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New To Usability - Trying To Learn & Define Standards

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  • doug.gorman@rocketmail.com
    Good morning, everyone. My name s Doug Gorman and I m the QA manager at Creative Artists Agency. My team is beginning to take on usability as part of what we
    Message 1 of 17 , Sep 30, 2009
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      Good morning, everyone. My name's Doug Gorman and I'm the QA manager at Creative Artists Agency.

      My team is beginning to take on usability as part of what we test for in the applications we build for the business. We are frequently presented with questions like "should we use an icon or text link?" that we have no resources to draw on to make a decision.

      Ideally I would prefer to create some standards around the kinds of interface decisions we're normally presented with. Not to prevent people from making other decisions, but to provide a baseline from which to guide decisions.

      I have three questions about creating a baseline:

      1. What resources would you recommend to be helpful in establishing a UI baseline for our organization?
      2. If you've created UI standards for a company before, what issues did you encounter with regards to acceptance and adherence?
      3. Would you recommend a standard - if not, why?
    • jo packer
      Hi Doug You might want to consider creating a browse able library of UI components. For instance you might have a standard for signing up for a service, but
      Message 2 of 17 , Oct 1, 2009
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        Hi Doug

        You might want to consider creating a browse able library of UI components. For instance you might have a standard for signing up for a service, but you might have several flavours for how to upload a file, filter results or how to present collapsible panels.

        A UI component could consist of several items

        Thumbnail (a fairly large one though 250px x 250px)
        Text description
        Where to use it
        Where not to use it
        Tag (allow people to tag the UI component e.g registration, filtering, sliders)
        Date uploaded
        Person uploaded by (so user can contact them should they have any questions)
        Link(s) to an example(s) of the component used in the real world
        Code snippet for component (this would have to follow your code standards and only be submitted to library once it passes your standards)
        Feedback from research sessions on the component (research project, person who ran research, perhaps even user quotes?)

        Some resources to inspire your solution

        http://patterntap.com/
        http://www.welie.com
        http://quince.infragistics.com/#/Search
        (doesn't work in Safari??)
        http://interface.fh-potsdam.de/infodesignpatterns/news.php
        http://developer.yahoo.com/ypatterns/
        http://www.flickr.com/photos/factoryjoe/collections/72157600001823120/

        Hope this is the type of thing you were after and good luck with your usability sessions.

        Regards

        Jo

        --------------------------------------------------------
        Jo Frudd
        User Experience Consultant
        Flow Interactive Ltd

        Our website: www.flow-interactive.com

        Our blog:    www.thinkflowinteractive.com

        Follow us on Twitter: http://www.twitter.com/flowinteractive

      • ju_and_pol
        In addition to what I said earlier on creating a UI library, I can t stress enough that there is no substitute for putting your applications in-front of target
        Message 3 of 17 , Oct 1, 2009
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          In addition to what I said earlier on creating a UI library, I can't stress enough that there is no substitute for putting your applications in-front of target end users and getting feedback.

          If you are in a position to start testing the applications with real users then start as soon as possible. You will find the suggestions and recommendations your team make will be far richer, more informed and have more authority. This means your advice will be trusted and taken on board more than a a set of generic UI guidelines, as they are based on real data from real users combined with your expert opinion.

          There is rarely a one size fits all UI solution. The example you cite in your post "should we use an icon or text link?" is a good example of this. There is no right or wrong answer it is dependent on a whole bunch of variables that take into consideration who is using the application, what for, how they are accessing it, why and what previous experience they have.

          For instance if you are designing a menu bar, should you use icons or text links?

          A novice user will most probably need text links to explain what each menu item is. Over time the novice user may learn what icons are associated with what menu item and become less reliant on the text and use the icons to speed up the way they use the application as they become more experienced.

          An experienced user, may be familiar with the icons and pay little attention to the text links. However the text being there is not harming them in any way and will help to reinforce the function of some of the menu items they don't use that often.

          However there are some base guidelines you may want to consider on text links and icons

          If you use an icon try wherever possible accompany it with a text link, so that people who are unfamiliar with the icon are still able to understand it. At worst ensure there is a tool tip which appears in a sensible amount of time when a user hovers their mouse over it.

          Ensure your visual link language is consistent throughout the application, for default, hover and visited links. There may be exceptions to this for menu links.

          Consider using CSS to add icons to your text links. This would keep your content separate from your presentation, your code clean and semantic and your menu bar more accessible. For those that can see the icons they will make the interface less text heavy among other things.

          -------------------------------------------------------------
          Jo Frudd
          User Experience Consultant
          Flow Interactive Ltd


          Our website: www.flow-interactive.com

          Our blog: www.thinkflowinteractive.com

          Follow us on Twitter: http://www.twitter.com/flowinteractive
        • jo packer
          Hi Doug In addition to what I said earlier on creating UI library, I can t stress enough that there is no substitute for putting your applications in-front of
          Message 4 of 17 , Oct 1, 2009
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            Hi Doug


            In addition to what I said earlier on creating UI library, I can't stress enough that there is no substitute for putting your applications in-front of target end users and getting feedback. 


            If you are in a position to start testing the applications with real users then start as soon as possible. You will find the suggestions and recommendations your team make will be far richer, more informed and have more authority. This means your advice will be trusted and taken on board far more than a a set of generic UI guidelines, as they are based on real data from real users combined with your expert opinion.


            There is rarely a one size fits all UI solution. The example you cite in your post "should we use an icon or text link?"  is a good example of this. There is no right or wrong answer it is dependent on a whole bunch of variables that take into consideration who is using the application, what for, how they are accessing it, why and what previous experience they have. 


            For instance if you are designing a menu bar, should you use icons or text links? 


            A novice user will most probably need text links to explain what each menu item is. Over time the novice user may learn what icons are associated with what menu item and become less reliant on the text and use the icons to speed up the way they use the application as they become more experienced.


            An experienced user, may be familiar with the icons and pay little attention to the text links. However the text being there is not harming them in any way and will help to reinforce the function of some of the menu items they don't use that often.


            However there are some base guidelines you may want to consider on text links and icons


            If you use an icon try wherever possible accompany it with a text link, so that people who are unfamiliar with the icon are still able to understand it. At worst ensure there is a tool tip which appears in a sensible amount of time when a user hovers their mouse over it


            Ensure your visual link language is consistent throughout the application, for default, hover and visited links. There may be exceptions to this for menu links.


            Consider using CSS to add icons to your text links. This would keep your content separate from your presentation, your code clean and semantic and your menu bar more accessible. For those that can see the icons they will make the interface less text heavy among other things.


            --------------------------------------------------------
            Jo Frudd
            User Experience Consultant
            Flow Interactive Ltd

            Our website: www.flow-interactive.com

            Our blog:    www.thinkflowinteractive.com

            Follow us on Twitter: http://www.twitter.com/flowinteractive


          • Michael Coombs
            Hi Doug, I¹ve never responded to post to this group before. Great book to pick up some best practice standards for ³icons² or not, ³text links² or not,
            Message 5 of 17 , Oct 1, 2009
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              Re:New To Usability - Trying To Learn & Define Standards Hi Doug,

              I’ve never responded to post to this group before. Great book to pick up some best practice standards for “icons” or not, “text links” or not,  is “Web Form Design” by Luke Wroblewski.

              My basic rule on icons, avoid whenever possible. In my enterprise application, at last count, I believe we have about 900+ icons and not one engineer can even tell you which ones are really used in one of the ERP app versions (it would all depend on user, access, and security to even see all the screens).

              Michael

              ___________________________________________

              Michael Coombs
              | Senior Interaction Designer | Ariba, Inc.
              mcoombs@... | www.ariba.com | (650) 390-1665




               

               

            • William Pietri
              Hi, Doug. Since you asked here, I m presuming this question has some Agile angle. The broadness of your question brings me back to the Agile manifesto, and in
              Message 6 of 17 , Oct 1, 2009
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                Hi, Doug.

                Since you asked here, I'm presuming this question has some Agile angle.
                The broadness of your question brings me back to the Agile manifesto,
                and in particular the first value statement: "individuals and
                interactions over processes and tools".

                The solution you're looking at seems to be more about a process and a
                documentary tool. Have you already tried solutions based in individuals
                and interactions?

                William

                doug.gorman@... wrote:
                > Good morning, everyone. My name's Doug Gorman and I'm the QA manager at Creative Artists Agency.
                >
                > My team is beginning to take on usability as part of what we test for in the applications we build for the business. We are frequently presented with questions like "should we use an icon or text link?" that we have no resources to draw on to make a decision.
                >
                > Ideally I would prefer to create some standards around the kinds of interface decisions we're normally presented with. Not to prevent people from making other decisions, but to provide a baseline from which to guide decisions.
                >
                > I have three questions about creating a baseline:
                >
                > 1. What resources would you recommend to be helpful in establishing a UI baseline for our organization?
                > 2. If you've created UI standards for a company before, what issues did you encounter with regards to acceptance and adherence?
                > 3. Would you recommend a standard - if not, why?
                >
                >
                >
                > ------------------------------------
                >
                > Yahoo! Groups Links
                >
                >
                >
                >
              • jonathan berger
                ... I think that s a pretty poor rule of thumb. Icons have their place, particularly in text-heavy environments where a little bit of color and shape can help
                Message 7 of 17 , Oct 1, 2009
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                  > My basic rule on icons, avoid whenever possible.

                  I think that's a pretty poor rule of thumb. Icons have their place,
                  particularly in text-heavy environments where a little bit of color
                  and shape can help guide the user toward "nouns" in the interface.



                  On Thu, Oct 1, 2009 at 1:40 PM, Michael Coombs <mcoombs@...> wrote:
                  >
                  >
                  >
                  > Hi Doug,
                  >
                  > I’ve never responded to post to this group before. Great book to pick up some best practice standards for “icons” or not, “text links” or not,  is “Web Form Design” by Luke Wroblewski.
                  >
                  > My basic rule on icons, avoid whenever possible. In my enterprise application, at last count, I believe we have about 900+ icons and not one engineer can even tell you which ones are really used in one of the ERP app versions (it would all depend on user, access, and security to even see all the screens).
                  >
                  > Michael
                  >
                  > ___________________________________________
                  >
                  > Michael Coombs | Senior Interaction Designer | Ariba, Inc.
                  > mcoombs@... | www.ariba.com | (650) 390-1665
                  >
                  >
                  >
                  >
                  >
                  >
                  >
                  >
                  >


                  --
                  _________________________
                  @jonathanpberger
                  http://www.marketpublique.com
                  http://www.jonathanpberger.com
                  718.930.2165
                  This email is:     [*] bloggable     [ ] ask first       [ ] private
                • sigbackup
                  Hi Jo, I m about to create such a library for my company and I m evaluating different options for the actual implementation. What do you suggest? A wiki? What
                  Message 8 of 17 , Oct 1, 2009
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                    Hi Jo, 
                    I'm about to create such a library for my company and I'm evaluating different options for the actual implementation.
                    What do you suggest? A wiki?
                    What do you use at Flow Interactive?

                    Thanks.

                    Sigfrid Dusci
                    Software Element 


                    2009/10/1 jo packer <jujupacker@...>
                     

                    Hi Doug

                    You might want to consider creating a browse able library of UI components. For instance you might have a standard for signing up for a service, but you might have several flavours for how to upload a file, filter results or how to present collapsible panels.

                    A UI component could consist of several items

                    Thumbnail (a fairly large one though 250px x 250px)
                    Text description
                    Where to use it
                    Where not to use it
                    Tag (allow people to tag the UI component e.g registration, filtering, sliders)
                    Date uploaded
                    Person uploaded by (so user can contact them should they have any questions)
                    Link(s) to an example(s) of the component used in the real world
                    Code snippet for component (this would have to follow your code standards and only be submitted to library once it passes your standards)
                    Feedback from research sessions on the component (research project, person who ran research, perhaps even user quotes?)

                    Some resources to inspire your solution

                    http://patterntap.com/
                    http://www.welie.com
                    http://quince.infragistics.com/#/Search
                    (doesn't work in Safari??)
                    http://interface.fh-potsdam.de/infodesignpatterns/news.php
                    http://developer.yahoo.com/ypatterns/
                    http://www.flickr.com/photos/factoryjoe/collections/72157600001823120/

                    Hope this is the type of thing you were after and good luck with your usability sessions.

                    Regards

                    Jo

                    --------------------------------------------------------
                    Jo Frudd
                    User Experience Consultant
                    Flow Interactive Ltd

                    Our website: www.flow-interactive.com

                    Our blog:    www.thinkflowinteractive.com

                    Follow us on Twitter: http://www.twitter.com/flowinteractive


                  • sigbackup
                    I totally agree with Jonathan. In a text-heavy application icons are not a option, they are a must. Sigfrid Dusci Software Element
                    Message 9 of 17 , Oct 1, 2009
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                      I totally agree with Jonathan.
                      In a text-heavy application icons are not a option, they are a must.


                      Sigfrid Dusci
                      Software Element

                      2009/10/1 jonathan berger <jonathanpberger@...>:
                      >> My basic rule on icons, avoid whenever possible.
                      >
                      > I think that's a pretty poor rule of thumb. Icons have their place,
                      > particularly in text-heavy environments where a little bit of color
                      > and shape can help guide the user toward "nouns" in the interface.
                      >
                      >
                      >
                      > On Thu, Oct 1, 2009 at 1:40 PM, Michael Coombs <mcoombs@...> wrote:
                      >>
                      >>
                      >>
                      >> Hi Doug,
                      >>
                      >> I’ve never responded to post to this group before. Great book to pick up some best practice standards for “icons” or not, “text links” or not,  is “Web Form Design” by Luke Wroblewski.
                      >>
                      >> My basic rule on icons, avoid whenever possible. In my enterprise application, at last count, I believe we have about 900+ icons and not one engineer can even tell you which ones are really used in one of the ERP app versions (it would all depend on user, access, and security to even see all the screens).
                      >>
                      >> Michael
                      >>
                      >> ___________________________________________
                      >>
                      >> Michael Coombs | Senior Interaction Designer | Ariba, Inc.
                      >> mcoombs@... | www.ariba.com | (650) 390-1665
                      >>
                      >>
                      >>
                      >>
                      >>
                      >>
                      >>
                      >>
                      >>
                      >
                      >
                      > --
                      > _________________________
                      > @jonathanpberger
                      > http://www.marketpublique.com
                      > http://www.jonathanpberger.com
                      > 718.930.2165
                      > This email is:     [*] bloggable     [ ] ask first       [ ] private
                      >
                      >
                      > ------------------------------------
                      >
                      > Yahoo! Groups Links
                      >
                      >
                      >
                      >
                    • Gilgongo
                      ... The moral to almost every story in interaction design is: it depends.
                      Message 10 of 17 , Oct 1, 2009
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                        On Thu, 2009-10-01 at 14:23 -0400, jonathan berger wrote:
                        > > My basic rule on icons, avoid whenever possible.
                        >
                        > I think that's a pretty poor rule of thumb. Icons have their place,
                        > particularly in text-heavy environments where a little bit of color
                        > and shape can help guide the user toward "nouns" in the interface.
                        >

                        The moral to almost every story in interaction design is: "it depends."
                      • alochka
                        The answer is always it depends (on business goals, users, constraints), it kind of sounds to me like you are looking for a pattern library? I would
                        Message 11 of 17 , Oct 2, 2009
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                          The answer is always "it depends" (on business goals, users, constraints), it kind of sounds to me like you are looking for a pattern library?

                          I would recommend the following resources:
                          1) Yahoo Design Pattern Library: http://developer.yahoo.com/ypatterns/
                          2) A book called, Designing Interfaces: http://designinginterfaces.com/

                          Regarding adherence, that really depends on the culture of your organization and how many people are behind this initiative. I would recommend first figuring out IF setting up guidelines is really the solution to your core problem, and if so how will you communicate the guidelines to others when they are completed? The best way to figure this out is to just talk to people about their thoughts, and also observe how they currently do their work.

                          Hope this helps!
                        • davidanthonyfreedman
                          Hi William, I work here at CAA with Doug and run our Development group. Just a little more context. We are an agile shop through and through. Our
                          Message 12 of 17 , Oct 2, 2009
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                            Hi William,

                            I work here at CAA with Doug and run our Development group. Just a little more context. We are an agile shop through and through. Our applications are a combination of internal LOB apps, communications apps, ERP apps, partner-facing (B to B) apps and a few extenally-facing websites. We've got a relatively small internal staff (project management, dev/architecture, QA/UX and packaged apps) who are collaborate with our offshore partner in South America for delivery. Both ourselved and our dev partner's processes are primarily Scrum-based.

                            We've got a broad portfolio of apps with a lot of work in progress at any moment in time (some would argue that a better strategy would be to limit WIP per Kanban). The importance of standards for us is not so much in the context of contranstraints, but in the as a baseline for continual improvement. It's simply a means to socialize lessons learned. Any team may innovate on those standards or depart where not applicable. Also, inventing everytime is expensive and fallable so standards serve as a checklist.

                            We've got an aspiring UX team (which Doug leads) whose core competency is rooted in QA. From my perspective, they've got fantasic UX instincts and some practical experience using common UX techniques (Paper prototying, etc) but want to grow their toolbelt of techniques understanding that and given tool is appropriate to a circumstance and that the team will use their judgement.

                            Long winded way of saying that we seek standards in support of people and interactions, not in place of. Make sense?

                            David

                            p.s. I'm a long time board lurker and friends of a few on this board. Thank you all for your contributions...I learn a lot here.



                            --- In agile-usability@yahoogroups.com, William Pietri <william@...> wrote:
                            >
                            > Hi, Doug.
                            >
                            > Since you asked here, I'm presuming this question has some Agile angle.
                            > The broadness of your question brings me back to the Agile manifesto,
                            > and in particular the first value statement: "individuals and
                            > interactions over processes and tools".
                            >
                            > The solution you're looking at seems to be more about a process and a
                            > documentary tool. Have you already tried solutions based in individuals
                            > and interactions?
                            >
                            > William
                            >
                            > doug.gorman@... wrote:
                            > > Good morning, everyone. My name's Doug Gorman and I'm the QA manager at Creative Artists Agency.
                            > >
                            > > My team is beginning to take on usability as part of what we test for in the applications we build for the business. We are frequently presented with questions like "should we use an icon or text link?" that we have no resources to draw on to make a decision.
                            > >
                            > > Ideally I would prefer to create some standards around the kinds of interface decisions we're normally presented with. Not to prevent people from making other decisions, but to provide a baseline from which to guide decisions.
                            > >
                            > > I have three questions about creating a baseline:
                            > >
                            > > 1. What resources would you recommend to be helpful in establishing a UI baseline for our organization?
                            > > 2. If you've created UI standards for a company before, what issues did you encounter with regards to acceptance and adherence?
                            > > 3. Would you recommend a standard - if not, why?
                            > >
                            > >
                            > >
                            > > ------------------------------------
                            > >
                            > > Yahoo! Groups Links
                            > >
                            > >
                            > >
                            > >
                            >
                          • doug.gorman@rocketmail.com
                            I m curious about the book. What were some of the strong takeaways from it that you use consistently?
                            Message 13 of 17 , Oct 5, 2009
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                              I'm curious about the book. What were some of the strong takeaways from it that you use consistently?

                              --- In agile-usability@yahoogroups.com, Michael Coombs <mcoombs@...> wrote:
                              >
                              > Hi Doug,
                              >
                              > I¹ve never responded to post to this group before. Great book to pick up
                              > some best practice standards for ³icons² or not, ³text links² or not, is
                              > ³Web Form Design² by Luke Wroblewski.
                              >
                              > My basic rule on icons, avoid whenever possible. In my enterprise
                              > application, at last count, I believe we have about 900+ icons and not one
                              > engineer can even tell you which ones are really used in one of the ERP app
                              > versions (it would all depend on user, access, and security to even see all
                              > the screens).
                              >
                              > Michael
                              >
                              > ___________________________________________
                              >
                              > Michael Coombs | Senior Interaction Designer | Ariba, Inc.
                              > mcoombs@... | www.ariba.com | (650) 390-1665
                              >
                            • doug.gorman@rocketmail.com
                              I absolutely agree that end user feedback is almost always a better driver than our own internal opinions. I m curious about your thoughts on when and how to
                              Message 14 of 17 , Oct 5, 2009
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                                I absolutely agree that end user feedback is almost always a better driver than our own internal opinions. I'm curious about your thoughts on when and how to engage them.

                                The team here is considering "usability runahead" to get users - particularly of existing products - to do some hands on with us. Are there particular activities or kinds of usability testing that you've found consistently identify usability issues? Also, are there kinds of usability testing you've done with users that they've enjoyed and found to be a positive experience?

                                --- In agile-usability@yahoogroups.com, jo packer <jujupacker@...> wrote:
                                >
                                > Hi Doug
                                >
                                >
                                > In addition to what I said earlier on creating UI library, I can't stress
                                > enough that there is no substitute for putting your applications in-front of
                                > target end users and getting feedback.
                                >
                                >
                                > If you are in a position to start testing the applications with real users
                                > then start as soon as possible. You will find the suggestions and
                                > recommendations your team make will be far richer, more informed and have
                                > more authority. This means your advice will be trusted and taken on board
                                > far more than a a set of generic UI guidelines, as they are based on real
                                > data from real users combined with your expert opinion.
                                >
                                >
                                > There is rarely a one size fits all UI solution. The example you cite in
                                > your post "should we use an icon or text link?" is a good example of this.
                                > There is no right or wrong answer it is dependent on a whole bunch of
                                > variables that take into consideration who is using the application, what
                                > for, how they are accessing it, why and what previous experience they have.
                                >
                                >
                                > For instance if you are designing a menu bar, should you use icons or text
                                > links?
                                >
                                >
                                > A novice user will most probably need text links to explain what each menu
                                > item is. Over time the novice user may learn what icons are associated with
                                > what menu item and become less reliant on the text and use the icons to
                                > speed up the way they use the application as they become more experienced.
                                >
                                >
                                > An experienced user, may be familiar with the icons and pay little attention
                                > to the text links. However the text being there is not harming them in any
                                > way and will help to reinforce the function of some of the menu items they
                                > don't use that often.
                                >
                                >
                                > However there are some base guidelines you may want to consider on text
                                > links and icons
                                >
                                >
                                > If you use an icon try wherever possible accompany it with a text link, so
                                > that people who are unfamiliar with the icon are still able to understand
                                > it. At worst ensure there is a tool tip which appears in a sensible amount
                                > of time when a user hovers their mouse over it
                                >
                                >
                                > Ensure your visual link language is consistent throughout the application,
                                > for default, hover and visited links. There may be exceptions to this for
                                > menu links.
                                >
                                >
                                > Consider using CSS to add icons to your text links. This would keep your
                                > content separate from your presentation, your code clean and semantic and
                                > your menu bar more accessible. For those that can see the icons they will
                                > make the interface less text heavy among other things.
                                >
                                >
                                > --------------------------------------------------------
                                > Jo Frudd
                                > User Experience Consultant
                                > Flow Interactive Ltd
                                >
                                > Our website: www.flow-interactive.com
                                >
                                > Our blog: www.thinkflowinteractive.com
                                >
                                > Follow us on Twitter: *http://www.twitter.com/flowinteractive*
                                >
                                > >
                                >
                              • William Pietri
                                Thanks for the details, David! Doug s comment made me wonder something in specific, so let me ask about that directly. If your developers are asking QA for
                                Message 15 of 17 , Oct 5, 2009
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                                  Thanks for the details, David!

                                  Doug's comment made me wonder something in specific, so let me ask about that directly.

                                  If your developers are asking QA for advice on UI design, that's clearly a problem. But the people/interaction way I'd be inclined to solve that would be making sure there's a person with UI design skills in the room.

                                  Then if that wasn't enough, I'd find ways for the UI people to communicate more easily. If that still wasn't enough, I'd get them to collaborate around a style guide, a pattern library, or some other shared resource.

                                  Have you folks tried any of that?

                                  Thanks,

                                  William

                                  davidanthonyfreedman wrote:
                                  Hi William,
                                  
                                  I work here at CAA with Doug and run our Development group.  Just a little more context.  We are an agile shop through and through.  Our applications are a combination of internal LOB apps, communications apps, ERP apps, partner-facing (B to B) apps and a few extenally-facing websites.  We've got a relatively small internal staff (project management, dev/architecture, QA/UX and packaged apps) who are collaborate with our offshore partner in South America for delivery.  Both ourselved and our dev partner's processes are primarily Scrum-based.
                                  
                                  We've got a broad portfolio of apps with a lot of work in progress at any moment in time (some would argue that a better strategy would be to limit WIP per Kanban).  The importance of standards for us is not so much in the context of contranstraints, but in the as a baseline for continual improvement.  It's simply a means to socialize lessons learned.  Any team may innovate on those standards or depart where not applicable.  Also, inventing everytime is expensive and fallable so standards serve as a checklist.  
                                  
                                  We've got an aspiring UX team (which Doug leads) whose core competency is rooted in QA.  From my perspective, they've got fantasic UX instincts and some practical experience using common UX techniques (Paper prototying, etc) but want to grow their toolbelt of techniques understanding that and given tool is appropriate to a circumstance and that the team will use their judgement.  
                                  
                                  Long winded way of saying that we seek standards in support of people and interactions, not in place of.  Make sense?
                                  
                                  David
                                  
                                  p.s.  I'm a long time board lurker and friends of a few on this board.  Thank you all for your contributions...I learn a lot here.
                                  
                                  
                                  
                                  --- In agile-usability@yahoogroups.com, William Pietri <william@...> wrote:
                                    
                                  Hi, Doug.
                                  
                                  Since you asked here, I'm presuming this question has some Agile angle. 
                                  The broadness of your question brings me back to the Agile manifesto, 
                                  and in particular the first value statement: "individuals and 
                                  interactions over processes and tools".
                                  
                                  The solution you're looking at seems to be more about a process and a 
                                  documentary tool. Have you already tried solutions based in individuals 
                                  and interactions?
                                  
                                  William
                                  
                                  doug.gorman@... wrote:
                                      
                                  Good morning, everyone. My name's Doug Gorman and I'm the QA manager at Creative Artists Agency.
                                  
                                  My team is beginning to take on usability as part of what we test for in the applications we build for the business. We are frequently presented with questions like "should we use an icon or text link?" that we have no resources to draw on to make a decision.
                                  
                                  Ideally I would prefer to create some standards around the kinds of interface decisions we're normally presented with. Not to prevent people from making other decisions, but to provide a baseline from which to guide decisions.
                                  
                                  I have three questions about creating a baseline:
                                  
                                  1. What resources would you recommend to be helpful in establishing a UI baseline for our organization? 
                                  2. If you've created UI standards for a company before, what issues did you encounter with regards to acceptance and adherence?
                                  3. Would you recommend a standard - if not, why?
                                  
                                  
                                  
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                                • Adrian Howard
                                  ... [snip] I d second Michael s recommendation of Luke s book. A useful read - especially if you ve not got a usability/UX background. It s tricky one to sum
                                  Message 16 of 17 , Oct 6, 2009
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                                    On 5 Oct 2009, at 17:39, doug.gorman@... wrote:

                                    > I'm curious about the book. What were some of the strong takeaways
                                    > from it that you use consistently?
                                    [snip]

                                    I'd second Michael's recommendation of Luke's book. A useful read -
                                    especially if you've not got a usability/UX background. It's tricky
                                    one to sum up since it's really a collection of useful patterns /
                                    "best" practices for form design.

                                    You'll get some good rules of thumb on, for example, label alignment
                                    in forms - which will help with making those initial decisions before
                                    user testing.

                                    Taking a look at the book site

                                    http://rosenfeldmedia.com/books/webforms/

                                    and the illustrations from the book

                                    http://rosenfeldmedia.com/books/webforms/content/diagrams/

                                    might give you more of an idea.

                                    Cheers,

                                    Adrian
                                    --
                                    http://quietstars.com - twitter.com/adrianh - delicious.com/adrianh
                                  • Adrian Howard
                                    Hi Doug, ... You have to be slightly careful here that this doesn t become an excuse for not making informed decisions about the products user experience in
                                    Message 17 of 17 , Oct 6, 2009
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                                      Hi Doug,

                                      On 5 Oct 2009, at 17:58, doug.gorman@... wrote:

                                      > I absolutely agree that end user feedback is almost always a better
                                      > driver than our own internal opinions.

                                      You have to be slightly careful here that this doesn't become an
                                      excuse for not making informed decisions about the products user
                                      experience in the first place.

                                      Good user testing isn't an excuse for bad design - with the user
                                      experience just as much as the code. User testing is a fantastic tool
                                      - and can help you discover and guide the development of the products
                                      user experience. But it doesn't drive good design - it informs it. You
                                      still need to figure out the best way to solve the problems that it
                                      highlights.

                                      Letting the user experience be driven by post-implementation user
                                      testing is a bit like having the code design be driven by post-
                                      implementation tests. The feedback loops are too long.

                                      Don't let this dissuade you from starting doing usability testing -
                                      but it's what you do with the results that's really important.

                                      > I'm curious about your thoughts on when and how to engage them.

                                      Like most things agile I think a little and often is the best
                                      approach. Doing many small usability informal tests throughout the
                                      development process is more effective in my experience than doing
                                      fewer, larger, formal ones.

                                      > The team here is considering "usability runahead" to get users -
                                      > particularly of existing products - to do some hands on with us. Are
                                      > there particular activities or kinds of usability testing that
                                      > you've found consistently identify usability issues?


                                      Depends what kinds of thing you're trying to do. If you're looking at
                                      new functionality I'd suggest looking at lo-fidelity methods like
                                      paper prototyping (see http://is.gd/40q4J for a few pointers) very
                                      early in the process to help you try out many ideas quickly. This has
                                      the advantage of also being enormous fun - who doesn't like to play
                                      with paper, scissors and glue for a few hours :-)

                                      If it's finding issues with existing products I'd try a couple of
                                      things:

                                      1) If possible go and work in the same place as the users for a bit
                                      and watch them do their work. You'll almost certainly spot some issues
                                      that are hard to see in a more formal user testing environment (e.g.
                                      do people get interrupted in the middle of tasks?)

                                      2) Once you've spotted a few areas that look like they can be improved
                                      do some informal "talk aloud" tests with the user (in the workplace
                                      where feasible) around those tasks. If you've not done tests like this
                                      before Rubin's "Handbook of Usability Testing" http://is.gd/40wGR is a
                                      nice starter (I've only ever read the first edition, but folk I trust
                                      have said the second edition is equally good.)

                                      > Also, are there kinds of usability testing you've done with users
                                      > that they've enjoyed and found to be a positive experience?

                                      User testing is mostly fun - but be warned. When you're poking at bits
                                      of a product that frustrates the user they're likely to get...
                                      frustrated :-) While this won't usually be aimed at you as the tester,
                                      especially if you frame the test appropriately, it does happen.

                                      Hope this helps.

                                      Cheers,

                                      Adrian
                                      --
                                      http://quietstars.com - twitter.com/adrianh - delicious.com/adrianh
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