Friday, February 5, 2010

#onw2010 Beyond Usability to User Experience - Liveblogging Online Northwest Conference

Keynote Address by Brandon Schauer of Adaptive Path

This address is going from theory to practice, including hands-on.

Adaptive Path has been engaged with user experience for 10 years. Their mission is to help organizations create better user experiences, for everything from entertainment to life-saving work. They invented the word "blog" and Ajax.

User experience emerged as a discipline from the '70s and '80s, from basic functionality on mainframes to basic window-style GUI. In the '90s, Jakob Nielsen helped move the field from utility to usability. What are people used to? What are their expectations? Don Norman's Design of Everyday Things helped move the field to user experience - using analytics to track how visual changes shaped user behavior. User experience shapes the value of the technology, whether profit value or mission value.

Where are we headed? Strategy. How do we choose the right things to develop? What are the right experiences? We can't build everything; there's no such thing as 100% usability. Strategies help us choose.

Example - The first consumer electronics device was the camera, which came with detailed instructions that created barriers to entry for users. The big transition was "You press the button; we do the rest." Eastman-Kodak changed the focus from technology to pictures: only 3 steps.

Example - In 1995, airlines decided to serve frequent flyers with Internet booking. The application was designed to allow for complicated flights, or simple access for simple flights. The goal was to make sure the application was 1) understandable - do users get the point of using it? 2) usable - were they able to complete the tasks? 3) useful - would they use it themselves?
They got 1 & 2, but travelers said they wouldn't use the system. Why not? They were always flying, so they couldn't dial in and needed to rely on travel agents - no time. That's a usability failure. They decided on the wrong experience.

Expected real world value - Usually organizations account for this by comparing development costs to future value, without accounting for risks: technical failure/inability to create, and real world failure/patrons' choice to use or not use.

There's been a lot of work towards avoiding technical failure, but there's still a lot of real world failure - creation of products people don't use.

Four Experience Hacks to Increase Your Chance of Real World Success
1) Get empathy into your organization. Understand your user - who is a different person from the developer.
Typical development goes from data to logic to user interface to user experience. But users black-box from interface to experience. The experience is the product.
Spend time with target users - recruit them from Craigslist, shadow them as they use the system, or screen share for distant users. Ask, "Tell me about the last time you [did the task I'm attempting to program for]."
Learn about their behaviors and motivations - why do they do what they do? Look for how they conceive of their needs, and which needs are unmet. Ask, "Why?" Users often don't consciously know, and may need coaxing to provide their tacit assumptions.
Connect these insights to organizational objectives.
2) Define experiences users will have. Good experiences are sometimes fun (depending on the product), sometimes simple (but not for tastemakers). Think about the brand - how do we look and feel? How do we talk? A style guide keeps the organization's visual brand consistent, but very few organizations think about how they interact. But answering the question, "How do we interact?" creates consistent experience principles. TiVo is an example of a company that did this consistently, as did Google Calender.
Good experience principles are memorable, like a mantra; inspirational for the team; and differentiating, addressing an unmet need.
Kahneman's research in economics shows that people remember the peak (high or low) and the end of their experiences. The average of the total experience is less relevant. It pays off to figure out the one absolute best part, and end strong.
3) Have lots of ideas, in the right places. Ideas are cheap. We think we're inspired, like Newton with his apple. (see The Myths of Innovation) Avoid getting stuck on the first good idea - keep brainstorming before hammering out details. There are a lot of different ways to solve the same problem. Typically, if people brainstorm 6 ideas, the fourth is the best. We typically focus on what we know, putting together the obvious that's similar to the past. Things we don't understand get avoided during the prototyping/design period, and are then ignored. Design the thing you understand least first.
4) Return to the user's context often. How do you know if you're succeeding? Diffusion of Innovations by Rogers argues that people choose by comparison to what they already have, simplicity, and ability to test it out and see others using it. Try a reversible pilot for a trial period. Do a dry run of one with a single potential user.

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