World Mental Health Day 2013

World Mental Health Day

Today is world mental health day and it is a crucial day to raise awareness of mental health and wellbeing issues that can effect anyone at anytime.

We’ve been heavily involved in mental health for the last few years. It’s an area where having a good, simple user experience designed by specialist ux psychology designers is absolutely crucial. When someone is distressed, frustrated, stressed, angry, confused, the last thing they need is an interface that worsens their current mental state.

Qwell

Qwell Counselling - Mental health software application for adults

Qwell is a software application that we designed for Xenzone. The engaging user centred has ease of use at the forefront.
Aimed at adults, Qwell provides a safe, reassuring online therapy environment run by fully trained counsellors.

Read the Qwell Case Study >

Kooth

Following a successful launch of Qwell, we were invited to redesign the hugely successful Kooth. Kooth is an award winning online counselling platform for young people. It is commissioned throughout the UK and has helped tens of thousands of young people.

At the start of the project, we held workshops and focus groups with young people in schools and it was clear that the design of Kooth wasn’t engaging with the target audience. They knew what they liked, what they needed, what was cool and so with their input we designed a much more youthful, fun, simple, engaging platform that met with both their requirements and the clients.

Excitedly, our redesign of Kooth will be launched later this month. We can’t wait to show it to you and tell you all about it, so be sure to check back soon!

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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A psychological explanation of why consumers love colour choice

iphone5c colours

Whenever colour choice is discussed with consumers, we have always seen a positive reaction

Apple have finally done it with the iPhone 5C! They’ve launched coloured handsets in keeping with their other famously colourful products. Will consumers like coloured phones? Will they appeal to the mainstream user?

For those of you who follow @usabilitygal on Twitter or have spoken to Lisa in the past, you’ll know that for years she’s been championing colour choice in mobile handsets and it’s been a bug bear that there is so little choice for consumers other than boring, dull colours such as black, dark grey, navy and white. Most people disagreed, their explanation being that a wide variety of colourful cases was all that consumers needed. Sell mobiles in monochrome colours and let people pimp them up if they so desired.

Unfortunately, this limited viewpoint relies on the consumer at the point of purchase having the imagination to envisage each mobile in a colourful case that they haven’t yet even begun to think about. Therefore, one of the major purchase factors is in fact colour.

We’ve conducted hundreds of research interviews and usability tests with mobile users which is why we’ve always been champions of colour choice and personalisation. That’s not to say that you should let people have free reign, people need boundaries and limits otherwise we’ll just see a repeat of MySpace in the 90s all over again!

Whenever colour choice is discussed with consumers, we have always seen a positive reaction, particularly with the female market. We feel that the female consumer has been hugely overlooked in the tech world and unless more women take board positions within tech companies, the only way companies will be able to adapt to the female consumers needs is to listen to them. Simply, conduct research.

So, why is having the choice to personalise a design through the use of colour so appealing to people?

Extension of the self

When people buy products that will be shown and used in public, there is an added social acceptance dimension in the purchase decision – what will other people think? This is where it becomes more difficult to predict human behaviour. People have a multitude of reasons for why they buy something, and if that product is both a high purchase price and something that a wide variety of people in both their current and future social circles will see, the decision becomes more complex, weighty and important.

The mobile becomes a reflection of you, your status in life, your personality, your desires… Knowing this, people will often choose a product that is not a reflection of who they are currently, but who they want to be in the future. It becomes a status symbol of their future self.

Colour helps this expression of themselves as we know through the many articles that have been written on colour psychology – is your personality a bold, confident red or a friendly, reserved blue? Are you a blue but want others to see you as a red so you purchase a red product? Whatever the reasons, people like a choice of colour and are often conscious of what that choice indicates to others about them.

Increased emotional attachment

Admit it, you have an emotional attachment to your mobile don’t you? Most people admit to feeling like a piece of them is missing when they are without their mobile. Increased personalisation increases the amount of human-device attachment that a person experiences. It becomes an expression and extension of themselves which brings with it an increased emotional bond.

Fun

Quite simply, having a colourful phone is more fun! Who wants to look at boring black all day long? Bring on bold, bright colours that make you feel alive, energetic, playful and happy :)

Choice and increased control

iyengar jam

Who doesn’t love choice! In studies it’s been shown that people love choice, well, they say they love choice ‘the more options the better!’ however in practise this isn’t the case at all. Famous studies that demonstrate the paradox of choice, such as, the jam experiment by Iyengar, prove that when given too much choice people actually don’t make a choice at all. Why? The crux of the issue is that people fear making the wrong choice. Lots of choices puts a lot of demand on the person to weigh up each choice, it’s pros, it’s cons, the implications of making the wrong choice, how they’ll feel if their choice is the wrong one, etc. Given a few choices, people are more likely to make a purchase, will feel more confident about their decision and happier afterwards.

Choice equals more control and a greater feeling of power. Providing more colours for the iPhone 5C is giving more control back to the consumer.

 

20 FREE eBooks you need to design an outstanding user experience / ux

Here are 20 free online ux books that will help designers to create a better user experience / ux and improved usability.

1 Mental Models in Human-Computer Interaction: Research Issues About What the User of Software Knows by John M. Carroll and Judith Reitman Olson

2 HCI Models, Theories and Frameworks: Toward a Multi-disciplinary Science by John M. Carroll

3 Search User Interfaces by Marti A. Hearst

4 Designing Interfaces by Jenifer Tidwell (patterns only)

5 Designing Mobile Interfaces by Steven Hoober and Eric Berkman

6 Web Style Guide by Patrick J. Lynch and Sarah Horton

7 Just Ask: Integrating Accessibility Throughout Design by Shawn Henry

8 Building accessible websites by Joe Clark

9 The Fable of the User-Centered Designer by David Travis

10 Converting The Believers by usereffect

11 Elements of psychology by Henry N. Day.

12 Learning, Remembering, Believing: Enhancing Human Performance by Daniel Druckman and Robert A. Bjork

13 Psychology and Industrial Efficiency by Hugo Münsterberg

14 Getting Real by 37 Signals

15 Time Management for Creative People by Mark McGuinness

16 Designing for the web by Five Simple Steps

17 Taking your talent to the web by Jeffrey Zeldman

18 CSS Cookbook

19 Knock Knock by Seth Godin

20 Head First HTML with CSS & XHTML by Elisabeth Freeman, Eric Freeman

and here’s one extra! ;)
UX Storytellers by Jan Jursa
UX Storytellers