October 15, 2003

eBay Save Homes from "Fibber McGee's Closet" Syndrome


....Complicated stuff sold to unknowing public who, after beating heads against walls, squirrel it away in closets and pass it off to other rubes on eBay....

Read all about it in Seductive Electronic Gadgets Are Soon Forgotten

"People acquire these things — hand-held personal digital assistants, flatbed scanners, compact disc copiers and a host of other objects — because they promise to make life more efficient, more fun, or, some confess, simply because they appear to help them keep up with what their 'wired' friends and neighbors have.
But many such products are simply too complicated for their own good. And all too often, the buyers find that they cannot really change their lives just by acquiring something new and different."

"Ms. Kirschner, 52, has developed a theory, which she said applied not only to herself but to most anyone buying gadgets. "If the setup is hard and you're not sure why you need it, chances are it will head to the graveyard," she said. "If you really need it, by dogged determination you'll make that thing work."

- Fibber McGee's Closet
- Photo: Fibber McGee's Closet
- Don Norman: The Perils of Home Theater
Men say too many legit emails = spam

From He Spammed, She Spammed:

"Men were more frustrated, offended, by e-mails from companies they may have done business with but haven't given permission" for e-mail, said Scott Knoll, vice president of marketing solutions at New York-based DoubleClick.

"And even if they do give permission, men react strongly to getting too many e- mails from companies.

"Men tended to think being flooded by legitimate companies was more offensive to their sensibilities than receiving pornographic spam. The sheer quantity of legitimate but unwanted e-mail is turning men off to this marketing channel, Knoll said."
So What ARE the Defacto Web Standards Today?

"Web Design Practices is a site devoted to helping designers understand what design practices are currently in use on the Web—and aims to gather research about the usability of commonly-employed design practices."

The WDP site is excellent - great, valuable content in a nicely designed package!

October 14, 2003

Don Norman Interviewed on Emotional Design

BBC News has published an interview with "the Don" entitled "Technology to make you go 'wow'". In the interview, Norman summarizes some of the points he made in a talk I went to at the University of Minnesota; points that are surely expanded upon in his forthcoming book.

"He argues that the levels on which the brain works correspond with three different levels of design."

'The visceral level is the low biological level and there's where beauty comes in and appearances matter. 'On the surface something looks attractive and something feels good. That is very important and that makes the brain function differently.'

"On a visceral level, the brain is a little bit more creative so if there something does not work well, people are more willing to forgive it if they like it.

"Then there is the behavioural level which controls muscles, perception and language. It is at this level that usability and how something feels lie, something which he and his colleagues have examined in great detail.

But Dr Norman wants to move on and think at the deeper level of reflection, the level that dictates how we feel about things, he says.

'That is where having a good brand name matters. Having a good brand name has to earned because they stand for trust,' he says.

"Good design must incorporate all three levels, and that is what emotional design is all about."

You can pre-order Don Norman's upcoming book:
Great customer service example

I'm a Blogger user, but have only used the free service for quite some time. Blogger used to offer a for-fee service called "Blogger Pro." They recently changed the *free* service to include all the features of the "Pro" version and eliminated the Pro service. Naturally, those who'd been paying for the Pro version might get a bit miffed at this news, but the Blogger team has handled this well.

The announcement Evan at Blogger sent to Pro users amazed me. How many companies would do what they are doing: giving out sweatshirts or refunds (your choice)? If Google were a public company, they'd not likely want to give out refunds, but private companies don't have to worry so much about quarterly results and can do what's right for the long run.

Kudos to Evan and all the folks on the Blogger/Google team! Great attitude!

From the "Important Blogger Pro Announcement" (emphasis is mine):

"More importantly, I want to stress that we couldn't have gotten to where we are today without you. Pro subscribers helped keep us going as a struggling start-up, when servers and bandwidth were at an extreme premium. We wanted to keep basic Blogger free, but we needed to start charging in order to keep the lights on. So we built new things that would appeal to some Blogger users (namely, you).
Thanks to supportive people like yourself, this plan allowed us to grow and build a better service -- and, eventually, get us to much more stable ground. We're eternally grateful, and I hope you were happy with the relationship, as well.
Today, as you may know, Blogger's situation is much different. For one thing, we're part of Google. (If you missed that announcement, check the FAQ). Google has lots of computers and bandwidth. And Google believes blogs are important and good for the web.
This is a good thing.
So we're in the fortunate position of being able to give back to our users. Specifically, to each of you who paid for Pro (and never cancelled), we want to send you a Blogger hooded sweatshirt as a way of saying thanks. Just fill out this form* by October 1, 2003 to claim yours. (If you'd prefer to have a pro-rated refund instead, just let us know.)"
Presentation to UPA-MN Chapter on usability research

I gave a little presentation last night at our local UPA-MN chapter meeting. I discussed the role of research, highlighted some good resources for research, and also gave a quick run-down of some recent research I found interesting. The slides are available in PDF form

Drop me a note with your comments! (See my masked email address in the "About" box at left.)

October 13, 2003

Poorly designed user interfaces suck the ROI right out of enterprise software

In Pigeons can push random buttons, Rupert Goodwins makes a few good points about the lack of focus on usability in most enterprise software implementation projects:

"It continues to amaze me that twenty years after Apple showed the world what well-designed software looked like, most IT departments think the word "Usability" is shorthand for user stopping, activity blighting, information losing, irksome travesty...

"There is little point in shelling out six or seven figures on a major IT project in the name of efficiency if you never bother to find out whether the people who use it have a fighting chance of being efficient at their jobs. In the great scheme of business, everything boils down to what the employees do and how well they do it: that this never enters the design equation of IT projects is one of the great unmentioned sins of technology."

Working on a big system implementation? Do the right thing for your business: hire a usability consultant to make sure you're not wasting millions of dollars in development and user productivity.

October 12, 2003

Nokia's CEO says usability heart of their approach

In the Financial Times' Squaring up to usability at Nokia:
"Jorma Ollila, chairman and chief executive, says usability is 'at the heart' of the company's approach. He adds that it was one of the first to realise that ease of use had to become 'the main goal in design.' The company also describes design as 'a fundamental building block of the brand', adding that it is 'central to our product creation and is a core competence integrated into the entire company'. It thus devotes a considerable amount of time and money researching what customers will want and then designing products that are intended to fulfil these needs"

There you have it, from a CEO of a large company:
usability is the key to design, and design is key to the brand, AND THEREFORE, they invest heaviliy in User Centered Design. I knew this about Nokia because I keep running into Nokia folks at UPA and CHI conferences...