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Usability

  • Getting UX right is like walking a tightrope: here’s why

    Just like walking on a tightrope -- part of the act is about balance, focus and reaching an end point without falling. The other part, the logistical side of the act, is about how tightly strung the tightrope is. If it’s too loose, too giving, the tightrope walker won’t have anything to hold on to or grip. If it is too rigid, there isn’t enough room for the walker to recover if he makes even the slightest mistake. It has to be tense enough to have a predictable boundary and structure, but loose enough to make allowance for human...

  • Is trust becoming as important as good UX on the new ‘smart web’?

    Chinese tech blog TechWeb recently reported that Sogou has begun internal testing on what it calls an “exploration engine”, a new smart service integrated with its web browser that recommends information based on users’ browsing patterns. The idea, apparently, is to break away from the old search pattern of keyword plus search window and instead offer users a more intuitive way to get access to the information they seek. It’s an interesting idea –– although since it’s still in internal testing there is no way to be sure how well it actually works –– and it’s kind of service...

  • Tech4Africa: How usable is your digital product, really?

    “Any intelligent fool can make things bigger, more complex and more violent. It takes a touch of genius and a lot of courage to move in the opposite direction” -- Albert Einstein Simplicity is at the core of great digital user experience, whether you’re building a website, app or any other digital marketing campaign. Making sure your user’s experience is slick, smooth and, most importantly, gives them the information they want quickly and easily, will determine the success or failure of your product or campaign. What exactly is “user experience” (UX)? UX is a hot buzzword at the moment, but misunderstanding what...

  • 3 very important things you need to understand about user experience

    It’s safe to say that we have all heard the phrases “UX” and “user experience” being used in conversation. Although people are beginning understand the value of providing a good user experience, they don’t necessarily understand what it is or how it works. In a nutshell, user experience is a concept or approach that is applied at all interaction points with your customer. It’s all about putting the user first, understanding their needs, and building a positive relationship with them. So why is this important? The benefits are infinite; some are immediate and some are indirect, only realised after...

  • Queuing for a ticket online: Is Computicket crazy?

    So the general idea of booking something online is to satisfy the need instantly. The idea of standing in a queue while online does not sit so well with me; but that’s what is happening on online ticketing site Computicket as it attempts to deal with the demand for the South African leg of a Lady Gaga world tour. So maybe I’m being melodramatic or maybe the promise of a digital world if instant gratification has spoiled me; but the queuing system that has been implemented -- although for a valid reason -- seems to strike at the heart of...

  • How I would have stuffed up Twitter: Usability’s quest for simplicity

    I've often wondered what it was like in the early days of creating Twitter. It must have been interesting times working out what the social network would be, what it would look like and how it would function. Of course, no-one then knew for certain it would be the slam-dunk success of today. In those early, startup days of rapid development and innovation, there must have been countless arguments, debates and jousts over how it would look and how it would work. It must have been an exciting, creative and nervous time, with endless testing, trial and error. I've often wondered...

  • Mixing user experience and usability so that everyone wins

    I recently introduced myself to someone and when I explained that I'm a User Experience Designer, his eyes lit up and he said "Ah, you’re the usability guy." "Yeah, kind of" I responded. He looked at me, confused. "What’s the difference?" he asked. For apps and websites, usability refers to how easily your site visitors can complete a given task e.g. filling in a checkout form. In the emerging markets particularly, usability is still a differentiator. This is why the savvier industry players have started to focus on creating work that people will find usable. They know that simple usability...

  • UX: 5 Pearls of Wisdom from UX Designers [Tech4Africa]

    As far back as the days of ENIAC and old-school IBM punch-card computers, users have been trained to adapt their experience to the capabilities of the computing devices available to them. And, as we all know, there has been a 30-year evolution of usability and functionality that has been working towards the clear goal of making every aspect of the tech experience easier. Whether it be a device, an operating system, a web-site, or a dozen of the every-day amenities of life, the shift in priorities is clear -- User Experience Matters. This was the overwhelming message from Cennydd...

  • Story-telling, UX, and how to find your spine

    When I changed career path from journalism to user experience design, it was largely on the faith my friend Lidia had in my journalism skills. “Dude!” she said, “You’re perfect for this.” At the time Lidia was wrapping up her PhD in Human Computer Interaction at Swansea University, where I was editing itwales.com. To her, it didn’t matter that I’d had minimal exposure to UX until that point. As a career changer herself (from social work to HCI), Lidia knew firsthand that skills can be learned and adapted as needed, but aptitude and appetite can’t be bought or taught. Fast forward...

  • Using Scrivener for UX design

    If you're a writer of any stripe you will have come across numerous recommendations for Scrivener as the ultimate tool for collating research, scribbling down ideas and finding the structure of the story you're trying to tell. In fact, though it's marketed as software for novelists, Scrivener's powerful feature set is a boon to anyone who needs to wrangle large amounts of information. I've used Scrivener almost exclusively since 2007, so when I made the switch from journalism to user experience(UX) design, I didn't think twice about keeping it at the centre of my working environment. After all, so...

  • Is it time to bury Flash for good?

    Flash is something which has wowed clients for some years now. It looks impressive on your developer’s desktop, and fantastic in client pitches. New clients are impressed with some agencies’ design capabilities because Flash sites look attractive. That is pretty much where pure 100% Flash websites belong, on power points, in pitches but not in real web designs. Look, of course Flash does have its uses. Some online gaming is driven with Flash, along campaign driven micro sites which have above the line viral concepts. Flash does work, but only in targeted strategies. Apple does not support Flash, most...

  • Work the look: 5 tips for online clothing retailers

    Clothing is one of the biggest growth markets for online retail, with more people welcoming the obvious benefits of online clothes shopping: no battling the crowds, saving time and often money; not having to faff around in changing rooms; and the confidence of knowing you can always return it if it doesn’t fit just right. And yet apparel is still one of the most difficult things to sell online — a hard truth not helped by the fact that, for the most part, online fashion retailers still don’t do it really well. Reading some of the headlines around the fashion/tech...

  • Cuban singer wants free internet for the developing world

    Making the internet more accessible to developing countries is a cause Cuban folk star Silvio Rodriguez has targeted at US President Barack Obama and Google CEO Eric Schmidt. On Monday, the celebrity famed for his style of music in the post-Cuban revolution era, says providing free internet to developing countries is a moral issue. "It's a simple proposal: the world is very unequal, and a lot of pain could be avoided with...

  • 3 sales techniques I learned at a school market day

    Behavioural economics, persuasive design: I knew the theory, but could I put it into practice at my daughter's 'Cake and Candy day'? Dan Ariely's Predictably Irrational and Daniel Gilbert’s Stumbling upon Happiness are two of the best books about using the quirks of the human brain to help you market and sell. We always keep these basic ideas in mind when designing websites and social networks. But there's nothing like the evidence of your own eyes to ram home a concept. So when it was 'Grade One's' turn to host the school Cake & Candy day, and my daughter wanted...

  • 4 ways tablet computing is influencing web design

    The future popularity of tablet computers was predicted more than ten years ago, but it took the genius of Apple to bring it to the mainstream. It's the same trend we’ve seen many times before: Apple makes a groundbreaking innovation and within a fairly short space of time it becomes the norm, as we are now seeing with the iPad and tablet computing – a trend which looks to be far more important than the "flash in the pan" of netbooks. Tablet computing presents some major changes in user interface, and this is already taking effect in the world...