Monday, October 22, 2007

Customer Feedback while using the product

I have always told people outside our profession that having a user use the product while giving us feedback is oh so much more valuable than performing a survey or focus group. The Journal of Consumer Research published by The University of Chicago Press has an article I must have.

"Is There a Substitute for Direct Experience? Comparing Consumers' Preferences after Direct and Indirect Product Experiences" by Rebecca W. Hamilton and Debora Viana Thompson.

We show that direct product experiences (e.g., product trials) and indirect product experiences (e.g., reading a product description) result in different levels of mental construal and product preferences. Study 1 demonstrates that increasing experiential contact with a product triggers more concrete mental construal and increases preferences for products that are easy to use relative to those that are more desirable but difficult to use. Studies 2 and 3 show that the effect of product experience can be attenuated by encouraging consumers to think concretely prior to product exposure and by asking consumers to choose products for others instead of themselves.

If you have a subscription, please let me know if the article is worth the subscription cost. I am looking for some metrics that show the benefit of product use versus recall or perception studies.

Monday, August 20, 2007

Customer Demographics, Behaviors and Motivations

I went searching for the lastest buzz on product experience, but didn't find any new sites or online references of note, well except for that Fast Company article about the 22 year old CEO of FaceBook. I have a Fast Company subscription and read that in the magazine. It is always a good read.

So I searched for Customer Needs Summary since I am in the middle of creating one for one of my projects. I found an interesting site I had never seen before and I found references to where they got their data and I followed the trail, losing track of time in the process. I was looking for demographics, behaviors and motivations of the target users for the product I am researching and designing. I found some of this data, plus a great PPT at Educause Connect. What interested me most was the generational motivation information.

I also found some interesting articles on AJAX, Social Computing and Web 2.0.

Monday, June 18, 2007

UPA2007 EP Rodeo Topic: Integrating UCD with other Methodologies

I was able to participate in the Experienced Practioners Rodeo at UPA 2007 on Tuesday afternoon. We covered four topics in depth and I happened to be the note-taker for one of the topics. We created a simple slide deck to summarize our Integrating UCD discussion.

Other topics included Agile & UCD, Accessibility and Hand-Held Usability. I hope to see those discussions posted as well.

Thursday, June 14, 2007

UPA 2007 Contextual Inquiry Examples

Debbie McConnell and I presented at the UPA 2007 conference. Our first talk was about making the transition from web design to small screen design, "Designing for Small Screens: Crossing from Web to Product Design."

Our second talk, "Contextual Inquiry: Get Out of Your Cube!", was about using the skills you have acquired doing studies in an office setting and some tricks we have found for preparing to study in non-office settings like warehouses, manufacturing facilities, medical settings, high security environments and other environments that have potential safety issues.

I promised to make sure that the examples I displayed would be made available in several ways, one of them was on this blog. So, if you were able to find the blog, even though I could not remember the URL, please feel free to get a copy of the presentation, checklist and observer log.

Thursday, June 07, 2007

A Great User Experience Definition

I have served many roles in my professional career and my title and self-affiliation has changed over time to be more inclusive of all the types of skills I have mastered over the years. From quality assurance anlayst, business analyst, systems analyst, data analyst, usability analyst to UI designer, interaction designer, product designer to my current self appointed title: User Experience Designer. I feel like this is the best fit now, since I incorporate user research, design and evaluation on all the projects I juggle.

Kimmy Paluch wrote a great article, take a read.

Sunday, March 18, 2007

Design Process with Measurable Results

A designer is often called upon to support their design choices, especially those that lead to a higher cost of manufacturing cost. The designer will need to be able to help the accountants understand how the design will influence the return on investment. The design process should include qualitative and quantitative unbiased evaluation techniques that will either support or deny the additional costs. The new product design needs to be compared to previous product benchmarks as well as against leading competitors.

Chuck Jones, Cheif Designer, Whirlpool has instituted a standardized company-wide design process that produces measureable results by putting design prototypes in front of customer focus groups and takes detailed measurements of their preferences about aesthetics, craftsmanship, technical performance, ergonomics, and usability. "Whirlpool charts the results against both competing products and its own previous iterations, giving it a baseline of objective evidence from which to make investment decisions." See the full article at Fast Company.

Thursday, February 08, 2007

Identifying potential user errors

Gathering Information
Collecting data during field observation is greatly facilitated by having a protocol of what you will be looking for with an outline of what you know of the users, procedures, tools and techniques they might employ during the session.

Analyzing Information
Once you have the data collated, grouped and categorized you can more easily see trends, best practices, and potential user errors. Identifying and mitigating these potential issues during the design phase is one of the key outcomes of a successful site visit.

Issue identification
The Medical Device Reporting arm of the FDA describes user error to be any error a user might make while using the product. If a product has been found to have instances of user error, they feel the product may be incorrectly branded, not have clear enough directions for use or not provide adequate warnings. If a product is found to have these issues, the FDA may require additional labeling to mitigate the potential use errors.

While doing site observations we often see many things we couldn't imagine because the context of use is not the same as the conditions we anticipated.

Here are some areas to keenly observe while in the field:

  • How is the product held, positioned, manuevered and carried by the user?
  • Where is the product in relation to the user?
  • Where is the product placed when in use and not in use?
  • How is the process, procedure, or task flow different than we anticipated or advised?
  • How are the techniques or task steps evolving in the field?
  • What supplementary tools or aids are used in addition to the product?
  • What does the user need to "tell" the product?
  • What does the product need to "tell" the user?

And most importantly:

  • At any time, could some get hurt? Financial loss, pain, security, embarrassment, etc.

At any site visit, you will see something unexpected and you can imagine many more potential issues than you actually see occur. People will find a way do anything more effeciently and they will find ways to use the product that we never imagined. This is why it is so important to continue to do field studies on products, even well established products.

Clearly identify all the things you think might go wrong and try to design them out. Potential user errors are much like potential risk or potential side effects. Just because you identify it, doesn't mean it will happen, but it is better to know what you might want to avoid or what you might do to mitigate a error before it happens.

Tuesday, February 06, 2007

UX as change agents

User Experience professionals are the bridge, the glue, the change agent of product development projects. They help to create a vision that is verifiable by the users the product is intended for. Read more from Paul Sherman at UX Matters.