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The secret benefit of tree testing

“Tree testing is a usability technique for evaluating the findability of topics in a website. It’s also known as ‘reverse card sorting’ or ‘card-based classification’” ~ Optimal Workshop

The test works like this. You take your current navigation structure, which in case of an ecommerce site might be quite wide (product range) and deep (product sub categories) and list them on a tool like Treejack from Optimal Workshop. You then ask users to navigate this menu and indicate where they would expect to find a certain product. For example: “Where would you find Black Shoes for a school boy?” The user then might navigate down your menu structure through “Fashion – Men – Shoes” or they might go through “Kids & Toys – Fashion” or through “School – other”. It all depends on which items you have available in your menu and which words interest their train of thought. This leads to an interesting graph on how many people find your product and which other paths they take. If a big portion of your users can’t find your product, you will need to move it to the category they expect to find it, or maybe not…

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Are you doing Mini-Waterfall?

Are you really doing Agile?  If you are not doing iteration on your work, then are you getting the benefits of doing Agile?

The idea behind Agile was to be more flexible to users and market changes. Waterfall takes years to develop a piece of software and by the time you hit the market, you are no longer relevant. With Agile, you can build a MVP and iterate on your product as you try and find the right market fit. If you are only adding new features during sprints, without iteration, then you have just broken Waterfall down into smaller pieces. This is what I like to call “Mini-Waterfall”.

What is your company doing?

Links & References

  1. Agile process
  2. Waterfall process

The Path of Least Resistance

In User Experience (UX) we establish users’ needs through research and looking at product usage (where do users struggle with the use of the product – context of use), through the process of user testing. We establish user needs, help the product owner clarify his MVP and expose user problems, so that the product owner, in the end, can create a better product.

One problem with these tools, is that they are reactive. We need to gather data and it is “new” for every product and market. What if we had data that could be used proactively to shape the design, before you get to testing? The first designs tend to copy existing popular products, but we don’t have context of their design decisions and their products aren’t necessarily better.

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The Purpose behind your UX

Every company does their UX a bit differently. It all depends on resources available, are you a start-up or large company and the influence of your existing business-developer processes.

I work for an ecommerce company and work is usually handed down from the top, in the form of “We need to redesign application X” or “We want a new application X”. My first response is always: “But why?”. Why do you need to redesign? Why do you want to build a new product? What is wrong with the current product?

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Doing UX for digital utility products is not the same as doing UX for digital entertainment products. Users are not going to be excited, when their banking app decides to make payment more challenging, because it keeps the users engaged for longer and Angry Birds wouldn’t have been addictive if the shooting of the birds were efficient by auto-targeting the pigs.