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Showing posts with label interaction design. Show all posts
Showing posts with label interaction design. Show all posts

Friday, September 10, 2010

Lean Startup Customer Development And IxD Personas

On Quora Steve Blank asked "Is it possible to use Lean Startup customer development findings to inform IxD personas?" This post is my response to Steve on Quora:

Absolutely yes.

Pivoting is not just about finding the right business model that works for a start-up but it is also about nailing down the persona that you are designing your product for. I have seen many start-up fail because they don't know who the end user is. Creating a persona is an iterative process by itself. Many people focus on persona as a final artifact but I believe that the journey is more important than the destination. While discovering a persona and iterate on it to make it crisp, the team - the dev, marketing, and UX - comes together with the shared understanding of the target end user. The journey brings in the empathy that they all internalize and that influences what they do. The journey includes getting out of the office and talk to the real people who you think would use your product.

Persona requires qualitative discovery as well as validation. It's an instantiation of your customer. The customer discovery, validation, and creation are all directly related to the persona. In fact I would argue that in many cases knowing the target audience, at a given stage, is far more important than having a perfect product. Plenty of people fixate on building the right product against building it for the right people.

Friday, September 12, 2008

Google Chrome Design Principles

Many of you would have read the Google Chrome comic-strip and also would have test driven the browser. I have been following few blog posts that have been discussing the technical and business impact but let's take a moment and look at some of the fundamental architectural design principles behind this browser and its impact on the ecosystem of web developers.
  • Embrace uncertainty and chaos: Google does not expect people to play nice. There are billions of pages with unique code and rendering all of them perfectly is not what Google is after. Instead Chrome puts people in charge of shutting down pages (applications) that do not behave. Empowering people to pick what they want and allow them to filter out the bad experience is a great design approach.
  • Support the journey from pages to applications to the cloud: Google embraced the fact that the web is transitioning from pages to applications. Google took an application-centric approach to design the core architecture of Chrome and turned it into a gateway to the cloud and yet maintained the tab metaphor to help users transition through this journey.
  • Scale through parallelism: Chrome's architecture makes each application a separate process. This architecture would allow Chrome to better tap into the multi-core architecture if it gets enough help from an underlying operating system. Not choosing a multi-threaded architecture reinforces the fact that parallelism on the multi-core is the only way to scale. I see an opportunity in designing a multi-core adaptation layer for Chrome to improve process-context switching since it still relies on a scheduler to get access to a CPU core.
  • Don't change developers' behavior: JavaScript still dominates the web design. Instead of asking developers to code differently Google actually accelerated Javascript via their V8 virtual machine. One of the major adoption challenges of parallel computing is to compose applications to utilize the multi-core architecture. This composition requires developers to acquire and apply new skill set to write code differently.
  • Practice traditional wisdom: Java introduced a really good garbage collector that was part of the core language from day one and did not require developers to explicitly manage memory. Java also had a sandbox model for the Applets (client-side runtime) that made Applets secured. Google recognized this traditional wisdom and applied the same concepts to Javascript to make Chrome secured and memory-efficient.
  • Growing up as an organization: The Chrome team collaborated with Android to pick up webkit and did not build one on their own (actually this is not a common thing at Google). They used their existing search infrastructure to find the most relevant pages and tested Chrome against them. This makes it a good 80-20 browser (80% of the people always visit the same 20% of the pages). This approach demonstrates a high degree of cross-pollination. Google is growing up as an organization!

Monday, July 23, 2007

It will be all about criteria and not results

I haven't seen the search results user interface change a lot in the past few years and I don't expect any significant changes in coming years. Jakob Nielsen talks about what search results interface would look like in 2010 during a recent interview. I don't like to predict what will happen in 2010 but I do like to spot the trend and identify the opportunities to improve user experience in general and help improve search semantics. I firmly believe that the search results relevancy is likely to get better and better and we will certainly see more heuristics and machine learning to personalize results based on user's needs and importantly to understand the user's intentions in that moment. The search engine improvements are likely to shift from pure indexing science to better understand the search criteria to achieve relevant search results and there are plenty of opportunities in this area. The “Did you mean this?” correction is just the beginning. This is an area where psycholinguistics can contribute improve the search relevancy. Having said that, I do believe that there is plenty of room to improve the search/results interface and interaction model. Companies like ask.com are gearing their efforts in this direction. Semantic search engines haven't been that successful so far but this is also an area for an improvement in the overall search world.

The interview also brings up the fact that people are generally lazy, but I believe that given the right incentive people might be willing to express themselves better. Spelling and grammar correction is a good example. Though an overly enthusiastic interface asking a lot of information from a user is less likely to succeed. Jakob also talks about perceptual psychology and the ability of showing the images that users are expected to see and actually like and how this approach could turn into banner blindness. The multimedia search results are a big issue going forward as we see more and more user generated multimedia content. A picture is worth a thousand words and a video is worth a million. The images are easy to look at and to comprehend than the pure text but there are challenges on how to select the right images and the same is true with the videos. The video search is an interesting problem and there are many different evolving techniques such as meta information and audio scanning. We will see a lot of progress in this direction.

Monday, June 11, 2007

Visual Design versus Interaction Design

I have seen and participated into this debate many times - what design we should tackle first, visual or interaction? There is no one answer, but here are some thoughts. What we really need is a good framework in place during the design phase before we work on the details of any of these designs. The actual design cannot be accomplished until we have idioms, metaphors (for interaction design) and brand, visual theme (for visual design) etc. flushed out and agreed upon.

One designer describes visual design as skinning the wireframes to prevent the end of wireframes and hence death of interaction design. This is a bit extreme and many visual designers won't be thrilled with this opinion. Wireframes are good tools to document interactions and to get a quick validation via cognitive walkthroughs. Visual design is horizontal and it should be made sure that it is consistent across all the parts of an application so that they have the same visual appeal. Interaction design is vertical and could describe some very specific interaction scenarios for each set of pages.

Users would however recognize the visual design appeal first and may not even have direct appreciation for good interaction design until they figure out they can accomplish everything in an application without putting in a lot of thoughts. The visual design is easy to demonstrate than to document it and that's why people jump to photoshop since transformation of visual artifacts from photoshop to actual web-based application is not that difficult. On the other hand interaction design deals with data, user's intents and actions, feedback etc. There is no one-one relationship from wireframes to the actual screens but having detailed wireframes help developers establish good understanding of the interaction model and designer's expectations. We highly encourage that designers co-locate with developers but if that's not the case, especially for remote teams, documenting design is critical.

I am not trying to downplay the role of visual design - it is the "look" part of look and feel and it's not just about the skinning of wireframes. Visual designs need their frameworks too such as CSS, typography, symmetry, balance, etc. but there are many ways to slice and dice time on interaction and visual design in a project - these are not the alternatives at the same level. I don't want to stereotype developers, but most of the developers think that the only design that they need is visual design and not the interaction design since the discipline of interaction design is less known in the developer community. Alan Cooper's work, especially "The inmates are running the asylum", describes this conflict in detail. Developers follow "system model" as described by Don Norman which is essentially an implementation centric design. Designers should make every possible effort to document and emphasize the interaction design to achieve overall user experience. The visual design is, well visual, and developers are more likely to embrace it or even ask for it.
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