Tag Archives: experience design

Move that App! How to Design for Successfull Change Management

A chronic challenge and often frustration among designers and innovators is the difficulty in gaining acceptance of changes to existing systems by current users, even when improvements appear to be substantial.  A recent online discussion surrounded the hypothesis that “users will only upgrade to a better interface if they have at least 50% better productivity with the new interface?” https://www.quora.com/User-Interface-Design/Upgrade-an-interface-When-will-users-change

The key to successful change is 50% about as much as the meaning of life is 42.  Neither designer ego nor marketing’s need to be fashionable is sufficient to justify the cost of change from a user point of view.  And yes, this is a designer speaking.  Even an apples to apples time comparison in a lab fails to reflect the real life costs of change in the equation.

Applying user empathy almost always deflates  assumptions and egos. User perception has many facets and counts for far more than time scores or numbers of clicks (good heavens).  Disruption of mental models is huge.  Does your time study account for that?  What is the cost of changing one’s mind?

On the other hand, keeping things the same for sameness sake is also a terrible strategy.  Not only will it very well undermine the benefits of improvements, it can mislead and misrepresent as it tries to hide change, only to surprise the user with it at some inopportune moment.

All change costs something.   But if the user perceives an appreciable improvement from their point of view, they will forgive you for causing them pain.  And, if the user sees the stuff they care about in the design, presented in a better way than ever before, they will love you.

The best example I can think of this is the reality show, “Extreme Home Makeover”.  Anyone who has seen the show, knows how they take a deserving family’s  run-down home and rebuild/replace it with a new one custom built just for them.  The kicker is that when the family sees the new home for the first time, they immediately recognize it as “home”. Why?  Because it contains all their favorite stuff, arranged and presented in a beautiful setting and functional framework.

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Extreme_Makeover:_Home_Edition

Do the same with software design and you can stop whining about inflexible users.  Every study I’ve ever done where I asked users what they want/need/expect to see in the UX, the answer is always the same.  It is invariably “My stuff”.  Of course exactly what the stuff is depends on who the users are and what their reason for using the system is.

When users discover that their mental models which are intrinsic to the tasks, data, and domain are better represented in the new design than in the former and that the noise of the system-induced clutter that used to cause them grief, confusion, and extra work has been reduced or eliminated altogether, they won’t mind that the colors, fonts, and even layout has changed.  In fact, they may not even see it.  The more “invisible” the new design is, the more invisible the pain of change.  The concept of “invisible design” is not a new idea, but still as valid and as elusive as ever.

That’s how to win at change management design. Just make the change invisible. That’s all. How?  Remember, Its all about the user’s stuff.  Its not really even about change. That’s a fallacy.  The new design either makes the user’s stuff more visible or less visible.  More, they love you; Less, they hate you.

All my stuff’s here anyway” – It is the reason for going or staying.

That’s the secret. Shhhh. Dont tell anyone.

– roger

The End of the Desktop?

Part 1 – The Enchantment

I was actually in the room at CHI 2001 when Bill Gates introduced the Tablet PC.  Taking notes on my Pocket PC, mobile and tablets, I was all over it.  I became an early adopter soon afterward, using my convertible notebook/tablet doing UX design consulting.  And let me tell you that in those days, jaws would drop in amazement when folks saw you draw on the screen.  Nothing impressed the natives more.  “Look, him draw on screen!  Him must be a god!” Alias sketch, Microsoft OneNote, and all those new app user interfaces that were going to change the way we interacted with computers,

Part 2 – The disappointment

except that it didn’t happen.  None of the MS Office apps ever budged to utilize pen input, nor did Adobe, or anyone else. Instead Microsoft abandoned us early tablet adopters like freedom fighters at the Bay of Pigs.

Then a few years later, Apple invented both the pocket PC and the tablet. And everyone swooned. And for good cause, this time it worked. Plus it had the Apple and third party support to make it really productive and price point lower, not higher, than a regular laptop.  Google joins in the fun steeling Microsoft’s role as the “other leading brand” to be compared with Apple, mimicking their every move, yet with an open hardware platform.

Part 2b – More Disappointment

Fast-forward again to 2012. Microsoft introduces Windows 8 and the Surface.  There has probably never been someone so late to their own party and awkwardly dressed for the occasion.  Microsoft launches an Apple-esque store in the mall with Kool-Aid drunken sales people mimicking the weirdoes at the Apple store.  So I stopped in to check out the Surface.  The name itself speaks of another great concept that couldn’t find a market and so left its name to be adopted by this iPad wannabe.

Somewhere in the windows 8 mix, I was hoping to find my old tablet PC reborn with a contemporary vigor.  No such luck. What I discover is a lesser knock off of tablets that are already too dumb for my professional taste. That may sound lofty, but this was my daily work tool for four years, constantly with me in airports, airplanes, hotels, coffee shops, and offices everywhere.

Part 2c – Even More Disappointment

Windows 8 — Disappointing Usability for Both Novice and Power Users  http://www.useit.com/alertbox/windows-8.html

Disappointment.  The word that Jakob Nielson uses to describe the Windows 8 experience.  I am compelled to agree. Not that I am or have ever been a firm Jakob follower. I just hoped that we would see the high end supported with trickle down impact to the lesser demanding users.  Instead what I see at every turn is the computing environment reduced to a contest between Dumb and Dumber.

Looking at Nielsen’s article, it is confirmed.  Power users have been thrown under the Windows 8 bus. Nielsen’s description of the modern style induced usability problems in Windows 8 sound all too familiar. It seems that Microsoft has confused minimalist with primitive. Can you say pre-Win 95?  No, wait, more like pre-Win 3.1!   It’s like Microsoft has unlearned all the lessons of the past twenty years. I wouldn’t mind except that I depend on their products to do actual work, not just goofing off.

Makes me think of the “Apple Wheel” as reported by the Onion

http://www.engadget.com/2009/01/05/macbook-wheel-revealed-by-the-onion-news-network/

It feels like Microsoft is sacrificing the power user desktop which is still dominates to become a tag along in the tablet space. It seems, there may be a clear opening for a high performance user experience Operating system environment.  Silicon Graphics Irix, where are you?

Part 3 – The Enlightenment

On the other hand, if Microsoft believes that the desktop is vanishing from the earth no matter what, then it might seem prudent to use their window of time to convert that desktop lead while it exists into a tablet contender. It still leaves many of power windows users in a hard way and opens the door for a new aggregator to jump in and direct the larger virtual platform.

Pondering this a bit more, this may indicate a milestone in the abandonment of the desktop by Microsoft as something that they see that cannot be held onto. The computing environment that was once the virtual desktop metaphor invented at Xerox PARC is now being replaced by a ubiquitous heterogeneous environment that exists both in real space and in the cloud.  An aggregation of real and virtual devices is needed to perform the same role that the proprietary desktop once played.  I see that mobile devices may have their own avatars in this virtual space.

Who will define this space? Who will own it? How about me and you?

I am pretty sure this is the theme of my next techy art piece. “MyFavoritemachine, In the Cloud” or maybe “Escape from Desktop’.

– roger

copyright 2012 r.e.belveal

How to Hire a Great UX Designer

In the midst of the awakening that is happening over the criticality of a quality user experience to product success and in some cases, survival, I’ve seen increasing discussions on line about how to find and keep the best UX design candidates. I think I can help.

Start by (this is going to sound like dating advice) being a good candidate yourself. Think about it. Great UX people are innovators and problem solvers. They are highly motivated by making someone’s experience better than it was before. If one comes to work for you, will you empower them to solve any problems? Will anyone’s experience be altered? Or will you ask for their input, smile and nod and go on with business as usual?

Why would a highly motivated UX designer want to hang around with you? If they offered you strategic design brilliance, would you recognize it? Or would you explain “that’s not what we do here”.

Of course, UX designers, like everyone else, like to be paid well for their expertise. But if you can’t tell the difference between mediocre, good, and excellent UX design direction, or execute on it, you might as well save your cash and hire from the discount bin. If the bottleneck to results is in the organization, the outcome will likely be about the same.

Remember what your mother said, if you want to have a good friend, be one.

– roger

On Hammers & Nails

A visionary is someone who understands the problem at a level of abstraction such that when a potential solution appears, he can spot how it might fit the need, even though it isn’t packaged in a box with a label that says, “Solution to the problem”.

Back when the web happened along, I happened to be studying ways to deliver large amounts of maintenance data to airlines online. The problem was complex. Airlines wanted updates immediately; an updated CDROM every 90 days was not sufficient. Large data transmissions were tedious and error prone. All the client reader solutions required that customers buy and install certain hardware and software.

When http and the Mosaic browser appeared, I instantly saw in it solutions to many of these problems. What’s more, the more I looked at the potential capabilities, the more I saw of possibilities for solving other problems that I had familiarity with. The list seemed to be endless.

At that time, the official word on the web from all of my management was that it was just a fad and would never be a company standard. Somewhere in the archives of the Boeing Commercial Airplane Company is a request form with my name listed as the petitioner recommending that http and the web browser (Mosaic was the only one at that time) be adopted as an architectural standard. Attached to it is a copy of my long list of potential applications / problems we could solve using it. That list had been forwarded around the company so much that today, it would certinly be caught by a spam filter for all to fwds in the subject line.

Resistance to such a vision seems like nonsense now, but at the time, I was speaking heresy. And i was speaking it anyone and everyone that would listen.


A colleague chided me saying “To the man with a hammer, everything looks like a nail”. He was right. And now, after nearly two decades of the World Wide Web, it is plainly evident that everything was in fact, a nail.

I saw the future corectly; even my outlandish vision was a gross underestimation.  My only regret is that I was in an ill position to capitalize on it properly. I didn’t start or join a dot.com and I struggled to find a niche among others who shared the same vision.  As the sci-fi stories often conclude, seeing the future and being able to do something about are two different things. I have, however, gotten a little better at it than before.

These days, I have a large box of hammers and like collecting news ones. Some I discover, others I make. Nails come in all shapes and sizes. I still spend a lot of time studying them. And I when it comes to solving problems effectively, I hit the nail on the head on a routine basis. It’s what I do.

If you have a good hammer, don’t be shy. But do study about nails.

– roger, a self-proclaimed visionary and nail hammerer

Experience Design Icon

XD Steel Icon

This is a gift to my group at my day job.  Experience Design “XD” is the name we are known by in a culture that gets it.  Usability is the target, yes, but it is the target’s edge. In 2012 the center is an awesome experience.  That is our mantra.

A little side note about XD in place of UX

The term “User Experience” happened when we realized that creating a User Interface (UI) is not the goal, but the means. The user experience is the goal.  In that title, “User experience, or UX, needing to explicitly include the word “user” is actually baggage leftover from the days when an “interface” without that distinction of user interface was assumed to be something connecting different parts of a system.

Ironically, interface was a purely technical term that borrowed the word “face” from the human context and metaphorically applied it to mechanical or virtual elements.  The coining of the term “User interface” was actually borrowing the term back to describe a human element as one side of the connection. That usage grew so much that the word interface alone has now come to more often mean the user interface.

The word ‘experience’ has no such baggage. There is no history of any part of the system besides the user having an “experience”. So making such a distinction is unnecessary.  So, since we know that we most definitely are not referring to a part of the system having an experience, do we really need to even say “user” anymore?  And if there is someone else, another person or group of people, that is impacted by what we do besides the “user”, well okay.  It’s still an experience isn’t it? And that is what we are designing isn’t it?

So then, just “experience”.  Yes, it sounds a little Hendrix-esque. And that’s okay too.

– roger

– Music in the short video is by Zuriel Merek