Monday, 29 December 2008

It was fabulous Design Mela!!!

Pictures from the Design Mela hosted by the MindTree User Experience Group as part of Osmosis 2008.

Click on the picture below to visit the photo album.

Osmosis 2008 at MindTree - Photo Album



Wednesday, 17 December 2008

design dawakhana















Thank you all for the phenomenal response to the Design Dawakhana. Hope you benefitted from the design doses prescribed the design doctors.

Do visit this page or follow mindtreeux on twitter for regular doses of design!
questions? send us a tweet.

Friday, 14 November 2008

Shortcut Keys

This has been contributed by Sachin Kumar Sharma, an employee of MindTree.

Most of the time, interaction on the internet is with the mouse. We probably use the keyboard only when we are typing in a particular URL or entering a user name and password.

There are dozens of keyboard shortcuts we can utilize on our browser to invoke functions or features.

If you know the shortcut keys, you are well on your way to working faster. But, that sometimes isn’t the best solution as it is either hard to find or we don’t know that it exists.

Remembering Them All?
There have been improvements in design where Microsoft has now introduced the ‘Ribbon’ look and feel where shortcut keys are easier to remember. This could be better without the cluttered interface; a solution nonetheless.

Thursday, 6 November 2008

ReBrand by Color Branding – What color are you?

Life is full of colors
Yes we all know… then what? Color branding a simple concept when effectively used can differentiate your Business from the crowd in astronomical measures. The mere thought of your pet color will make people think about your business, product, and service. There are many business around the globe that focus on color for example IBM – the big blue, Kingfisher airlines – RED, Google – Blue + yellow + red + green in its logo(It has used eye catching colors to grab attention & colors that creates excitement, fun).

Effects of color

  • Test takers score higher and weight lifters lift more in blue rooms.
  • Blue text increases reading retention.
  • Yellow evokes cheerfulness. Houses with yellow trim or flower gardens sell faster.
  • Reds and oranges encourage diners to eat quickly and leave. Red also makes food more appealing and influences people to eat more. (It is no coincidence that fast food restaurants like Mc Donald’s use these colors.)
  • Black clothes make people look thinner.
  • Black on white is the easiest to read, on paper, and on computer screens.(Most of the content on the web will be in the same color pattern)
  • The most visible color is yellow.
  • The most legible of all color combinations are black on yellow and green on white followed by red on white. Used in street light signals all over the world.
Successful Color Branding Implementers

Steps to incorporate Color Branding
When you are going for color branding initiatives then it is good to go for professional help rather than mere intuition since there are many legal pros & cons involved in it. I am not here to scare you by saying this, but a professional help will do no harm at a little extra cost as compared to the benefits your business will receive by color branding.

Step 1: Study the competition and research on the color branding initiatives they are taking. Learn the legal implications of color branding. Watch the impact of the color on the competition customers, how they respond, why they respond, how customers perceive the color, what characteristics the competition color stands for.

Step 2: Finalize the characteristics your business brand intends to showcase. For example if it is a cargo business then you can keep “Always on time”, Hard working, etc as the characters of it, again it may differ from business to business. Finalizing the characteristics is the business call.

Step 3: Take professional help to work upon the competition color branding research & choosing own color branding scheme. Select the color that you feel will represent your business characteristics. Make sure that color is not taken by any other business worldwide. Of course it is a tricky thing to do but some professional help will not harm after all the returns are huge in the long run.

Step 4: Try to use the color for the company logo first then slowly creep the color in web sites, online presence even in the online advertisement you are focusing. After coloring the online media, include your brand color in the physical space, office buildings, office buses, transport, even to the office employees if it is possible. There is a catch here you can not go out & make all the employees wear your brand color clothes if you are in a Law/Consulting firm. Common sense is the base line when we go for color branding initiatives.

Step 5: Do the color branding where ever you can capitalize it, in Job fairs, stalls, exhibitions, student campaigns etc. The whole world is open for you if you just use the stuff between the ears for color branding. The gain of color branding is immense if perceived in a professional manner.

The above steps can be effectively used to make the best profits from color branding. Again the same questions pops in your mind. “What is my Color”.

How to add value to User Interface codes?

Why User Interface is so important?
User Interface is the focus point of User Experience. It is the plane on which user expects many good things to happen. User Interface in reality is the intersection of user’s tasks, his social background, technology, his physiology and many other things, which may be very personal to users. Like user is only having 500 $ in his account & he has to search a gift that is less than 200 $. The importance of User interface code validations is rising up, as Accessibility guidelines are becoming strict, more over it is important to provide a good user experience to the users.

Gains of user interface code validations
1. Accessibility: Not all the users are average some users are special with eyesight disability, hearing disability etc. They mostly use screen reader or other aids to view the pages in websites. A validated user interface becomes more accessible for the users. If he code is not validated the screen reader reads it, but not in the same order in which the page should be read. Some of the content the screen reader will skip move between lines in haphazard fashion causing many problems for disabled users. A validated code is more accessible.
2. Maintenance: A good validated user interface is easy to maintain when the code is given to third party to make any modifications or changes. Research shows it becomes a lot easier to recognize different chunks of code and work faster on a validated use interface code.
3. W3C standards: Following the W3C standards for developing the user interface codes will help the company to get a good name in the market & gain new customers.
4. Client good books: Clients value the steps you are taking to give then clean user interface codes for their projects.
5. Cheap no extra cost or software’s to buy: W3 provides the validation service free of cost. You just need to have an internet connection that is common in workplace.
6. Long-term benefits: The long-term benefits of this simple practice are enormous in terms of RIO & developing a good brand for User Experience service providers in the market.

Steps for User Interface validations
Step 1:
Login to http://validator.w3.org/



Step 2: Choose the type of code input method for validation. You can validate by three methods. Each method is explained in the below steps.
· Validate by URL
· Validate by File upload
· Validate by direct input


Option 1: Validate by URL
Enter the URL of the webpage whose code you need to validate. Make sure the web page is uploaded on the internet.


Option 2: Validate by file upload


Option 3: Direct input
This option is a favorite one. Just copy paste the user interface code (HTML) in the text box & click Check button.

Code validations ERROS


Guidelines to follow
The development team should make a habit to run code validation before they submit the pages for deployment. All the web pages need to be validated before deployment. This simple practice of validation will have huge gains & above all, it is a little time that can be invested to gain a more accessible website & client satisfaction.

Tuesday, 4 November 2008

Approach to Software & Internet Accessibility

Our approach to Web Accessibility is that of Inclusion. We believe that all websites should have a single version of the page that’s designed for accessibility rather than text-only versions. An accessible page is of value even for individuals who don’t require accessible pages – as it follows good web design principles.

A holistic approach for accessible design goes beyond template design. It needs to become part of project lifecycle, product evaluation, operational procedures etc. However, at MindTree, we divide template level accessibility design at four broad levels.These broad guidelines are detailed into a checklist.

Organisation of Content: The content across and within pages should be organised so that
  1. Summary on top: Since visually impaired users can’t scan a page, a summary of the page at the top is useful both for accessibility and search engine optimisation.
  2. Means to skip common content (like top and side navigation) so that a screen reader can jump to the content. This is useful for everyone.
  3. Quick Search: Since visually impaired users can’t scan on-page text, page design should not interfere with use of Browser’s Find functionalities (e.g. some DHTML, show/hide features.)

Creative Design for Accessibility:

  1. Avoid pixel-perfect designs as these don’t look good when text & screen sizes are changed
  2. Use relative font-sizes within a fluid layout so that it works well even when text sizes are changed using Browsers’ native controls.
  3. Avoid use of Graphics for labels, menus, links and avoid use graphics for small text
  4. Don’t use colour only to portray meaning. Use high-contrast to allow better readability.
  5. The pages should work well even without CSS.
  6. Avoid layouts that may interfere with use by dyslexic users.

Provision of Equivalents within the code:

  1. Use tags within HTML that enhances accessibility.
  2. Text equivalents for all meaningful visual content – this also helps in better search engine indexing of visual content. This could be alternative text, audio captioning, transcripts, subtitles etc.

Testing with Users:

  1. No amount of proactive planning and automated testing can substitute for actual user testing using different browsers and screen-readers. While planning Usability/User Testing include user(s) who access accessible version of the pages to iron out accessibility issues.

Monday, 3 November 2008

The Persona of an Indian HCI Professional (Salary Survey)

I was looking up at the Salary Survey for HCI Professionals in India for 2006 and thought it would be interesting to look at the 'Persona of the Indian HCI Professional'.

The Persona
  • Is in the 26 -35 age bracket and has been working for 5-8 years. Started working straight after a Bachelor's Degree (possibly 21/22 years old) somewhere between 1998 and 2001 - the heydays of Dot Com.
  • Works in an IT Services company with a title called User Interface Designer [and then the survey calls the industry mature :) ]
  • Is self-trained and does not have formal education in design – may have a bachelor/master degree though. A degree in Product Design & Visual Comm (possibly from NID or one of the IIT) command better salaries.
  • Lives Bangalore and earns 5-7 lakhs/pa.
  • Primarily takes requirements (as told by the customer without applying any UCD techniques - looking at % distribution of 'techniques in use') and designs user-interfaces.

Few Questions:

  • Age: Most people are within 28 -35 age bracket. Does this mean that you don’t ‘design’ after you are 35
  • Probably Yes - The differences in salaries is more pronounced in early and later years. I guess this would ties into how much value can you add to your current job. And how is your current education and current job preparing you for it?
  • Probably No - It's possible that people who are in HCI joined directly from campus (given the dot come hype) and professionals from other industry didn't move to HCI during 1999 - 2001 rush. Hence the most senior people within HCI are around 35 years.

How well paid are we when compared globally?

It also suggest that an HCI Professional is paid as well in India as in other places in the world. If you see the Jacob Nielsen’s survey http://www.useit.com/alertbox/salaries.html you will notice that the salaries in the UK are around GBP 30-40K mark – which when multiplied by 20 gives you 800,000. This ties in well with Indian salaries of 500 - 700 K INR. (1 GBP = 20 INR in terms of Purchasing Power Parity or PPP). India is fourth largest economy in terms of PPP.

Monday, 27 October 2008

Software Solutions To Accessibility

This has been contributed by Girish Managoli, an employee of MindTree.

There are a large number of web users with different needs. How do these people access information? How do they read? What do they actually see? Do they find the web friendly?

There are many types of users with varying needs:
The Visually Impaired: This group typically uses a screen reader (like JAWS) or a screen magnifier (like ZoomText). Pretty layouts, color coordination, nice looking fonts- none of this matters. They look for ways to quickly get to the content not having to wade through a lot of junk. Drop-down menus, pictures without ALT text and not knowing what a link does before clicking are some of their peeves. This group does not use the mouse. They rely on voice inputs. Any website or application that relies completely on the use of a mouse is out of bounds for this group.

The Deaf: This group has no use for sounds and relies extensively on visual content. Non-captioned videos are their pet peeves.

The Dyslexic: Controls that cannot be accessed easily, cluttered links and small fonts put this group off. They would like to have their content organized and the flow predictable.

Other Impairments: This group includes users with motor and neural impairments like cerebral palsy and multiple sclerosis. Like the dyslexic, this group would like to see their content uncluttered, avoiding unintentional clicks on surrounding links. They would want to quickly access information without having to click or scroll multiple times.

Apart from the above mentioned groups, there are others users like the color blind and the users with multiple disabilities like deaf-blind.

Accessibility is important for all of the above. The web is extremely powerful and has changed lives like never before. It brings them information otherwise inaccessible and enables them to be more aware of the world. It has made them find new interests from around the world. It has made them independent; allowed them to find new vocations and has made a whole new life possible.

Now, it only makes sense to make the web more inclusive.

Software Solutions To Accessibility
I recently stumbled upon an action program that promotes accessibility. It’s called "Scripting Enabled". [1]

The event dedicates the first day to listen to the problems faced by users. The second day is aptly called "Hack Day" where real developers get together to create real working prototypes that solve these problems.

Samples From Hack Day:
The Visually Impaired
The problem: For the visually impaired, Slideshare is difficult to use to find the text. Here’s an example: http://www.slideshare.net/AfshanKirmani/an-introduction-to-graphic-design-presentation

The solution: Easy Slideshare (shown in Figure 1), a hack that extracts and displays only the text from the slides. [2] The figure below shows you the content from the presentation where the tool was able to extract this information.


Figure 1: The Easy Slideshare tool that displays the text of a presentation.

The Dyslexic And The Physically Impaired
The Problem: The controls of YouTube player are small and difficult to access.

The Solution:
1. The Easy YouTube (shown in Figure 2), a hack that displays the video with large controls. [3]


Figure 2: YouTube vs. the Easy YouTube, a hack that displays the video with large controls.

2. YouTube does not make it easy to add captions for videos. Another hack, the YouTube captioner (shown in Figure 3), provides you with the possibilities. [4]


Figure 3: The YouTube Captioner allows you to add captions.

Tips From Developers:
• Using JavaScript to increase accessibility [5]
• Searchability of Flash [6]

Conclusion
How important is accessibility in the context of our day-to-day lives? Is it relevant to us as something more than an academic interest? I would love to hear from you.
Please leave a comment or email me at Girish_Managoli [at] mindtree.com

----------

References:
[1] http://scriptingenabled.org/
[2] http://icant.co.uk/easy-slideshare/about/
[3] First presentation on http://scriptingenabled.org/presentations/
[4] http://icant.co.uk/sandbox/youtube-captioning.html
[5] & [6] Presentations and links on http://scriptingenabled.org/presentations/

Saturday, 18 October 2008

An Introduction To Graphic Design

This slideshow provides an introduction to graphic design. It illustrates the growth of it, especially during the Web 2.0 age. This was presented by Viraj and Veena, our designers at MindTree Limited.



The slideshow uses images and examples from external sources. The respective owners hold the copyright.

Friday, 17 October 2008

News in Design, Design and More Design

This has been contributed by Rajesh Barde, an employee of MindTree.

With emerging content spanning across several websites, design is becoming a niche market placed within this vast world.

This week you get another interesting player in the market.

Here is your access to it!

What Are The Trends Today?
Real World Comparison

As seen in the real world, readers sip on their coffee and read content that is pushed to them. But in today’s online world, there are several other aspects like the ability to retrieve archives, the ability to categorize favorites, and the ability to make a world of your own here; this coupled with a cup of coffee!

Creating An Online Persona
More than individuals contributing to certain topics on their Blog, they find the need to create a website that does not reveal their identity. This removes bias and subjectivity in running a business/hobby online.

The Features That Come Along With It
It’s quite a thrill to see information being published that would interest a particular audience. And what’s more captivating today is not just the information being pushed forward to its readers but also the features that come along with it.

With this site, the ‘open filter’ works well as it propagates good design. Living up to your work is again a primary objective.

Targeting Your Audience
The rich look and feel of any publication or a website seems to bring in that keen interest in the audience. Especially, if you are targeting to, let’s say designers, you better give them what they want. The visual aspect of this website keeps their readers coming back for more.

Retaining Your Audience
Most websites today do have a way to subscribe or bookmark the content. This is extremely beneficial especially when you look at the competitive industry today. This website uses an 'Add to Favorites' section and also an 'RSS' feed that helps their readers keep in touch with the events and news around the world.

Friday, 26 September 2008

Tafiti’s Way To Go!

This has been contributed by Tanu Miriam George, an employee of MindTree.

I would like to share a super cool website that I recently discovered. I received this link in a forwarded email and loved it the moment I opened it.

Here is your access to it!

Tafiti, meaning "do research" in Swahili, is an experimental search front-end from Microsoft that is designed to help people use the Web for research projects that span multiple search sessions by helping visualize, store, and share research results. Tafiti uses both Microsoft Silverlight and Live Search to explore the intersection of richer experiences on the Web and the increasing specialization of search.

What Makes It Different From Our Google Search Engine?
The visual feel and the interaction is what pulls people towards this website. It’s not like a conventional site where you have just one text box that is well placed so that’s the first thing one sees and a ‘SEARCH’ button very near to it. The site is capable of so much more.

The search results come up in the same window. There is also a filter that is available (like ‘search within results’ in Google).

Another super cool feature is the ‘shelf’ where you can keep all the articles that you may need most frequently. This functionality also helps you customize the site for yourself which is by far an added advantage.

What next for Tafiti?
Still in its beta stage, Tafiti is yet to grow and make its mark. But with these advancements made, this website has a bright future for itself. With clever marketing strategies and advertisements, Tafiti will gain a stronger hold.

Friday, 19 September 2008

Bringing Virtual to Real

Internet-based social sharing networks are effectively catering to our need to share with friends, family and others. Aristotle mentioned, Man is a social animal. This implies that society is an integral need of a human being to survive and everybody wants to be part of a larger group of people to:

  • pursue their interest,
  • share experiences and views,
  • stay in touch with family and friends,
  • help them perform their jobs better, and
  • find new friends to explore and expand reach
Yet, at the same time, everyone wants to have a unique presence and identity of their own.

According to an American internet research organization – Pew Internet research – 93% American teenagers use internet for social sharing and networking out of which 64% participate in one or more content creation activities such as creation of blogs (28%) and sharing artwork, photos, videos, stories (39%), etc.

In addition to such core elements of content creation, 55% teenagers have their profiles on social networking sites such as Facebook or MySpace. Moreover, 47% teens have uploaded photos where others can see them.

Where is the fun?
In another similar internet research it is evident that a large number of people go to internet just to have fun. Meaning that they find enough content on the internet to let them continue to have fun. This raises a question: does social sharing and networking platform provide us a sub-platform to have enough fun? Let me try and answer this.

Social networks try all possible ways to bring the real life experiences to digital space. To an extent they have been successful and evolving. Nevertheless, there are a few aspects of social networking which are still outside the reach of social networking platforms. For example, a guy showing a printed photo album to a group of friends, all of them having fun together by noticing their collective views, giving different face expressions and comments on a particular picture or a portion of a picture, their noise of making fun of a few pictures, their collective laughter - all that is still something which cannot be captured or shared on social networking sites. Presently, it is only restricted to a set of people remotely accessing the content published by someone on a social sharing network.

We have not made much of a progress other than giving space for leaving a text comment in order to capture someone’s reaction on a content produced by another member. Plain text including a set of smileys can communicate a lot in volume but it still cannot convey those actual emotions and expressions out and loud in public. Simple text with added icons fails to express the actual sound oscillation, loudness, expressions of people, their excitement, laughter, tears and much more.

Possibility
Internet is about efficiency as well and leaving a text comment is the easiest thing one can do. However, we need to do more to bring in the real fun. A web service or a web tool with a richer user interface which can support audio and video based commenting feature on other content in addition to text-based commenting facility would take this to newer heights.

This would allow a user to capture videos using the webcam or a small camera and the standard video capturing software installed on his/her machine. The system should automatically convert the captured video into a flash player based video output and publish it as a video comment on the original content with an option to preview information. Entire task of capturing and publishing should be made as easy as possible by adding keyboard shortcuts and display of real time progression of system activities. Optionally, the user’s other demographic or/and registration details can be made pre-populated.

In addition, the user should be allowed to upload an already captured video or attach a video from another platform such as YouTube as a comment. Similarly user should be able to upload recorded audio files as a comment to the original content. This will allow users to capture, communicate, store and reuse their true natural expressions and reactions and also increase the life of content by adding fun to it. Lastly, multiple audio and video based comments must be shown together like a multimedia playlist.

Yet, while the commenting arena is changed, as a standard practice, the author of the original content should be able to publish and un-publish the comments. For safety’s sake!

Wednesday, 10 September 2008

Learning From Users

Witnessing the growth of user experience design, I would like to share with you an article that was published by me (Afshan Kirmani) in the Mid-Day, a daily newspaper.

The reason for writing this article was to bring International conferences like the USID 2008 to the fore. Because of communities and summits that take us forward, user experience shall eventually be a best practice followed at every step of the way.

Enjoy reading this one! Make sure that you click on the image to see an enlarged view. :)



Friday, 29 August 2008

BBC Sports: An Experience

This has been contributed by Rajeev Chandrasekar, an employee of MindTree.

My favorite section of a web site would surely be http://news.bbc.co.uk/sport/

I am a sports freak and also an editor!
BBC's sports website is the best of its kind for its simplicity, accuracy of data and coverage of information world wide. We do have SkySports and EspnStar but BBC is way ahead in terms of the news structure as well as the design. If you look at their website, they have a very user-friendly interface. Everything on the web site is easily accessible. More importantly, they are the first to post any news update around the world, indicating that their coverage is phenomenal no matter where the location.

Thursday, 7 August 2008

Learning about Information Architecture

One of the most asked questions in discussion groups is about good references/ study material on Information Architecture, Usability etc. Here is a living list of such references:

Information Architecture:
  1. IA Institute: http://iainstitute.org/en/learn/
  2. Boxes and Arrows: http://www.boxesandarrows.com/ - they also have a newsletter which you can subscribe to.

Friday, 1 August 2008

Accessibility Testing: Underutilized Today

Making sure that your website or application is accessible to all types of users (like the vision, hearing, cognitive, literacy, and the physically impaired) makes room for argument as this maybe the most underutilized methodology that exists today in user experience.

The Human Judgment
Most of accessibility testing involves our human judgment of how we would like to test the website or the application. This judgment comes from our testing and analysis adopted.

We need to strive forward and now make room for people who deserve to use software.

Move it!
The Web Accessibility Initiative (WAI) of the World Wide Web Consortium (W3C) allows you to follow some guidelines that will help you in every step of your testing process. And if you do have the budget, invest in a tools called AccVerify, Bobby, or InFocus that will help you achieve this.

Looking for something free to begin with? Your best option is A Prompt.

Thursday, 31 July 2008

Types of Icons

While designing icons it's important to understand the different types of icons that you can create. These are Realistic, Representative, Symbolic - sometimes also classfied as below:

  • Realistic/ Representational: Recognizable, simplified images of an object or an action. Most of the icons in the real world are developed around this idea.
  • Abstract/ Representative: Highly simplified images in which the original object or action is reduced to graphical elements only. An example of showing thermometer as heat - heat does not equal thermometer. It's a representation of heat; Red = Stop;
  • Arbitrary/ Symbolic: are invented graphical constructions with no reference (except, possibly conceptual) to actual objects or actions. Database = Cylinder (I haven't seen a DB that looks like a cylinder)

A good reference and study material on icons: http://www.indiana.edu/~vdim/Icons/1Intro/intro.htm

Friday, 18 July 2008

Color Combinations

This has been contributed by Phalgun, an employee of MindTree.

My Favorite website for finding popular color combinations- http://kuler.adobe.com
It’s designed in Adobe Flex. There is an Adobe Air desktop application to download as well.

Anything in mind? Add on.

Friday, 11 July 2008

Adding Depth to the 8 Golden Rules of Interface Design (Shneiderman's rules for design)

Ben Shneiderman, the founding director of the Human-Computer Interaction Laboratory, focuses on the studies of information and visualization. His "Eight Golden Rules of Interface Design" is a guide to the principles of good interface design and information modeling.

His rules are self explanatory and practical.

1. Strive for consistency.
2. Enable frequent users to use shortcuts.
3. Offer informative feedback.
4. Design dialog to yield closure.
5. Offer simple error handling.
6. Permit easy reversal of actions.
7. Support internal locus of control.
8. Reduce short-term memory load.

In addition to these design principles, consider the following as well.

9. Match context and content to users.
10. Communicate the brand through information and visual design.
11. Map the information architecture to the branding assets.
12. Market content.
13. Culturally identify and map the users to its design.

Match context and content to users.
Every scenario driven design will have a context that supports the content. This should be mapped to the users who will be using it.

Communicate the brand through information and visual design.
The brand and its identity should be communicated in terms of what it is trying to do. Users will identify this through the information and the visual design.

Map the interface design to the branding assets.
The interface defines the layout and the hierarchy of content. This represents the taxonomy and the assets that the brand holds.

Market content.
Marketing content with what is being sold and what is being showcased is essential in terms of a) selling content b) selling products or services.

Culturally identify and map users to the design.
Through ethnographic/cultural studies, the context of the users are determined which helps identify and implement their behavior and the cultural nuances that exist.

Further thoughts? Add on.

Friday, 4 July 2008

Twittering My Life Away…

This has been contributed by Ujjwal Singh Grover, an employee of MindTree.

I want to share a slick web 2.0 application known as 'twitter' (http://twitter.com/) that allows to you to shoot short 140 character updates/response to people on what they are currently doing. It is one of those things that one would find completely frivolous and useless when one reads about it for the first time. You wonder, "Why would I want to do that?" Once you start using it and start following other people’s updates, it becomes extremely interesting and addictive.

It can also be tied to your IM so you can interact with twitter via Gtalk. There is no need to login to the website. It can also be tied up with your cell phone's text messaging so that you can always stay in touch with your updates. It’s fast becoming the telegraph system of the whole web 2.0 ecosystem since it offers an API (API is a way to build your new application using the infrastructure of twitter). That is, if I build a new application, I can use twitter as a pipe for communication between my users. As there is a restriction of 140 characters, one has to be very specific and concise which makes conversations on twitter very crisp.

You might think that it may be distracting to twit while working. But to me it serves as a tool to keep a tab on my own work 2 play ratio.

If you need to access me: http://twitter.com/ujj

Thoughts from Afshan Kirmani, User Experience Analyst

Targeting Different Markets
As compared to the west, this application can be used widely by other markets like India. Its popularity isn’t as high as it is in the other parts of the world. This could be because of several reasons like:

· The lack of informational knowledge
· The lack of motivation
· Poor targeting and marketing
· Poor internet connections

What we really need is the right knowledge, the awareness and the relevance of twitter today. Why would each market need this service? What would they use it for? What drives them towards it? This targeting is essential for a service to be widely known and used.

The whole system is built around conversations and with competitors like pownce, jaiku and plurk, twitter has several reasons to show itself off.

Friday, 27 June 2008

Championing the LUV of Design

This has been contributed by Swarupa Manjunatha, an employee of MindTree.

Netdiver Digital Culture Magazine. Yup! That’s it. A one stop shop for all you designers out there.

The website aims to stimulate creativity among all designers by publishing their content for over more than 10 years. It has a range of websites uploaded by individuals as well as organizations.

With news, events and editorials published regularly this website ensures that their target audience is well informed.

So what’s unique about it?
Everything. This website has hit its target audience right. With news, tools, illustrations, portfolios, competitions—yes, you have it all in there. Sometimes, we run around googling and hunting. That ends here. Visit this website and see how you can effectively progress in your daily work.

Most importantly, it keeps you updated about the news and happenings in the design industry worldwide. To keep you posted and in tune with the competition out there, this is it!

Something better on your mind?
In my opinion, Netdiver allows learners as well as professionals to gauge and contribute to the industry here. If you have something better in mind, send us the link. We would love to see what you have to share.

Your access to the website

Friday, 20 June 2008

Affinity Diagrams: Created With Users

What is an affinity diagram?
Affinity diagrams are created while brainstorming. In user experience it focuses on gathering and grouping user feedback. For example, when users think a certain way and in a certain direction, an affinity diagram is created to show this relationship pattern.

Why affinity? Because we seek to find relationships and groups, causing an “affinity” (attraction) towards related content.

A Pictorial Example of the Process:



When is it used?
Affinity diagrams are used during brainstorming sessions where ungrouped content is grouped together systematically.

Talking about the web, affinity diagrams are also most popularly created while analyzing complicated menu structures.

How is it created?
An affinity diagram should and must be created with your users.

Step 1. Brainstorming: Gathering ideas and content together should be the aim here. This is done to create a content dump.

Step 2. Reorganizing: Soon after creating a content dump, this content is reorganized together to make meaningful patterns. Here, things are grouped in front of users during interviews or focus group discussions. This way you can visualize groups of content in front of them.

Step 3. Elimination: Next, information is grouped and analyzed with team members. Users don’t always know what they want. They only provide direction. With project specific needs and requirements, this data can then be analyzed and patterns are created to help group content systemically.

Step 4. Grouping: From the data gathered and with the analysis completed, patterns are grouped and created. With this, the data is converted to information.

Step 5. Presentation: With the results available and the information gathered from users, this diagram is presented to clients to ensure that they have a heads up on the structure created.

Reaching Larger Heights
Affinity diagrams are used by business teams to group large amounts of data. It is also used in the field of user experience. Team members themselves brainstorm and reorganize data which may not provide user centric results.

Moving forward, we must aim to create these diagrams with the help of our users. We should take this opportunity to figure out patterns in the way our users think and behave.

Let’s practice!

Friday, 13 June 2008

Brand Experience in User Experience Design

There is a direct connection between customers’ perception of a company’s brand and the brand experience available through all customer-contact points— both online and offline. Defining, then consistently presenting a brand message increases the likelihood that a company can successfully deliver that message.

The 5 key elements to a customer centric culture by Forester research
- view customer experience as critical to meeting business goals
- share an accurate understanding of customers and their needs
- align company strategies with those customer needs
- support customer experience initiates from the top down
- have common goals across the organization

Some interesting pointers by Steve Baty
- recognizing that both online and offline customer experiences contribute to a brand image
- highlighting the importance of consistency between the customer experience across all touch-points
- working from the premise that an organization engages in a broad, complex set of interactions with its customers, of which the brand experience portrayed through its web sites is only one
- acknowledging the fact that a brand is inherently something we can only influence, not control

Reaching Larger Heights
As user experience designers and analysts, we need to begin working closely with business analysts and clients to provide them with what we know about user experience and in turn learn about brand experience which will help us build a team that satisfies end users with a powerful strategy that is determined by design, branding, and experience.
- make promises that a brand ends up keeping
- convert these brand promises to interaction requirements

Read more at:
Brand Experience in User Experience Design by Steve Baty

Brand Experience and the Web by Dirk Knemeyer

Branding and Usability By Jared M. Spool

Watch more at:
Forrester Research: Delivering A Great Customer Experience

8 Steps to Delivering an Exceptional Customer Experience

Forrester Research: Customer Experience = Competitive Weapon