NYCUPA: UX Research at Google in NYC: Methods and Case Studies

July 29, 2008 § Leave a comment

I was looking forward to a discussion of research processes by Google’s User Experience team members. The promise was they were sharing recent case studies where designs were influenced by some unique work with metaphors. Sounds good, right?
Wrong! The presenters weren’t able to give details of the case studies – making the use of metaphors seem inappropriate. Without knowing specifics it was hard to follow the metaphors.

If you want to compare seemingly unrelated subjects it is necessary to define the subjects.

Domain metaphors are not Design metaphors.

Google Design principles:
1. Focus on the user and all will follow
2. Every millisecond counts.
3. Simplicity is powerful.
4. Engage beginners and attract experts.
5. Dare to innovate.
6. Design for the world.
7. Plan for today’s and tomorrow’s business.
8. Delight the eye without distracting the mind.
9. Be worthy of people’s trust.
10. Add a human touch.


Social Influence Social Media & the Enterprise

April 23, 2008 § Leave a comment

Event description:
In his discussion “Going Social Now,” Shiv Singh, head of the Avenue A | Razorfish social media practice, discussed how the rise of social media has created a new form of marketing altogether, social influence marketing. He discussed research studies that help explain why some online communities are more successful than others.

I loved Shiv Singh’s presentation. His ideas motivated me to think about how my projects can utilize social networking marketing. I work as an in house designer at an educational nonprofit and we are beginning to review how and where to use discussion boards. I would like more suggestions on how to sell social networking and social networking marketing within an organization.

A Social network is a set of people connected by a set of social relationships.

What’s missing is that great brands are not letting us use social media in the browse/choose/buy process.

We should employ social influence marketing as a part of the entire life cycle of a brand.

This is a new market dimension:
Brand marketing
Direct Marketing
NEW- Social Influence Marketing

The web isn’t LINEAR anymore and each web page becomes an entire site.

“Chase the consumer” don’t trap the consumer or make them stay on your site.
Design POROUS sites that support the flow.
Think of how each visitor can become an influencer.
Let the online and the offline BLUR.

Don’t leave the conversation to the Marketing department.
OPEN THE DISCUSSION UP to all employees.

Shiv Singh shared some great examples – here they are:

OFFICE DEPOT allows Facebook sharing capabilities before you purchase an item.

OFFICE DEPOT allows sharing capabilities before purchasing

AMAZON adds a discussion feature for customers to create book discussions.

HR BLOCK has a Twitter account.

MY STARBUCKS encourages customers to review and give suggestions about products.

So has blogging peaked? Does my voice matter?
He says yes.

He asks clients, “Would you like someone speaking ill of you behind your back, or while you are in the room?” Most clients want to be in that room so they can hear complaints and do something about them. Another reason blogs continue to have relevancy is because there is so much information- we rely on each other.

Community Learnings:
weak ties are more powerful then strong ties
– Marc Granovetter

information is diffused through weak ties.
strong ties are insular and closed.

How social networks work:
People join networks if they already have friends on them.
Growth happens in the giant component.
Network size has a complex influence on members.
People will collaborate online if they trust you offline.
If you ask people to collaborate you must HAVE A GOOD REASON.

Check out these dudes:
Marc Granovetter
Linton C. Freeman
Duncan Watts
Berry Wellman

NN/g Usability In Practice: 3-Day Intensive Camp

April 9, 2008 § Leave a comment

Three Days of Usability at the The Roosevelt Hotel, NYC.

The entire 3 days were fantastic. I gained an understanding of the fundamental principles and methods of usability from each speaker: Jakob Nielsen, Kara Pernice, and Amy Schade.

Conference details

paper prototype

Paper prototypes rule! The task was to watch a video of a usability test with a teenage girl and then redesign an online diary for teenage girls centering on the promotion of the Britney Spears movie, CrossRoads. After our group did the redesign we conducted a usability test with our new paper prototype and 3 people: user, facilitator and computer. I played the “computer” role and had to make the interface responses to the user’s pen “clicks”. As the “computer” I was instructed to be quiet and neutral. If the “user” clicked on a page that we had not designed I would put a post it with an hourglass on the page – to show “under construction”- and quickly I could sketch out the requested page.


The last day we did a user profile project, where we watched a video of a real estate agent, Theresa, going about an average day at work. As a group, we took notes so we could compile a user profile poster of Theresa. The poster summarized the data while keeping it visual. Our data included a description of Theresa, photos, artifacts, quotes, task list, core competencies and data visualizations.

I enjoyed the event but… I have a negative comment with regards to Jakob Nielsen’s discussion of the relationship between design and usability.
First he discussed user centered design and dimensions of usability as a quality criterion. He then went on to talk about issues that can arise due to domain expertise. He asserted, “the audience will dictate the design” and cautioned the designers to avoid user vs. design team pitfalls. He added that an in house design team can look at a site 8 hours a day maybe for 3-20 years and might think- A fresh design is needed! while users might think- the design is okay, we like it. So designers, “know too much.” Ummm, I had a slight problem with this statement but thought there is a bit of truth to becoming too familiar with a site.

Next he likened web design to furniture design – design is problem solving- working within restrictions and constraints. design has to work – while art doesn’t. Okay, good so far. I am listening. He then broached the topic “Does usability kill creativity in design.” This is where he lost me. Maybe I misunderstood his example but he said – the laws of nature are like the laws of psychology. He associated laws of nature- like gravity to laws of psychology- such as user behaviors. This is where things went south for me. My thought is that unlike gravity – user behaviors are not fixed or constant. I realize there are conventions and patterns that may be used in web design that are based on current user behaviors – but I sensed that Mr. Nielsen doesn’t accept that user behaviors can change and adapt. With all due respect – users do more then scroll and are adapting newer conventions day by day (even my 85 year old grandmother).

Wow. So on day one there was a bit of an antidesign feeling in the room which paved the way for an audience member to comment on day two that he thought “most designers are big on attitude.” So my recommendation would be to drop the us vs them attitude. So much of web design and web usability overlap and the best solution is working together to improve the overall experience.

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