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3 great ways to improve website usability

Monday, April 12th, 2010

web heatmap systems

They have been used for displaying areas of a Web page most frequently scanned by visitors, and allow you to understand how people are using your website. This is quite useful to find layouts that don’t work as intended or areas that should be changed.

heatmap screenshot

There are many open-source tools that you can integrate into your site, free solutions and paid services with enormous amounts of features. Just make a Google search, and check few most appropriate solutions.

user testing

There are few steps:
1. Understand what are your users, find out target group.
2. Establish use cases of your system, main flows of your system like: site sing-up, password recovery, post search, etc.
3. Ask some users from target group to go thru all use cases.

Few notes:
Check where users stuck and simplify the flow.
Ask simple questions, let them explain why they made something and if the result corresponded with the idea they had in mind.
Ask them what functionality your site lack?
Ask them what was hard to use on your site.

It can be hard to estimation how many users you may need for testing. Jeff Sauro wrote great article where explained why five users should be sufficient to find most of your interface problems.
Check it: http://www.measuringusability.com/five-users.php

log analysis/analytics

You can get a lot of useful information that can make your site better by analyzing information from logs or by installing external tracking tools.

Features that can help to improve site usability:
Visiting by days of week and rush hours,
Domains/countries of hosts visitors,
Most viewed posts and exit pages,
Browsers used,
HTTP errors,
Screen size, etc.

related links

Scrolling and Attention : http://www.useit.com/alertbox/scrolling-attention.html
Do users fail a task and still rate it as easy? : http://www.measuringusability.com/failed-sat.php

also I want to recommend 1 book that impressed me:
Steve Krug’s “Rocket Surgery Made Easy: The Do-It-Yourself Guide to Finding and Fixing Usability Problems”

3 new great book you should read

Friday, April 2nd, 2010


Jason Fried, and David Heinemeier Hansson’s | buy on Amazon

“Jason Fried and David Hansson follow their own advice in REWORK, laying bare the surprising philosophies at the core of 37signals’ success and inspiring us to put them into practice. There’s no jargon or filler here just hundreds of brilliantly simple rules for success. Part entrepreneurial handbook for the twenty-first century, part manifesto for anyone wondering how work really works in the modern age, REWORK is required reading for anyone tired of business platitudes.”
–Chris Anderson, New York Times bestselling author of THE LONG TAIL and FREE

The Laws of Simplicity

John Maeda’s | buy on Amazon

“Keep it simple, Stupid” is an old piece of advice, so much so that it’s often abbreviated as the “KISS principle.” But it’s advice that’s often ignored, and MIT Professor John Maeda aims to change that. . . . Designers and marketers will find Maeda’s book both interesting and useful….”
— New York Post

Rocket Surgery Made Easy: The Do-It-Yourself Guide to Finding and Fixing Usability Problems

Steve Krug’s | buy on Amazon

“It’s been known for years that usability testing can dramatically improve products. But with a typical price tag of $5,000 to $10,000 for a usability consultant to conduct each round of tests, it rarely happens.

In this how-to companion to Don’t Make Me Think: A Common Sense Approach to Web Usability, Steve Krug spells out an approach to usability testing that anyone can easily apply to their own web site, application, or other product.

By paring the process of testing and fixing products down to its essentials, Rocket Surgery makes it realistic for teams to test early and often, catching problems while it’s still easy to fix them. Rocket Surgery Made Easy adds demonstration videos to the proven mix of clear writing, before-and-after examples, witty illustrations, and practical advice that made Don’t Make Me Think so popular.“
– Amazon editorial

Tools for easy user-interface(UI) prototyping

Wednesday, March 17th, 2010


Every software development company needs special software to make prototypes of user-interface,
and it doesn’t mater if we do a new system or redesign of old one.
Often people say: they don’t need to prototype or they have special person for such tasks. Don’t believe them, it’s task of developers as well as writing tests.

If you still think differently about prototyping read famous book of Alan Kuper
“The Inmates Are Running the Asylum” : http://www.amazon.com/Inmates-Are-Running-Asylum/dp/0672316498

let’s do prototyping

On Interaction Design Association (IxDA) [http://www.ixda.org/] discussion forum we can find that people use almost any tool to do prototyping: ACD Canvas, Microsoft Word, SmartDraw, Inspiration, Microsoft Power Point, etc.

First of all forget about software for graphic manipulations like: Adobe photoshop or Corell draw, then about software that don’t have any connection to prototyping at all. With such software you will lose your time, and will think that prototyping is hard work for designers.

There are big amount of commercial software to prototype user-interfaces.

As famous commercial software I can note:
Axure: http://www.axure.com/
Adobe inDesign: http://www.adobe.com/products/indesign/
Omnigraffle: http://www.omnigroup.com/products/omnigraffle/
Pidoco: http://pidoco.com/en

great and free applications


site: http://www.evolus.vn/pencil/
* Multi-page document with background page
* Good text editing with rich-text supports
* Exporting to HTML, PNG, Openoffice.org document, Word document and PDF.
* Installing user-defined stencils and templates

pencil editor


site: http://gomockingbird.com/
* Multi-page document
* Good text editing
* Exporting to PNG, and PDF.

mockingbird editor

Balsamiq Mockups

site: http://www.balsamiq.com/products/mockups
* No multi-page document, and background
* Good text editing
* Exporting only to PNG
* Installing of user-defined elements only thru importing them as a pictures

additional feature: integration to popular project management tools

balsamiq editor

Still can’t select something

As start point try Pencil: http://www.evolus.vn/pencil/
It should meet all you basic expectations and save your money.

If you prefer to have commercial software that contain all features you ever wanted then try Axure:

New google design

Monday, March 15th, 2010

One of our developers had enough luck to see new Google design which is pretty simple and clean.
Sure he made few screen-shots and we glad to share it now with All World.

main screen:

SILK audio codec

search results screen:

new google design results screen

And surely we hope Google will approve it for mass use and tomorrow we will see it on almost any browser in the World.
Comments are welcome!

Phone that I will like

Friday, December 19th, 2008

Not every prototype will be brought to life, at least nowadays.
I like following prototypes of phone:

Not long time ago I though it would take years to make such phone.
But suddenly group of scientists from Korea Advanced Institute of Science and Technology have developed a chip almost completely transparent.

The chip uses a new TRRAM (transparent resistive random access memory) technology that’s presented by the American Institute of Physics in the latest issue of Applied Physics Letters.

Jung Won Seo says “It is a new milestone of transparent electronic systems”. “By integrating TRRAM device with other transparent electronic components, we can create a total see-through embedded electronic system.”

So we have a possibility to meet future very soon.

thanks to:
phone design from Yandko [http://www.yankodesign.com/2008/11/20/the-mac-is-back-with-a-double-dose-of-glass-phone-style-design]
Korea Advanced Institute of Science and Technology [http://link.aip.org/link/?APPLAB/93/223505/1]

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