Quality Product Design: Don’t Give Me What I Want… Solve My Problem.


After being in the industry for years, I’ve discovered 2 important things:

A. Product Designers and UX Pros think differently than other humans.
B. Really skilled Product Designers and UX Pros see problems that need to be solved, not features that need to be added.

When a client steps forward and asks for a feature request, rather than saying, “Sure! Let me just toss that in here!” an experienced product designer says, “That is great feedback! Can you explain how you would apply that feature, and how it would improve your experience?”

Sometimes you come across companies who have a strong focus on integrating client feedback, but their products eventually implode and become so feature laden that they sink.  There are ways to integrate feature requests and take a user centered approach without destroying your product.

1. Listen to feedback clients throw your way with an interpretive ear, and don’t be afraid to dig deeper to identify underlying problems.

Listen beyond the words your clients are saying and the features they’re requesting, and get to the root of the problems they are trying to solve.

2. Sometimes feature requests are actually usability issues in disguise. 

We’ve had several situations where a client requested a new feature, and after some digging and discussion we discovered that an area of our product would solve the problem with some minor tweaking. There was just a usability stumbling block getting in their way.

3. Sometimes the product features clients request are actually new product offerings in disguise. 

“I wish the product would do this. If you’d add these features, I could use this to do Y.” All client feedback doesn’t have to be fed into a primary product, when the problems that need to be solved could be handled with a separate product with a laser focus. Bloating your flagship product with a million features will lead to client frustration. Creating a new product that solves a client problem with ease = gold.

4. Focus your energy on hearing the users’ needs not the users’ wants. 

“I want to be able to do this task more quickly” could really mean, “The feature I need to access needs to be in a more prominent position on the screen.” Or, it could mean, “The feature I need to access should be a standalone solution because it is part of my daily workflow and digging through a bloated product to find it is killing my experience.”

5. More features do not equal a better product. 

Products in their purest, simplest form, are a thing of beauty. Any designer in the world can create a product and snap a million features on top of it, and around it and under it. It takes a skilled product designer & UX pro team to pare down a product to its simplest form, until it’s a clean, elegant, easy to use solution.

So basically what I’m saying is, listen to your clients. Respond to your client needs. But don’t just give them what they ask for… solve their problems.

A Complete Mobile Usability Testing Solution

The Problem

Recently I wrote a blog post about how there are currently a couple of really great mobile usability testing tools out there, but I couldn’t find any that did everything I needed.

I tweeted my article, and one of the partners at Zurb shot me a message. We got chatting about SolidifyApp and UXRecorder and how I really wished there was a single tool that did what those two tools do best.

SolidifyApp lets you create clickable prototypes for usability testing, then does gesture tracking, allows you to create tasks that need to be completed by testers, gives them the opportunity to give feedback and then gives you some killer stats.

UXRecorder does screen & gesture capture, as well as audio & front facing camera video capture of tester faces.

The Solution

UXRecorder lets you enter URL’s for web apps and prototypes. I tested it this afternoon and you can also enter your SolidifyApp Usability Test URL in UXRecorder, and combine the best of both worlds into one killer Mobile Usability Testing solution!

To recap, by running your SolidifyApp test in UXRecorder you can obtain:

1. Gesture tracking data
2. Screen capture video
3. Gesture capture video
4. Front facing camera tester facial video
5. Tester audio
6. Task completion statistics
7. Written user feedback
8. Etc!

It does all the things! It’s Mobile Usability Testing magic, I’m telling you! And, it only takes minutes to set up! Goodbye Mobile Usability Testing market gap! I am majorly pumped about this solution!

Free Stuff

The best part? SolidifyApp has a 30 day free trial, and UXRecorder gives you a 30 second free session to test their app out before you commit to purchase to ensure that it’s the right solution for you! (I can tell you from experience that once you’ve tried SolidifyApp, you’ll want to subscribe. It’s currently one of my favorite usability testing tools!)

SolidifyApp http://www.solidifyapp.com

UX Recorder http://www.uxrecorder.com

I’ve been searching for weeks trying to find this Mobile Usability Testing combination! I hope it serves you all well!

Mobile Usability Testing Tools

So I recently started searching like a maniac trying to find some Mobile Usability Testing tools, and I had a heck of a time finding any resource lists! So I decided to put one together for anyone else who is searching in vain.

1. SolidifyApp

So it’s no secret that I am a giant fan of Zurb, specifically their SolidifyApp. It’s an absolutely awesome quick and dirty prototyping tool, that also lets you launch really simple remote usability tests with ease! It even has a template for launching MOBILE remote usability tests! Which, at the present moment is something kind of lacking in the industry! You create the test, add your pics, throw it in mobile chrome, pick your audience, and voila! You’ve got a remote mobile usability test ready to rock. You just copy the link and email it to folks. They can open it on their mobile devices and go to town. The nice thing is, it works on any device. You can even give them tasks to complete and ask for feedback. It records their screen gestures along the way, and automatically tracks stats. This is a great tool for testing prototype versions of mobile concepts remotely, to ensure that you’re on track without spending a zillion dollars developing a tool that is totally wrong for your client base/audience.

2. UXRecorder

UXRecorder is REALLY close to bordering the perfect Mobile Usability testing tool. You install the app, pull up your web property or prototype URL, and hand it to your tester. The app does screen capture, records user audio and video, and records gestures. So you can see the persons face while they do their thing and hear whether or not they are cursing out your web app, along with having a visual of where they are swiping. This is a moderated testing tool since you have to build your prototype in your account, and pass it around on your device, but it’s the closest I’ve seen to my ideal mobile usability testing tool. (I’ll outline my dream tool at the end of this article.)

3. POP (Prototyping on Paper)

This app is pretty sweet. You can create prototypes right on your mobile device. The premise is nice, you just pick up your phone, snap some pictures of sketches on post-its or napkins, or fancy high-res mockups, string them together into a prototype, and then share your concept with your usability testing community or whomever else you choose. They’re working on an android version as we speak, but the iPhone version is pretty solid. And it’s fun. And, it’s another way to create simple prototypes in seconds to make sure that your concepts on are point with what your clients need.

4. Lookback.io

Lookback.io is pretty awesome. You integrate it right into your app. It records screen capture, gestures, user video and audiobooks . Also, it’s free while it’s in public Beta.


5. My Dream Mobile Usability Testing Tool

So what I really want in a tool, is the ability to send a link to a user that will launch a testing tool on the mobile device or tablet of their choice. I want it to record audio, video, screen capture and gestures, and I want to be able to set tasks for users to complete and have it automatically track stats. I want it to work with web apps, responsive sites and native apps. Basically what I’m looking for is a mashup of SolidifyApp and UXRecorder. This is my mobile usability testing tool holy grail. Oh, and since it’s already a thing on mobile now, we could toss in eye tracking as an added bonus. 🙂

I hope you find these mobile usability testing and prototyping tool descriptions helpful, and that this list will save you a few hours of Googling! 🙂

UX and Design Tools That Will Improve Your Productivity

This is a list of some of my favorite UX, design and accessibility testing tools at the moment! I hope you find them useful!

Tools for Collaboration

Tools for Usability Testing

Usability Testing Services That Provide Testers

Tools for Mobile Usability Testing & Prototyping

Tools for Usability Tester Recruiting

Mac Tools for Demoing Apps

Tools for Stat Tracking

Tools for Accessibility Testing

Miscellaneous Tools I Love

If any of your favorite tools aren’t listed, please feel free to leave them in the comments! I love testing out new tools! 🙂

Card Sorting: How do I analyze all of this crazy data?!

So card sorting is totally hot right now. It sounds really simple, and for the most part it is.

You grab some cards, add the things you need to organize to the cards, then ask people to organize them in a way that makes sense to them. You take some pictures of the way they organized your things, and you’re done.

This process is incredibly simple, right up until the point that it comes time to analyze the card sort data. Then it suddenly becomes mind boggling. I recall looking at my pile of awesome pictures and thinking, “What in the world do I do with all of this now?!”

Enter stage left the amazing Donna Spencer (@maadonna) who has created the most incredible spreadsheet of all time, and she has shared it with the entire world. You enter your card sort data, and it magically turns it into beautiful percentages that actually make sense! She has even created instructions to get you going!

I’m about 100% sure that this spreadsheet has saved days of my life, so I wanted to make sure that you all know that it exists! Thank you for introducing me to this magic, Kelly Reese! 🙂



Open Your Mind & Build Better Products: Persona Centered Design Brainstorming

The company I work for is incredible. I have an amazingly talented manager and an incredibly innovative, creative Vice President. Both are huge advocates for UX, usability testing and cutting edge user research methods. Another area in which they are very supportive, is the area of persona research. We have spent a good amount of time on our persona research, and it’s proven to be worth its weight in gold. We have been able to leverage the persona research in some really cool ways. I wanted to share with you a persona centered brainstorming method that has been particularly effective.

Our company’s flagship product is a CMS that allows school districts to maintain web properties with ease. Recently we created an end user layer called MyView, which functions as a dashboard for parents, students, staff members and community members. It’s an extremely powerful feature, and that is in large part due to our initial persona centered design brainstorming session. I’m going to outline the process we followed in hopes that it can aid some other organizations in the future.

Step 1: Get out of the office.
We met offsite. This may not sound like a big deal, but it’s huge. In office meetings are great, but when you want to get the creative juices flowing being in a remote area with no “pop in” distractions can really aid in focusing on the task at hand.

Step 2: Respect one another.
We have a team dynamic in which every team member is free to share ideas without fear of judgment. Every member of our team has respect for one another and feels comfortable sharing ideas.

Step 3: Integrate user personas in your design brainstorming.
We did a really cool exercise in which each member of our team adopted a key user persona, complete with name tag. Each of us then looked at the design from our adopted persona’s point of view. You wouldn’t believe how different your mental design process ends up when you’re looking at a concept from a specific persona point of view, rather than your own.

Step 4: Draw Pictures.
I have less than zero talent when it comes to drawing. Seriously, even my stick figures are pitiful. Asking every member of the team (Architects, Content Strategists, UX Designers, Vice Presidents I’m talking EVERY member) to draw what they envision the product to look like, and asking them to integrate the features they feel would be most important to their adopted user persona, is a really cool way to come up with innovative user centered ideas. Break out grid paper and sharpies for those who, like me, can’t even draw a straight line, and have at it.

Step 5. Create your V1 mockups on the spot.
How many times have you had a fantastic productive brainstorming meeting, gone home, come back the next day and you can’t figure out what in the world your notes mean? Create your V1 mockups before you leave while the ideas are still fresh in your mind.

We wound up with a completely killer design, and later an equally killer product enhancement using this method. I hope your company can benefit from it as well! May your products live long and prosper… with a little help from persona centered design brainstorming sessions. 🙂