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Accelerating A Techstars Startup

I was along for the roller coaster ride of Tenacity. A Sprint Accelerator startup, Tenacity  was put through the rigorous Techstars curriculum and came out with national clientele. In the 3 month program Tenacity not only started a mobile health app company, they also refined their UI by making it more user-centric. Not many of the 10 companies in the accelerator took this route, but Tenacity will be solid in a competitive market because they did.

Tenacity wasn’t looking to change their UI when I first met them, but free user testing by Sprint quickly changed their minds. They then contacted me to do wireframes and, on their own initiative, did user surveys and then user interviews with wireframe reviews.

It takes good sense and courage for a startup to take a step back. These MIT and Harvard grads have plenty of each. Each member of the team is distinctly different from the others, giving great appeal, balance and insight to their growing company. Since the Sprint Accelerator is part of the international Techstars network, so is Tenacity and their future is bright and secure cause of the training and connections they now have.

The Tenacity team is now back in Boston and Seattle with strong memories and ties to Kansas City. Meanwhile two of their fellow startups are establishing roots in Kansas City. Look forward to hearing more about:
  • Fit bark: An activity tracker for dogs
  • Sympton.ly: A symptom-tracking platform for conditions like asthma

And coming next Spring, the Sprint Accelerator gets another batch of Techstars startups.

What Are Your Users Hungry For?

When emfluence brought their Marketing Platform to our dinner table, they brought their appetite. They wanted to know what their users – email and social media marketers – needed from their web-based toolset and we served up answers. We listened to their users, and looked at their UI processes. Then we catered the following eight course meal, a meal that kept them satisfied all year long.

The menu….

emfluence's marketing platform, before and after

-       The Heuristic Evaluation is where FluidUI samples what the entire platform has to offer. Then as a restaurant critic would, we rate and comment on everything from navigation to error messaging.

-       A Walkthrough of findings follows with key team members at the table. Here we brainstorm on the findings and next steps.

-       User Interviews are next on the plate, which reveal honest opinions on features, fixes, support and services to retain users’ business.

-       On the User Guide Rewrite course, we break down the info of the guide to make it easier to digest, then we beef it up with visuals and interactive content.

-       An Onboarding Review is  served next, making the lecture style training more interactive and identifying target groups who are quick to on-board and less demanding to support, thus less costly.

- Then on the Questionnaire Findings we review previous questionnaire results to determine what to ask and the best format for the questionnaire.

- With New Functionality Feedback Fluid serves up benchmarks and best practices from software, sites and mobile apps, to refine the new offerings.

-  For dessert a Usability Map helps digest all the findings to determine what sections of the site are used most and which areas have the greatest requests. Thus, making it easy to determine how to effectively spend development dollars.

Our menu also offers UX design which Sprint, Cerner and Mail Print feasted on to connect with new markets and simplify UIs to retain users.

Be a smart cookie, bring us in to sample one of our strategy and design services, so you can alleviate your users’ hunger pains.

Wichita U: Design Trumps Usability

A recent study found that a usable site gives you an upper hand, though a well designed site takes the jackpot. The researchers at Wichita State University’s Software Usability Research Lab (SURL) confirmed earlier findings that first impressions can determine whether someone likes a site—even in the first one-twentieth of a second.

sites in study: www.australia.com and www.renttoownrealestate.com

good and bad design sites utilized in the study

Their study went on to prove that good designs are perceived to be more usable. They used two sites, one well designed and the other not. Both sites were altered so there were high usability and low usability versions of each. Then 160 users reviewed the four versions. The users rated the well designed site with low usability as being better to navigate than the ill designed site with high usability. Thus, high usability cannot overcome a bad design.

Want to get a full house each time you deal? Then hire user experience professionals with design and usability skills; they’ll make you royally flush with pride at their results.

the research: SURL or a better designed version at Human Factors International

Pet Your Web Design In 7 Strokes

Designing for Persuasion, Emotion, and Trust (PET) is going beyond the usability’s Can Do factor to designing incentives for Will Do and Still Do. These three Do factors of PET can be defined as:Pic of PET video

  • Can Do (can users easily navigate and find info)
  • Will Do (will users act on the info and press buttons)
  • Still Do (will they come back to do it again and again)

PET research has provided the following 7 principles for designing to persuade, provide emotion and build trust, so your users Do:

  1. Don’t overwhelm: If people have too many choices they will not choose at all – they freeze. This is a consideration for when adding functionality and features.
  2. Social validation: This is why ratings and reviews are so powerful. Also why peer reviews are more influential than experts.
  3. Scarcity: Less available items become more valuable (only 3 items left / only 4 more days to order), because they create the fear of loss.
  4. Food, sex, or danger: Not appropriate for all sites, though if content lead    s itself to these, they are powerful triggers for action.
  5. Power of faces: There is a part of the brain that is reserved for only processing faces. People especially focus on the eyes.
  6. Stories: The brain processes information best in story form. For example Facebooks’s wall and Twitter’s ‘what’s happening’.
  7. Commitment: Ask for small commitments and over time they become loyal fans of your site/product/service.

Want more info? View the quick sketch video on PET or we can stop by for a quick site critique on PET’s seven principals. Just give Susana at FluidUI a holler, 816-561-2315.

Are Your Clients Users?

Do you see the clients of your site or software purely as clients, possibly as dollar signs or as users? If you see them as users, then you may also see them as partners who can make your product better.

How do you partner with users?

  • Survey users with online services like UserVoice or KC’s own emfluence’s Marketing Platform.Two characters fitting a puzzle piece in place
  • User interviews by an impartial interviewer, so the user feels they can be candid.
  • Focus groups, especially at the research stage of product development.
  • User testing is practical at various stages: whether paper prototypes, interactive wireframes, beta and/or in redesigning.

Using such practices increases your understanding of the user and how they perceive your product. Instead of client relations, think of it as building product relations.

FluidUI believes that partnering with your users is truly being user friendly.

2013 Tech Trends & Plans

In scanning the Forbes Magazine, Washington Post and Rolling Stone I saw these commonalities and stand-outs:

Mobile Device Battles: In 2013, mobile devices will surpass PCs as the most common Web access tools. By 2015, over 80% of handsets in mature markets will be smart phones. 20% of those will be Windows phones. By 2015, tablet shipments will be 50% of laptop shipments, with Windows 8 in third place behind Apple and Android, says the stats from Forbes.

look of Apple's Weather app vs. Swackett wether appMobile Interface Battles: Through 2014, JavaScript performance will push HTML5 and the browser as a mainstream application, thus shifting from native apps (like iPhone Weather app) to HTML5 (like Swackett weather app). But native apps won’t disappear, and will always offer best experiences, according to Forbes.

New User Interfaces: Expect more touchscreens, gesture control and other interesting controls to pop up on consumer devices — particularly on desktops and laptops, which have been almost completely the domain of the mouse and keyboard, notes the Washington Post. These UIs focus on making devices easier and more intuitive to operate so novices can master by first trial.

3D Printing: Rolling Stone says that as the price of 3D printers continues to drop the possibilities for these devices, which knit objects together out of plastic, are nearly endless. Thus, you will see Startups (like former KC Hacker House inhabitant ThreeDee) built around offering personalized phone cases to household items.

Crowdfunding of Startups and Devices: Crowdfunding (online fundraising) continues to grow as an alternative to traditional startups, incubators and corporate R&D departments. There are over one million campaigns successfully funded to date, thus catalyzing a sharp rise in independently-produced hardware and software products, says Rolling Stone. Such products like KC’’s own Trellie who are using Kickstart to fund their hardware for never missing that important call.

2013 PLANS
As you are looking at 2013, look to us to help retain and build your customer base. We offer returning clients our discounted rates and for new clients a February Special.

Go Mobile: Let a mobile designer who has done user experience for Sprint and Cerner be your muse. Plus, we can partner with the best mobile coders KC has to offer.

Get Well Used: For emfluence we did user interviews, new functionality reviews, a user guide review, an onboarding assessment, a heuristics evaluation and more on their Marketing Platform.  Now their customers love them even more.

Test Your Users: We partner with strategists who have done onsite and remote user testing, as well as international markets. Our presentations hylite the findings with video clips of where your UI’s greatest needs are.

Redesign Your UI: Are you still sporting an outdated look that does not fully integrate the latest marketing trends or functionality you added? Let your customers surf with greater ease by hiring us.

Keep-up That Maintenance: Don’t fall even further behind in 2013 or let the flu virus attack your workflow as well as your workforce. FluidUI is here to keep you on track.

Call to hear more: 816.561.2315.

Trend References: Forbes MagazineWashington Post and Rolling Stone articles.

emfluence’s UX Smorgasbord

The emfluence Marketing Platform has been sampling a UX (user experience) smorgasbord, from delectable user interviews to full-bodied heuristics. Their appetite was spurred by the need to redesign their Marketing Platform with a look that would be more telling of its robust capabilities.

The UX smorgasbord offered:emfluence's Marketing Platform before & after

  1. A Heuristic Evaluation was our first course. FluidUI sampled all the Platform had to offer. Then as a restaurant critic would, rated everything from menu items to error messaging.
  2. Then a Walkthrough of findings followed with key emfluence team members that affected the UI (user interface) and had direct user contact. We brainstormed on the findings and from there a new UI was prepared.
  3. User Interviews were next on the plate, so as to gain insights on customers’ preferences, desired new functionality, what features customers use most/least, and their thoughts on help and support.
  4. An Onboarding Review was served next, encompassing recommendations for the user guide and training, plus analyzing onboarding cases to determine user types that had the greatest success rate. Therefore, less cost to onboard and users were quickly using the advantages of the Platform to promote their biz.
  5. A Usability Map was the most recent effort. The map digested all the above findings to decipher which area users used most and their ideas for enhancements. Thus, it could be best determined where to spend development dollars in order to make the improvements users most wanted.

What do your users want to sample more of? Contact FluidUI to find out what your UX Smorgasbord menu would look like.

What’s New in the emfluence Marketing Platform

by Jessica Best, emfluence Community Director

The emfluence Marketing Platform has come a long way since we first started working with Fluid-UI. Since our post in June 2011, we’ve had over a year of updates and another User Conference to talk to our platform users about what they love, what they need and where we’re going.

emfluence's new survey tool in action.

In addition to being able to create, deploy and track emails, Facebook and Twitter posts and landing pages, you can now use the emfluence Marketing Platform to create and share surveys and analyze feedback. You can post to LinkedIn as part of your integrated marketing campaign: both text only posts and sharing links with a thumbnail preview and description of the page.
With our renewed focus on ease of use having worked with Susana at Fluid-UI, we also added a “drag-and-drop” Marketing Calendar to the Platform. Add emails, Facebook, Twitter and LinkedIn posts to the calendar by dragging them onto the calendar. This feature especially lives up to emfluence’s reputation for being easy to use, and helps visually integrate social media into our users’ digital marketing plans.
Due in part to our work with Susana at Fluid-UI, we concentrated our focus on making the Platform even easier to use by adding a “drag-and-drop” Marketing Calendar. Quickly schedule emails, Facebook, Twitter and LinkedIn posts in advance by dragging them onto the calendar. This feature especially lives up to emfluence’s reputation for being easy-to-use, and helps visually integrate social media into our users’ digital marketing plans.
Learn more about digital marketing with the emfluence Marketing Platform or schedule a demo.

Sprint’s Site Goes Green

Last Spring I was given a delightful little puzzle by a Sprint User Experience (UX) Manager. He challenged me to apply the PET Principal (Persuasion, Emotion and Trust) to the footer of Sprint.com. A new look to the footer that would speak to prospects and customers, as well as add color to a sleek looking gray site that he termed bordered on vanilla.

To start, I researched Sprint’s brand and offerings Sprint's new home pageand of those of their competitors. Next, I did a search on best footer designs (yes, you have to be a true design geek to get into these). I kept on being drawn to Sprint’s recent award as a Top Ten Green Ranking Company by Newsweek. How could this best be conveyed to Sprint’s customers and in particular their prospects.

After a few mock-ups by me and the diligence of Sprint’s UX, marketing and branding teams over the next several months, a new ‘green’ footer spruced up Sprint.com this Spring that hilites:

  • Sprint’s green efforts on campus, which is money saving
  • Going paperless in billing, more money saving
  • Buying back old phones, money making for the customer and Sprint
  • Sprint’s position as a leader across industries, capitalizing on an external non-bias ranking

Thus, we tapped into all the PET aspects while enhancing the look of Sprint.com. So while the calendar says Fall, I bet FluidUI can still put spring into your interactive design, marketing and branding efforts. Give us a call, 816-561-2315.

Read more on the PET Principal.

America Innovates

Ingenuity defines America. France has romance, England is prim-and-proper and Germany has industrialism. Americans are the inventors of electricity, automobile assembly, the telephone and the digital computer. If we did not invent it, we capitalized upon it. As we have shown in swimming, women’s tennis and the Tour de France, with athletic dominance. icon of A for America

How did this come to be? Ingenuity is not in our constitution, but in our spirit. Thirteen colonies defied a motherland. Pioneering is how the West was won. Immigrants became boundless and saw only possibilities.

We have moved from land lines to wireless, boom boxes to iPods, phone booths to cell phones, newspapers to RSS feeds. We know no end. Like an engine we know only how to run.

We can, we do and we will always define the possible.

5 Tips for Surveying

based on the article of Gayle Kaplan, National Information Services (NIS)

Whether you’re collecting data on your own for the first time or have hired a professional consultant, the validity of your research is dependent on the validity of your survey and it’s implementation. Below are 5 tips for obtaining useful and valid information.

1. Keep the words simple: Use words that are one or two syllables in length. Keep the use of technical or industry terms to a minimum. When you do use a technical or industry term, give a brief definition of it; do not assume that everyone you are surveying understands them.lil man with oversize pencil

2. Focus each question on one issue: You do not receive precise and actionable data from one question that deals with two or three issues.

3. Design some questions and answers with number values: Such questions lead to greater statistical analysis and validity.

4. Make the questionnaire look good: You may have a wonderful questionnaire that asks all the right questions, but if it looks crowded or the type is very small, most of your respondents will simply not answer it.

5. Sampling: Surveying a sample instead of your entire population allows you to obtain valid information at a reasonable cost. Plus, you can target a different group on the next survey.

Being Different or Being Better

I met with an ecommerce company who wanted a UI that was different from their competition. So strongly they felt, that they did not assess their competitors’ design, architecture or task flows. Thus, they had a clumsy UI and complicated tasks compared to their competitor. Customers do appreciate uniqueness, though they appreciate a company who does it better, so much more.

emfluence's marketing platform, before and after

You put months into developing your site or software, why not spend a few more hours on a competitive analysis (sample). Are you in a proprietary industry and can’t access the competitions UI? Than a heuristic evaluation (sample) perform by a consultant can give you the external perspective you need to assure you’re at a marketing advantage. Company’s fall prey to  group thought, thus should routinely take measures to seek and set benchmarks based on external research of design, features and functions.

Who better to help you benchmark your UI then FluidUI experts who have aided Hallmark, Sprint, Cerner, and emfluence. Let FluidUI help position you as an industry UI leader.

Sprint, Sprial16 & National Seminars Go Searching

We have had a wonderfully engaging summer. Working for Sprint, Spiral16 and National Seminars we improved, expanded and created search and sort functions. The experience, paired with the invigorating Indian Summer weather, has our creativity humming.

First-up, Sprint who wanted to encourage self-service and reduce customer support on their ‘email us’ page. The page had a search box and contact form, plus 1/3 white space. So to emphasize their search engine (which is phenomenal compared to their competitors) and make the page more search dominated, FluidUI designed the following:

  • First we changed the titles of the two sections with their response times. The search section was titled “For Immediate Answers” and the email form was titled “For One Business Day Responses”
  • Next we branded the search to beget confidence.
  • Then we took the 2 trigger modules titled “I need help with” and “I want to” from other areas of the site and customized their bullets to the top topics users of the form request information on, such as making a payment or questions on a phone plan.

We hit a home run with Sprial16’s social media monitoring software, for searching as well as scoring and indexing defines what they do best. FluidUI helped them determine the flow and look of their new self-service search function, by:

  • Breaking the search function into a 4-step widget.
  • Giving some of their terminology and icons more relevancy and a contemporary look.
  • Designing 3 styles of page layouts to choose from.

Bringing it home was National Seminar’s detailed search on their Star12 training site. The site had advance search functions, which were spread across the center and left side of the page, plus falling below the fold.  In addition, it did not have the desired tabs they wanted for sorting training into lists of training types (seminars, web, etc.). For them we:

  • Reviewed their detailed branding and web guidelines.
  • Reviewed how navigation treatment and tools were handled throughout their site and reviewed other well known search & sort sites.
  • Then we went to work and 2 revisions later gave them a centrally located search and sort function with a simple search, advance search, and two rows of tabs.

During the summer we also assisted Sprint with a new ‘green’ promotional campaign using the emotional design tactics of PET and initiated adding e-commerce to their mobile site. All in all, a fun filled and productive summer indeed. As such, we’re looking forward to new grand slams and a few (only a few please) snowy days.

The Difference Between Social Media Monitoring and Measurement

by Eric Melin, Spiral16 Manager Marketing & Communications

Companies today have a wide array of options when it comes to web and social media monitoring and measurement. Once you have collected all the relevant data for your brand or online market study, though, that’s when the real challenge begins.

What do you do with it?ruler at angle

The answer to that depends on the specific use that you gathered your online data for in the first place.

Are you doing a basic brand management study where you are looking for all mentions of your brand? Are you comparing your online presence to that of your competitors? Are you tracking a particular marketing campaign or product introduction? We quickly found out a few things:

more on:

The look of the emfluence Marketing Platform

The look of emfluence is even more friendlier and sophisticated. How did emfluence’s 8-year-old application called the Marketing Platform get this updated look? It all began with a usability study called the Flow Pack. Similar to a heuristic evaluation, FluidUI’s Flow Pack scored and commented on 60+ app traits. We covered everything from aesthetical appeal to consistency in error messaging.  We also looked at the top navigation to see if it‘s telling of what’s under each menu item.

After a walkthrough on our findings emfluence’s design, development and support teams went to work, so to unveil the new UI  (user interface) at an email marketing summit in Las Vegas.

The results

  • Sophisticated UI reflecting advanced functions
  • Cleaner look with fewer distractions
  • Hi-lighted key assets and features
  • Better defined calls to action
  • More focused work area, minimizing user errors

Straight from the user
The new interface is great. So easy to navigate and of course aesthetically pleasing. Should be a very easy transition if there is one at all! – Emily, Boulevard Brewing Company

Let FluidUI help you wow your users. Call today to schedule a FlowPack, 816.561.2315.