Ditch Wireframing, Go Prototyping

I run into a couple of articles arguing that traditional wireframing is not as useful as prototyping in the browser nowadays. They argue that designers should go straight from sketches to coding using HTML/CSS and JavaScript. Designers have to be able to code to some extent!

Why Prototyping Beats Wireframing

Ditch Traditional Wireframes : this gives good descriptions of different fidelities of wireframing. If you have time, please also read the comments to this article, there are many different opinions there.

Time to Dump Wireframes

Time to Dump Wireframes 2

How do you think?

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Navigation and Selection among Multiple Factors

I’m looking for a new pair of glasses because my eye sight is sadly going downhill again. I stare at the computer screen for too long and work too hard 🙂 😦 So I launched www.eyeglasses.com, and selected the first one among “shop complete glasses”, “shop frame only” and “shop lenses only”. Here came a page with a super long list of factors to select. The following (Pic. 1) is a zoom-out version of the page clearly indicating how long the list is, with all the whitespace on the right. What’s worse, all the factors are listed on the left as a single click, and the user cannot choose multiple factors. It’s not dynamic, just as indicated in the second screen shot (Pic. 2). All the choices are in a plain list. All the numbers are listed, this is why it’s taking so much space. The number should be designed as a bounded input field with up-and-down arrows.  Moreover, parallel with “shape”,”rim”,”material”, “gender”, “brand”, “price”, “color”, “eye size”, “country of origin”, etc, there is one labelled “category”. “Category” is too much of a generic word. All the previous can be categories. This doesn’t indicate clear hierarchy  It should be renamed more specifically as “glass type” or something in a more specific nature.

Pic. 1

Pic. 2

Pic. 3

This website does have an advanced search function, but it also has problems. It has two separated parts which serve the same purpose. They explain “B Measurement” in the individual glass frame page, but not here in the search. This is very inconvenient for the users, since they would most likely land on this search page first, and then the individual glass frame page. Also, after I configured the advanced search, it took me to the results, I couldn’t further filter the results using the tool bar on the left. I had to go through the long result list one by one. When I went back to Advanced Search, all my previous configurations were gone, and I had to re-do it again.

Pic. 4

I think it is the bread-and-butter for online shopping websites to have good navigation features to allow users to find the products they like. The shopping site can be failing if the users cannot easily locate and browse what they want. Intelligent recommender system can also further help the users to get to the products they like. Amazon and eBay are doing a much better job in this regard. Admittedly, they are bigger and richer companies, but every big and rich company started from somewhere.

Reading Reflection: Usability Testing Data Analysis and Reporting

For this week’s reading, at the beginning, I was confused among informal summative evaluation (quantitative), formal quantitative analysis, and formative evaluation (qualitative). Later into the reading, I learned that informal summative evaluation provides simple statistical analysis such as mean and standard deviation in order to check whether the UX reaches the UX targets. Informal summative evaluation doesn’t include inferential statistical analysis such as ANOVA, t-test, and F-test (these are used in formal quantitative analysis). It only serves to check whether the UX reaches the UX targets not to find the UX issues. Then the formative qualitative evaluation is set to find the issues. Here it seems that “summative” is quantitative, and “formative” is qualitative, and this is very misleading. The so-called “informal summative” evaluation is not necessarily always summative, it can leads to the next iteration if the UX targets are not reached. Also, I think it’s not necessary to indicate so clear that the informal summative evaluation is only to check whether the UX targets are reached. It could also help find the UX issues. Plus, as we discussed in class, where initially the “UX targets” come from is also a big question.

Other things I wish to remember:

1. It will be beneficial to keep a participant around to help with data analysis. Although this is not always possible, but if possible, this will help a lot with the data analysis, since “too often the problem analyst can only try to interpret and reconstruct missing UX data. The resulting completeness and accuracy become highly dependent on the knowledge and experience of the problem analyst.” (p.563)

2. The difference between critical incident and UX problem instances is that “Critical incident is an observable event (that happens over time) made up of user actions and system reactions, possibly accompanied by evaluator notes or comments, that indicates a UX problem instance. ” (p. 565)

3. Informal summative evaluation report is only supposed to keep as internal use–restricted to the project group (e.g. designers, evaluators, implementers, project manager). “Our first line of advice is to follow our principle and simply not let specific informal summative evaluation results out of the project group. Once the results are out of your hands, you lose control of what is done with them and you could be made to share the blame for their misuse. ” (p.596)

4. Common Industry Format (CIF) can be referred when we do our usability testing report.

RAA4: Assisting Instructional Designers on the Model Driven Architecture in Technology Enhanced Learning Systems

Drira, R., Laroussi, M., Le Pallec, X., & Warin, B. (2012). Contextualizing learning scenarios according to different Learning Management Systems. Learning Technologies, IEEE Transactions On, Retrieved from http://ieeexplore.ieee.org/xpls/abs_all.jsp?arnumber=6104031

 

Background: 

Technology Enhanced Learning (TEL): This paper defines TEL as a complex system formed by a set of interdependent and heterogeneous components (i.e., actors, tools, and learning objects) organized in space and time in order to satisfy a learning goal.

Learning Management Systems (LMS): This paper defines LMS as a software system that supports distance teaching and learning. “An LMS provides much relevant functionality for collaborative learning, assessment, and communication using extremely powerful tools such as forums, chats, wikis, blogs, quizzes, etc.”

This paper is in the context of instructional design in the Technology Enhanced Learning (TEL) systems. The authors state that there are many different Learning Management Systems (LMS), in order to achieve interoperability, organizations have developed Learning Technology Standards (LTS), but using standards have some drawbacks. For examples, it is too generic, and also the instructional designers must use a LTS compliant and thus cannot flexibly tailor the instructional design to the specific needs of the specific learning contexts. The instructional design thus lost the pedagogic expressiveness and contextual expressiveness.

One solution is to use the Model Drive Architecture (MDA) in the instructional design process to deal with the problem of system interoperability across different execution platforms. However, novice designers can have some technical difficulties to use this approach.

The Model Drive Architecture (MDA) approach in instructional design follow the following three steps:

1. A model of the intended system with a specific meta-model is defined. This meta-model allows an accurate description of specific needs.

2. A model transformation engine with specific rules is used to transform the preceding model into an LMS-specific model.

3. The specific model can be deployed on the LMS using an automatic generator/deployer.

Purpose of the Research: 

The focus of this paper is on the step 2 above. Novice designers usually have technical difficulties in transforming the models, and the purpose of this paper is to design a tool to help instructional designers in this process.

Methods:

The authors propose an novel approach called ACoMoD (Assistance for Contextualized Modeling of Learning Systems), and therefore developed a graphical and interactive tool called Gen-COM. The Gen-COM integrates some best practices instructional designs recommended to the designers. Then the authors did a user study on this tool among 44 instructional designers. They asked for the users’ feedbacks on the usefulness of assistance for tailoring pedagogy with technical tools, usefulness of good practice recommendations, and the usability of Gen-COM.

Main Findings:

1. Designers found that Gen-COM was useful in tailoring pedagogy with LMS tools. Designers who are skilled in model transformation emphasized that Gen-COM offers a powerful transformation mechanism.

2. Although the integration of best practices in the design process is useful for novices, it is less so for designers who are very familiar with their institutional context.

3. Gen-COM clearly separates the work space for matching pedagogy and technology from the best practice reminders.

4. Most designers state that they are more likely to use a model-driven approach with tools like Gen-COM, which hide technical difficulties while allowing them to benefit from many advantages.  These advantage include interoperability, reuse, and personalization.

Analysis: 

Some parts of this paper get a bit technical and difficult to read, and the authors use a lot of acronyms. This paper is not directly related to user experiences, but I found it implies an issue between the UX team and the developers team, that is, the UX team strives to do user-centered design, and they want the design to tailor to the specific contexts of the users. However, the developers want standards, interoperability, and reuse.  They do not want to redesign everything for new user contexts and needs, they want to use the frameworks they developed before. This might be even true for novice developers, and for a small developer team, because designing for specific contexts takes time and expertise. When the time is limited, and the development team is small and full of novice developers, the developers will feel their situations are not understood by the UX researchers. And here comes the biggest issues of communication, and imperfection in the final products. This paper is trying to fill this gap by designing a tool for the designers to reduce the technical requirement on them.

Tangible on the Touch Interface: Apptivity Toys on the iPad

I run into an Apptivity toys commercial online. I think it’s a pretty cool idea. Apptivity toys are physical toys that you can use on the surface of the iPad. For one thing, it extends the limits of hand gestures and finger sizes. For another, it extends the limits of the touch surface into the psychical world. It’s a combination of touch user interface and tangible user interface. So children who grow up with tablet touch surfaces will also have the direct opportunities to play the physical toys with the virtual world. I can see that it will be even cooler to play these toys on a larger touch screen than the iPad. I understand that they made the toys suitable for the iPad because it would be easier to be adopted since so many people already have the iPad. This is one step further to integrate the physical world and the virtual world.

MacBook Power Adapter Design Problems

I’m sure there are people who have criticized the power adapter for the MacBook, but this time it happened in my life. I’ve had problems with the MacBook power adapter before. It sometimes lost connections. But I never thought to criticize it. I was just thinking maybe the power outlets have some problems. The CGT512 course did change the thinking habits of many of us. I start to be more aware of things around, and start to have interesting and constructive conversations with people around about various design issues. Before the critiques, I’d like to say that I really like the MagSafe magnetic head connector on the power adapter. Apple did put a lot of thoughts into this. Another thing I like about the power adapter (including the iPhone/iPad power adapters) is that, unlike typical US electric plugs (for the two-prong type, one is smaller and the other one is bigger), the Apple power adapter has two equal sized prongs, so I can use this power adapter in China too, without any kind of conversion. But… here comes the critiques:

1. It takes too much space on the power outlets. 

Our CGT512 Usability Report 3 team had a meeting on a Thursday. We had the meeting in a lab, and many of us need power outlets. But the other team members have to move two other power plugs to make room for my adapter. The “huge” square takes too much space, and cannot rotate directions.

2.The wire connecting to the huge square is too thin, and would eventually be broken.

Besides taking too much space, one team member Nick criticized the thin wire. He said it would eventually be broken. And then I started to notice that part was actually getting yellow and looked aged. Then, about 5 days later, it is really broken, and stopped charging.

Then I started a conversation with a colleague who also use a MacBook, and we found other design issues with the power adapter.

3. The square is too huge and heavy, and the two short plug prongs cannot hold the weight, so it sometimes get skewed and loose, and lost the connections.

4. The adapter has a long extension wire, without the extension wire, it is short. If you forget the extension wire, sometimes you cannot reach the power outlet.

5. In order to use the extension wire. You need to take off the small cap with the two prongs and connect the extension wire, and then the small cap will get lost easily.

I think it’s interesting to be aware of these design issues in life and start interesting conversations with people around. But don’t become too much of a design-issue-picky-nerd 🙂 This is the reality, there is always room to improve!

Interesting Post on How to Be an Creative Web Designer

Here is an interesting post on how to become creative web designers by eating properly. When I first saw the title, I thought this post is just simply talking about creativity, but it’s actually about food, and how you should eat properly to be more creative. Since I love food, and love bright colors so much, I love this post. Admittedly, this applies to everybody, but it provides some interesting examples of web design, and purposefully reminds web designers to eat properly.

1stWebDesigner: 10 Best Kept Secrets to Become More Creative by Boosting your Brainpower 

Under this post, there are also related readings to remind web designers  to keep healthy sleeping habits and keep fit. These are reminders to the phenomenon that many freelance web designers and developers are living in not very healthy life styles because they have to stay up late to code, and sit in front of the computers for long time. So, let’s be healthy, happy, and user-centered web designers!