DIY UX: Give Your Users an Upgrade (Without Calling In a Pro)

The wonderful Whitney Hess is speaking about DIY UX at An Event Apart in Boston.

We are all user experience designers. Our users are suffering. Let’s help them. Whitney says we can be bumbling DIY hobbyists or we can be professionals.

Meet the founders of Iridesco, based in New York. They make a product called Harvest, a time-tracking, invoicing and billing tool. Their customers have really nice things to say about them. They handle their own help and support. They tried using Get Satisfaction but they saw that not as many people used it. Instead, they use labels in Gmail to tag feature requests and issues. They built a tool for themselves to handle this: Kaizen. They don’t just take feedback at face value, they want to get to the underlying problems.

We don’t just want to patch; we want to address the core problem.

When customers ask for a feature, Iridesco get in touch to try to find out what the customer’s workflow is. That gets to the heart of the problem. For more on design research, read Mike Kuniavsky’s Observing the User Experience.

Iridesco also use web analytics:

We don’t believe in data-driven design, but data doesn’t lie.

(Whitney adds: sometimes it does …data tells you what people are doing but it doesn’t tell you why)

Once glance at Google Analytics shows that people mostly log at the beginning of the week and then there’s a drop-off at the weekend …as you’d expect for a time-tracking tool. But they also noticed fewer visits in the middle of the month. They also use Crazy Egg to find out where people are clicking. Google Website Optimizer lets you do A/B testing. For example, green and blue buttons tested much better than muted grey buttons. They resulted in a 10% improvement in conversion rates.

Meet Matthew Marco. He’s a visual designer working for the House of Representatives. He also uses a lot of the same tools as Iridesco. He worked on which leads to about 600 websites. His biggest impact was on their search infrastructure. He created a big-ass table of search queries. It took thirty minutes a week over the course of nine months, on his own initiative. What he found was staggering: the top search results had no document titles; searches were case-sensitive. He sent a memo …a fairly harsh memo. He blogged it.

One day he noticed three times the number of queries that he normally saw. This was when people had started talking about bailouts. Two days later, the server crashed. Even though he was low down on the totem pole and shouldn’t even had access to the search logs, he was the only one who saw this coming.

For more on web analytics, read Web Analytics: An Hour a Day by Avinash Kaushik.

Usability testing; how well does your stuff really work? Shawn from Iridesco tests prototypes on his wife. This goes against the accepted wisdom on user testing but he knows that his wife will be honest. He doesn’t tell her what the prototype is supposed to do; he doesn’t ask what do you think? He asks what are your general feelings about this? and then lets her talk. The worst feedback you can get is it looks good. You want harshness.

You need to have humility and listen. Users aren’t always right but you need to hear them.

For more on usability testing, read The Handbook of Usability Testing by Jeffrey Rubin and Dana Chisnell.

Experiment and iterate. This is the web; you can be nimble. Risk is okay as long as you are always testing. Here’s the Iridesco process for a new feature:

  1. Sketch
  2. Photoshop
  3. Test
  4. Static HTML prototype
  5. Test again
  6. Working prototype
  7. Test again
  8. Tweak
  9. Launch quietly
  10. Get Feedback
  11. Tweak
  12. Get Feedback
  13. Tweak
  14. Get Feedback
  15. Tweak…

Iterate constantly. You need a culture of experimentation.

Meet Roz Duffy. She works at Comcast interactive media on Her team—the front-end team—has no access to the user experience professionals in other parts of the company. She starting organising design events like Refresh Philly in the company lounge. Her team started gaining new skills because designers were coming into their space; they came to see the value in sketching (just as Jason was saying earlier today). She also puts a bunch of books on her desk (about design, IA, etc.) and encourages her team to borrow them.

We aren’t always working on the most interesting stuff but we always want to work smarter.

Read Sketching User Experiences by Bill Buxton.

To summarise: Always be listening. Ask questions. Use data and anecdotes. Test your designs; try to break them. Complete the feedback loop. Never stop trying to make things better.

Make your users happy and they will thank you …just check out the @harvest feedback on Twitter.

Have you published a response to this? :

Previously on this day

11 years ago I wrote Supernova 2008

A different kind of conference.

16 years ago I wrote Proud work

I’ve been updating my portfolio with some sites I’ve worked on recently. All of them are table-free, valid XHTML/CSS pieces of work.