Marketing Stategy and Innovation Blog

Avoiding the Problems of Design by Committee

We all know the saying “too many cooks spoil the broth,” yet it is common during the design process for too many stakeholders to become design decision-makers. When reviews go beyond discussing issues in the user experience and gathering new information and ideas, stakeholders with varying points can sometimes begin to dictate the direction of the design. This leads to a once cohesive set of interactions diverging on many different paths. Slowly, the experience that was begins to slip away, and the product definition dilapidates. So, what can be done to avoid this situation?

1. Define the Problem and Articulate the Goals

Before one can tackle any redesign, whether feature enhancement or new development, it is critical to know ‘what issues need to be solved?’ Oftentimes assumptions are made without proper investigation, and wrong solutions are derived.

For instance, one may note that there is a high customer attrition for one’s product while the competition increases its market share. Without analysis, one could assume that this problem is due to a feature of the competition’s product. However, it could be that the issue really stems from a less apparent problem such as misinformation during the customer engagement process. By narrowing the problem down to its source(s), one can define a specific and appropriate strategy. By speaking in broad terms and ultimate goals (such as ‘out-do the competition’), teams can become divided in ways to tackle the issues.

From the outset, you should deconstruct the problem and state the ultimate and intermediary success criteria for the undertaking. This provides a solid foundation to guide the design phase and keep focus throughout the entire process.

2. Identify Stakeholders and Roles

In keeping with the mission to maintain focus, it is crucial to also synthesize the voices for design conception and refinement. This is one of the more delicate balancing acts one has to perform. As a designer, you want to be sure that you have enough feedback at each step so there isn’t a surprise overhaul at the end, but you also need to preserve productivity toward a unified goal.

The user experience design should be a collaborative effort, and to be successful it should include input from representatives from various touch points in the company. These representatives should not only provide input from their own perspectives, but also bring vetted feedback from members in the company with whom they interact. This allows for more voices to be heard in a more unified way. Once these stakeholders have been identified, it is important to communicate their roles as a liaison and representative. It is also important to set expectations for collaboration and to highlight the importance of putting the user first in each decision. Furthermore, each stakeholder should be familiar with (and played a part in defining) the goals which were set forth at the beginning.

Peter Merholz of Adaptive Path talks about this complex issue of breaking through the organizational barriers to produce a successful user experience. An important thing to not forget in discussions is that everyone should feel that their ideas are being heard. You must bring closure at each step by explaining how concerns have either been addressed or sidelined for the benefit of the experience.

Beyond the voices within the company, another voice that cannot be ignored is that of the user.

3. Test Early and Test Often

Iterative testing is a great principle to follow, particularly in groups where a central authority makes hasty decisions. It is also essential for contentious groups that tend to incorporate everything into the design without discrimination because they are unable to reach a general consensus. User testing at crucial junctures can often bring harmony to a group by validating certain design choices and reminding everyone of the user’s perspective. Remember, that testing does not necessarily mean having expensive usability testing sessions, particularly at this level. Informal testing and sanity checks are more important to ensure that the business goals and conflicting internal interests are not overshadowing the needs of the users.

This iterative approach allows the design team to have the freedom to try many different approaches, particularly in the beginning, and in so doing, ensure that the various concerns and ideas are not being lost. Frequently, it becomes important to try even the “crazy ideas” to bring the team together and provide something which helps visualize ideas and facilitate conversation.

Escaping Design by Committee

These three components can be very effective in keeping the design focused while addressing the concerns and needs of the various stakeholders. Despite this, there is clearly no error-proof approach, so in case you do find yourself caught in the mire of design by committee you should rely on reason. The business, and indeed your team, will want to have a rewarding experience and fully developed product in a timely manner. By explaining that the constant redirections and lack of focus are deteriorating the experience and hurting the schedule, one can reintroduce both urgency and rationale. Taking a step back to revisit the original goals and testing against them can help to restore purpose. It may also be that the original goals are no longer applicable and should be updated to unify the team once more.

At these time, the iterative testing will come in handy as it will be easier to identify where you had digressed and what you may leverage in the re-focusing effort.

In conclusion, avoiding unfocused design is a core element of preventing design by committee. In order to keep focus, you must identify roles explicitly, facilitate open and effective discussion, test frequently, and maintain clear goals.

Note: There will be no UX News Round-Up today. Check back next week when this weekly series will resume.

UX News Round-Up for April 22, 2008

Design + Management: Want Respect? Smash the Table!

Dan Saffer quotes a fall 2007 Design Observer article in his blog post about designers and their relationship with management. Although there may be a persistent desire on the part of designers to get a place at the management table “where the big decisions are made,” Saffer reminds his readers that perhaps the place of the designer is not there:

At The Table, it is easy to have other concerns instead of just creating the best products possible: political concerns of gaining and retaining power, or financial concerns of running the company, or resource concerns about personnel, or the million other details it takes to run a business – many of which fight against putting out great products.

With the perspective and clarity of vision that often attends it, perhaps the designer is rightly, and best, an outsider. Saffer suggests that when the design job is done well, “the table will change.” “The best products change companies, markets, and, yes, possibly even the world. And when that happens, attention will be paid, respect given. You will be thanked for smashing The Table and giving them a new one.” What would serve a designer best, then, is not being counted within circle of power themselves, but having allies in it.

Usability: Don Norman, 25 Years In Usability

Don Norman takes stock of Usability and how the field has changed since he joined 25 years ago. He estimates the field has grown from 1,000 practitioners primarily in acadamia to over 50,000 individuals, with an additional half-million with part-time responsibilities.

Though perhaps the basics of Usability methodology have not changed, interfaces have undergone significant transformation– command line to GUI, one-button to two-button mice, and the birth of the web-based application. Norman suggests that having worked with these different interfaces over the years allows usability professionals to “generalize the underlying issues in interaction design” and “avoid being swayed by the surface appearance of the latest gizmo.”

Lastly, Norman reflects upon his own satisfaction as a Usability professional, doing work that allows him to ‘help humanity’ by strengthening business, and empower people to “control their destiny and their technology rather than be[ing] subjugated by computers.’ Norman concludes, Usability probably makes an even better profession now than it did 25 years ago, noting “we have job security as long as there’s stupid design in the world, and that’s forever: every new technology that comes along will be abused.”

User Research: Three kinds of search

Earlier this month, researchers from Penn State’s College of Information Sciences and Technology and Queensland University of Technology reported findings from a study done to classify web searches. The study revealed that most queries can be categorized into one of three types: Informational, Navigational or Transactional. The study was the first published of its kind done using actual search data, analyzing 1.5 million searches from hundreds of thousands of users across various search engines. The paper will appear in “Information Processing and Management,” May 2008.

Interface Design: “Designing Software that Works for Everyone”

This is the tagline for the Fluid Project, a collaborative effort at creating an open-source “living library” of user interface components with special emphasis on accessibility and academic software. The project recently received new funding in the form of $2.5 million from the Andrew W. Mellon foundation for one of its main collaborators, The Adaptive Technology Center at the University of Toronto. The project is backed by now more than $8 million in funding, and other institutions involved include the University of California at Berkeley and the University of Cambridge among others. Corporate partners include IBM, Sun, and Yahoo.

Montparnas’ weekly news installment posts every Tuesday.

UX News Round-Up for April 15, 2008

Don’t Block YouTube

In an interview with F@st Company, Gartner researcher Tom Austin suggests that companies think twice about blocking access to sites like YouTube and MySpace. Instead, Austin suggests companies leverage the social networking media of Web 2.0 to “enhance collaboration and productivity.” Business remains fundamentally about human interactions, and the Internet has skyrocketed the number and speed at which people make connections, and blown-out the distance from which people can work together. Austin predicts that a new breed of Information Technologist will emerge from this change–from “the primordial ooze of Web 2.0”–a breed of Information Technologist more interested in human behavior than in software code.

User Behavior Researchers in the Global Market

According to statistics from the market database Wireless Intelligence, it took about 20 years for the first billion mobile phones to sell worldwide. The second billion sold in four years, and the third billion sold in two. Eighty percent of the world’s population now lives within range of a cellular network, which is double the level in 2000. And figures from the International Telecommunications Union show that by the end of 2006, 68 percent of the world’s mobile subscriptions were in developing countries.

Using human-centered design to crack into the global marketplace, companies have been sending researchers into the field to report back to the company with information to inform product design. This New York Times Magazine article follows Jan Chipchase, a human behavior researcher for Nokia, as he observes how cellphones can give developing economies a boost from the ground up.

Montparnas’ weekly news installment posts on Tuesdays.

UX News Round-Up

Making Money on the Internet

“The internet is a copy machine.” Kevin Kelly, co-founder of Wired Magazine, notes on his blog that if the “super-distribution” system of the Internet and its endless free copying of information has undercut the structure of wealth built upon selling precious copies, “how does one make money?”

Kelly defines eight categories of “generative values”, which are “better than free,” because they cannot be copied, only “generated, grown, cultivated, nurtured.” Among these eight are: Immediacy, Personalization, Interpretation, Authenticity, Accessibility, Embodiment, Patronage, and Findability. And these values, which will imbue the Internet with new worth and provide a viable foundation for advertisement, will also demand a new skill-set:

“…An understanding of how abundance breeds a sharing mindset, how generosity is a business model, how vital it has become to cultivate and nurture qualities that can’t be replicated with a click of the mouse.”

MS Project and the Design Process

Uday Gajendar at Ghost in the Pixel posted on the failures of MS Project to facilitate the design process. Relating a conversation Gajendar had with a friend, he writes, “My friend said it just right: ‘MS Project is meant for deterministic projects, where you already know the result.'” The shortcomings of MS Project are not what make Gajendar’s post interesting, however. Rather, it is his observation on the structure of the design process itself:

“Design is fundamentally indeterminate! Meaning, there is no pre-determined outcome, there’s instead innovation, and ideation and hypothesizing, and fast-failing and iteration, and, of course, exploration of the boundaries and scopes/limit.”

From this, Gajendar concludes, ” MS Project was built for number-crunchers, not designers.”

Facebook and ConnectU Settlement, pre-IPO

The New York Times reports that Facebook will be settling with ConnectU over a suit filed in 2004 alleging that Facebook founder Mark Zuckerberg stole the idea for his hugely successful site from the creators of ConnectU. All motions in a countersuit filed by Facebook accusing ConnectU of “unfair business practices” have been halted. The settlement is believed to precede an IPO from Facebook.

Montparnas’ weekly news installment posts on Tuesdays.

UX News Round-Up

Web of Flow

On Sunday, Lo?Øc Le Meur wrote on the centralization provided by services mybloglog, friendfeed, and socialthing. However, Le Meur would prefer it if the centralization occurred on his blog, rather than with a third party service.

Monday, Stowe Boyd responded to Le Meur’s lamentation to say, “conversation is moving from a very static and slow form of conversation — the comments thread on blog posts — to a more dynamic and fast form of conversation: into the flow in Twitter, Friendfeed, and others.” Boyd points out that Twitter and other similar applications are built upon “the web of flow,” in which information comes to people through their relationships, instead of through a series of clicks, scrolls and urls. Boyd suggests that this is an important new way to think about social media.

3-D Social Networking

An article in the New York Times Technology section reports on Vivaty’s concept for three-dimensional online social networking. Where Facebook and MySpace have static profiles that only allow users to post messages back and forth, Vivaty belongs to a ” new wave of Silicon Valley companies [that] is bringing live socializing back into a medium that has‚Ķgrown overly asynchronous.” The venture is backed by Kleiner Perkins and will begin a private test period on Facebook this week.

Outlook + Gmail through MailShadow

Last week, Cemaphore Systems announced a new product that synchronizes e-mail, calendar and address books between Outlook and Gmail. MailShadow is intended as a backup to Outlook, but provides an interesting opportunity for IT in switching out a Microsoft Exchange back-end for Google, while retaining the Outlook interface. MailShadow also allows users to access their Gmail mail, calendar and contacts through Outlook. Though Gmail also allows Outlook users to read Gmail through Outlook, and provides a calendar synchronization, MailShadow is the first product that “automatically brings together synchronization for mail, calendars and address books between the two systems.”

Montparnas’ News Round-Up posts on Tuesdays.

UX News Round-Up

Is That A Kiosk In Your Pocket? Electronic Airline Ticketing

The next step in electronic ticketing has arrived. While those print-your-own boarding pass kiosks have been around since 1995, and half a dozen airlines in the U.S. now allow passengers to check-in using mobile devices, Continental Airlines has begun testing an electronic boarding pass. The boarding pass displays a two-dimensional ‘bar code’ that looks like snow on a television, but on a mobile device, allowing airlines to scan the screen like it would a paper boarding pass. The New York Times reports that the TSA is expected to embrace the technology because the two-dimensional barcode contains more information and is harder to reproduce than traditional one-dimensional barcodes. Mark Bergsrud, Senior VP of Marketing Programs at Continental said, ‚ÄúWe kind of like the idea long term of having a kiosk in your pocket.” The International Air Transport Association announced standards for two-dimensional barcodes last September and expects all of its 240 members to use them exclusively by 2010. Foreign airlines that use electronic passes currently include Japan Airlines, Scandinavian Airlines and Spanair.

Usability Challenges in Web Applications

Early in March, the folks at UIE posted on three usability challenges of Web Applications. These were: 1) Finding the application, 2) setting the proper expectations, 3) and matching the user’s flow. Last week, UIE posted again on two more challenges: 4) Handle contingencies and exceptions. The specific example: If a user is cutting-and-pasting an account number, make sure the input field can accept the format the account number is displayed in. If the account page displays it with hyphens, make sure the input field can recognize those hyphens. 5) Live inside the browser. UIE highlights important features of sites that take user information, like ‘back’ and ‘forward’ buttons distinct from the browser ‘back’ and ‘forward’ buttons that can prevent data loss.

Problems for a Hyper-Connected World: Disconnect Anxiety and Internet Addiction

Solutions Research Group reports that “27 percent of the population suffers increased levels of anxiety when separated from their cell phones or the Internet, and that a further 41 percent suffer occasional anxiety due to communications blackout.” This is called “Disconnect Anxiety.” Last week, Ars Technica reported that the anxiety is age-related, and offers a brief list of questions at self-diagnosis. This week, Ars Technia points us to an editorial in the American Journal of Psychiatry that argues Internet and Gaming addiction should be added to the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders.

UX News Round-Up

“Sexy Money:” Kleiner Perkins’ $100 million pledge for iPhone Apps

Last week, Silicon Valley VC firm Kleiner Perkins pledged $100 million to fund iPhone software development. Though developers have been writing browser-based iPhone apps since the beginning, and more than that since the SDK release in June, Wired Magazine reports development may move to the mainstream because of the prospective pay-off this fund offers. In comparative terms, the size of the Kleiner Perkins fund is ten times that of the amount set aside by Bay Partners for Facebook apps, after Facebook had been established as a platform–the iPhone and the iPod Touch as yet “hold only promise.” Wired Magazine says the size of the fund is evidence that Kleiner Perkins thinks the iPhone and the iPod Touch may launch a movement like the PC did in the 90’s, in which software developers took on the new platform, creating some of today’s largest companies.

Adobe AIR

In an article in the SEO/SEM Journal, Tim Negris predicts that the unique capabilities of Adobe AIR position it to overtake Apple and Microsoft the same way both those companies overtook Xerox Parc. Negris quotes Kevin Lynch, the man responsible for Adobe AIR, as having said, “‘it represents the beginning of a new medium as the best of the web and the best of the desktop come together.'” Adobe AIR can produce Rich Internet Applications that can run off-line on a desktop, with its own runtime, independent of a browser, thus freeing RIAs from the disjointed and diluted user experience of the browser, and from the strictures and disparate user experiences of device-based platforms–Mac or PC (or smartphone). In doing so, Negris contends, Adobe AIR will deliver unified user experiences against which no other development’s efforts can compare–not those of Google Gears, Prism, JavaFX or Microsoft’s Silverlight–and presents a “push towards a massive context shift where device choice doesn’t matter.”

Web 3.0? Expert Generated Content

An article in Newsweek Online last week traced the trend towards a new “Web 3.0,” characterized by a resurgence of “experts” on the Internet. The article quotes consumer strategist Charlotte Beale saying, “People are beginning to recognize that the world is too dangerous a place for faulty information.” Additionally, “choice fatigue and fear of bad advice are creating a ‘perfect storm of demand for expert information.'” Events indicating this shift include the testing of Google’s Knol in December, a site like Wikipedia but limited to content vetted by expert sources, the recent release of the final test version of Mahalo–a people-powered search engine, and the startling 80% jump in traffic to expert advice site over the past several years. The business benefit to all this is the “potential for premium audiences and advertising revenue…’Nobody wants to advertise next to crap,'” says Andrew Keen, author of “The Cult of the Amateur.” Despite this apparent shift, “Web 2.0 Populism” may never go away entirely. Quoting Glenn Reynolds, author of “An Army of Davids,” the Newsweek article admits, “there’s always a Big New Thing, but the old Big New Thing doesn’t really go away…It just becomes another layer–like we’re building an onion from the inside out.”

Montparnas’ weekly news installment posts every Tuesday at lunchtime.

UX News Round-Up

Death of Mobile Apps

Michael Mace, former Chief Competitive Officer and VP of Product Planning at Palm, writes about the death of mobile applications on his blog. The post contends that given the barriers to platform access put in place by mobile carriers–“shrinking distribution channels”–and the lack of alignment between mobile platforms and vertical markets, the mobile app will succumb to the mobile web app. Web apps geared towards mobile devices are not subject to the same distribution and development cost problems. Mace responds to commentary to say that his argument does not consider enterprise mobile applications, or the actions of large companies contracting mobile application developers in their own efforts at a sweet slice of the mobile market.

Codename Ginger – Netvibes Update

Ryan Paul at ars technica reviews the new Netvibes update, codenamed Ginger. Primarily an RSS reader, the start page has a new user interface with a unified content panel, drag-and-drop feeds and widgets, a private activity list that shows what you’ve added and deleted, a contacts panel which can help users find friends on Netvibes, and a micro-blogging status feature. This last comes as a surprise, since Netvibes already supports various AJAX widgets for Twitter, Jaiku, and other services. But, Paul concludes, “In its role as an integrator of social web services, Netvibes always pursued proactive solutions to fragmentation problems. Perhaps now as a provider of social web services, Netvibes will look to expand its bridge-building activities.”

iPhone U

AppleInsider reports that Apple is trying to reestablish itself in the educational sector. For the past six months, five schools–Harvard, MIT, Stanford, Yale and a small school in Texas named Abilene Christian University–have been testing pilot programs with Apple that enable iPhones and iPod Touches to download class presentations directly to their handsets over WiFi rather than through a host computer. The smallest of the five schools, ACU, just announced last week that all its incoming freshman this fall will receive an iPhone or iPod touch as part of “a new learning experience called ‘Connected.'”

Montparnas’ weekly news installment posts Tuesday at lunchtime.

Dealing with Radical User Experience Redesigns

In my last article ‘Radical Redesigns May Be Dangerous,’ I wrote about the potential hazards of drastic changes to existing user experiences. In a poorly executed redesign, these pitfalls can turn away hard-won users (customers). In this article, I explore ways that radical redesigns can be successfully implemented, so fewer existing users leave, and more new users can benefit from the improvements.

Unfortunately, the truth is that almost all user experience redesigns will be unpopular with some people. The more substantial the changes, the greater is the possibility that it will strike discord with users, causing them to abandon the product or service. The good thing is that there are measures that can be taken during design and implementation to increase acceptance of the new design and ease adoption.

The Roots of Displeasure

Any redesign inherently carries four difficulties for users. They are:

  • Anxiety
  • Shock
  • Disappointment
  • Confusion

Anxiety arises because users are not sure what to expect. They cannot be sure that the changes will benefit them. They may also be anxious carrying out their tasks in an unfamiliar interaction environment.

A user experience can be shocking when it is a great departure from what users already know and understand. This shock can arise from something as simple and trivial as graphic design or from something more consequential such as a complete reworking of the main navigation of a web site.

Disappointment may be the most serious nuisance because it has the greatest propensity to drive users to abandon a familiar product or service. Users may be disappointed by a redesign for various reasons. Perhaps the changes are touted as vast improvements but do not deliver. It could also be that some functionality is altered or eliminated. It could even be that the company and designer make decisions that do not benefit the user.

Learning to perform their tasks in a new environment means that users will have to learn how to interact with it. This opens the door for confusion. Users will also have to learn the new limits of the new interactive experience. They may ask, “Does it do what the old one did? Does it do more? Does it do less?”

Each of these barriers can lead users to abandon a familiar product or service, so it is essential to diminish their effect as much as possible.

Make only changes that really will benefit users

Designers and companies often make changes that are unnecessary or detrimental to the users. Sometimes haphazard and ill-conceived experience design leads to this. Sometimes business decisions overshadow the needs of the users. For example, a company may want to put ads on their website to earn revenue. This is a very reasonable business goal, but it has to be balanced with the needs of the website users. This may mean opting to be conservative with the number of ad units on a page instead of crowding a page with a ton of ads. After all, no matter how many ads are placed on a website, if doing so drives away users, they will earn less.

Despite the call for a ‘radical’ redesign, such a project is still a user experience optimization and should be treated as such. This begins with creating an overall strategy based on an understanding of the users’ needs and challenges as well as the business goals. Then the user experience designer must systematically analyze all the design options with the broader strategy in mind.

Through this methodical process it will become clear that some changes are clearly positive, others are clearly not worthwhile, and others are toss-ups. At the very least, the designer can discard the ones that do not make the cut and incorporate the ones that are clearly valuable. Because most changes will introduce challenges for users, changes that are toss-ups can either be refined through various forms of user testing, or can be eliminated, since we are not sure they will be beneficial.

By eliminating all superfluous and detrimental changes to the user experience, users will feel less anxiety and shock. They will also be less likely to be disappointed with the changes, and will have less to be confused by, less to learn and more to enjoy.

Let users know what improvements will be made and why

When a company is touting big changes to their product, customers can grow anxious. Big changes mean big uncertainty to them. They may be unsure that they will still be able to complete their tasks the way they know how to. To assuage their fears, it is important to communicate to users what will change and how these changes are meant benefit them. This can be accomplished via various channels such as marketing campaigns and messaging in the software or service.

Give users a preview of the new design

Providing a smooth transition from one version to the next is crucial because it reduces the shock that users will feel when they get something vastly new. Proper messaging goes a long way, but another step is giving users a more tangible preview of what is to come. As a result they can start to get acclimated by seeing screenshots or even prototypes of the new version, rather than abruptly encountering a completely new environment.

Many online services allow users to test out new versions before they are fully rolled out. This allows users to acclimate to the new experience and start learning how to interact with it. It also provides the organization with an opportunity to gather feedback and make final adjustments before releasing it to all users.

Make sure that users will perceive the changes as beneficial in the short-term as well as long-term

Sometimes changes to the user experience are valuable and enjoyable to users in the long-term but are not initially accepted. This could be because the resulting revisions are shockingly different or because users cannot fully take advantage of the new design until they have learned and internalized the new ways of completing their tasks.

No matter what the reason for the users’ initial negative perception, things can be done to abate it. First and foremost is communicating intended benefits to the user. If they understand the value of these revisions, they are more likely to expend the effort to learn a new system and thoroughly try it out.

A somewhat more resource-intensive method is to perform usability testing on prospective designs to see what will be users’ reactions to them. This can help to determine what are the biggest trouble spots, which may be refined to be less intimidating and easier to learn.

By also ensuring that new interactions and environments are easy to learn, and by supporting learning, the immediate and long-term can be brought closer.

Give users aids such as tool tips, tutorials or an overview of changes

When a product is redesigned from top to bottom, it can become so different from the former version that it seems like a completely new product. That means that users have to re-learn how to do many of the tasks that they were accustomed to completing on the old one. From the users’ perspective, they might as well try a competitor since their old product or service is just as alien as the new revision.

Fortunately, there are numerous ways to aid learning a new design. Even the most radical designs build upon previous iterations and may keep many facets of the previous experience. The key is to effectively use these tools to help users bridge the gap between the familiar and the unfamiliar.

Wherever there are huge departures from existing design, aids such as tutorials, tips, tool-tips, and visual cues can be used to explain and demonstrate new interactions. For example, we can animate a shopping basket to expand whenever a user ads items to it. We can also show a hovering explanation of a new action item or even provide a video tutorial on using it.

Not only do these methods help users understand and learn the redesign, but they also help to reduce their anxiety and frustration.

Give users the option to continue using the old version

Finally, rather than forcing users to adopt the new design, users can have the option to continue using the old version, to reduce their anxiety. Over time they will accept and adopt the new version. For example, when Microsoft came out with Vista, they did not force their customers to use it exclusively. Instead, Microsoft continues to offer support for older versions of Windows as Vista is gaining momentum. This approach works equally well for web-based services and applications as it does for large shrink-wrapped software. In fact, one may argue that it is even more critical for web and mobile products as it is much easier for users to switch to competitors in those spaces.

In Conclusion

Despite the dangers, a well-executed user experience redesign can create great value, which is why companies are excited to embark on such projects. From the user’s standpoint, a successful redesign will make the product or service more enjoyable and rewarding. From the business’ (organization’s) standpoint, a successful redesign will extend the lifetime value of existing customers by increasing their loyalty and even their level of their participation. Putting to practice the above points will go a long way to ensuring that a radical redesign is a hit with users and fruitful for the organization.

UX News Round-Up

Gender Bias in Tech Products

An article in the Boston Globe last week explores gender bias in tech products and how companies are beginning to “feminize” their products. However, “it would be a mistake to think that designing for women simply means adding sparkles”–rather, it requires that companies put “style and functionality on equal footing with power and speed.” The article quotes Tom Savigar, trends director at The Future Laboratory, saying:

In terms of the fable that geeks shall inherit the earth and he’ll be male–it’s completely wrong, because if you do design a product for a woman, a man, or teenage boy will increasingly buy that and enjoy it better.

Better to Find, than to Search or Browse or Ask

Louis Rosenfeld posted a new article to the Adobe Design Center Think Tank on how people find information on websites. Discussing the differentiation that persists between browsing, searching, and asking, Rosenfeld remarks that separating these functions so discretely does not reflect how our brains actually operate when seeking information. Rosenfeld asserts, “finding is arguably at the center of all user experiences,” and we’ve failed to integrate searching, browsing and asking to help users find.

This lack of integration may be due to a parallel lack of non-digital world examples, the differences between the groups that often own “search,” “browse” and “ask” (IT, marketers, customer service), and the fact that designers can sometimes be complacent, failing to design “holistically.” However, all is not lost. Rosenfeld projects that the continuing use of web analytics in user experience design will help illuminate user behavior for designers. Thus able to see the “winding road between searching, browsing, and asking,” can we begin to make it an easier path to travel.

iPhone Usability Report Released

Last year on World Usability Day, the Scandanavian usability and interaction design firm inUse presented its usability report on the iPhone. With Swedes still awaiting the release of the iPhone, inUse has decided to publish the report on its website. The report includes findings from a usability test of the iPhone against three other phones–the HTC tyTN, Sony Ericsson’s W910i, and the Nokia N95. The iPhone won out with test users and inUse tells us why: most importantly, the iPhone has removed one level of abstraction, allowing users to interact directly with objects on the screen, rather than manipulating keys and watching the screen. inUse concludes, that interaction makes the iPhone transparent, accessible and seductive where those other phones are not.

Montparnas’ weekly news installment posts every Tuesday at lunchtime.