Posted by: bbannan | February 8, 2012

The User Experience – Gloria

In chapter 4, Mike Kuniavsky introduces the concept of user experience by defining the user experience as continuous.  In his introduction to the chapter he states that “What they [the users] understand, affects not just what they can accomplish, but what attracts them to the product, and what attracts them to the product affects how willing they are to understand it”.   Although he makes it clear that defining user experience is a difficult task, he offers three general categories of work that may be helpful in understanding and creating the user experience for information management products: Information Architecture, Interaction Design, and Identity Design.

My husband, Bob, is a person who considers himself to be one of the most technically challenged people around today.  After much complaining about new technologies he becomes a late adopter and in the end adapts quiet well.  About a year ago, Bob’s company provided him with an iPhone. Due to the clean and elegant interface of the  iPhone, he was able to figure out how to download apps,  set up his  email account, add contacts, send text messages and emails, browse the web, and make phone calls. 

Information Architecture is the implicit or explicit structure used to organize information in order to help users find what they need. Information architects aim at making information that is implicit to become more explicit to the user so that they are able to understand and intuitively know what to do within the structure (with minimal frustration or getting lost) by creating patterns.  Information architects pay special attention to their target audience; what they need and expect, what they think and understand about the structure and task, and the use of appropriate terminology and keywords. Demographics, web use profiles, appropriate terminology, and audience’s mental models are key elements to architects as they create their product’s information architecture to maximize their user’s understanding and interest.  Profiles, surveys, contextual inquiry and task analysis, card sorting, and diaries are effective tools and techniques often used to gather information about the target audience and how they think.

At MC, the target audience for professional development tutorials is in essence a captive audience of college faculty. Our department tries to determine the need by listening to faculty or receiving a direct request from department deans. After every workshop, an online survey provides the opportunity for every participant to provide feedback about what worked well and what did not work so well.  The survey also offers a textbox for suggestions or comments.   

Interaction Design does not really have a single user interface. Rather, “the interface can be though of as everything that goes into the user’s immediate experience: what the user sees, hears, reads, and manipulates” (Kuniavsky, pg. 48). Presenting information in the clearest way for the user is a key task for designers which requires the collection of very specific information focusing on interaction and paying special attention to task flows, interface predictability, emphasis of key interface elements, and different audiences such as first time users.

During the interaction design phase, architects rely on tools such as task analysis, focus groups, usability testing, and log analysis to determine the user’s interaction sequences, priorities, understanding, and general use.

I have noticed from using the device that the high definition touch screen interface of the iPhone lends itself to all users from the average to the sophisticated.  It is an all in one device that can be used as a mini-computer. I think the multi-touch screen is very attractive and the controls such as slide, drag, stretch, and pinch easy to use.

Identity Design. “The style, the feeling, and the vibe” (Kuniavsky, pg. 50)

“The identity is the combination of what a site does, how it looks, what associations it evokes, its editorial voice, and how it emphasizes certain features over others” (Kuniavsky, pg. 50).

To make a strong identity, designers are consumed with getting it right by using the most effective editorial voice, visual themes, site features emphasis, and brand recognition.  These are elements that work together to set the site apart from its competitors by creating a unique and pleasant experience and a strong impression for the user.

For a lasting and memorable identity design, the designer focuses on anticipating the user’s immediate experience and emotional responses after researching and understanding the current users, the direction of the user’s attention, references and associations, and comparing the competitive strengths of the product.  User needs research data can be gathered from focus groups, surveys, and competitive analysis.

Creating a good product requires extensive and continuous research that can provide the most accurate and updated insight into the user’s preferences and needs.

Apple has done a great job at creating a strong identity design. Since I had been contemplating investing in an iPhone for years, I have conducted my own little research by asking every person I saw with an iPhone if they were happy with it.  The answer was a consistent “yes”.  My next question was “Is there anything you don’t like about your iPhone?” and the answer was a consistent “no”. Truth is, I have yet to find one person who does not like their iPhone. It is of no surprise that iPhone users are the most loyal to their brand with 84% stating in a recent survey that they will purchase another iPhone as their next handset.

http://www.telegraph.co.uk/technology/apple/8915861/Apple-iPhone-users-most-brand-loyal.html

 

Figure 2 shows the numerous aspects and interactions that can influence the user experience.

 User Experience Graphic

A user experiences things in interaction with product in the particular context of use including social and cultural factors. (Arhippainen, pg 5)

 

Suggested Readings:

  1. A User-Centered Approach To Web Design For Mobile Devices by Lyndon Cerejo
    http://www.smashingmagazine.com/2011/05/02/a-user-centered-approach-to-mobile-design/

  1. The Importance of User Experience- the Poster!
    http://www.demystifyingusability.com/2006/09/the_importance_.html

  1. Project Rethink: The Circle of Google and User Experience
    http://www.projectrethink.org/tag/user-experience/

Resources:

Observing the User Experience: A Practitioner’s Guide to User Research by Mike Kuniavsky

Capturing User Experience for Product Design by Leena Arhippainen. University of Oulu. Link to document

Forlizzi, J. Towards a Framework of Integration and Experience As It Related to Product Design. [Web-document] Available: http://goodgestreet.com/experience/theory.html

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Responses

  1. Thanks for the great post Gloria!

    Practicing UX is in essential component in developing a successful product. I don’t know how many companies practice UX, but it doesn’t seem that there are a lot companies or organizations that really understand their target audience. For example, there was a point where I would refuse to use or even stall Adobe Premiere (video editing software) due to the user friendliness of the program. I turned to Final Cut Pro and Avid. I know this is extreme…it took years before I would even considered opening the program again. I’m an editor and I’m very picky about editing and graphic software. All the other Adobe graphic products that I used were great; I just didn’t care for Premiere. The only reason why I looked at the program recently is because my boss told me Premiere had been revamped. We decided to check it out and it was like night and day! I haven’t edited a show on it yet, but I’m planning too. The ease and the adaptability of a product can make a big difference in getting a person to use it.

    I found a blog on 10 myths about user experince design. The link is below.
    http://mashable.com/2009/01/09/user-experience-design/

  2. Great post, Gloria! Thanks for sharing your personal experiences with the iPhone. I’ve been an Apple user (MacBook, iPod, iPhone, iPad…) for awhile now and love how easy it is to figure out the interface. Last year I bought my parents an iPad (their first smart technology device) and they have really enjoyed learning how to use it.

    This weekend my bf gave me an Amazon Kindle eReader for Valentine’s Day. I’ll admit it took me a while to adjust from touching the screen to using the navigational buttons. At one point I could not figure out for the life of me how to proceed to the next page. (The buttons are on the sides… for left and right handed users.) And I thought about how the ability for a device to be intuitive can really make or break the success of the product (and it’s manufacturer.) In the text, the author mentions how in the past 15-20 years design has moved away from the perspective of the designer/developer/company to the needs of end user. At work I oftentimes come across a piece of technology or a communication that doesn’t fit the needs of the users or audience. Now I am able to better understand the value usability has for an organization and why the topic of usability is so important to the overall success of the company and its people.

  3. It seems to me that the user experience researcher’s job is to lead and coordinate with the information architects, the interaction designers and the identity designers, “bringing all those people together and combining each of the facets of the development process into a single coherent development culture”.(p53)

    However in reality, is it true that the ID sometimes be the only one conducting all of the tasks, and may have personal preferences or bias as described above by Jennifer?

    Ying


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