Get another perspective

“If you want a great site, you’ve got to test. After you’ve worked on a site for even a few weeks, you can’t see it freshly anymore. You know too much. The only way to find out if it really works is to test it.”
Steve Krug, Don’t Make Me Think: A Common Sense Approach to Web Usability


Design + Emotion = Great User Experiences

“What makes people passionate, pure and simple, is great experiences. If they have great experience with your product and they have great experiences with your service, they’re going to be passionate about your brand, they’re going to be committed to it. That’s how you build that kind of commitment.” – Jesse James Garrett

Interviewing users for usability studies

There are several questions associated with interviewing users. In my article User Interviews Demystified that I wrote for Objective Experience’s official blog, I have covered a few of them.

Good design makes you happy

The idea that mere hygiene in design can make people happy seems prepostourous. But think about it… how many times have you gone to badly designed app/ website and given up?

Designers intuition?

Human behaviour has always intrigued me. That’s perhaps why Dan Ariely’s book, Predictable Irrationality struck a chord with me. In this video, Dan Ariely explains in this TED talk of how it is important to test intuition. With 70% of his body burned, Dan had to endure the painful process of bandages being ripped off of him. The nurses felt that it was the best approach since they felt that ripping the bandages minimised the pain. Three years later, when he left hospital, Dan was able to run experiments by simulating his situation and found that the nurses, with all their good intentions and experience were, in fact, wrong.

As designers, we often are confident that our intuitions are right as opposed to anyone else’s. However, it’s important to test our designs, no matter how right they feel. There is a school of thought as Paul Boag points out in his article, who feels that excessive testing stifles innovation. I believe that if that the purpose of the product is clear and if it is pleasurable to use, users will eventually embrace the product, though it might seem disconcerting at first.

Six steps to getting a usability test right

Here are 6 quick steps to get your usability test on the way.


Plan ahead.  Decide when you want to run the usability study and work backwards from there. Have a kickoff meeting with your stakeholders to:

  • discuss the participant profile
  • determine the key tasks that need testing
  • walk through the prototype to be tested with the business/dev team.


Screen. Screen. Screen. Hand pick participants for whom the product is meant for. Selecting random participants for the usability test might not convince the business or tech team of the insights drawn from the study.


Get your questions ready. It’s all about asking the right questions. Structure questions that will help get to the bottom of things. Don’t assume that you understood what the participant said. Always ask “why?”


Plan a pilot. Do a dry run a day before the actual study.  Invite a stakeholder over to watch the session. That way, you can tweak your actual test based on your pilot. It’s a great way of ensuring that you have better findings.


Test. Always ensure you are at the test venue at least an hour earlier. Run a quick check on equipment, revise the script and run through the prototype to be tested. Murphy has known to be especially active in usability labs.


Get involved. Get your team to watch a few usability sessions. Get your stakeholders to join as well. Get your boss to join in. Seriously! Having people who are directly or indirectly connected to the product watch the sessions can have some great implications. Decisions that had been stuck within boardrooms are bound to be made in a jiffy.

Dyads and triads – qualitative research methodology

When exploring a effect of a product in a family setting, there are two perspectives that come into play. One of the family as a unit and the other of individuals within the family.  So why speak to just one person? Studying small groups of friends or family using a product in a familiar setting can yield qualitative insights that improve user experience.

More on this topic from my article, Gaining insight through Dyads and Triads on using the dyad and triad methodology which has been published on UX Magazine.


Skills that define a designer

I just received a mail from a head hunter looking for a UX Designer. The skills included were::

  • Visual design skill – latest trends, color and typography
  • Knowledge of the Adobe Creative Suite and prototyping tools
  • Web standards, usability best practices, and UI trends
  • Interaction design – wireframing, prototyping, HTML5, CSS3.

In fact the skills that designers need, as Whitney Hess aptly puts it in her blogpost , are

  • A proficiency in building empathy for customer needs
  • An aptitude for communicating with colleagues across organizational functions
  • The initiative to investigate a problem and generate a multitude of solutions for it
  • An eye for intuitiveness and simplicity
  • Knowledge of the features, benefits, and weaknesses of a vast array of programming languages and technology platforms
  • Diplomacy
  • Patience
  • Humility

In addition to these, a designer should have some exposure to research and have the ability to convince clients and stakeholders of design decisions.

Principles of persuasion

So your firm finally understands the importance of usability. They’ve hired a team of designers and spent a fortune on advertisements. There’s a small glitch though… customers aren’t doing what they are supposed to do i.e. buying the product that the firm has so sincerely promoted.

So how do you persuade people to actually purchase your product?

Social proof:  If all those people are doing it… there must be something to it

Social proof is the phenomenon of people imitating what other people are doing, especially when the situation is ambiguous.  We tend to look to others to validate a product. If people have recommended a hotel more than others, there is a greater chance that the hotel will be booked more often.

Reviews from other travelers help in the decision making process

Reviews from other travelers help in the decision making process

Susan Weinschenk, Phd., an expert in the science of persuasion, emphasizes the need to display peer reviews. People are more likely to imitate the behaviour of folks like themselves. The number of reviews help too, the more the reviews the more likely, people are to invest in the product/ service.

Reciprocity:  Do a good deed and the favour will be returned

People are more likely return a gift when they are given one, as they feel obliged to do so. As human beings, we have a natural urge to repay debts and return favours, ‘Do unto others as you would have them do to you’. In the online space, this could be seen as offering a trial to a product, offering compelling content or a service free of cost.  More often than not, people will be obliged to sign up for the product or service in question.

A free sign up promotes a sense of indebtedness among users

A free sign up promotes a sense of indebtedness among users, making it more likely for them to sign up for the premier service.

I hope this post on the principles of persuasion was helpful. In my next post, I will be sharing a few more principles of persuasion.

Concession: Comparison helps with decision making

To promote the decision making process, it is always good to present people with comparisons in price and features. It is more likely that people will buy when presented with a choice, especially when one of the options are considerably lower than the other.

One great example of this principle are the price displays in supermarkets.

Comparing prices is more likely to catch people's attention and help with decision making.

Comparing prices is more likely to catch people’s attention and help with decision making.

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