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Our very own Art Director & CTO, Luke Swenson, was able to catch up with Steve Portigal at the Los Angeles User Experience Meetup&IxDA organized by Crystal Ehrlich. Steve was able to give us (and you, our readers) a great deal of information about user research, and if you’re not sure just how important that research really is, his interview is more than worth a few minutes of your time.User research is probably one of the least understood aspects of business, particularly when it comes to user design, or even product value and utility. Steve points out that just because you can make something, that doesn’t immediately mean that it’s worth making. Does it answer the needs or problem of the ultimate end user? That’s one thing that user research excels at doing – ferreting out the answers to questions like “how does it help our users” and “what need does it fill for our users”. User design is, after all, about the users. View the full article on UXmag.comSteve was very direct in his answers, especially on some of the most important topics out there today, and happily expanded on several vital points. Quite a few questions abound on exactly what types of user research even exist – Steve managed to pack a lot of information into his response. He was also particularly enlightening on when you should invest in user research. [newslettersignup]If you’d like to read the entire interview with Steve Portigal, you can catch it over at UX Magazine. You should also make sure to check out Steve’s book, Interviewing Users: How to Uncover Compelling Insights. Not only is it a great read, but it’s very illuminating when it comes to really digging into how to interview users and conduct research while asking the right kinds of questions.
Media Contour is proud to announce that we’ll be regular contributors to UX Magazine. Our series of interviews with industry leaders and innovators will be featured within the magazine. We’re pleased with this achievement, and very happy to be part of the UX Magazine family. If you’re not familiar with UX Mag, it’s an online magazine dedicated design excellence, usability, technological evolution, interface design and other areas.Our interview series has already included some big names. We have spoken with Jessica DuVerneay, Steve Portigal, Susan Weinschenk, Christopher Noessel, Alberta Soranzo and Maggie Hendrie and Don Norman thus far, and there are more slated. The interview series is geared for helping anyone with an interest in web design understand the ongoing evolution of technology, industry best practices, different techniques and tactics for achieving the right style and usability, and a great deal more.[newslettersignup]As the series progresses, it will include further topics, helping to ensure that readers are able to innovate with interactive design, improve responsive design skills and prepare for new technology coming down the pipe. Our interviews will feature regularly within the magazine’s pages (you can check out our interview with Steve Portigal and Don Norman). Of course, don’t read the magazine just for our interviews. There is plenty of other great content to inform, educate, illuminate and lead you to better results. If you have questions involving anything related to user design, chances are good that you’ll find several articles, news stories or op/ed pieces that offer insight and information. The magazine’s mission is “to be the destination for people and companies looking to understand the value of experience-orientation, and to learn the tactics and strategies behind successful user and customer experiences,” and we’re immensely proud to be a part of this worthy initiative.
There is a lot of debate over how much your website design and user experience (UX) actually matter when it comes to online conversions. While some people swear by elaborate, flashy designs that wow users and keep them engaged, others maintain that keeping everything minimal and clean will naturally result in better conversions. Does a minimal website design really improve website conversions?
A minimal website naturally improves website conversions because it removes the barriers to action. A minimal website has only the core or essential components, reducing confusion and distraction. Minimal designs focus on simplicity by eliminating distractions, making messages clear and navigation easy, so visitors know where to go and what to do next. The main objective of minimal web design is to make the content stand out clearly without 'pushing' anything else onto users/visitors - no gratuitous animations or special effects that might distract them from actually reading your valuable content. Animations can be fun and engaging without being distracting. They can, and must have a purpose or they should be removed. Ask yourself, if it is adding to the clarity of your message?
If your website and message, are too complicated, then maybe so is your business. By creating a simple, easy-to-navigate website, you'll be sending your visitors the message that you have clarity, leadership which ultimately builds trust. Minimal websites build customer trust when you need to demonstrate product quality without confusion. This helps your users focus on what matters, making their path to conversion smoother. By eliminating distractions and features that are not essential to the website's goals, you'll be able to focus on one thing only - improving conversions.When people visit websites, they make split-second decisions about whether it meets their needs and to which content they should pay attention. As such, users need to understand your website in seconds, not minutes. Minimal websites are designed in a way that "forces" visitors to focus on the content, not everything else around it.
Minimal design is effortless to digest which makes users happier when they visit your website and spend more time browsing through your site's pages. Simplicity is also comforting for both the business owner and the user. Since minimal designs focus on ease and clarity, users aren't confused by complicated structures or distracted by too many elements vying for their attention at once. This helps your users find what they are looking for faster because it doesn't distract them with other things instead of the core purpose of the website - to convert leads into paying customers.In conclusion, a minimalist website design improves website conversions by removing barriers to action, reducing confusion and distraction, and allowing users to focus on your message. Plus, it shows clarity and leadership – a direct reflection of your business. Ultimately, focused attention accelerates user comprehension and action. What are some of your favorite minimalist websites? Let us know in the comments below!Reach out to learn more about minimalist web design or get started with one for your own business. And don’t forget to comment below with your favorite minimalist websites!
We at Media Contour would like to pause for a moment and give credit where it’s due. Our very own Matt Dandurand has just passed and received Google Analytics Academy certification. Congratulations, Matt! Google Analytics remains the most powerful suite of tools for measuring and tracking online performance. However, it requires considerable expertise and study to master. Most of those who use Google Analytics have only passing familiarity with its true capabilities, and most are self-taught, which while admirable, leaves a great deal uncovered. By undergoing official training through the Google Analytics Academy, Matt was able to engage in lessons from true experts, including those developed by Justin Cutroni (Google’s own self-styled Analytics Evangelist). Google Analytics Academy is the search engine giant’s education arm, offering the Digital Analytics Fundamentals course. Matt completed the course and earned his certification after mastering topics that included building an effective measurement plan, actionable data collection best practices, understanding key digital measurement concepts and analysis techniques, and understanding Google Analytics reports for digital marketing performance evaluation.The course consists of six units total, followed by a final assessment:
Life has become a science fiction movie. Ok, while that may be a bold claim, current trends in technology have pointed toward a world where humans and machines interact in a fantasy, movie-esque fashion. Screens can now recognize faces and fingerprints and the Google glass project has turned glasses into fully functioning computers. This emerging trend can be better defined as gesture recognition or language technology. Since there are so many devices that now incorporate gestures into the user experience it is vital to ask the questions of where does this take us? and can the movements of humans be patented?Before we begin the dive into theorizing what the future of gesture recognition technology has in store for all of mankind; we should first explore where these things are most present. The two biggest devices which support this emerging trend of interaction are smart phones and televisions. The blink of an eye, the wave of a hand and much more are ways that humans friend their technology per say. The Google glass, while not so much based off gestures, is important to bring into the discussion because it is the first of its kind; essentially a wearable computer.
For smart phones it all began with the touch screens. This allowed finger motions such as swipes and taps to become the norm for advancing user experiences. The next step as seen with the latest model of the Samsung Galaxy is the detection of when a user is looking at their phone. The campaign for the Samsung Galaxy S4 includes a commercial which boasts the phone's ability to pause video when a user looks away. The Galaxy S4 also supports a wide array of touchless gestures where a user can simply shape things over the phone with his or her fingers and the phone responds. This could be the reason behind the heavily-fueled rumor that Apple's newest iPhone will feature an eyeball recognition locking system. Voice commands, although are not gestures, have become popular with many phone companies as it allows users to be completely hands free regardless of whether the fingers touch the phone or hover above it.
In conjunction with its newest Galaxy model Samsung is also spearheading the future of television interaction. Its new SmartTV, as the commercial campaign boasts, can be controlled by voice and hand motions. Simply waving one's hand in front of the screen in predetermined motions act as a mouse or remote when choosing things on the screen. The voice command can simply be used to shout out the name of desired program. Although this may not necessarily be the first time that a television has had this capability it definitely appears to be the most fluid working.
The Google glass project is still in the early stages as it is not available nationwide in stores yet. The glasses are mostly limited to developers and people who have written Google personally and then Google decided whether to grant the privilege of owning them or not. These go beyond gesture technology because they are wearable and the user doesn't necessarily even have to make gestures. It is a lens that projects all the information one would want from their phone directly in front of them. Text message, phone call or GPS; the Google glass can do these things easily from a voice command.
The future of this technology is hard to predict because with any technology, it is always changing. The horizon is a little blurry but one can make the assumption that it will only continue to develop and eventually turn into voice command technology. These two have already been integrated together but the point of technology is to be able to use it without thinking about it. Whatever that secret may be is what the future is going to be. Wearable tends to be the forerunner right now with Google glass becoming popular and the rumor of Apple releasing an iWatch next year. It will be interesting to see where technology takes us because it is just as important to remember to stay human. Google has also been talking about making a car and with the Siri integration in others; technology and our phones have entered into every part of our lives. Perhaps there will come a day we will be able to speak things and they will just happen all in part to devices being able to completely understand our meanings.
The LA UX Meetup on August 15 was just as much a lesson in psychology as it was an insight into user experiences and web design. The Los Angeles web design community was lucky enough to learn from Dr. Susan Weinschenk as she discussed her new book "How to Get People to Do Stuff".In addition to her Ph.D., Dr. Weinschenk has over 30 years of experience in behavioral psychology. She applies the discipline of neuroscience to figure out what it is that makes people tick and why they make the decisions they do. Clients have sought her help to implement plans of better communication and persuasion with customers. She has researched and written about ways to persuade for websites, presentations and many other mediums. The seven drivers of motivation highlighted at this LA UX Meetup were supported by her examples and inspired the web design community in attendance. Let's take a look at them:
"There's research that shows us that the brain processes information best in story format, people will understand it better, they will remember it longer and they will be most emotionally impacted by the information if it's in story format," Weinschenk begins on her first driver of motivation. She notes that this is something most people are already aware of and goes on to explain the other aspect of power in stories, "We have stories that we tell ourselves, we have self-stories." Self-stories are significant because it is how we communicate ourselves to others. If a company can change an individual's self-story than it has the power to change that individual's behavior or buying process. Her example was illustrated through her story about how she was once a PC person and then converted into an Apple person. Her first purchase was an iPod Nano. That caused a “crack” in her self-story of not being an Apple person. Now she was kind of an Apple person, which led to her purchase of the iPhone. Apple was able to change her self-story by getting her to purchase one product and then to purchase another and more. She concluded by saying she now owns an iPad, Macbook and Mac desktop computer and even an Apple TV.
This second motivator dealt with the unconscious and how we perceive things in daily life. Dr. Weinschenk shared Daniel Kahneman’s categories from his book “Thinking Fast and Slow. There are two types of thinking: 'system one' and 'system two' thinking. "System One thinking is quick, intuitive...effortless," explains Dr. Weinschenk, "that's our normal mode, we walk around all day thinking like this, most of the time." She then showed a video to display the difference between these two systems of thinking. When you are thinking in a system two mode your eyes tend to dilate because of the heavy, more focused thinking. Another insightful note Dr. Weinschenk presented during this portion was "Most mental processing is unconscious."
This portion was a nice lesson on the different parts of the brain and how they affect behavior. Humans all have three basic instincts: food, sex, and danger, and in order to motivate people to do things; these instincts can be tapped in finding different ways to reach people at a level in which we all share these basic human instincts.
This motivating factor is based on rewards. She uses an example of how a casino gives rewards to winners, but not every time. She warns, however, that of the seven motivators this is the weakest one, "It's probably one of the less powerful techniques that I am talking about...use some of these other things, the power of stories, instincts." She also warns that one should not use punishment because that only discourages, "It's one of the least effective things you can do," she said. Rewards are much more beneficial and are more effective in getting more of a behavior than punishment..
"We have an inherent need to belong to a group. We want to be social. We want to belong to groups. We are social animals," Dr. Weinschenk said following a nice display in which she invited seven members from the audience to participate. Each member had a different percussion instrument. At first the sound was the very dissonant but as the group members looked around at each other, the sounds became more synchronous. This is tied to getting people to do stuff through the need to connect. People want to trust each other and the best way to get someone to trust is you is for you to first show them that you trust them. Once trust is established it gives companies and clients the chance to maintain a relationship which can continually improve business.
This motivator refers to how people like to learn new skills and gain knowledge of new practices. This is a way to motivate people because it allows them to grow and reach new heights and will ultimately benefit them. Clients will become more loyal to your products and services once they see they are progressing in their skills and knowledge with a product. Achieving and learning new things establishes a sense of pride that allows people to brag and talk more about your company.
The easiest way to create a new habit is to anchor to an existing habit explained Dr. Weinshcenk. New habits can form in less than a week by using this anchoring technique. Breaking things into small steps is important to getting people to develop new habits.The Los Angeles web design community sure had a lot to learn and apply after this informational session with Dr. Susan Weinschenk. Many thanks to the LA UX Meetup, Santa Barbara UX Meetup and the UX Book Club of Los Angelesfor hosting Dr. Weinschenk. Also thanks to the venue hosts at Cross Campus in Santa Monica.If you would like to learn more about the 7 drivers of motivation be sure to check out Dr. Susan Weinschenk's new book "How to Get People to Do Stuff". This is her latest book and base for the night's presentation but it is one of several other great books she has written, give them all a read!For Part 1 of 2, the Susan Weinschenk INTERVIEW click here.
The LA UX Meetup on August 15 was just as much a lesson in psychology as it was an insight into user experiences and web design. The Los Angeles web design community was lucky enough to learn from Dr. Susan Weinschenk as she discussed her new book "How to Get People to Do Stuff". However, the night was not a shameless plug for her book but instead it was a thorough explanation of her researched and studied seven drivers of motivation. The Media Contour team conducted a pre-show interview with Dr. Weinschenk focusing on user experience and marketing. Here's what the team discovered:
"Really it depends on who are the people, what is the situation, the context and what it is you want them to do," begins Dr. Weinschenk when asked which of the seven drivers is most important in targeting key demographics. She continues by explaining how it is wise to not use all seven of the motivators in one design, "We can start filtering out the ones that probably are not going to be real effective and the ones that are going to be the most powerful."
Dr. Weinschenk proposes these important questions for web designers to consider when creating content that will convert users into buyers, "Who is it that you're trying to get to do stuff? What is it that they want to do? So the website example, they're coming to the website for a reason. What is their reason for coming? What is your reason, what do you want them to do and what is the reason for that as the owner of the website? Because often those things don't match." She used an apartment finding website as an example to detail how the seven drivers can influence the browser to register information with the website. She explains how there is always a moment when the user is on a certain page and it is then up to the web designer to have the right information on this page; it seems to follow the right place, right time principle.
"In general it is a good idea, there are a lot of reasons it would be a good idea. For example, reciprocity, right? You're giving me something for free and therefore I will feel, unconsciously, somewhat indebted to you to do something about it, to do something with it. But that only works if I consider it valuable, right? I think what happens is that some people sign up for thirty day trials but they don't really want it," Dr. Weinschenk said. Sometimes a thirty day trial can be effective but for users it is mostly just a “going through the motions” type of thought and something they may not remember signing up for later. Social validation, "to do what other people are doing", Weinschenk explains is one of several ways that a thirty day trial can be effective. Let people know how many other people have used the product in the trial version. Another reason people may like thirty day trials is for the sense of progress. They are learning the product. It is important for the web designer to remind users that they have downloaded the product, and how many days they have left -- offer sessions to get people to more fully use the trial.
The biggest driver of motivation to get people to evangelize about your website or topic is the need to belong. Once people feel a connection to your brand and notice that other people feel the same way, then it is possible for them to make everyone else aware of the satisfaction they have in dealing with your business or website. The excitement of the evangelist is also important, how one conveys emotion about a brand. She also noted that people like to pass along new ideas and brands because it makes them feel "smart" or "savvy".The MC team learned a wealth of knowledge in the pre-show interview and the presentation only added to the wealth. After the show followed a book signing and allowed guests to further discuss what they learned with Dr. Susan WeinschenkThe Los Angeles web design community sure had a lot to learn and apply after this informational session with Dr. Susan Weinschenk. Many thanks to the LA UX Meetup, Santa Barbara UX Meetup and the UX Book Club of Los Angelesfor hosting Dr. Weinschenk. Also thanks to the venue hosts at Cross Campus in Santa Monica.If you would like to learn more about the 7 drivers of motivation be sure to check out Dr. Susan Weinschenk's new book "How to Get People to Do Stuff". This is her latest book and base for the night's presentation but it is one of several other great books she has written, give them all a read! Check out our recap of Susan's presentation (PART 2).
Last month's Los Angeles User Experience Meetup event regarding Taxonomy offered the Media Contour team an excellent opportunity to learn about and develop a better understanding of website taxonomy. Media Contour had the chance to conduct a pre-show interview with speakers Jessica DuVerneay and Alberta Soranzo.Jessica DuVerneay is an information architect at the Understanding Group. Alberta Soranzo is both the manager of user experience and strategy at the UCLA Center for Health Policy and Research and senior information architect at the RFK Center for Justice and Human Rights. They are both highly regarded in the fields of information architecture and user experience. Below are excerpts from the interview which cover the main ideas of their presentation.
JESSICA DUVERNEAY: The first thing I want to say is that it's not something you just add to your project. It's not like if you get this service you should get this service too, and if you get wireframes, you might as well get functional specs. At least that’s the way that I look at it. It’s like, is it even a problem? For some clients it may not be a problem. If you're working in a really small property and your language is very clear, very domain specific or there's industry standards that are really easy to follow, not everybody needs a taxonomy. It is more for you know the thing that I'm seeing, why it's really relevant right now is because so many people are taking their old kind of main site and they are trying, they are realizing that the strategy of creating 15 micro-sites each time they have a new launch or a new iteration of a product. It has not been serving them well because they have confusing language. Something is called a shirt over here, it is called a blouse over here. You can't track SEO events. And really, I mean if you are going to look at it from a high level taxonomy, it just gives you an agreed upon structure that increases learnability and the findability of the your content on your website. That is the high level answer.
“Something is called a shirt over here, it is called a blouse over here. You can't track SEO events.” Jessica Duverneay
ALBERTA SORANZO: I think it is tricky because we use the word 'taxonomy' which is a scientific word. And so if you look at taxonomies in science, you think of taxonomy as a categorization. That is generally how people understand it. In sciences the categorization of things is relatively simple because we construct families and you can easily place objects in one group rather than another. When we think of a taxonomy for a website, we deal with meaning and perception, which are highly subjective concepts. Which is why research—reviewing existing taxonomies, keyword research, user and vernacular research, is crucial to building a meaningful taxonomy. The goal, when building taxonomies, is to essentially identify and outline a consensus of meanings.
JESSICA DUVERNEAY: We have had clients come to us and say we need a taxonomy. “When our team is writing an article they are using eight different words for the same thing in the article titles and it is really confusing to our consumers.” My consultancy never really try to sell taxonomy. Clients come to us with their problems and we say here are the activities that we can do to mitigate these issues. So somebody comes to us and they do not know what to label things. We have all these different things and they are called different things in different places. We are like, oh, it sounds like you might need some taxonomy work then it is our job to do the burden of proof -- here is why this is a problem and here is a case study where this has helped a client in the past.This pre-show interview was the perfect lead into this beginning / mid level practitioner-focused event. A case study was presented to provide an example of how to create and implement a successful taxonomy. A tool demo and peer to peer learning activity provided the chance for audience members to learn through application. The speakers and the audience members acted as one in the peer to peer learning group to help fully realize everything taxonomy has to offer for a website. Overall it was an excellent opportunity for the members of the Los Angeles Web Design Community to learn about taxonomy. Many thanks to Jessica DuVerneay and Alberta Soranzo and the The Los Angeles User Experience Meetup. A stream of the event can be found here: http://vimeo.com/66485666.http://vimeo.com/66485666
The Los Angeles web design community focused on the future of interaction design last week at Art Center in Pasadena. Two speakers took the stage to discuss what users can expect in the near future for user experience (UX), interaction and visual design. The first speaker, Maggie Hendrie, is a user experience designer and educator, who is the Chair of Interaction Design at Art Center. She highlighted some student and graduate work from Art Center IxD students to see how social and creativity have become central to their practice. The main speaker of the night was Christopher Noessel (@chrisnoessel) who recently co-authored the book Make It So: Interaction Design Lessons from Sci-Fi. He discussed the relationship of design to science fiction, and how sci-fi continuously inspires people to be more innovative with interaction design. The Media Contour team had the opportunity to sit down and talk with both before the show, here are the main ideas:
The first topic Luke Swenson asked the pair to talk about was what is next after mobile design. He noted an increase in business for website design on a mobile interface but what's the next big technology that will further improve user interaction?Chris Noessel is excited about future technologies and began, "I think that the Leap Motion millimeter-wave gesture recognition is going to be super promising. Now that we can read fingers it's going to get a lot more interesting as far as gesture recognition, and we'll be able to maybe even sort of meet sci-fi at what sci-fi has been promising for that sort of thing."Gesture based technologies sound fun and futuristic but it’s not what Noessel is most excited about. He is interested in eyes. "I am most excited about our eyes because there are two technologies that, I believe, are on the verge of breaking through, that is going to change our experience with technology. One is “gaze monitoring.” It’s been around in art for twenty years." He then explained the method of how it works, involving infrared LED monitors that triangulate gaze. As a pointer on a screen, this would be far more efficient than a mouse. "I think we'll be able to relate to computers a lot more when they know where we're looking, especially given that we're entering a world of multiple devices, multiple screens, and multiple touch points. Knowing where I'm looking is pretty critical and computers will be able to know that," said Noessel.
The discussion of future technologies led to trying to discover how customers will be reached by brands in the coming years. Many references to the Google Glass project were made because of the bridge it has built between mobile interfaces and a eye-projected interface.Maggie Hendrie began with this important point to consider, "A lot of technologies exist today that we just don't use. So near frequency, RFID, Bluetooth..you know the fact that we still have so many connectors instead of bluetooth-ing a lot more is kind of untapped but I do agree that the opportunity to have a personalized, visual experience is new for people. People have had the data experience or a promotional experience or a mobile experience but they haven't had an immersive visual experience outside of gaming and it could naturally focus our attention in a way that our devices used to distract our attention."Hendrie theorized another good point after she had brought up the patent case issue between tech-giants Apple and Samsung. The issue was over a patent Apple had made for its "pinch" screen gesture which led to Hendrie asking "What happens when people patent our gestures?" She continued, "There's an increased understanding of the connection between design innovation and IP creation, right? A lot more people are investing in IP creation, they're beginning to invest in design innovation." Her next call was for designers to be conscious of picking the best medium for their work. In science fiction technologies are functioning in an ideal world where the technology in real life is just now being realized. "Again I think that's going to be the role of designers is choosing the right interactive medium for the desired outcome."
The last major idea Luke asked Chris Noessel and Maggie Hendrie to touch points on was how a business can conceptualize ways to use technologies to reach consumers. It may be hard for a client to understand the best way to implement new technologies into marketing efforts and ultimately what will the adoption curve rate be of these new technologies.Noessel began, "We often ask our clients to do one of two things. One: Imagine its sci-fi...sci-fi is a language in and of itself. For example, imagine it’s in Minority Report, or imagine it’s in Star Wars. That frees them up from the constraints of “what can be done” to what would be awesome? What would be useful?"Hendrie added that when meeting with clients there are always two big questions to ask and consider. The first question is "What business are you in?" and the second is "What kind of organization are you?" It comes down to what kind of opportunities are available to your type of organization.
The round table interview ended on a positive note with many delightful insights on the future of technology as a business tool. Many thanks to Art Center in Pasadena and Jon Fox and Petra Wennberg Cesario of NorthEast LA User Experience (NELAUX) group who made it possible to interview Maggie Hendrie and Chris Noessel.Christopher Noessel's new book Make It So: Interaction Design Lessons from Sci-Fi is available on (http://rosenfeldmedia.com/books/make-it-so/)