Blog

  97. 7 Usability Principles to Make Your Website More Engaging
  98. The original video on website engagement – check it out

  99. The Difference & Relationship Between Usability & User Experience
  100. Curious to know more about usability and UX? This post is a great start

  101. Form Design And The Fallacy Of The Required Field
  102. Required form fields and users – a look at the interaction

  103. Usability Testing: Usability testing is HOT
  104. Awesome post on why usability testing is so important, and so addictive

  105. A/B Testing and Preference Testing for Usability
  106. A useful comparison between different types of usability tests

  107. Useful Wireframing and Prototyping Tools – Roundup
  108. If you’ve ever done or been interested in wireframing and prototyping, you’ll probably want to check this list out

  109. iPad Usability Test: iReddit
  110. A great example of testing on the iPad, in this case looking at the iReddit app

  111. Why you shouldn’t make users register before checkout
  112. Yes, just yes

  113. If Architects Had To Work Like Web Designers
  114. Dear Mr. Architect: Please design and build me a house. I am not quite sure of what I need, so you should use your discretion. My house should have somewhere between two and forty-five bedrooms…

  115. 10 Great Reasons To Usability Test
  116. Need a reason to start usability testing? Here are 10 great ones
    Usability test so you don't fail - IntuitionHQ

  117. Do you make these 4 mistakes when carrying out a usability review?
  118. 4 common mistakes in usability reviews that you should watch out for

  119. 10 Mistakes in Icon Design
  120. A well illustrated post on icon design, and what makes them good or bad


Great sites on Usability and User Experience

From that giant collection of resources, we’ve crunched the numbers and found which sites were the most popular with our readers over the past few months. This is how those numbers broke down for the top sites:

The IntuitionHQ Blog – 9 posts. Unsurprisingly perhaps, as we often share our own links, and we also write a lot about Usability and User Experience, the IntuitionHQ Blog (RSS Feed) was the most featured site in our links. You can follow us on Twitter @IntuitionHQ

UXMovement – 5 posts. UXMovement consistently has a range of great posts which are short and to the point with really useful information. Follow them on Twitter @UXMovement

UXBooth – 4 posts. UXBooth is an old favorite of ours (and in fact, I’ve written a couple of posts there) with fantastic posts on a regular basis. Follow them on Twitter @UXBooth

Userfocus – 3 posts. Userfocus is another consistent resource for all things usability, and a knack for writing great posts. Follow them on Twitter @UserFocus

Hongkiat – 3 posts. Hongkiat features a whole range of different posts, including regular posts on usability and related tools. Follow them on Twitter @Hongkiat

The Contrast Blog – 2 posts. The Contrast Blog is a personal favorite of mine; it’s well designed and well written, and although not as prolific posters as some of the sites featured here, the posts are always worth a read. Follow @Contrast on Twitter for more.

UXfortheMasses – 2 posts. Like the Contrast blog, not super frequent posters, but always high quality, and a great reshare value. Check them out on Twitter @NeilTurnerUX

Some further recommendations

There are a whole range of other sites with frequent great posts on Usability and UX that are also worth a look, but that we haven’t tweeted as much over the past few months. We highly recommend you check out the following:

We hope you liked that roundup

Hopefully that is enough good resources to keep you going for some time. If you have other sites you’d like to see us Tweeting in the future, or other great links that we should see, please let us know in the comments below.

If you’ve got some value from this post, we’d love you to leave a comment, share this post using the buttons below, or follow us on Twitter, Facebook or our RSS feed.

Thanks very much for dropping by, and thanks to everyone who puts all of these great sites together and writes so many fantastic, fascinating posts. Cheers.

Looking to do some quick, easy usability testing? Why not check out IntuitionHQ? You can get started in no time, and collect thousands of results.

Want to test on mobile devices? We’ve also got a Usability Testing iPad app, and work on all mobile browsers.

Learn more and sign up at IntuitionHQ.com

 

Feature Bloat and Usability

Posted by Jacob Creech on September 5th, 2011

This week I came across a really interesting blog post on the Contrast Blog talking about Swiss Army Knives in web design. That is to say, sites trying to pack 101 different features in to one site or app.

We’ve recently been in the market for a new CRM option (still taking suggestions on that front if you’ve got one), and can safely say that a great many CRM services suffer from this issue. Many of these services have clearly gone well past that stage of core development and are now adding a range of ‘nice to have’ (often not really necessary) features.

On the flipside, many of the services we’ve been looking at haven’t met would we’d consider the core functionality of a CRM service, i.e. keeping track of and facilitating customer relationships.

What features should you add?

What makes the people the build these tools add the things that aren’t of much value before the things that are? What method should people use for prioritization?

They’ve got a great chart on the Contrast blog which is definitely worth checking out – I’ve done a quick sketch below:

Choosing features

Choosing features

The idea is that the features on the top right – the features all of the people use all of the time are the most important features to have – which makes perfect sense, but people often don’t seem to follow this logic. The further you move in either direction (either less of the people, or less of the time), the less important the feature is and the less you should consider adding it.

The same problem exists in web design; I’ve lost track of all the sites that think they should include a million and one different navigation items, a million and one different social sharing buttons, or a million and one of anything else.

Do we need this many options?

Do you need this many options?

How do we decide what features to add?

Looking at our own example, with IntuitionHQ every feature or change that we consider, we try and see where it would fit in that chart – will the features be useful for everyone? Will they add value to the service for our users?

We are always looking for seamless features that improve the user experience without actually taking much thought or effort from the user. We want features that are useful, magical and delightful.

What that means is that we may not have all the features of our competitors, but what we do, we do well. This follows on nicely from the Scrum development principles that we adhere to at IntuitionHQ – it’s better to have 80% of the features 100% complete, than 100% of the features 80% complete. It’s better to have a product that does what it does extremely well, than a product that does a whole range of things to mediocre standard.

So, what next?

If you haven’t yet, go and check out the post on the Contrast blog. We’d your experience on choosing features for your products or services. What do you focus on? Any features you think we should be working on? Be sure to let us know in the comments below.

Looking for more interesting links about design and usability? Be sure to subscribe to our RSS feed, follow us on Twitter @IntuitionHQ, or like us on Facebook to keep up with the latest news.

Thanks for dropping by.

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