Category Archives: UX Design

10 common UX mistakes startups make … and how to avoid them!

A positive user experience can transform your business. Here Laurence McCahill, co-founder of Spook Studio, comes up with 10 essential tips to put you on the right track for a better customer experience

‘How can I improve the user experience of my website/app?’ A frequently asked question and one that doesn’t have a standard response. Thankfully there are some steps you can follow to ensure that a customer’s experience of your product is a positive one. Here I’ll be highlighting some common mistakes we regularly come across that can easily be avoided.

So, why should we care about user experience?

Well it’s been proven that a positive user experience can transform your business by improving the quality of your products and, as a result, the satisfaction of your customers. If you have a great product that people love, then your marketing team’s job will be easier; customer support enquiries will be reduced to a minimum; and the positive PR it generates will give your company a great foundation for future growth.

Similarly, a negative experience can have a damaging effect. As we all know, bad news can spread like wildfire. Unhappy customers can be a poison that can really harm your brand. Ryanair anyone?

I love this quote below from startup guru Dharmesh Shah:

10 common UX mistakes startups make ... and how to avoid them! | Feature | .net magazine

It’s more difficult to make unhappy customers happy than to create happy customers in the first place. The point he’s trying to make is that it’s not just about investing in the product or a world-class customer service team to support it. It should be an end-to-end process, a mindset, a culture.

UX as part of the wider customer experience

Smart companies are now placing customer value at the heart of their organisation by developing a company-wide experience strategy – one that crosses UX, branding and marketing, with the goal of creating a uniform experience for customers across all ‘touch points’ of their company.

Many companies in the past have made the mistake of thinking it was OK if their website wasn’t particularly easy to use because their offline offering made up for it. Unfortunately it’s no longer acceptable to treat your customers in this way and deliver them a sloppy product. Every touch point with your customer is marketing. It’s a competitive world out there and other, more innovative players are looking for opportunities that arise where people are receiving a second-rate experience.

Uniform customer experiences are so rare that when they do happen, they surprise and delight. Companies that come to mind include Ocado, Apple, Innocent Drinks; as well as more recent startups moo.com (the online printers) and Graze.com (healthy snacks by post) – organisations that are passionate about the products they sell and really value their customers. And believe me, it shows.

It’s important to bear in mind though that user experience designers can only do so much. We can’t design away a shoddy product or a poor team. Which leads me neatly into the first common mistake that startups make …

1. Great experience, wrong product

The right product is simple, compelling, and aligned with the business model. Often, though, you’ll come across websites or apps that look nice and appear on the surface to have a good experience, but as you delve deeper and use them more there’s no obvious benefit to the user. Either the problem you’re trying to solve isn’t actually a big enough problem for many people, or the solution being proposed doesn’t hit the right note to gain significant traction. First make sure that you’re building the right product for your audience before perfecting the experience. And try and explore product-market fit before you do too much design and development. As the saying goes ‘fake it before you make it’.

2. Doing it too late (and half-heartedly)

The return on investment for any UX spend is generally greater the earlier it’s spent on a project, so ideally try and bring it on board from the very start. You really want someone on your team from the outset that has your customer’s interests at heart, with the aim of guiding the direction of the product based on close contact with your early adopters. This should help to minimise the risk of building the wrong product or having to re-design aspects of the system that have already been developed. Embracing UX early means you can make key design decisions while there’s less at stake. Create and iterate low-fi prototypes of the system before you build it to get customer feedback early and often.

Play around with Lean UX techniques to stimulate collaboration, ideas and momentum. Start with user needs and stories, ensuring any features that are built relate to these. Lean UX takes the more traditional UX design approach but reduces it down to startup speed. Every startup, no matter how small, now has the ability to embrace UX from day one (without it costing the earth).

3. No clear value proposition

With any relationship it’s important to start the conversation right. If you don’t capture your audience’s attention within the first few seconds you’ve lost them. Creating a clear value proposition is hard, but if you get it right there’ll be a clarity and focus to your message that will help to set you apart from the competition.

When crafting your value proposition really think about the value a user will glean if they are to use your product. The main objective of a value proposition is to turn an unaware visitor into an interested prospect so have this in mind when creating yours. Try to keep it to as few words as possible. ‘Short and deadly’ should be your aim.

4. Lack of focus

If there’s one thing that startups are often guilty of, it’s trying to do too much, too soon. Having a clear focus means it’s easier to communicate what your product is and who’s it for. By trying to appeal to everyone and adding features left, right and centre, you actually dilute your message and could end up with a complex, bloated product.

Take lead from recent success stories such as Dropbox (sharing large files) and Instagram (sharing photos) by doing one thing really well. It’s not as easy as it sounds. Often there can be pressures from customers, investors or other team members, but learning to say no is something you’ll need to get to grips with if you want an intuitive product. Get the core right and you’ll make your life a lot easier.

5. Not enough observation in the wild

Usability testing is something that we all should do more of but never quite get round to it. When was the last time you tested your product with users? Surveys, focus groups and customer interviews are all useful in their own right but not a substitute for one-to-one observation. You’ll gain valuable insight that you may never have otherwise uncovered.

One widely quoted example of where user testing has made a big difference is the ‘$300m button’. A large online retailer discovered that its customers were dropping out from the checkout process of their ecommerce site before paying, so brought in top usability expert Jared Spool to conduct some usability tests. Through observation he discovered that users really took objection to having to create an account before they purchased a product. A common gripe being ‘I’m not here to be in a relationship’.

By changing a button from ‘login’ to ‘continue’, thereby removing the need to create an account prior to checkout, the retailer saw sales jump 45% overnight, resulting in a $300m jump in annual turnover. Not a bad return on investment.

Don’t assume that your product is easy to use and intuitive just because you think it is. You’re probably too familiar with it to be able to make that judgement. It’s time to start testing.

6. Forms from hell

Forms need to be usable in order to help users achieve their goal and often a poorly designed form can be a key reason for users leaving your site.

Almost every website now has a form that requires some input from the user, whether that is an enquiry form, mailing list subscription, ecommerce transaction or sign-up process. It’s vital that you put real thought into each and every one of these interactions, as otherwise users may get frustrated and jump ship to a competitor.

Thankfully since Luke Wroblewski’s groundbreaking book Web Form Design: Filling in the Blanks was released in 2008, website owners and designers have taken form design more seriously.

Often making some small changes to the design of your forms can pay dividends and help to boost conversions.

For instance, don’t just have one long form with 20 fields in it, break it up where possible into logical groups or steps. Also think about whether you really need all the information you’re asking for. Think about the user and what they would be comfortable providing. After all, the more fields you add, the less likely it is they will complete the form. Often the marketing department will ask for as much information as possible, but bear in mind this comes at the risk of a smaller completion rate.

7. Letting developers write copy

Ever felt stupid when trying to perform a task on a website? Ever felt like you’re being shouted at by some unfriendly, red error message on a form? Too often the small bits of copy on a website are neglected and left to developers to write. It seems amazing that such important interactions with a customer can be left to people not known for their people skills (okay, a massive generalisation, but you get my point).

Take control of your microcopy, defined by designer Joshua Porter as: “small yet powerful copy. It’s fast, light, and deadly. It’s a short sentence, a phrase, a few words. A single word. It’s the small copy that has the biggest impact. Don’t judge it on its size … judge it on its effectiveness.”

You can really create a connection with your audience by putting some thought into the smallest details. Carefully craft your copy across the customer journey (from Google search to website and email) to ensure a consistent tone of voice and extend your customer service to each and every touch point. Often adding some informality (and even humour when appropriate) can turn prospects into customers.

8. No story, no personality

Don’t be afraid to humanise your product. Too much of our industry is focused on the functional and usable side of web development, but where possible we should try and inject some personality into our online experiences.

Whether you’re building a web app or using your website as a shopfront for your organisation, it’s important that you develop a design persona. Whether it’s fun, outgoing, serious or strict, by adopting human values and traits you’re more likely to create a lasting impression.

9. Technology as a barrier

Too often websites feel like you’re talking to a computer with little thought into the user experience. Don’t let technology become a barrier. Make the technology work for you and where it’s not flexible enough to deliver a first class experience to the user, consider other options. Just because ‘computer says no’, it doesn’t mean you need to accept it. Work with your developers to make it work. Extraneous password requirements, difficult to read ‘CAPTCHAS’ or unfriendly error pages – all very annoying for the user and utterly avoidable.

10. Launching to soon (or too late)

Too many startups spend months (or years in some cases) in ‘stealth mode’, hidden away from prying eyes, only to never release as uncertainty and competition spoil the show. Equally there are others that launch a crappy early version of their product in true lean startup style. However if it’s not ‘minimum awesome’, don’t release it. Make sure there’s a base level of design and usability across all features otherwise you might not get the outcome you’re hoping for.

Getting the balance right between launching early and creating the perfect product is no mean feat, but one that could pay dividends.

In summary

Startups need to embrace UX whatever their budget, and no longer consider it a luxury or something that can sprinkled on like magic dust later on.

Follow these 10 tips and you’ll be on the right track:

Build the right product before the perfect one
Involve UX early in the process
Have a clear value proposition
Focus, focus, focus
Test and refine with real users
Make forms fun
Microcopy is your friend
Develop a personality
Make technology human
Ship it (and start learning)

via 10 common UX mistakes startups make … and how to avoid them! | Feature | .net magazine.

Every visitor to your site is a story. Give that story a happy ending!

12 Navigation Ideas To Give Your Website ‘Story’ A Happy Ending

Every good story has a beginning, middle and end. It starts with the set-up, moves into the conflict and wraps up with the resolution, or climax.

Every visitor to your site is a story. Give that story a happy ending!

Every visitor to your site is a story. Give that story a happy ending!

In the story of online marketing, each visitor to your website follows the same pattern – a beginning (What brought them there?), a conflict (Will they find the information they are looking for?) and a climax (What will they decide to do?).

However, unlike a good story, which relies on conflict to create the action, you want smooth sailing when people land on your site.

In fact, when it comes to getting conversions, the less conflict the better.

One of the easiest ways to reduce conflict on your site and drive visitors to the conversion point is to build a strong navigational experience.

Implementing a well-designed site navigation helps visitors identify the content and information that most interests them and pushes them toward a positive resolution.

Every navigational step your visitors take will be either a step closer or a step further away from the conclusion you’re hoping for.

How To Reduce Navigational Conflict
The single most important way to minimize your navigational conflict is to ensure it’s usable. Sounds overly simplistic, I know, but that’s because it is. Sometimes what seems usable to you (or anyone who is too close to the website) isn’t necessarily usable to visitors who may not have experienced your site before. Any usability roadblocks will reduce the impact your navigation has on the visitor.

A convoluted, confusing or broken navigation will often lead to the quickest story resolution of them all – site abandonment. While that might play well on the best sellers list, it doesn’t help wrack up the big bucks for your site!

Site-wide navigation – including top, bottom and side navigation – must be as user-friendly as possible. This is a case where visitors want the story on your site to fit similar stories they’ve experienced on other sites.

Therefore, you have to give them what they expect and, countering everything we know about a good story, the resolution must be obvious.

Here are 12 ways to create a better navigational story that improves conversion rates:

  1. Implement a strong navigational structure. Navigation must provide intuitive and obvious links to other main sections and areas of the website. If you don’t help your visitors find the information they want, they can’t buy it!
  2. Keep your primary navigation obvious. The location of your site’s primary navigation should be near the top and/or left side of the page. Navigation isn’t expected in other places, so don’t force your visitors to hunt it down.
  3. Make finding information easy. Your navigation should be designed to help people find information. Don’t hide important categories behind layers of drop-down navigation. Display it clearly before any navigational links are used. You should also avoid using hard-to-navigate drop-down or fly-out menus. Make the sale as easy as possible by eliminating these frustrations.
  4. Be clear as to which page the visitor is viewing. Visitors should always be able to tell what page they are on and where that page falls in the directory tree. Breadcrumbs are the easiest way to display this information in a clean, easy-to-understand format.
  5. Let visitors know which pages they have viewed. While this may not be aesthetically pleasing (and therefore disregarded) in the site’s main navigation, it can easily be accomplished in a visually appealing way in your body copy and/or footer navigation. Letting visitors know where they have been prevents looping around to repeated content and instead drives the visitor to the next step in the conversion process.
  6. Clearly display your site name. Your top navigation must provide an immediate indication as to what site the visitor is on (just like a book). Don’t tease the visitor or make them search for your logo. Put it at the top left where they expect it to be.
  7. Add a link in your logo image. Even if you have a link to your home page in your primary navigation, your logo should also link back to your home page. Visitors routinely use this as a shortcut rather than hunting for the home button.
  8. Have an obvious link to your homepage. Even if you already have a link to your homepage in your logo, each page must contain an obvious home link or button. Keep it consistent from page to page so visitors know where to look.
  9. Display visible contact information. Your navigation should include access to a “contact us” page and/or display specific contact information (such as a phone number) at or near the top of the page. Contact links and information should be in a consistent location on every page throughout the site. If visitors don’t feel like you’re easy to reach, they will hesitate to purchase from you.
  10. Implement a site search feature. For large sites, an internal search box can assist your potential customers with finding relevant information quickly. Search boxes allow visitors to skip the navigation altogether and go directly to what they want. If used, the search box is best located on the top right of all site pages and must always return relevant results.
  11. Make it easy to log in. Sites with shopping carts, user accounts or member-only access must provide an easy-to-locate login link. This link should be accessible on every page of the site.
  12. Make it easy to log out. Once logged in, the user must be able to log out quickly and easily. Maintain a logout link or button in an obvious location on every page, allowing the visitor to keep their information secure.

When you implement a well-structured and developed navigation system on your site, your compelling website story helps lead visitors in the direction they want to go.

The strong visual cues I’ve mentioned indicate the depth of content you have available. This alone can be an immediate first-impression indicator of trust, an important factor in acquiring new business.

Even more important – when a site’s navigation is intelligent, focused and intuitive, there is less on-site conflict. This means visitors have to think less and are able to find what they want with minimal guesswork or backtracking. And, that may be exactly what brings visitors closer and closer to the happy ending (the conversion!) you want most for your website story.

via 12 Navigation Ideas To Give Your Website ‘Story’ A Happy Ending.

User Experience Is The Heart Of Any Company. How Do You Make It Top Priority? | Co.Design: business + innovation + design

IF YOU START WITH “USEFUL” AS A FIRST PRINCIPLE, THEN YOU AUTOMATICALLY PLACE CUSTOMER NEED AND EXPERIENCE FIRST, WRITES WOLFF OLINS’S MARY ELLEN MUCKERMAN.

The closer you are to your customers, the more relevant your product will be and the more likely you make it for people to choose you. It may seem obvious, but the gap between those that do and those that talk is widening, despite the immediate bottom-line benefits. But more than this, companies that put usefulness at the heart of what they do become part of their customers’ lives. Engaging with customers then becomes an ongoing conversation, rather than the stop-start involvement that characterized the 20th century. This makes it much easier for customers to come back, and keep coming back.

WHO ARE YOU FOR?
Usefulness is best achieved by thinking about everything as user experience. If you start with “useful” as a first principle, then you automatically place customer need and experience first. And you’re less inclined to get lost in your own jargon, product-development silos, or legacy.

IF USEFULNESS IS YOUR FIRST PRINCIPLE, YOU’RE LESS INCLINED TO GET LOST IN YOUR OWN JARGON OR LEGACY.Financial services like Zopa or the recently launched Simple (first known as BankSimple) are taking customer needs into account by addressing the frustration associated with the traditional banking system. Zopa shifts control away from conventional banking by encouraging peer-to-peer lending. And Simple creates a user-experience layer on top of standard bank partners that is more human, more modern, and more transparent. It speaks to customers in terms of personal savings goals and cuts through the jargon of the banking industry.
DESIGNED TO EVOLVE WITH LIFE
My experience tells me that the smartest approach to getting this right is to borrow from the playbook of user experience (UX). While this is often associated with the Web, consumers who experience good UX online don’t switch off their expectations when they switch off the computer.

The principles and theories of UX have created a new normal in terms of brand delivery and interaction. They state that how people actually use your product is much more important than how it was intended to be used. So engaging your consumer in ongoing, iterative product development is more valuable than holding out for a “perfect” product launch. It is far better to get started in a live environment and be prepared to change fast around the needs of the user. As a result, consumers need to know what to expect from your product, as well as what you expect from them. This means they need openness and transparency from you. If they make choices online based on honesty and credibility of comments, forums, and communities, they’ll expect you to be a part of that same engaged and involved culture.

Today’s most successful ”useful” organizations are oriented around this ethos. Their feedback loops (listening to their customers) and iterative releases (frequent launches) make them more fluid, responsive, and relevant than their competitors. The height of this relationship is co-creation, where consumers are engaged to create the product or services themselves.

HOW CAN A BUSINESS EVOLVE THROUGH CUSTOMER FEEDBACK?Walgreens provides a good example of how a business can evolve through customer feedback. From its beginnings as a local Chicago pharmacy more than a century ago, Walgreens became the largest drugstore chain in America. But by 2010, they were yearning to reposition themselves as leaders in wellness. Rethinking what it means to be a community pharmacy in the 21st century, Walgreens invited their customers into the process. Consumers were given tours of Walgreens’s redesigned pharmacy prototypes and asked to share their hopes and fears about their personal health.
Walgreens found that consumers were looking for simple, engaging, everyday ways to take better care of themselves. The company used that information to deliver an experience that reflected their commitment to staying useful to customers–the ”health and daily living” store format, which the company took from concept to in-market pilot in record time. The stores integrated new roles, digital tools, and spaces to help customers live healthier everyday lives. A desk area in front of the pharmacy brings Walgreens pharmacists out from behind the counter so they can consult with patients one on one. Private consultation rooms provide additional space for immunizations, blood pressure readings, and other services. Web pickup services allow customers to shop online, and self-serve touch-screen kiosks let them quickly refill their own prescriptions. Customers also have access to a staff member called a Health Guide, who is equipped with an iPad app loaded with health tips and frequently asked questions. The new store format has been introduced in 20 stores in the Chicago area, and Walgreens is converting all its stores in the Indianapolis market.

DON’T ALWAYS ASK THE AUDIENCE
Being useful doesn’t always mean asking the focus group. It’s fair to say that customers don’t always know what they want. Customers now play an increasingly equal, participatory, and critical role in brand and business. But co-creation should not be accepted as a default solution to every challenge. Even when consumers do know what they want, empowering them to create it might not result in the most impressive solution. Observing consumers is usually a more effective way of discovering unmet or poorly met needs, and can reveal hacked solutions that suggest real opportunities of how to be useful in the world.

OBSERVING CONSUMERS CAN REVEAL HACKED SOLUTIONS THAT SUGGEST REAL OPPORTUNITIESLet’s look at M-Pesa, whose founders witnessed people in Kenya using pay-as-you-go mobile phone minutes as currency. In response, they launched a branchless banking service that allows customers to transfer money, pay bills, and make withdrawals via their mobile phones. Within two years, it was conducting two million transactions a day, and 66% of Kenyans had used it at least once. Co-creation on its own often leads to small and valuable improvements, but it takes a bigger vision to build an extraordinary business. Anticipation and observation, although riskier, hold out the promise of making yourself truly useful at a higher level.
***

3 CASE STUDIES
Be More Like Apple

Think how you can be useful in areas that are not necessarily in your core but still drive customers to your business.

Apple’s ascendance during the past decade has distinguished it as a company that takes its own point of view into the market and then creates new customer needs (and therefore value) by improving devices that already exist in that market. By combining hardware, software, and services in a unique and useable way, it has built entirely new ecosystems of value from previously nonexistent customer demand.

Take the iPad, for example. Demand for the first-of-its-kind tablet skyrocketed after its launch, selling 300,000 tablets in the U.S. alone within the first 24 hours of sale. Two years later, the iPad continues to dominate the market, accounting for a reported 97% of all online Web traffic coming from tablets.

Be More Like M-Pesa

Look for ways that customers are navigating around obstacles and build a business out of that.

M-Pesa is a branchless banking service that uses mobile technology, and is currently available in Kenya, Afghanistan, and Tanzania. M-Pesa designed for people in rural areas where banking services are
scarce. Its founders observed that Kenyan locals were trading mobile minutes as currency. So they created a service that offers money transfers, bill payments and withdrawals–all through mobile phones. It is also creating adjacent services: M-Health, an agribusiness, and M-Farm which allows farmer co-ops to buy products via SMS and pay via M-Pesa.

Be More Like Zopa

Consider how you can connect your customers directly to one another. And have them create mutual value.

Zopa is the world’s first peer-to-peer money lending service. Addressing head-on the hassle and hidden fees associated with the banking system, it connects borrowers and lenders directly, creating a level of control and customer service unmatched by traditional banks. Zopa reduces lending risks by grouping together borrowers with similar track records and spreading borrowing requests across multiple loaners. The company gained more than 130,000 members within just two years of launch.

via User Experience Is The Heart Of Any Company. How Do You Make It Top Priority? | Co.Design: business + innovation + design.

Mental Model Diagrams (Cartoon) | Smashing UX Design

We tend to carefully create our HTML and CSS, and meticulously place every pixel to our designs. We plan exactly where our content should be placed on a particular site. Among many other decisions we need to make, we always keep in mind to craft a great experience for all our users. But how do we know what our users really want?

One way is to understand the motivations that drive users in general. A mental model diagram can be created to do just that—to dive deeper and discover what users are trying to accomplish, and then create solutions that match.

In this comic, Indi and Brad introduce mental model diagrams to us and how we can use them to build better websites. You can also view a larger version of the comic here.

via Mental Model Diagrams (Cartoon) | Smashing UX Design.

User Experience Design

I’ve been practicing information architecture since 1994, and from Gopher to Google have seen dramatic changes in the landscape of organization, search and retrieval.

Through these ten tempestuous years, I’ve found the infamous three circle diagram to be a great tool for explaining how and why we must strike a unique balance on each project between business goals and context, user needs and behavior, and the available mix of content.

Figure 1. The Three Circles of Information Architecture

While this diagram was conceived with IA in mind, it’s equally useful for explaining UX. In conjunction with Jesse’s masterpiece, I use the three circles to illustrate the distinction between user experience and user-centered design. I’m still not convinced UCD exists outside the realm of theory, but I practice user experience design every day.

Facets of the User Experience

When I broadened my interest from IA to UX, I found the need for a new diagram to illustrate the facets of user experience – especially to help clients understand why they must move beyond usability – and so with a little help from my friends developed the user experience honeycomb.

Figure 2. The User Experience Honeycomb

Naturally, the jump from three circles to seven hexagons gave me an instant buzz, but after several months of road testing, I can safely say this diagram has survived the honeymoon.

Here’s how I explain each facet or quality of the user experience:

  • Useful. As practitioners, we can’t be content to paint within the lines drawn by managers. We must have the courage and creativity to ask whether our products and systems are useful, and to apply our deep knowledge of craft and medium to define innovative solutions that are more useful.
  • Usable. Ease of use remains vital, and yet the interface-centered methods and perspectives of human-computer interaction do not address all dimensions of web design. In short, usability is necessary but not sufficient.
  • Desirable. Our quest for efficiency must be tempered by an appreciation for the power and value of image, identity, brand, and other elements of emotional design.
  • Findable. We must strive to design navigable web sites and locatable objects, so users can find what they need.
  • Accessible. Just as our buildings have elevators and ramps, our web sites should be accessible to people with disabilities (more than 10% of the population). Today, it’s good business and the ethical thing to do. Eventually, it will become the law.
  • Credible. Thanks to the Web Credibility Project, we’re beginning to understand the design elements that influence whether users trust and believe what we tell them.
  • Valuable. Our sites must deliver value to our sponsors. For non-profits, the user experience must advance the mission. With for-profits, it must contribute to the bottom line and improve customer satisfaction.

The honeycomb hits the sweet spot by serving several purposes at once. First, it’s a great tool for advancing the conversation beyond usability and for helping people understand the need to define priorities. Is it more important for your web site to be desirable or accessible? How about usable or credible? The truth is, it depends on your unique balance of context, content and users, and the required tradeoffs are better made explicitly than unconsciously.

Second, this model supports a modular approach to web design. Let’s say you want to improve your site but lack the budget, time, or stomach for a complete overhaul. Why not try a targeted redesign, perhaps starting with Stanford’s ten guidelines as a resource for evaluating and enhancing the credibility of your web site?

Third, each facet of the user experience honeycomb can serve as a singular looking glass, transforming how we see what we do, and enabling us to explore beyond conventional boundaries.

A Different Way of Seeing

For example, I realized some time ago that while “information architect” describes my profession, findability defines my passion.

Since then, I’ve found my focus on findability has opened my eyes, leading me beyond IA while simultaneously making me a better information architect.

Last Summer, while redesigning the Q web site, we identified findability as a top priority. Our quest to make this small site more findable took me beyond the discipline of information architecture and deep into the realm of search engine optimization.

That experience proved useful last Fall, during a redesign project for the National Cancer Institute, in which we used findability concepts and SEO statistics to alleviate an unhealthy fixation on the home page, raising awareness of the need to design findable documents for direct access via the Google, MSN, and Yahoo! search engines.

And this Spring, I was hired to perform my first findability audit for a major international nonprofit. Feeling a bit concerned about dedicating four weeks exclusively to findability, I asked whether I should also consider usability factors. “No thanks,” my client replied. “We already had Jakob in last year to focus on usability.”

A Big Hive

Though the findability audit was a success, it did feel ironic to once again be ensnared inside a box (or hexagon) of my own making.

But I’m sticking with findability for now. Between my new seminar, my new book, and findability.org, I’m busy as a bee.

And anytime I feel trapped, I can explore other facets of the user experience honeycomb, or perhaps even create a new diagram.

For me, user experience design is a big hive: a dynamic, multi-dimensional space where there’s still plenty of room to build new boxes and draw new arrows, at least for the next ten years.

via User Experience Design.

[Tool] TypeButter – Optical kerning

Kerning is the process of adjusting the space between two characters, or glyphs. This space is called a kerning pair. And the space between any two characters can be different than the space between any other two characters. There are many examples, in traditional typsetting, where known problems exist between letter pairs. For example, any time an oblique-sided upper-case letter is used with one of the four rounded lower-case vowels, the appearance of the type is greatly improved if the vowel is slightly tucked under the rising side of the upper case letter in such a way that the two letter spaces are actually overlapped. Because many of these problems are common to the majority of fonts, type designers — at least the good ones — have made it a point of honor to build into the font a table of kerning pairs.

In theory, a perfect font would have specific kerning information for each glyph in combination with every other glyph in both upper and lower cases. In fact the more kerning pairs that a font has is usually a good indication of how well crafted that font is. If the type designer has made every effort to insure that there are no unsightly spaces between letter pairs, then that designer has probably included many kerning pair instances. This is a process that takes time and a certain amount of experience.

TypeButter allows you to set optical kerning for any font on your website. If you’re longing for beautifully laid out text that today’s browsers just don’t provide, this is the plugin for you!

TypeButter | Optical Kerning FTW! TypeButter | .