Usability Testing: The Money Saving Ego Killer


Ever had a feature idea, tested it and had clients hate on the idea so hard during usability testing that it completely crushed your ego?

It happens. But the thing to remember when it happens is that if you hadn’t tested it, you’d have spent a ton of cash in wasted man hours developing something no one wants!

Better to have just your ego crushed early, rather than your ego AND your wallet crushed later!


Reason #9072 You Should Always Record Usability Tester Facial Video and Audio


We’ve all been there right? You’re conducting a usability test, and your tester is slamming the mouse around angrily until he or she FINALLY figures out how to complete the assigned task. 

Then, when asked to rate the task, the tester smiles politely and says it was “easy”. 

It’s obviously not true, but if you don’t record audio and video, and only go on tester rating, you’ll never know to fix the issue. 

Audio and video allow you to look past verbal responses into what is really going on with your testers. You can look for facial expressions relating to frustration and anger, listen for under the breath profanity, and just generally get a more holistic view of how your testers really feel. 

Not recording tester audio and video does you a huge disservice. 

Give it a shot. It’ll help you uncover the testers who are lying, consciously or subconsciously, and will give you better data. 

Analytics and Improving UX: What’s the Connection?

Part of my role as a Content Strategist and UX Editor is to keep an eye on, and harvest data on our monthly analytics, and then write an analysis report. I am a giant stats nerd and absolutely love this aspect of my job. Someone recently asked me how analytics tie into our UX strategy since our flagship product is a CMS, so I thought I’d share some insights about what our design and development teams learn from our monthly stats.

1. We learn in depth browser usage information about OUR user base.

Our user base is a pretty specific group, with individualized needs. Could we look at industry averages of browser usage? Sure. Would it help us? No. Because our end users and editors have very different needs than the general public. We work with school districts, and often times the editors don’t have any control over the equipment they are given to edit in the schools, nor the browsers they have to use. So our decisions on which browsers to support, and which ones not to support are driven by OUR analytics data. Would we love to stop supporting legacy browsers? Absolutely. Would it destroy the user experience for a large percentage of our users? Yep. Some companies can make snap judgements on browser support based on industry averages, we can’t. We put the needs of our client base first, and our analytics data is a key driver in that decision making process.

2. We are able to monitor adoption rates of new product features. 

We launched a new feature about a year ago and started tracking it with custom events in Google Analytics. At first we had a snow rise in usage, then a few months later the usage went through the roof and our clients started raving about it. We got to watch that progression, and see how much time it took for our users to start loving that enhancement.  You don’t always have instant adoption of new features which can bum you out, but watching adoption rise over time and then fly off the charts is a pretty rewarding thing!

3. We can see which areas of our product are hit the heaviest and then research ways we can improve those areas. We can also identify areas that aren’t being used as heavily, and then do additional user research to find out why. 

Analytics can be incredibly helpful when you’re doing analysis of which areas of your product need additional UX work or a refresh. Analytics also help identify areas that may need to be researched further, to help identify why users are ignoring them.

4. We can monitor which help materials are being accessed the most, and use that data to review the areas that are causing our users confusion.

Sometimes if a person gets stuck, they call or email asking for help, but more often than not, folks use our online resource center. So in reality, the areas folks are calling about, may not be the areas causing the most client frustration, since most people hit the online help before they call. Being able to see analytics that show how folks are using our help materials helps us identify usability issues quickly, and then we are able to follow up with additional user research to find out which aspects of those areas are specifically causing confusion.

5. We have a direct view of how mobile is being used by our client base.

Mobile is here to stay obviously, and we have awesome mobile solutions for our clients. We have responsive site templates, mobile web apps, iPhone apps, and Android apps that are all fed data from our single CMS. I absolutely love the power behind our system, and how much time it’s saving our clients by letting them COPE (Create Once Publish Everywhere)!

I am able to see our mobile growth each and every month, and it’s fascinating. I can see how many people are using phones vs tablets for editing and viewing, I can see which devices are most prevalent. I can see the absolutely huge divide between iPhone users and Android users in our viewing audience (Last month our app downloads were 83% iOS and only 17% Android! Our visitors are apparently huge Apple fans!). It’s extremely helpful for us from a design standpoint to see how our clients and their visitors are using tech to consume content. It helps give us perspective as we design new products and features.

There are about a million other exciting things you can learn by tracking analytics to improve your site or product UX, I could add about 900 more bullet points, but this post this is just a small teaser to get you started.

I just want to reiterate how powerful integrating analytics into your UX strategy can be! Analytics data isn’t  just a tool for marketing teams; product designers and developers can benefit from analytics data in a huge way too!

3 Unsubscribe UX Rules To Live By

Today I got the 9,347,598th notification email from a startup I was checking out a few months ago when they were in beta. I realized that their incessant emails were really starting to irritate me, and decided it was time to unsubscribe. I went to the email footer, and found something even more irritating. No unsubscribe button. So today, I’d like to chat a little about unsubscribe UX, and how you can make it less irritating for your customers, thereby retaining those customers.

1. Always have an unsubscribe link in the footer of your emails. 

This company had a “Change Settings” link instead, which annoyed me, because I just knew that clicking it was going to take me to a sign in screen, and I hadn’t used this product in a long enough period of time that I didn’t know my password, and I was going to have to have it sent to me. So I was going to have to have them send me another email, just to unsubscribe from their annoying emails. This entire circle of thought, which took place in a space of about 3 seconds, instantly made me want to just delete my account entirely because the UX was so frustrating. All of this was brought on by reading the words “Change Settings”. This brings me to point #2.

2. Make your unsubscribe process 2 clicks. 

I want to click unsubscribe in the email, and then see a screen that says, “Are you sure you want to unsubscribe? If yes, pick a reason from this nifty little pre-populated drop down or type a reason in this bonus material box.” Then I want to see a confirmation message that may even include a little warm fuzzy, “We’ll miss you, you can resubscribe any time,” message.

What I DON’T want is to have to go to your website, try to sign in, go through your multistep retrieve password process if I’ve forgotten it, finally get logged in, locate the settings area of your site, dig through the settings until I find your email notifications area, and uncheck the 5 different boxes for your mega annoying constant emails, then save, then have to log out. Because by the time I go through all that I’m not just annoyed, I’m angry with your brand for making me jump through hoops. Also, seeing the website while going through the frustrating process is not a good thing. It makes me associate your branded site with a feeling of extreme irritation, whereas just clicking an unsubscribe link in an email with a generic confirmation screen doesn’t make me associate angry feelings with your brand at all.

3. Poor unsubscribe UX can trigger customers to bail on your product entirely, so keep it clean. 

I actually liked this product. I thought it was pretty useful and I was keeping my account around for use with future projects. By the time I finished unsubscribing from their emails, however, I was so irritated that I very nearly deleted my entire account. Small details like unsubscribe workflows really matter when it comes to customer retention. Don’t let little big UX details derail your customer retention rates!

Icon Usability Testing: Keep Your Product Names Out Of It

Time To Test Some Icons

Recently we launched a mobile icon usability test to help us select icons to represent several areas of our product in an upcoming mobile app release. We split our testers into two groups.

Test Setup (Words Matter!)

The first group got a test that asked them to select the icon they felt best represented the product we listed. (For example: Select the icon that best represents MyView.) These users are familiar with our products, and know how MyView functions.

The second group got a clickable test that sent them through the same flow, but rather than listing the product names, we listed descriptions of what the products do. We did this because the icons were going to be for general public use, not for folks who were necessarily familiar with our product names. These users are also familiar with our products, and know how MyView functions, but we explained it rather than listing the product title.

Results = Fascinating!

Our results were really fascinating. When we asked the first group to pick an icon that best represented MyView, a large proportion of them picked an icon that contained an eye. When asked why they selected that icon, they mentioned associating the word “view” with an eye.

When we asked the second group to pick an icon that best represented a screen which they could customize to make it display content that was most important to them, they overwhelmingly selected an icon with a star included. When we asked them to explain why they selected the icons that included a star, they explained that the description made them think of a screen full of their favorite content, and they associate “favorites” with a star icon.

The Moral of the Story – Stay Away From Product Names When Testing Icons

When you’re launching a usability test, especially one that will be used to help select iconography, keep your product names out of the equation. Describe the areas or products or features that you’re trying to represent instead, to ensure that you’re not accidentally tainting your tester opinions and results.

Top 15 UX and Design Tools of 2013

This is a list of my top 15 UX and design tools for 2013, listed in random order. These tools fit together to make my life simpler and better organized on a daily basis. They also, when used in combination, allow clear interdepartmental communication to take place which helps keep us agile!

  1. Solidify
  2. UXRecorder
  3. Silverback
  4. GoToMeeting
  5. Balsamiq
  6. Invision
  7. Notable
  8. Asana
  9. TargetProcess
  10. Skitch
  11. MailChimp
  12. SurveyMonkey
  13. Trello
  14. AppAnnie
  15. ReflectorApp

UX, Collaborative Design and Prototyping Gold: InVision (For Mobile and Desktop!)

You know what I love? And I mean, love, love in a big way? UX and design tools that make life easier for me and the rest of my amazing team.

If you work on a design team, whether big or small, you really really need to check out InVision. It has changed our entire design process in an extremely positive, time saving, better organized kind of way, and it saves us from using several different tools to do a job, which in turn saves us from having to replicate work and waste time!  Add to that the intuitive, extremely user friendly UI and you have a definite win. So what makes InVision so magical you ask?

It takes the agony out of design collaboration.

I work on a team with an incredible group of folks. Other than myself, our team is made up of 2  incredibly talented UX Engineers, a fabulous UX designer, a UX manager who is an interaction design rock star in addition to being a code ninja, and a VP who is incredibly innovative.

When you have a new design concept, what’s your process?

Maybe you discuss, wireframe, review, make high res mockups, review the hi res, email suggested changes to the mockup maker, when that person makes and uploads or emails the changes they let you know and you re-review them, the process repeats, then they go on to the next level up for review, the same process happens, feedback is sent, mockups are edited and re-uploaded or emailed.

You finally end up with solid hi res mockups, then you have to get out your prototyping tool, upload your high res graphics to it, hot spot them (or code click paths if you’re hardcore), then show them to your stakeholders/user testing community, get feedback from those folks via survey or email or phone call, have the graphic designer edit the hi res mockups again, then make another prototype with the new mockups, send them to your stakeholders for approval, then eventually send your mockups off to your dev team to be coded once everything is finalized.

You know what the flaw is with that process? It’s 982374 layers deep and you have to do the same thing over and over again (which is a sign of insanity by the way).

You have to edit graphics and upload them or email them over and over and over again, then herd feedback from all over creation into a pile and attempt to keep it all lost in one place, and you have to edit mockups and create new prototypes for demoing and testing post feedback rounds over and over.

InVision on the other hand, does ALL of the things! Hence my deep deep love for the tool.

1. Create  your hi res screen mockup, save it to your InVision sync folder and from that point forward any edits you make to a mockup are instantly applied to your shared prototypes!!!

Use InVision’s FREE Mac App to save your hi res mockups to a sync folder, and every time you edit and save changes to a screen graphic, they are magically applied in real time to your prototype! It’s like the Google Docs of UX and graphic design! It’s kind of amazing!

Let me say that again. This happens in REAL TIME. You don’t have to upload or share or prototype over and over again. You edit your mockup screen, click save, and BAM. Your prototype is updated, good to go and ready for instantaneous review.

2. Reviewers can notate requested changes on the screens!

Instead of showing your reviewer a screen and asking them to email you feedback, or giving them a survey trying to gather feedback, or IMing feedback or saying it out loud, folks you share the design with can just leave comments on each mockup screen. This goes for managers, VP’s and any other stakeholder you give access!

You can also put snazzy status updates on the screens, so folks you’re collaborating with can see if something is in progress, approved or if  it is ready for review!

3. The UI is fab!

The UI is super intuitive and simple to use!

4. You can make mobile prototypes, desktop prototypes, tablet prototypes, you name it! 

You’re making chrome free touch UI prototypes here! And they let you integrate the latest in fun, modern gestures!

From a mobile standpoint, when you send a finalized prototype link and a person clicks it, they are prompted to download the prototype and add a shortcut to their phone home screen, which even lets them see the custom app icon you’ve spent time perfecting! It gives that warm fuzzy native app feeling when folks are checking it out!

So how many layers of design process steps did we just kill by using InVision? About 92.

Do you and your design & UX teams a favor, and check out InVision! (Pro Tip: You can test it out for free!)

(Our awesome VP Jason @jcoudriet and our fabulous UX Designer Danelle @danellesheree were the discoverers of this magic! And big thanks Danelle for reviewing this article and sharing even more benefits that I didn’t realize existed prior to writing this article!) 🙂

Designers: No Matter What You Do, You Can’t Make Everyone Happy All The Time

So you launch your latest product or website enhancements, and you get a mixed bag of responses from your clients.

You slaved over your design for months, perfecting every detail.  You did tons of user research, and applied your findings to improve usability, but when you launch there are still people who complain, and hate it, and for a split second you feel that creeping frustration in the pit of your stomach. How is it possible that even with all of the killer improvements you made, people are still hating on your design?!

Here’s the thing. In life, in EVERY situation in life, you can’t make everyone happy all the time. It’s not humanly possible to please every single person in every single way. And, design trends come and go, what’s popular today won’t be popular 5 years from now, or a year from now, or even in 2 months in some cases.

So now you’re thinking, “Great I’ve set myself up for an totally unattainable goal, why even bother making all of these fabulous improvements?”

Why? Because we are innovators, a creative group of people who look at user problems and come up with solutions. We’re not going to sit back and let our products sink into outdated oblivion, we are PASSIONATE about our products! We live to make them the best they can be!

Instead of letting negative feedback get you down, view it as a stepping stone on the path to innovation. Absorb it, learn what you can from it, and then continue innovating and creating and bringing your products to life!

Like I said, you can’t make everyone happy all the time, but when you’re a designer, it sure is fun to try!

PS: This post was inspired by a conversation I had with Barry Briggs (@quiffboy) and Rick Threllfall (@rick_threfall) on Twitter today. Thanks for the stimulating conversation! 🙂

When Usability Testers Scream at You Silently


So recently I was standing in my new kitchen reaching for a drawer because I needed a spoon, and I said out loud, “Oh, duh, wrong drawer.” Then I realized that the wrongness was that the spoons were being stored in a drawer that didn’t make ANY sense from an ergonomic point of view. They were far away from the stove and the mixing bowls and every other thing that I would ever be using a mixing spoon for. So rather than continuing to feel stupid for reaching for the wrong drawer, I switched the drawers.

When I’m doing user research, I often come across this phenomenon. Users say things like, I couldn’t find the button, I expected it to be over here. And there are often trends in the feedback. The “expected it to be over here” location tends to be similar for groups of people, which means we’ve definitely “put our spoons in the wrong drawer”.

We had a design recently in which tester after tester gave the feedback, “I couldn’t find the button.” (It was on the far right hand side of the screen at the top.) We reran the test with an alternate group with the button still on the right but closer to the center of the screen, and not a single tester had any issue.

Sometimes when you do research, your users are speaking in code. They don’t jump up and down and scream “Change X right now, it’s ruining my experience with your product!” Instead, they frown and mutter, “Where the #$&% is that button?!” Sometimes, (often times) it’s what people DON’T mention in their feedback, that’s key. It’s the interaction they pause on, or the button they can’t find.  As a researcher it’s your job to really listen when your product UX speaks to you through your testers non verbal communications.

This is one of the reasons I love tools like UX recorder and Silverback. Facial expressions and pauses in click tracks are huge indicators of areas you need to work on, often more so than verbal or written feedback.

Have you ever had a tester struggle and curse their way through your usability test only to say, “That was so easy!” at the end? Always listen, but also watch and let yourself absorb what your testers are feeling while they experience your product to get a full picture of which areas you should focus on.

Some of the best UX pros I’ve met are avid people watchers, and folks with tons of empathy to spare, who really tune in when people are telling them things. They don’t just listen to what testers are saying, but observe their body language, and pay attention to whether or not emotions are hitting the eyes. They’re the ones who catch it when testers are screaming silently during a usability test.

Identifying the right areas to focus on can be tricky but if you really listen to what’s said as well as what isn’t said, you’ll create fabulous user experiences whether you’re working on button placements, interaction flows or where to place drawers full of spoons.