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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.

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.

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.

Fixing Failing Apps and Sites

Let’s look at why your apps and sites may fail and how we can fix them. We’ll start with the informative article ‘Why Software Fails’ by IEEE, a technology association. Then we’ll look at the intriguing video based on the article, ‘The ROI of User Experience’. This ‘quick sketch’ video, by Human Factors International, shows us how to fix and prevent some of the failures.

First from the IEEE article some alarming stats on IT and its downfalls:

artist drawing an illustration on the ROI of UX

The ROI of User Experience - 6 min video

  • $1 trillion dollars is spent worldwide per year on IT
  • up to 5% of a company’s total revenue goes to the IT group, 10% for financial and telecommunications companies
  • 15 % of projects are abandoned due to hopeless inadequacies
  • programmers spend 50% of their time on rework
  • the time of fixing an error after development is 100% more costly than fixing it before development

Now let’s look at 3 of the top 12 reasons why IT projects can fail, that are directly due to UX (user experience) inadequacies. These reasons are:

  1. badly defined requirements
  2. poor communication between developers, users and customers
  3. stakeholder politics

And how does UX solves these, with:

  • stakeholder interviews
  • user research
  • user testing
  • user centered design

How about a case study from the video that illustrates UX in action? Let’s say you’re part of a global non-profit micro lending organization for small businesses, whose website has a searching and donating UI (user interface) that is confusing and hard to use.

  • so if 50 of your customers a day are abandoning before donating because of the poor user experience and on average each user donates $50
  • thus, you are loosing $2500 a day or $912,000 a year
  • to solve the issues you spend $50,000 to fix the UX and $50,000 to rewrite the code based on those user experiences, thus spending $100,000 improving the user experience
  • it will only take 40 days to recoup your investment, giving you $812,000 more for lending power

Besides saving money here are some other measures of ROI (return on investment):

  • conversion rates on actions you want users to take
  • increased form completion
  • decreased in abandonment
  • decreased in calls to the help desk
  • reduced training
  • increased usage of app
  • saves user time
  • saves development time, reduces errors

The video ends with a quote by Albert Einstein “Any intelligent fool can make things bigger and more complex… It takes a touch of genius – and a lot of courage to move in the opposite direction.”

And I’ll end with “So how can I help your app or site succeed?
video: The ROI of User Experience, 6 min

article: Why Software Fails

User Experience Design That Increases ROI – workshop

Book this interactive presentation that will have you and your colleagues asking questions and getting answers, right from the start. We cover the basics of usability, then as a group, critique websites of some well-known and local brands. What are Sprint, Apple, Microsoft and Wentings Shop doing right? What could they do better? How can this be applied to what you’re doing on your site? On your client’s site? It’s all about increasing your user retention for greater ROI.

Have FluidUI at your next meeting and y’all will walk away with

  • usability fact sheets
  • the presentation ppt.
  • answers to questions
  • insight on improvements you can make

Call Susana @ 816-561-2315 for details, reviews and to schedule.

U and I will design for Them

‘U and I will design for Them’ is a former tag line of mine and also a worthwhile practice. group of happy users‘U’ the client and ‘I’ the designer, is key to designing for ‘Them’, the user. In asking the right questions you can discover the users’ needs and achieve greater ROI.


  • Have you considered expanding on achievements already made, with more choices and offerings?
  • How about providing similar features and functions in other areas of the application?
  • How about offering similar products or services?

Every self-help book tells of turning your frustrations into opportunities. The same is true in building an application.

  • Are competitors achieving it? If so how? How can you do it better?
  • Do you need to simplify your product or service?
  • If the problem is solved, what will this bring to the company? Is there another way to achieve this that the user may respond to?

It’s all about them, the user. The earlier and the more often you bring them into the equation, the more response you’ll have from them and the greater your return on efforts, time and investments.

Building Your Brand by Partnering

Many of my projects involve partnering with other companies. A software design I just completed had 3 designers on it, each lending their own specialty. As they say three’s company and triples the numbers delivering your brand.Cowboy character with branding iron

Companies don’t have to be lone wolves and by opening projects and products up to others, those companies in turn will open their projects up to you. This creates a cycle of giving and wining:

  • Your portfolio and offerings broaden.
  • It allows you to take on more projects, develop more products, and to be busier all while building your brand.
  • Your clients and customers benefit from multiple expertise, a condensed timeline, and a greater return on investment.
  • And your customers can become your partners. I develop a site for a print designer with technology clients, she handles my collateral; we then refer each other and have  joint projects together.

The big boys in Kansas City do it too. Cerner Software, who’s a leader in handling electronic medical charts, is a customer and partner of Perceptive Software, who develops documentation management systems (HealthcareITNews). Perceptive gets exposure to Cerner’s international market, Cerner’s expertise and offerings grow, they expand the software industry in their specialty and grow the technology and their employee pool in Kansas City.

There is still flexibility and autonomy in joining forces with greater ideas, motivation and momentum because of it. You have nothing to lose and much to gain. So empower your company and brand by partnering.

Card Sorting: 2 Distinct Demos

These videos are excellent sources on conducting card sorts – a technique used for determining the content and navigation for websites and software. They vary in delivery: one takes a group approach, similar to marketing focus groups; in the other individuals perform the task alone and then the task is repeated with other potential users of the application. Each delivery has its advantages and disadvantages. You decide what suits you and can share your opinion why below.

New Web Design & Usability Guidelines – preview

An A-list of contributors has provided insight to the new edition of Research-Based Web Design & Usability Guidelines. The United States Government rounded-up contributors from such institutions as IBM, Carnegie Mellon University, and Human Factors International. This guide defines the essentials – rating their relativity and providing rich examples by way of screen shots.

These essentials are divided into chapters. Those being:

    exert from ui guide

    exert from ui guide

  1. Design Process and Evaluation
  2. Optimizing the User Experience
  3. Accessibility
  4. Hardware and Software
  5. The Homepage
  6. Page Layout
  7. Navigation
  8. Scrolling and Paging
  9. Headings, Titles, and Labels
  10. Links
  11. Text Appearance
  12. Lists
  13. Widgets
  14. Graphics, Images, and Multimedia
  15. Writing Web Content
  16. Content Organization
  17. Search
  18. Usability Testing

This is a must read for any web professional. Though don’t let the 292 pages scare you off. Around 190 of the pages are content with some half-page graphics. The rest include intro, glossary, appendix and sources. Feast your eyes @ The Research-Based Web Design & Usability Guidelines.

Seductive Interactions: a tech take

computer_modelSlideShare’s “Seductive Interactions: An Art & Science” is an engaging presentation on design strategy. Of the 175 clicks I found click 85, most valuable – its title: What Do We Know About People?

they listed my ux take
We’re curious Don’t list features and functions, let users discover them
We’re also afraid of change Forecast changes and promote upcoming redesigns
We seek patterns Be predictable, have consistency in menu, headers, colors, etc.
We like to order and organize things Sort options, customize pages, Flickr Organizr
We’re intensely self centered Tell a friend, favorites, iLike, StumbleUpon
We’re lazy 175 click slides are manageable w/a jump feature
We’re visual thinkers and learners Thus SlideShare and demo video popularity
We like to be the hero of the story We promote our thoughts and actions (blog, tweet) more than others
We don’t like to make choices, but we like choice We are entice by Chrome’s market growth, but we just can’t leave FireFox
We like to be in control (and to be guided) Allowing users to choose when to upgrade and provide demos
We find novelty and surprise interesting New features and functions keep us coming back for more
and so on We can generalize about people/users, but should always seek their feedback and act on it

Thanks for reading my hero story. Here is the Seductive Interactions show, for more novelty and surprises.