Seth Owings

Author: Seth Owings (page 1 of 2)

Gamification

What is it?

First and foremost, gamification is not a game, nor is it even necessarily fun. Gamification is the application of game design elements and game mechanics to non-game contexts and is typically used to improve:

  • Engagement with the product or service
  • Organizational productivity
  • Flow”, a concept popularized by Mihaly Csikszentmihalyi
  • Learning ability or the desire for learning
  • Ease of use

Three Basic Tenants

Variable Rewards

As users perform actions (e.g. post Tweets, upload photos, buy products, write reviews, etc.), they are validated by receiving likes, shares, upvotes, or other “rewards”. These serve to reinforce the action and encourage users to continue performing that action because they cannot predict how much “reward” they will receive and will constantly seek more.

Completion

Human nature is to seek to see things “whole”. Partially painted walls, half-done laundry, and incomplete DIY projects bother us and generally prompt us to continue until we or the environment around us feels “complete”.

Achievements & Prizes

These can be real or virtual. 4square used virtual badges and achievements to reinforce behavior, but air miles and cash prizes are common real rewards for other platforms.

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Agile is a Culture, not a Process

There are many Agile methodologies out there and many process flows and documentation on how to work. However, those processes are the byproduct of a culture; they’ve been documented after the fact, rather than created as a mandate and sent to the team. If you want to successfully implement Agile, it starts with your C-suite. Top-down support for a shift in the organizational culture is a requirement. Period. Then everyone under them and all the managers under those people and all the employees under those managers need to be empowered to begin making changes to the way they work.

Before you begin…

Shifting your entire organization to an Agile way of thinking and operating is a big deal and it is not going to happen overnight (or even after the first several projects). Make sure you’re ready before you take the leap. Ask yourself these questions: Are you (and, specifically, your management team) ready to:

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User Testing 101

There are dozens of different types of testing and hundreds of different methodologies out there. I’m going to focusing on the big three that we interact with in UX on a regular basis:

  • User Interviews
  • Usability Testing
  • A/B Testing

User Interviews

User interviews vary greatly depending on whether they are moderated or unmoderated, who wrote the script, and who is conducting the interview. This is a very soft science and a lot of care needs to go into how they are constructed. In general, you will have better results with moderated interviews because you can observe the participants’ body language, correct trains of thought before they derail completely, and ask probing questions when the participants hit on something interesting. So why would you do an unmoderated study, if you’re going to lose all of that insight and control? Unmoderated studies are easier to recruit for and they’re fast; for a lot of companies, it’s that simple. If you’re going to go the unmoderated route, UserTesting.com has a decent platform; but if you don’t have a lot of experience with this type of work, you may find it difficult to get usable feedback. Regardless of the path you take, here are a few things to consider:

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Don’t Fix What IS Broken

When you hear, “Don’t fix what isn’t broken”, you probably think of some iconic luddite from Hollywood; someone who is unwilling to acknowledge or unable to see the fault in the system and has no desire to address it. Unfortunately, sometimes this describes our clients–not every client and not every time–but many of you can probably name at least one project within the last year.

This post is all about why you shouldn’t actually try to fix the things that are broken.

But before I get started, I want to highlight a few exceptions:

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How should we be gathering requirements?

The Software Development Life Cycle

A quick Google search reveals that there is a fair amount of variation in the stages, how the stages are labeled, and even sometimes the activities happening within each stage. For the purpose of this post, I’m using the following model:

SDLC

 

In an earlier post, I talked about how UX fit into the development process and ways we could be adapting and improving collaboration. I feel like there is a lot that UX has brought to scene as our field has matured and there is a lot about solid UX principles that we can and should be leveraging in our design process/methodologies.

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When to “Ask”

The UX field is naturally focused on the user’s experience and that means that we sometimes identify conflicts between user needs and business needs. There was an anecdote floating around not too long ago that one of the Facebook redesigns improved the experience so much that people were able to get what they needed faster and spent less time on the site. Facebook is providing their product for free to its users, thus it makes all of it’s money off of advertising revenue. Therefore, people spending less time on the site translates directly into Facebook making less money. They quickly released another update that was “even better”, but looked a whole lot like the original newsfeed. I’m not a heavy Facebook user, so I couldn’t tell you if this was true from my personal experience and I have not seen any data–though I doubt they’re keen on releasing that.

As someone who cares passionately about the user’s experience, I really dislike when the business gets in the way of good product design. Most often, this happens when there is a specific behavior that the business must see (e.g. session duration or ad exposure for Facebook). The trick is to find the right way to present your value, so that when you do ask for the behavior, users are more than willing to comply.

How do we ask for the behavior without sacrificing the user experience?

The answer to that question is driven by these:

  1. What problem is this user trying to solve with the product?
  2. What behavior does the business need to see in order to make money?
  3. When have we sufficiently proven the product’s value through the experience to justify the ask ?

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Scenario-Driven Design

We will sometimes get hung up on labels, but whether you call them scenarios or journey maps, or user flows; what I’m referring to here is the situation in which someone is engaging with your product.

Kim Goodwin had a great conversation with Jared Spool on scenario-driven design here. It’s only 30 minutes and well worth listening to, but here is the transcript if you prefer the written word.

Why should you care about scenarios?

Moore’s Law is still holding and as technology is rapidly advancing, we cannot accurately predict how tomorrow will solve today’s problems. Therefore, it is unrealistic to expect everything we build today to work for tomorrow’s users.

This is where I feel like scenarios can give us an edge in our design: by increasing the time to obsolescence.

If we design for features first (without considering the scenario), then we’ve really only addressed the symptom of the user’s true problem. That means all someone else has to do is actually solve the problem and their product will be superior, even if we have the better features. Users don’t want features, they want solutions to their problems.

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UX Strategy Blueprint

Originally posted on Experiencing Information:

How do we consistently create UX strategy? Tough question.

Part of the problem is in the fuzziness of the term “strategy” itself. Many people blur it with detailed planning. Others consider strategy to be in-depth investigation, such as market research or competitor comparisons. Or, it gets conflated with vision or ambition.

None of these is strategy.

Strategy is about uncovering the key challenges in a situation and devising a way of coordinating effort to overcome them for a desired outcome. It’s an interlocking set of choices that aligns activity and shows causality: if we do this, then we expect to see that.

Analysis and planning, while necessary inputs and outputs in the strategy creation process, are not the core of strategy. You can’t analyze your way to strategy: the answers don’t magically emerge from data. And detailed roadmaps don’t provide the rationale for the activity they organize. Strategy does. It connects analysis and planning with an intentional logic that guides decision making.

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Why are my users losing interest?

I was asked to determine why the clickthrough rate on an eNewsletter was decreasing in recent months. As with many such questions, BJ Fogg’s Behavior Model is a great place to start:

B=MAT
Behavior = Motivation + Ability + Trigger

Some behaviors are more difficult to perform; or, in the case of product design, elicit from users. Regardless of the difficulty, their must be adequate motivation for the user to perform the task, the user must have the physical/mental/emotional ability to perform the task, and there must be a trigger to prompt the execution of the task. Additionally, all three of these must occur at the same time in order for the behavior to occur.

If the combined weight of these three factors does not meet the difficulty threshold for the task (at the time the the task needs to be performed), then the behavior will not occur. For example, imagine you want to wake up an hour earlier than usual in order to exercise:

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The Paradox of Choice

More is better, right? Not really. Barry Schwartz has written an entire book on the subject, entitled The Paradox of Choice: Why more is less. In his book, Schwartz highlights two major drawbacks to having more choice:

  1. More options create decision paralysis
  2. We are ultimately less satisfied with the choices we make

More options create decision paralysis

Daniel Kahneman, another psychologist, is most well known for writing Thinking: Fast and Slow which popularized a dual process model explaining perception and decision making in two distinct systems:

  • System 1
  • System 2

Not exactly creative names, but they serve their purpose.

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