New UX Book featuring Keep It Usable

There’s a new UX book on the scene and guess what, it features us!

We’ve been getting a bit of a name for ourselves within the UX scene based on the quality of our work and our passion for all things UX. So when Peter Beare and Gavin Allanwood gained approval to create a new UX book they invited us to take part. The book covers an overview of the whole User Experience process, from research with users (our section – chapter 2) through to design and build.

It’s a book that you can easily dip in and out of and is particularly beneficial to those new to UX who need a higher level understanding of the process, tools and techniques that are used to create a good user experience.

User Experience Design: Creating designs that users really love is now available on Amazon for just under £20 – well worth it.

User experience design book - Creating designs users really love By Gavin Allanwood and Peter Beare
“By putting people at the centre of interactive design, user experience (UX) techniques are now right at the heart of digital media design and development. As a designer, you need to create work that will impact positively on everyone who is exposed to it. Whether it s passive and immutable or interactive and dynamic, the success of your design will depend largely on how well the user experience is constructed.

User Experience Design shows how researching and understanding users expectations and motivations can help you develop effective, targeted designs. The authors explore the use of scenarios, personas and prototyping in idea development, and will help you get the most out of the latest tools and techniques to produce interactive designs that users will love.

With practical projects to get you started, and stunning examples from some of today s most innovative studios, this is an essential introduction to modern UXD.”
UX-User-Profiling-Chapter
We particularly like the layout and style of the book as there is an emphasis on imagery and real world case studies that makes the content really easy to consume and particularly engaging.

Below, you’ll see our user experience machine poster. If you’d like an electronic copy of this, you’re more than welcome to download a copy. We also have a few printed copies – if you’d like one just get in touch.

User Experience Machine

Look out for our next book!

We’ve also been invited to appear in another ux book out later this year, so keep your eyes peeled for that one, which will have a more academic slant.

Guest Interview: On The Beach Head of Design

Keep It Usable On The Beach interview
This months Keep It Usable guest interview is with our friend Fritz Von Runte.
Fritz is the Head of design for our client On The Beach and we had the great pleasure of working with the team on a recent project.
Fritz Von Runte“I would go to the lab with Keep It Usable in the morning, and in the afternoon I’d be writing tickets to change things – in the best Agile practice.”

Could you tell our readers a bit about your background and your role at On The Beach?

I started my career in Art Direction almost 20 years ago, working for the advertising industry. I was always interested in “New Media” and eventually I decided to shift my career, to focus on web. Then, 7 years ago I made my masters in User Interface Design and specialised in UX.
At On The Beach I wear a couple of hats. I’m the head of a design team of four professionals. We try to maintain a certain design language throughout the company, with consistence and on brand. It’s a tough job because it’s a big company, with many colleagues, many requests, and many design problems, all in need of our solutions. Plus, it’s one of the most successful online travel agencies in the UK market. It’s a massive responsibility. I am also responsible for designing the experiences our users will have, not only in the web but also offline, via our flight and hotel vouchers, and customer documentation, for example.

What does your typical day involve?

I have a very busy schedule, but there’s a certain framework that I try my best to fit it. We’re Agile, so every morning we have the Design stand-up where we communicate what every member of the team is doing at the moment and discuss the flow of tickets. We also have Agile stand-ups for all other projects, most of these involving the Design Shop (as we call our team), so one of us must be there to update the other teams. I try to schedule all my meetings in the morning so I can use the afternoon for research and design.

How important is UX at On The Beach and why is it valued?

On The Beach has been around for almost 8 years and it grew very rapidly. A couple of years ago they began to understand the need to pay more attention to the experiences and the usability. I was brought on board as the first designer focusing on the UX, we had a good six months changing the culture to accept and understand a bit more about this need. But, to be honest, this change was painless and smooth, as the directors were (and are) open to new solutions that could improve the website and our client’s experience. We have a lot of room to develop, to research, and to propose new ideas. It’s a wonderful place to work and it’s a thrill to be doing UX design at this moment in time at a company like On The Beach.

You work to an agile development process. Why and how does UX fit into this process?

I guess that is the biggest challenge. Agile is awesome but historically it tends to treat design and the experience as something frivolous or secondary. One of my goals is to raise awareness of how better it is to deal with usage challenges from the start instead of doing it rapidly and then having to re-do it. On the otherhand, when we are testing and prototyping, we use Agile principles and it works really well to prove (or disprove) assumptions from a very early stage, without having to spend much time in development for example.

What tools do you work with?

Primarily with paper and pencil – it’s how everything starts!. Then I move to a PC. I find it easier to talk to the network and to other technologies with a PC. But, we have all sorts of platforms in our team; Windows, iOS, Ubuntu, Android…
When it comes to software I use many different ones. The whole Adobe suite of course – and I mean the whole suite! I’ve used Visio in the distant past, then I moved to Axure and Balsamiq, but because of the dynamics here at On The Beach I now mainly use Illustrator for my low-fi wireframes as I’ve accumulated an extensive library of symbols and actions… :) Plus a lot of on-the-fly coding on the console and notepad, and also other online tools like UXPin, Litmus, JSFiddle, etc.

Mobile app vs responsive web design vs mobile web – what are your thoughts at On The Beach?

Responsive is a terminology that I don’t really subscribe to. There are two ways to see this issue. Firstly, like we all used to test our websites, years ago on different browsers and systems, and get charts of usage of monitor sizes and resolutions, we now should make sure this product performs well in all possible environments – the mobile, the tablet, the internet tv, the laptop, etc, in all browsers and all systems. Nothing has changed – the game is just a bit harder now.

Secondly, different products have different needs and different platforms have different needs. The very first version of Tetris I’ve ever played was called Nyet. Tetris is a classic game that existed in any possible platform, even portable ones like Gameboy. Have you tried to play Tetris on the mobile? It changed the whole dynamic and usability of the game. So having a webapp whose functionality is the same on different platforms, but with some adjustments to the grid depending on the screen size, is not something I take for granted.

I always challenge the concept of mobile apps, for different reasons. I don’t think it’s always the best way to serve your product to a client. I have a parallel career as a DJ and record producer, and the music market is flooded with Mobile Apps. I don’t see it as a great tool to serve content. I see it mainly as a badge on your mobile screen, saying to the world and yourself that you’re are a big fan of artist or band xyz. I think mobile apps – the ones you download, and that updates itself when you’re connected to the wifi – are more interesting when your product is a tool and that you think the user will use it enough times to justify its download and space on screen and internal memory.

With On The Beach there are two main factors that made us not to choose this route. Firstly we are so dynamic when it comes to software development, making at least two deploys per week, that an app from us would be constantly updating, and that wouldn’t be the best experience for the user – think Acrobat Reader, when was the last time it didn’t tell you it needs updating? :) The second reason is accessibility. Although we have a significant number of customers choosing us as their online travel agent more than once a year, plus all the people that come back from their holidays and come to us to book their next ones – and that would justify an On The Beach app as a tool – we wanted to use our efforts and energy on something that would serve everybody. For example, users coming from Google or Bing, a link on Facebook, a suggestion of a friend or a specialist site like Trip Advisor (that sends us hundreds of users every day). Instead, we made an entirely new website, just for the mobile, that you don’t need to download or upkeep. It’s there for anyone with a connection and it works really well.

On The Beach Tablet and Mobile websites

Describe an example of the work involved from design through to implementation?

I think the design process is the same on every branch of design. From designing a chair to a party flyer, from a shopping cart experience to a car. We have an idea, then some high level analysis, then research, concept, testing and finally wireframing. Then back to the research.

How important is research to OTB?  How did the Keep It Usable research feed into the agile development process and how did the feedback help to shape the software?

Research is fundamental to my work and to the company. We are constantly analysing data and testing the best way to do everything. When it comes to our mobile website we did extensive research, and Keep It Usable was a major part of it. We had instant feedback on certain features that are paramount to the mobile experience. I would go to the lab with Keep It Usable in the morning, and in the afternoon I’d be writing tickets to change things – in the best Agile practice.

What are your favourite UX-related resources?

I have way too many bookmarks, rss and twitter feeds, but I think the benefits from other people or companies experiences come from knowing the whole case. This is why I love to go to meetings and talks, I’m very active at #NUX, and I try to go to all UX conventions I can. It’s a good way to get to know people in the industry, but mainly I do it to hear the cases straight from the horses mouth. A button being small or big, positioned left or right, its colours… it doesn’t mean anything without data, without knowing the purposes and goals that were briefed.

Fritz on Twitter: @fritzvonrunte

Would you like to work with us?

Keep It Usable help many different kinds of companies to understand their users. We conduct research with real people and design interfaces using an evidence-based approach; every element has reasoning.

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If you’re not investing in UX, your competitor will be!

New research: Half of consumers abandon online purchases during validation stage

Online shopping

“It is vital for online retail outlets to make sure the transaction process is as fast and simple as possible.”

A staggering half of consumers are abandoning online purchases during the validation stage due to the lengthy time it can take, new research by Experian has found.

Retailers are losing a staggering £2.3 billion when their online sites require users to spend more than 5 minutes going through identity and security procedures.

User tolerance times:

Gambling websites

4 minutes

Retailers

5 minutes

NHS

7 minutes

Banking

7 minutes

Telecoms

7 minutes

 

People go straight to your competitor!

Nearly half (47%) of users abandon a transaction in favour of a competitor site, 20% simply gave up and just 17% tried again later. That’s why it’s so important to spend time getting your experience as good as it can be.

Nick Mothershaw, director of identity and fraud at Experian, said: “Our research shows that retail businesses are at risk of losing out on trade as thousands of consumers are taking their custom elsewhere. It is therefore vital for online retail outlets to make sure the transaction process is as fast and simple as possible, without compromising the level of site security, in order not to miss out on business.”

5 Useful Lies to Tell User Research Participants

shh photoWithin the User Experience and Usability community there is a hugely popular, well-respected website called UX Booth. Lisa recently wrote an article for them where she shares some of her most effective insider research tips for how to increase the validity of research by encouraging more honest responses from participants whilst also helping them feel at ease during research.

One of the ways Lisa achieves this is by using a few little white lies during the research interview. She says “Thinking back, I don’t think I was ever taught these lies. Some of them just make logical sense, such as, telling the user you aren’t involved in the project in any way. After all, we all know that if someone knows you’ve created something, the last thing they want to do is tell you all of it’s faults and failings! It’s human nature. Other white lies I’ve created myself over the hundreds of interviews I’ve conducted, learning techniques that work well (as well as those that don’t), with the aim to increase trust and encourage more open, honest feedback from research participants.”

Read the full article 5 Useful Lies to Tell User Research Participants

Keepitusable win prestigious business award

 

The judges agreed Keepitusable have massive potential and were strong competition for our category winners.

UX business award Keepitusable

Co-founders Lisa and Ricardo with Dragons Den presenter, Evan Davis

Keepitusable are incredibly happy to announce that we have won a business award for being a ‘Rising Star’. The award celebrates young and upcoming companies who have shown growth, achievements, passion and amazing potential.

This year saw a record number and quality of entries and as the youngest company to be shortlisted, we are proud to have won an award.

We work hard to ensure we maintain our reputation for high quality user experience research and design to help companies to improve their bottom line whilst also achieving happier customers. Too many agencies cut corners to save on time and cost. We always ensure our very best researchers and designers work with all our clients so they get quality work and see results that will make a difference.

We make no qualms about working 7 days a week so we can be more flexible to meet your deadlines – we love what we do!

It’s this dedication, commitment to high quality and 100% client satisfaction that makes us proud to be Keepitusable.

The people shortlisted for these awards make such a great contribution to this city that it is absolutely right that they receive recognition for the fantastic work they do. Choosing the finalists has been even more difficult than in previous years and all who entered should be proud of their achievements to date.

BBC Home Page User Research and Redesign Slides

We recently took part in the BBC Connected Studios event to work on future home page design concepts.

As a User Experience (UX) and Usability agency, it won’t surprise you to know the first thing we did was to conduct user research. This enabled us to understand how people actually use the BBC home page at the moment, uncover their existing behaviours and context of use. We then used this information to inform our concept ideas for future BBC home page iterations. Once we had created wireframe concepts, we discussed these with a separate group of users in an audience focus group held at the BBC Media City office.

Below is an overview of our user research findings and concept design ideas.

Keepitusable shortlisted for 2 Business Awards

 

Salford Business Awards 2012Finalists have now been announced for this years incredibly competitive Salford Business Awards, which will be held at Salford City Stadium on the 31st May and we’re excited to announce that Keepitusable has been shortlisted as a finalist in two categories: Rising Star and Entrepreneur.

Our co-founder, Lisa, commented “We’re honoured to have been shortlisted as a finalist in the Salford Business Awards and we think it just goes to show how Media City is helping to shape Salford. Most User Experience agencies are based in London but we feel that Media City has and will continue to bring great opportunities for local businesses so we’re sticking around! Keepitusable now has many well known household brands as clients, including Media City’s prestigious resident, the BBC. We’re a user experience agency which means we help companies to create products and services that customers will love using. We research and analyse real human behaviour and interaction with technology then design around this to create more profitable, customer-centric products and services.”

Paul Wainwright, Chair of The Business Group commented:  ‘Once again we’ve had a record number of entries and our finalists reflect the diverse nature of the vibrant Salford business community.  Choosing the finalists has been even more difficult than in previous years and all who entered should be proud of their achievements to date.  We very much look forward to joining them in celebrating their successes and continued growth at the award ceremony on the 31st May.’

Salford’s City Mayor, Ian Stewart, said:  ‘The people shortlisted for these awards make such a great contribution to this city that it is absolutely right that they receive recognition for the fantastic work they do. Now, more than ever, we need to be supporting our business community, as they have the potential to provide the economic lift we need to bring jobs and prosperity to the city. The achievement of these companies, despite tough economic times, is testament to the great work that is going on in salford.

Keepitusable work with broadcaster on accessible development techniques

is your tablet app easy to use?

User experience design and user research agency Keepitusable, experts at creating highly usable and accessible interfaces, have been working with the BBC on the use of accessible development techniques.

Ricardo Ortega, co-founder of Keepitusable, said: “The tablet and smartphone markets are now growing faster than PCs. People expect applications to be easy-to-use more than ever before. Those companies that invest in great apps that engage their customers will be the ones that excel in the next few years.

Creating a great user experience is incredibly difficult because human beings are complicated and unpredictable. Software and websites are often very comprehensive, so creating something that is simple to use and intuitive is ironically complex.

The importance of accessibility is often an undervalued part of the user experience. For companies such as broadcasters, their audience range can be incredibly varied, accessing services from many devices. So ensuring good usability and access for assistive technology is vital.

Businesses, such as e-commerce, often see accessibility as unnecessary or are uncertain of the benefits it can bring. But focussing on accessibility for your tablet or mobile app, website or software means a lot more visitors will be able to become customers.

In a few years the number of mobile devices will DWARF the number of PCs

This article was published in Creative times.

How Ergonomics and Human Factors can help you

Jaguar Land Rover

“We struggle to find good human factors people”

Jaguar Land Rover

Ergonomics and human factors specialists are very rare in the UK, so our team is incredibly unique. And good human factors specialists in particular are very difficult to find. Even a large iconic brand such as Jaguar Land Rover struggles.

Science

The added value Ergonomists provide include an insight into the more scientific aspects of human-machine interaction and physical aspects of hardware and workflow. Although more widely known for office layouts and designing work environments, Ergonomists often work directly with Designers to ensure products meet International Standards for human-centred design.

Hardware and software flow

Often within companies, hardware and software are designed by completely different departments which can result in a lack of flow between interacting with the device hardware and software for the end user. The ergonomist can bridge this gap, helping to create a seamless flow between hardware and software interaction. Ergonomists can recommend what hardware buttons are required to work with the interface, the size, type, and position they should be placed for ease-of-use, colour and grouping categories, the naming that should be used to be the easiest to understand and what force should be required to access them.

Prototype Testing

It is possible to test very early hardware and software concept prototypes via an expert usability evaluation (expert review) or even with users, much like a usability test, giving you vital feedback at an early enough stage to make cost-effective changes before it’s too late.

Mobile Phone Prototype

Testing the interaction between a mobile phone hardware prototype and software simulation.

Implications for touchscreen interaction

As touchscreens become more prevalent and are used by millions of people, the need for good user-centred designs becomes vitally important.

As opposed to standard interface design, touchscreens, in particular large screens, can require a great deal of physical interaction between human and hardware. If you aren’t careful, the user can end up suffering from a range of repetitive strain injuries or at the very least may just feel uncomfortable using your product rather than the pleasant feeling you want them to associate with your brand.

Frequency of use matters

Problems can occur when your software or product is used by someone on a daily basis. The more frequent the interaction, the higher the chance of encountering health problems.

This could be a mobile phone, a machine interface that someone has to use as part of their job, computer games, etc. The obvious knock-on effect for business is a poorly designed product that causes user dissatisfaction, health problems and bad PR.

Shopping centre touchscreens have less frequency of interaction so require incredibly high ease of use.

Shopping centre touchscreen design

Trafford centre touchscreen

Implications for businesses on employees

For businesses whose employees are using the software, the likely outcomes are a dissatisfied, unmotivated workforce, poor productivity, increased error rates resulting in tasks taking much longer, increased absence and lower morale.

Implications for software and product companies

For software or product companies, the outcomes will likely be dissatisfied customers, poor reviews, increased returns, increased calls to customer services, less return customers and bad publicity which in turn leads to a lowering of the customers perception of your brand.

How we can help

Unlike other user experience and usability agencies out there, did you know we have a fully fledged Ergonomist here at Keepitusable? We also have many years experience of designing and usability testing for touch:

  • We have one of the first ever mobile touch interface designers. He was busy designing smartphone mobile touch interfaces as far back as Ericsson and before the term ‘user experience’ even existed.
  • We have carried out a huge amount of usability testing and user research with touch devices, in particular, mobile.
  • We have created prototypes and conducted research with users to determine touch hit area sizes and to investigate things like environmental effects and multitasking.
  • We have a dedicated in-house ergonomist and human factors expert which enables us to not only focus on the interface but also the hardware, position type and shape of buttons, physical aspects of interaction, posture, user dexterity, etc.

Related posts you may find interesting

human-machine-interface-human-factorsCase study: Touch screen human machine interface design

ux design human factors and ergonomics for a premium factory food sorting machine touch screen interface.

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