Thursday, December 9, 2010

Does new Facebook Profile denies Instant gratification!

I just upgraded my facebook profile view to the new UI and I was a little lost suddenly for a few seconds when I started recollecting my old actions.
I asked myself what's the first thing for which I log onto FB? And I came up with following answer:

To tell the world what I am up to, my Status Update or rather My State of Mind:

What bothered me was the most important action item has been hidden under a link and now comes as a fly out menu is kind of a have to find yourself and post if you can approach. 

FB has changed it's IA a little in this interaction by asking users what to share which I suppose they did because they wanted the options(photo, link and video share) not to be hidden under drop downs and were visible only when user clicked inside the status text box. But then, the options could have been shown first hand in the earlier approach too. I don't think they have reduced the clicks and now even the status message text box is also hidden thus denying user instant gratification which personally I used to love it and was always tempted to type in anything on my mind. It was kind of very psychological I feel just like your own desk where you know what is lying where and always accessible at a blink of an eye. Twitter has updated the new UI more elegantly by only adding more value and keeping the most used actions in their own places, keeping the user interactions intact.

Monday, November 29, 2010

Why not unload memory too!!!

We are always being reminded in all texts and by all gurus and our managers to have consistent user actions all across the designs we UX Designers make. Have persistent navigations through out, have help menus where required so users are not required to put weight on their brains to memorize much since we tend to forget quickly and we constantly need to make reminders to our users to help them complete their tasks while they are on our user interface.

But here is something interesting thing came up while having lunch with my fellow designers with respect to face book that why do I see birthday reminders when I have already clicked on it and wished the friend. Why the reminder still there! Doesn't human brain also requires to unload and make space for new directions we try to give to them through our interfaces! Whole day I see the same link there when it was dealt with and the task was done and there I see it again and again when my eyes track around and I for a moment try and recall did I actually complete this task or what!!! Sometimes out of curiosity even go on the profile page of the friend to check it out... LOL. It's irritating and reminds me of old days I used to hit inbox a dozen times to check for the status of the last interview I gave when there was no AJAX.

We forget a glass can be full only if it is partly filled or for good it's empty :).

Wednesday, February 10, 2010

Why start with Information Architecture

Designers majorly face this problem or commit mistake of starting on web design based on some rough feedback on board or paper on even on skype given to them by their clients or managers.
Usually these are requirements which are in a designer's lap, for e.g. a small e-commerce portal for a clothing line with some products to show online for both men and women where users can browse, search and finally buy some product online. So next the client says we need a jazzy home page and one category page template and a template for about us and contact us and here we are done. E-commerce website design in 4 templates! Great the design gets ready in 2 weeks time after some minor iterations and the site goes live in the 3rd week.

After 6 months or an year, the same customer might even come back for a redesign saying things didn't work out. May be the design is not catchy enough to hold on to their customers. But actually there is no one to tell the client that it is the "GOALS" which their customers never achieved which they would have wanted to. Goals which could have only come out in foray if there was enough consideration on the "Information Architecture" of the entire website to enable users to reach to specific pages to achieve their GOAL on this clothing website i.e. buy same clothes online for which they had to travel 4 blocks.

The first step to fix this kind of situation would be to:

Educate your client
Explain it to your clients why it is so important to have an IA before you proceed towards the design itself. I try to convince people whom I work with by telling them how IA is the foundation of any website or an application. How it not only helps to create a solid site structure but also brings out user goals in highlight and also what navigational patterns should we try and use for these goals.

IA helps in keeping track of the project
IA usually starts along with requirement gathering so it keeps getting updated if the scope of the project gets updated and helps to keep a track of deadlines too. Great, it's a tracking tool too!

Meaningful use cases and site's goal
Once we have a IA in place various use cases based on the personas can be build around it. Definite navigation patterns can be identified thereby helping to bring out the actual purpose of the website. A sitemap can be prepared hereon and actual time/cost estimations can be derived which would be transparent to our clients and they know what they are paying for!

Effective use cases lead to accurate wireframes
Use cases based on a good IA helps in quick and error free wireframes and finally helps to jump in to the design more confidently and with meaningful information.

In the end clients are more positive since the cost and time efforts come out on a more transparent way to them and they too feel part of what s being created in a more convincing manner.

Monday, November 30, 2009

Importance of changing "Messaging" in social network websites to match the recent user trends

Social networking started on the concept of simply sharing what is up with in your life and be updated what is latest with your friends and family. Twitter and Facebook gave a full new meaning in short status messages to let know the world what is happening in your life in short one line messages. But then it was more about personal updates rather than real time collaboration among users. Even the Labels on twitter and facebook said: "What are you doing?" and "What's on your mind?". This might be interpreted by the user as: how you feels today or may be how was your day or may be it can sound a bit evasive and they might be prompt to think "none of your business" as it is a little personal. I believe in such scenarios messaging should be more participating where questions if they are more generic, users would hook on to fill or give out some information.
Recently twitter changed it's tag to "What's happening" which I think is even more inviting. Merely because it is very casual like "What's up!" I can think tons of things now to tweet simply as earlier tag was more like what's specifically happening with me and suddenly now it's like I am having a conversation on a tea with my friend saying hey did u read that! Did you know who played @ fBar last weekend! It's that SIMPLE and more encouraging now.
Even facebook gives you options of what are you going to share, is it a link or a photo or a video clearly elaborating their tag of what's on your mind!
That's the power of words although such a minimal change!

Another aspect to this is the change in user behavior. We as users want to know it all as to what is happening around and not through just TV or radio (simply because we have turned into internet slaves). Specially the new generation is hooked onto internet via all sorts of medium when they are not on their PC's or laptops. I came to know of Pranav Mistry's invention through one of my friend's status update. That in fact, was the real intent of twitter too when they launched where they had this broader vision of users sharing useful and tons of information between them rather than the family and friends exchanges.

We are taking this messaging aspect very seriously at hCentive while building our product.
We can definitely see the changing times in social networking going beyond just friendly exchanges towards efficient and vast information exchanges. Google wave is taking this collaboration to another level and I am getting all excited watching this!! Are you!

Saturday, November 28, 2009

Is 3 Click rule becoming a hurdle?

UI designers are always under pressure to complete any work flow or reach any module of the application with in the three clicks. Yes, the famous three clicks which has been there to haunt us since the dark ages of internet when the WWW was not that wide enough.
From the day I took on UI design as a profession, this rule have been there to force me to put all my effort on focusing on getting all the information with in 3 steps or clicks. Even the business executives who never laid their hands on design don't fail to mention it and appear smarter. Well it does simplify users efforts and if normally users don't find what they are looking for in 3 steps they are most likely to leave your site in frustration. Well a variety of studies have been done on 3 click rule and of course it helps the designers to always be focused on user needs. However, there are certain tasks and scenarios where we are forced to ask users specific questions and they might be longer to reach to the final destination.

Now, the big question which arises is should we break the 3 Click rule? Should we not go by the book!

Effective Navigation while breaking 3 Click rule
In various usability studies it has been noticed that users don't mind reaching to a task in more than 3 clicks as long as they are not getting lost mid way and are intuitively aware were they are heading or guided to. It is when crowded navigation and when user begins to develop sense of no direction that they usually leave a website. One such study by Josh Porter flagged off an online debate when he published the results of his usability testing results Testing The Three-Click Rule.

Various navigation methods like breadcrumbs, tree navigation, global navigation through out and sitemap always tell users where they are, never ever letting them feel they are on their own. Prompting users with effective messaging on completion of sub tasks in between their quest for desired result keeps them motivated enough to carry on. I call it the water boy methodology which keeps the user fresh at every juncture and makes clicks easier for them to click on with sense of trust.

In the end I am not the 3 click rule hater but I do believe that it is also not the thumb rule for any work flow to be achieved, instead it is a good method to keep us alarmed all the time to show our useful information first hand. Some information do need simplified more break ups than to assemble them in 3 clicks.