Articles Tagged ‘UX’

Why your workforce needs to be mobilised today

Laptop man by Ed Yourdon

Laptop man by Ed Yourdon

I came up onto the District line platform at South Kensington station this morning just as a train pulled in. Normally, I would find my door (the one that opens straight onto the exit at Victoria) and jump in, but this time, whilst minding the gap, I brushed past a man trying to work on his laptop.

Seriously. A man trying to work on his laptop. Whilst stood up. On a busy rush-hour train in central London.

I was astonished at a few things:

  1. the man’s ability to hold a 15″ old-school laptop on a moving train
  2. his lack of forethought in trying to edit a private word document on a very public train
  3. his inability to use something more appropriate

It’s this last thing that really gets to me. At my work, I’m trying to bring my clients to the modern world by freeing their data and mobilising their workforce. This man exemplifies why I’m trying to do these things. It’s simply not feasible to work on the move without a device built for mobility, and no, not even a Macbook Air would have been suitable for this kind of use. A 7 to 10 inch device would have worked, something that isn’t going to endanger the passengers stood next to you if the train brakes suddenly, something that won’t run out of battery before you get into the office. Yet, conversely, something that you can access everything you need at work from your device.

As the PunchCut blog said, “Mobile is not a device, it’s a lifestyle“. Bosses: embrace this. Let your employees use their own phones and tablets to access data. If you don’t let them, they will find a way around it because the busy people of this world simply can’t work the old way any more: there’s just too much to do.

This is the year that businesses should be unleashing their employees. Give them the freedom to work the way they want to (like working from home and flexi time have done) and they will pay dividends, simply by being happier. A happy employee is a productive employee, and when you let that happy employee out of the office, they will tell their friends and be happier still.

So don’t let your employees be the ones stood on the tube holding a laptop, be the ones leaning by the doors, smiling at their iPad.

Real-time Analytics

There are loads of good reasons to look at and study users visiting your site: entrance points, pages visited, time spent reading, adverts clicked etc. Google Analytics (GA) provides a great free service for this and can’t really be faulted considering how much traffic it is receiving.

Still, GA only provides averages, aggregates and tries to show a typical user, rather than individuals, nor does it handle JavaScript-heavy pages or AJAX very well, and you also have to wait until the morning to get traffic stats on your site.

So, today I’ve been looking at real-time solutions, and I’ve come up with a few.

Reinvigorate (www.reinvigorate.net)

Reinvigorate.net summary

Reinvigorate.net summary dashboard

Reinvigorate gives you a few features the others can’t, such as named user tracking and detailed stats about those users (which pages they visited, in which order and how long they spent on each page). The heatmaps are great, tracking any click (though take some time to generate) and the dashboard updates instantly. It’s also pretty cheap given how powerful it is.

ChartBeat (chartbeat.com)

ChartBeat summary screen

ChartBeat summary screen

ChartBeat works in a similar way to Reinvigorate, giving detailed real-time traffic analysis of your site. Its detailed and flexible dashboard gives you instant feedback on which of your pages are popular at a certain time. It’s also got a good API and an iPhone app to keep you informed on the move.

UX Tools

Arran Ross-Patterson (@arranrp)  sent me this bookmark list of analytics solutions over Twitter, of which MouseFlow and ClickTale looked very promising. These are tools designed to record all movements on the screen over the browser and be able to play them back to the developer, effectively performing silent usability tests. If anyone has any experience using these, please let me know.

So, for now, I’m using Reinvigorate, but I’m sure there are others out there. Let me know what you’re using in the comments.

What do you want from a re-design?

I’ve been asking questions about my blog on Twitter, and a few notable things have come back:

  1. Text shadow on hover makes you feel seasick
  2. Text shadow is fine on headers
  3. Colours on the footer are hard to read
  4. It all feels a bit busy

So, many of these things can be remedied simply, but I can’t get it out of my head that you just skim the content because it’s all bunched up. The white space for the text is compressed against two differently coloured, high-contrast sections which mark the edge of the world. Instead of helping you focus, I feel trapped when reading it.

So, I reach out again, what would help alleviate this? What would make you read more on this blog. It’s not a for-profit enterprise, it’s simply putting my opinion and some of my work onto the Internet.

Please, your thoughts in the comments or contact me steve at steveworkman dot com (or use the contact form on this site).

The Low-Hanging Fruit

Ceppas Cristiana's The Tree

Hearing childhood teenage professional hero Andy Budd speak at #lwsux last month confirmed many things that I already knew, and introduced me to even more things that I needed to be more aware of (read my full write-up).

The one thing that really got me was talking about the “low-hanging fruit”. It’s a pretty simple concept, as a consultant, much of the benefit you will bring to an organisation, in improving a system’s design, will be painfully obvious.

Take, for example, a client of mine. An old system based on 2003 technology, with even more prehistoric standards support. It used javascript everywhere, all links opened in new windows (complete with navigation) and whilst there were templates, from a programmers perspective, there may as well not have been.

So, how to make it better instantly? Update the system to use templates, stop links appearing in new windows, make it work cross-browser and replace as much of the javascript with “server-side” code as possible. That’s before you get to the simple layout changes that you can make. Spending a bit of time on the information architecture improves the flow of information and user journeys. The system hasn’t changed much, but it’s infinitely more usable and user-friendly. The client almost had a “crisis” when I showed it working on my iPad.

What’s the lesson here? Take the easy usability problems and solve them with best practices.  Test as you go, there’s no need for large-scale user testing unless there’s a specific problem that you’ve been asked to solve. The simple solutions to simple problems solve most of the issues of user-friendliness within a system, and a good bit of IA generally does the rest.

So, take the easy option!