Usability for anything, anywhere, anytime.

Siri disappoints

February 13th, 2012, Posted by Mark Sloan

So far, Siri has been pretty great… when it works. The trouble is that I no longer remember to use it or even try because it simply does not work so often whether on WiFi or using cell towers. Especially for voice-to-text it is incredibly frustrating to dictate a couple lines only to have the system work for a few moments and then show nothing. It just blankly fails and tells me nothing. No warning, no error message. So I look down to see my text and I see a blank. That is just awful user experience. If you bring up Siri itself and the service is down it warns you though. The other reliability issue I have is when it comes to using Bluetooth in my car. The whole idea of using hands-free services on my phone to call my wife or pull up directions falls short because Siri barely ever works properly using the car’s built-in speakerphone. Maybe software can help, but for me, right now Siri should be labeled less than a Beta.

iPad 3 wish list

January 27th, 2012, Posted by Mark Sloan

There is a lot of speculation about the next generation iPad. Quite a few things seem certain such as a double-density screen resolution. With double the resolution, will the touch screen itself have greater fidelity? Perhaps incorporation of haptics» in some fashion? Even optimizing the screen so that finer points could be used via a stylus would be a welcome addition and make the iPad even more useful to me. The other wish is for the iPad to upgrade the experience when connected to a monitor via RGB or HDMI. When a movie is playing, the iPad itself shows just the video player controls. But other programs are simply mirrored. Turning the iPad into a Magic Trackpad» would require the inclusion of a pointer into iOS I think, and that is maybe moving too far into a PC operating system direction. But if Apple could come up with some clever way of sorting that out, I’d love to use my 24 inch monitor and a bluetooth keyboard and replace many of my needs for a laptop. There are other things I’d like as well such as greater iCloud integration, but those are across all iOS devices, not just the iPad.

Quick iPhone Video Tip

January 19th, 2012, Posted by Mark Sloan

We like to keep our video set up quick and light for user interviews, so we often use an iPhone 4s for recording. What many people forget is that the headphone jack is also a microphone jack. You can use the headphones with the built-in microphone to record cleaner audio, or use a three-stripe adapter like the iLuv Remote Adapter» to allow any audio device to become the input. We use this setup to get wireless audio from our old Samson UHF Micro 32», or use the headphone out jack on our Samson G Track» for cleaner audio into our videos with no extra adapters or cords. The third stripe is what controls the remote and microphone on the iPhone apparently.

Designing for TV – Part 1

January 9th, 2012, Posted by Mark Sloan

Google TV» (GTV) is a platform that has been out for over a year and has seen a major redesign in that time. Many new manufacturers have announced their own GTV’s at the 2012 CES» as well as their own branches of the Android OS. What is apparent already is that a few basic tenants of designing for TV are being violated. The first that we will address is that TVs are a shared experience and therefore the system should display “live TV” as much as possible. This quick post looks at how Google TV violates this basic concept.  (more…)

Amazon Kindle Fire

January 8th, 2012, Posted by Mark Sloan

The Kindle Fire (or Fire for this article) entered the “tablet” market this Fall sporting a tiny package and the full Amazon suite of media products behind it (books, movies, music, apps). With Amazon’s own application store, the Fire has access to Android applications, but not the full suite of the Android Marketplace. Other sites such as Engadget», The Verge», Anandtech», and Arstechnica» are the place to go for detailed analysis of specs and features. They’ve done a great job and there is little to add there. What this review will do is examine the Kindle from a usability perspective, specifically, how easy it is to use the interface and then how easy it is to read typical content. The short answer is that this feels like a new category of device, not a full-fledged tablet. (more…)

Things that make no sense

January 5th, 2012, Posted by Mark Sloan

The world of digital movie purchases is incredibly confusing, especially on iTunes. Why is it I can purchase a movie on my iPad or iPhone in HD, or rent it in HD on Apple TV, but cannot buy it in HD for my computer? This is about selling antiquated disc-based media and all the deals that studios and stores make. To the consumer, it is seemingly random and unnecessary though. I hate Blu-ray discs, they take forever to load, have silly ads I have to fast forward through, and menu systems that get in the way of me enjoying a film or show. The sooner they go away, the happier I will be.

Android Updates

December 30th, 2011, Posted by Mark Sloan

The Samsung Galaxy Nexus goes on sale today but software updates for their older handset, Nexus S, is not expected any time soon. Today the clock officially starts for Google to get Android 4.0 (Ice Cream Sandwich) running on older hardware. The frustration I personally experience is not knowing when they even expect to ship it.

Update on December 30th:

Apparently Google had to pull the Nexus S update as people were having trouble. This is their own phone and they don’t have 4.0 working on it yet? What were they testing on all these months?

Types of Testing

December 15th, 2011, Posted by Mark Sloan

Testing is something that should continue throughout a project. From the very beginning, testing can mean something as simple as putting sketches in front of coworkers, friends, and family to formalized recruitment of actual users with a testing facility. The key is to consistently get feedback, both formal and informal to test your designs (hypothesis) and adjust accordingly. Analyzing the feedback appropriately is often as tricky as setting up the proper testing method in the first place. (more…)

Our Methodology

December 13th, 2011, Posted by Mark Sloan

We intentionally do not call it a process as we believe adaptability is core to successful projects. We design for a wide breadth of project types, each with their own goals, but our approach always remain the same. We focus on making sure that whatever the case, we create satisfyingefficient, effective, and desirable (SEED) designs. These are all measurable and should be tested because without a way to track if we are actually improving things, how will we know for sure we are doing our job? Here is how we define these terms:

satisfying: self-reported; what users think rather than actual results

efficient: the ability to accomplish tasks quickly

effective: a high rate of success and learnability

desirable: meets self-reported needs and wants of users; some of these may be brand and content focused

Our methodology is structured to ensure that any project will be successful, regardless of platform, target audience, or industry. Essentially, we model our practice on the scientific method, simplifying to only three broad stages: Research, Design, and Test, so our services mirror these three stages as well. These are utilized at both a high and low level, meaning for traditional architecture, design and implementation phases, we still continue to research, design and test, but the execution of these methods are very different given the outputs. (more…)

Recent Reads

December 13th, 2011, Posted by Mark Sloan

A recent issue of Cognitive Psychology journal (Volume 63, Issue 3, November 2011) discusses metacognition, intuition and reasoning in an article by Thompson, Turner, and Pennycook. What really jumped out at me was the concept of “Feeling of Rightness” (“FOR”), a way of trying to self-evaluate intuition. Many times on projects team members argue over ideas and often reach an impasse. The last thing we want is for the loudest, or most pushy person to always win. We are now trying to assign our own value of FOR to help us resolve these conflicts in a less inflammatory manner. We will let you know how it goes.

I also recently picked up the seminal work Semiology of Graphics by Jacques Bertin. One of my all time favorite UX Design books, Designing Visual Interfaces by Mullet and Sano references this book often so I finally got it and am glad I did. If you are interested in the core principles behind information graphics, then pick it up, it is an excellent reference if nothing else.