Are you experienced?

Posted on March 9, 2007 by ssmith

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next workshops

June 7, 2007 Usability challenges of new Web technologies [1] – One day Workshop.
Save $100 if you register before May 25.
June 21, 2007 Designing usable Web-based applications [2] – One day Workshop.
Save $100 if you register before June 8.


April 13, 2007

CapCHI one day workshop: “Web2.0 The Human Web” [3]with our own Mike Atyeo, as well as Peter Merholz of Adaptive Path, Maggie Fox, and Derek Featherstone.

April 28 – May 3, 2007 CHI2007 “Reach Beyond” [4], San Jose, California. CHI anticipates 2000 HCI professionals, academics, and students, and 40+ exhibitors.
April 22-24, 2007 FITC Design and Technology Festival [5], Toronto, Ontario. Technical and creative speakers, panel discussions, and demonstrations.
May 1-2, 2007 IT360 Conference & Expo 2007 [6]; Metro Toronto Convention Centre;
May 30-31, 2007 Mesh [7], a Web2.0 conference; part of Toronto Tech Week [8], a series of events for I.T. professionals, May 28 – June 1.
July 18-20, 2007 2007 Symposium On Usable Privacy and Security [9] (SOUPS), including a Neo Insight Usability Evaluation workshop. Pittsburgh, PA.

In this issue

Are you experienced?

Are you developing your skills as a user experience professional? Do you have a personal development objective for this year? If you are the sole user experience professional in your organization, you probably have to write your own. Here we offer some ideas based on years of … (wince)… experience. In this case, that really means “learn from our experience”. In all cases, the best development objectives tend to be those that stretch us in an area of curiosity, as well as those we can immediately apply. We offer ten ideas to get your own thinking started.

1. Scan a “things” website for a professional development objective.
Here are a couple of Web2.0 sites that have some great ideas. 43 Things [15]; and 23 Learning2.0 Things [16]. Remember to make your objectives SMART: Specific; Measurable; Achievable; Realistic; Time-oriented.

2. Develop an online colleague.
Social networking is a new venue for old behaviours. Find an online community of peers. Find a colleague who can stimulate your thinking and give you helpful feedback. If you already have colleagues, ask them for some constructive feedback, or have a brainstorm. You may never meet face-to-face or be involved in related work projects. Colleagues stimulate learning; like how to communicate ideas, take criticism, re-write a paper, handle doldrums, get perspective, or celebrate achievements.

3. Write your value proposition.
Write an “elevator speech”. Except in this case, do it for your main asset – you. Try it a few ways before you slip it into a conversation. Re-write it a few times, until people don’t glaze over, or whenever you change jobs or titles. You will notice things that resonate well with people. When it resonates well with your mother-in-law, you’re done. Start with your title or role: “I am a ____”. Then finish our one-sentence value proposition for what you provide.

“For __________(insert your clients)___________,

who need to____(insert your client’s goal)_______,
I provide ______(insert what you do)___________,
that offers______(insert your value)_____________,
as opposed to __(alternative functions to yours)____,
which only offer_(a contrasting service to yours)____.”

4. Learn a tool you hire people to use.
If you contract for services like usability testing, graphic design, video production, or a service, find out what tool they use and get comfortable with it. Read up on it, download a trial version, take a webinar, or buy a book. Tools like Morae, Photoshop, Premiere, Flash, etc. have tutorials on the web, so you can learn a lot before buying.

5. Ask your managers how your job can help them succeed at theirs.
WAIT! Give them lots of advance notice, get them into a neutral place, or buy them a coffee. Ask them how they expect the organization’s user experience to unfold in the future. Then ask what skills they think the organization will need. Explain that you value their feedback about your own skills development. Make them feel comfortable sharing their vision so you can see how yours fits. You may walk away with an ally.

6. Create a scenario or personas to capture your needs analysis.
If you do needs analysis, put in a little extra effort and create some scenarios of typical usage and some typical tasks for users. If you don’t do needs analysis, ask whoever does to help you develop some scenarios. Read more about how to use personas and scenarios – in The Insighter [17].

7. Do a business case.
Sign up to help flesh out the business case for your work project. Or do a small cost-justification for a capital asset, or calculate the return on investment for your R&D. Business cases come in all sizes. We live and die by them, even if not day-to-day. You may never be a Finance whiz, but you need to know how your user experience fits into your organization’s business case. You will likely find out it is very important, and may help your executives better understand that.

8. Join a community to share your videos, photos, art, or music.
If you have a creative side, find an outlet for it. Don’t expect it to pay the bills, but the artistic pressure may be just what you need. It helps people develop work skills such as visualizing, prototyping, communicating with images and motion, etc.

9. Watch your own presentation on a video.
This is painful. Do it in private. Resolve that you will not hate your voice or personal tics. If you do more online presentations, record your next screen sharing presentation. Use it to objectify your experience. Treat yourself like a contractor, and itemize the presentation skills you expect of that person, the ways to improve, and what strengths that person has that can be developed even further.

10. Write whatever you thought as you read this article.
You might be somebody who knows all this stuff. Even if you do, perhaps you had a thought as you read it. Or an image. Or a hunch. It might be valuable. Write it. Sketch it. Draw arrows pointing to clouds. Stick it in your book or briefcase and look at it in a week. Write or sketch some more. Look at it again in another week. Pick out something you would like to achieve. Then tell your colleague you would like to do something about it this year. Or tell us. We promise to be nice.

We’d love to hear your comments! [18]

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“Web2.0: The Human Web” at CapCHI

On Friday April 13th, our own Mike Atyeo is presenting “Designing and testing Rich Internet Applications”. Mike will talk about Rich Internet Applications (RIAs), AJAX as a Web2.0 flavour of RIA, users’ conceptual models, and RIA usability evaluation. He will describe the practicalities of designing and testing. You will come away with examples, checklists, techniques, and perhaps meet some people like yourself.

People often comment that they appreciate our presentations and demonstrations, like our live demonstration of usability testing last November [20]. Find out what you’ve been missing. To register, visit the CapCHI website [21]. This CapCHI event takes place in the Fountain Room at the National Arts Centre in Ottawa. Here is a map to the NAC [22].

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People say the nicest things about Morae

We talk a lot about Morae software by TechSmith, because it is important to what we do. We thought we would let you know what other people are saying about it.

  • “Morae sets the standard for customer experience tools. Nothing else even comes close.”
    Jared Spool (on the Morae site – scroll almost to the bottom) [23], User Interface Engineering

  • “The reason we’re committed to Morae is that it provides a superior feature set. It’s easy to learn and use. And it enables us to accelerate testing projects dramatically.
    Will Schroeder (in a Morae case study) [24], Principal Consultant, User Interface Engineering
  • “User testing has become much more efficient since Morae has been on the market. As a Morae customer, we know firsthand how fast and effective the product is in communicating test results to the designers, developers, and ultimately the decision-makers, who stake their bottom line on the usability of a company Web site.”
    Jakob Nielsen (in a Morae press release) [25], Nielsen Norman Group
  • “The depth of analyzable data Morae provides is unparalleled, absolutely accurate, and easily accessible.”
    Ben Skelton (in a Morae case study) [26], Director, User Experience, Haba ero
  • Frost and Sullivan say Morae is “priced competitively so both large and small organizations can easily deploy user experience testing – which has been the critical barrier to entry.”
    Advances in Human-Machine Interface Technologies [27] (PDF), Frost & Sullivan, October 2006.

TechSmith’s UserVue solution enables remote usability testing, and works with Morae to report results. We have conducted UserVue sessions with participants in the UK. In the above report, here is what Frost & Sullivan said about it.

  • UserVue “allows researchers to greatly expand the pool of available participants, understand user interaction in the participant’s natural environment, and eliminate travel costs completely.”

Call us to discuss how you might apply Morae or UserVue to your next usability test. If you already own Morae software by TechSmith, don’t forget to renew your Essential Plan once a year. It will keep your software up to date, qualify you for future versions, and give you unlimited access to TechSmith technical support specialists.

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Tips for better stakeholder interviews

An essential step in gathering user requirements is the stakeholder interview or user observation. It underlies many things we do – we conduct them to model a business process and work flow, analyse user tasks, construct use cases, document user needs, identify areas for transformation, etc. There is no single method that should dominate every interview, but there are some recurring methods we apply. Here are just a few.

  1. Make people feel at ease.
    Let them know that modeling their processes is not about eliminating their jobs, but about making their jobs easier. Give them a choice as to where the interview should take place.
  2. Respect the practitioner’s expertise in their job.
    Reinforce it. Affirm their role in the overall business process. They know their job better than you do. Let them know that. Listen actively.
  3. Focus on the tasks most likely to be automated.
    Have them walk through a typical task on a present system or a mock-up. Keep bringing discussion back to the tasks for which you are gathering user requirements. Ask how they wish things would work better.
  4. Keep the main thing the main thing.
    Every once in awhile ask why a process is important, what their overall goal is, or how it keeps their client happy.
  5. Find the area where the interviewee or team is showing leadership.
    Point it out. Ask how they arrived there, and how they overcame challenges.
  6. Ask people about their experiments.
    Leadership results from failures as well as successes. Failures don’t make good PR, but good organizations learn from them.
  7. Identify the competency-carriers relied on by others.
    Organizational competencies rely on people’s competencies. People who relay these skills to others are competency carriers. They get results, but may not document their procedures.
  8. Find the pain they would like to eliminate.
    That may be what makes something else worth giving up.
  9. Keep asking about the daily drudge.
    People adopt routines to keep from thinking too hard about daily tasks. Consequently, people can find these hard to describe.
  10. Determine their time window.
    The business case will hinge on how long a group has before they must show the benefits were worth the investment.
  11. Take time to listen to the anecdotes.
    Encourage them to tell a story of what they’re proud about. Stories produce the best evidence and metrics. That may be just what a decision-maker needs to hear.
  12. Keep meetings short, but be ready to listen long.
    People like structure in an interview, but they also appreciate someone who values what they have to say.

email usLet us know what you think makes a good stakeholder interview [28].

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Seven surprises for usability strategists

Michael Porter [29] gives advice that he calls “Seven Surprises for New CEOs [30]”.We think his advice has parallels for people who manage a usability process. Especially if you are new to usability strategy. Even when usability is well-defined in an organization, there are seven surprises, analagous to Porter’s, for those who set the strategic course. If usability is to become a key competency in your organization, note some of these parallels to your own management style. The items in the right column are our own opinions. Michael Porter’s opinions are his own.

Seven surprises for new CEOs
by Michael Porter

Seven surprises for usability strategists
by Neo Insight

You can’t run the company.

You can’t improve usability without users.
They prove whether it is usable or not.

Giving orders is very costly.

A usability dictate will get more mileage if you also present evidence from user testing.

It is hard to know what is really going on.

Usability takes work. Don’t assume the work is simple just because the design is.

You are always sending a message.

Different audiences hear different messages from a new design. Test your messages with each audience.

You are not the boss.

You are not the user. The user can always trump the designer.

Pleasing shareholders is not the goal.

Usability activities may give your client immediate value, but real payback is in the long term.

You are still only human.

Identifying usability mistakes may not be popular, but it beats fixing them after a launch.

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Quote of the month

“No one really multi-tasks. You just spend less time on any one thing.”

Dr. Edward Hallowell.

Save $100 on our next two workshops!

May 25th is the deadline for early registration in our one-day workshop Usability challenges of new Web technologies [1]. We will review many live Web 2.0 examples and explore how to adapt traditional usability techniques to design and evaluate the new generation of web user interfaces. Early registrants save $100. Save even more for group bookings. Come join us. The workshop takes place on Thursday, June 7th.

For our Thursday June 21st workshop Designing usable Web-based applications [2], sign up before June 8th for the early registration discount of $100. Web applications are becoming as powerful as the ones on our desktop. Join this workshop to explore the challenges of designing web applications, and come away with tips, techniques and current best practices for providing high-value services that enable your users to fulfill their goals effectively and efficiently.

To take advantage of further discounts, call us to run either workshop at your location for five or more people: (613) 271-3001.

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URLs in this post:

[1] Usability challenges of new Web technologies:

[2] Designing usable Web-based applications:

[3] CapCHI one day workshop: “Web2.0 The Human Web” :

[4] CHI2007 “Reach Beyond”:

[5] FITC Design and Technology Festival:

[6] IT360 Conference & Expo 2007:

[7] Mesh:

[8] Toronto Tech Week:

[9] Symposium On Usable Privacy and Security:

[10] Are you experienced? : #main_article

[11] “Web2.0: The Human Web” at CapCHI : #HumanWeb2.0

[12] People say the nicest things about Morae: #Morae

[13] Tips for better stakeholder interviews: #research_tip_interviews

[14] Seven surprises for usability strategists: #seven_surprises

[15] 43 Things:

[16] 23 Learning2.0 Things:

[17] how to use personas and scenarios – in The Insighter:

[18] Image: on professional development objectives

[19] Back to Top: #top

[20] our live demonstration of usability testing last November:

[21] the CapCHI website:

[22] a map to the NAC:,-75.68872&spn=0.00872,0.019956&om=1&msid=100164011975020522876.00000111dc725d6bec8f5

[23] Jared Spool (on the Morae site – scroll almost to the bottom):

[24] Will Schroeder (in a Morae case study):

[25] Jakob Nielsen (in a Morae press release):

[26] Ben Skelton (in a Morae case study):

[27] Advances in Human-Machine Interface Technologies: Sullivan Morae.pdf

[28] Let us know what you think makes a good stakeholder interview: on good stakeholder interviews

[29] Michael Porter:

[30] Seven Surprises for New CEOs:

[31] subscribe to the Insighter,:

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