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Ozchi keynote: User centred design: is it working

Wednesday, November 29th, 2006

Here are the slides from my keynote at Ozchi 2006 last week. My talk was called “User centred design: Is it working?” which is a bit lame, but I really couldn’t come up with a better one.

I talked about 3 things:

  1. my take on where the practitioner user-centred design field is currently up to
  2. a look at some of the neat apps practitioners are interested in (and I didn’t say web 2.0 once)
  3. what I think we need to do to move forward

I recorded it and here it is in two parts – the first file combines the first two topics, the second file combines the last topic plus questions (if you were there, you’ll hear some edits – I trimmed the questions we couldn’t hear and deleted an example from the body of the talk):

The second file is definitely more interesting than the first, but the first gives context.

And here’s some quotes from the second part of the presentation:

  • We have to stop selling usability. It doesn’t have a value proposition. Usability is a quality aspect of something – it is not a process, an artefact, a deliverable or anything that anyone cares about what you are going to give them. I read consultants websites and I think, if I didn’t already know about that, I wouldn’t have a clue about what you are trying to sell me.
  • We want to swoop in and be the centre of the universe and be involved and involved up front and be the centre of it and forget that we are working in teams and working in a context.
  • We’ve got to stop treating people like they are stupid, because they’re actually not. Developers are not stupid. I think Jakob Nielsen and Alan Cooper have done our whole field a disservice by peddling the fact that developers are stupid…They’re working within what they know, we work within the stuff we know and nobody ever knows everything. Nobody goes to work to do a bad days work. More than any community I’ve seen, our community treats them like they’re dumb.
  • I think that Jakob Nielsen’s stuff should be removed from the galaxy…all those bloody rules that don’t fit in any context and lure people into a feeling that you can just get these rules and get it right.

Heuristics chocolates

Monday, November 27th, 2006



choc_heuristics

Originally uploaded by maadmob.


From OZCHI 2006 – heuristics chocolates.

I’m in an 80s time warp

Tuesday, November 21st, 2006

I’m in Sydney for OZCHI (where, BTW, I’m doing my first keynote) and sitting in the hotel bar – I had a day off and it is better than being bored in my room.

The bar is playing 80s music. Here’s what’s been on:

I don’t know what’s worse – that I know all of these, that wikipedia has entries for them all or that I really should be doing something other than looking them up.

(And I’m only able to write this because I have a new iBurst card – one of the best gadgets I’ve ever bought. Their slogan is right – it just works)

Testing keyboard accessibility

Thursday, November 9th, 2006

I’ve spent the past few weeks trying to use my computer mostly via keyboard and voice control, trying to avoid touching my mouse (recurring overuse injury in my elbow).

It has been a very interesting experience from a personal and design perspective. While I have used keyboard and voice to a limited extent before, my injury was less severe before which meant I could more easily fall back on the mouse. This time I’m trying much harder as even a couple of minutes with the mouse hurts.

On the keyboard front, most windows programs manage pretty well and most websites are just OK. Most of my favourites are manageable, but slow and frustrating and I find myself reaching for the mouse just to get around things I should be able to do easily. Plain and standards compliant websites are easiest to manage with the keyboard. They have decent natural tab order and no fancy features the keyboard can’t touch.

I’ll follow next week with some voice experiences, but here’s how some of my favourite sites and systems fared for keyboard use only:

  • Movable type – I can just manage. There are some annoying aspects, like having to tab through all the sidebar content before getting to the main content links and having to pass through the page twice to target the save button
  • Survey Monkey – Could not get past the home link to logon. Totally impossible to use without a mouse
  • Pandora – it has keyboard shortcuts, but I have to pick up my mouse, target the player and then use them (but I still love Pandora)
  • Firefox – grand
  • Thunderbird – all fine, just had to learn some new shortcuts
  • FeedDemon – pretty good, just lots of tabbing
  • Threadless – great except for the little javascript pop-ups
  • Windows software – generally very good, much better than anything in a browser, and far easier to see what is in focus at any time
  • Basecamp – no problems at all
  • My bank was excellent – I paid all my bills without even thinking of the mouse. They always place the focus appropriately and have navigation for key tasks just below their confirmation message, so I don’t have to tab through the whole navigation to pay another bill
  • del.icio.us – no problems whatsoever
  • ma.gnolia.com – I can get around, but can’t see what is in focus without looking at the status bar

Based on my very personal and non-scientific approach, I recommend two very handy things:

  1. Visible skip links would be handy to jump over boring navigation
  2. Give me focus – the most difficult thing is seeing where the focus is up to. Give me a visual indicator and I’ll love you so much.