User Experience Design Blog

Commentary on strategy and design of interactive products.

Usability Issues Hinder DRM

December 5th, 2006 by Kimmy Paluch

On Monday, Techdirt writes about the concerns that BitTorrent creator, Bram Cohen has regarding the integration of Digital Rights Management (DRM) into his widely popular “peer distributed” product. As the company approaches launch of a store which will controlled by Windows DRM, the issue of the DRM usability has been called into question.

This is a case in point of businessmen demanding that steps be taken to ensure revenue increases without paying due dilligence to the end-user and the ramifications of a poor user experience. Time will only tell how this negligence will play out, but it’s great to see an executive stepping forward to admit these failures and concerns. With formidable competition in the media download space such as Guba and DRM-free emusic.com the race to provide affordable download services with usable rights protection and platform compatability is at full force. Another player, Spiral Frog is set to enter the space this month.
From the original interview on BitTorrent’s future, Cohen is quoted:

We’re rolling out with some content DRM’d, using Windows DRM, at the insistence of our content partners. We’re very concerned about the usability problems DRM introduces, and are educating our content partners about the lost commercial opportunity.

Unconventional Ways Web Sites Generate Revenue

November 27th, 2006 by Sergio Paluch

Almost all web sites generate value for their owners in some way. The modes by which sites create value can be straightforward like direct online sales or less immediate such as helping to build brand or supporting the sales process. While much has been written about conventional revenue channels, little if anything has been discussed about more indirect sources of value. We strongly feel that the indirect sources amount to a very significant and important component of the overall revenue stream and should, therefore, be understood and carefully considered. To this end, this article presents the entire spectrum of ways that web sites can generate value for their owners.

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Structuring Flow of Add-and-Remove List Boxes

November 20th, 2006 by Kimmy Paluch

Recently, the BayCHI mailing list had an interesting discussion regarding a very common input mechanism with which many of us have grown accustomed: selecting from a group of available items and adding to a congruent set of chosen items. The polemical issue that arises with this selection tool is in its implementation, specifically “should we collect items from left-to-right or from right-to-left?” The easy answer that many will throw out is that for the Western world, we read from left to right and therefore this is the correct way to present it for us Westerners. True, but there is more than meets the eye and by investigating this aspect further, we can reveal other supporting arguments for this presentation.

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Keeping It in Context Part Deux: Contextual Help

November 14th, 2006 by Kimmy Paluch

In the first installment of this series, we examined how we can enhance search tools by allowing users to set the context of searches. In this article we will examine another key feature that aids users in completing a task within a site: the help link. Particularly, we will examine providing contextual help globally on sites: allowing users to access information pertaining to the specific task at hand.

Contextual help is an integrated means of accessing supplementary information and instructions about a feature or content. Common manifestations of contextual help are:

  • “What’s this?” or “help?” or “[?]” links located near the item of interest that open as a pop-up or more preferable an accessible overlay tooltip
  • Walkthrough tutorials that demonstrate interactions directly on the interface for example, “Show me” help links

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User Experience Design + Web Design + Development

November 13th, 2006 by Sergio Paluch

The fields of user experience design, web design, and web development are often at odds with each other. This leads to web sites that are just shadows of their potential, and costs their owners a lot of foregone or lost revenue. Every decision that we make and execute has a real financial consequence, and friction leads to waste.

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Marissa Mayer of Google: Speed Good, AJAX Not So Good

November 9th, 2006 by Sergio Paluch

John Battelle reported Thursday on Marissa Mayer’s talk at the Web 2.0 conference held in San Francisco this week. Mayer shared some very fascinating findings regarding the usability and user experience design of Google’s search results pages. In short, the study found that users preferred speedy page loads to a greater number of results per page and to “highly interactive ajax features”. Although users reported that they preferred more results per page, their expressed desires diverged from their actual interactions. Google’s analysts found that search results pages with 30 results per page rather than the standard 10 per page resulted in lower search traffic and decreased ad revenue by 20 percent.

This is significant in three ways. Read the rest of this article »

Web Site Users as Patrons

November 6th, 2006 by Sergio Paluch

At Montparnas, we often think of ‘users’ as ‘patrons’ to stress the fact that users of most web sites are either active or prospective customers or contribute to the web site’s financial state in some way. It is critical to acknowledge this fact, because unlike users of desktop applications or physical products, web site users tend to be more immediately tied to revenue and costs, and as such, optimizing web sites means much more than making them usable; it also means increasing their value through optimizing things such as marketing strategy, acquisition and retention rates, and user participation as well as reducing costs.

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Researching Concepts with Comics According to Mark Wehner, Yahoo! Inc.

October 31st, 2006 by Kimmy Paluch

Two weeks ago, I attended a talk given by Mark Wehner of Yahoo! Inc. at a BayCHI event in Mountain View. At first glance many may balk at the idea of conducting research through mere drawings, but having heard and seen the impact this tool can make, I am now a huge enthusiast for this exploratory process. I am writing this article in the hopes that more companies and user experience designers investigate this technique to see how it can enhance their own product research.

This article summarizes the key concepts behind researching with comics as presented in the talk along with some other considerations around this technique.

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Google Web Optimizer Launches

October 19th, 2006 by Sergio Paluch

On Wednesday Google unveiled a brilliant new tool, the Web Optimizer, at this year’s E-Metrics Summit. It puts the power of multivariate testing on an array of web metrics in an elegant and simple-to-use online tool. What was once a tedious process involving capturing web statistics, downloading log files, importing them in a statistics package, and performing complicated regression analysis has now been made simpler. Users will be able to more easily test multiple versions of a page and the effectiveness of individual elements on those pages to determine which combinations result in the highest conversions.

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What Is User Experience Design

October 10th, 2006 by Kimmy Paluch

User experience design can sometimes be a slippery term. With all the other often used terms that float around in its realm in the technology and web space: interaction design, information architecture, human computer interaction, human factors engineering, usability, and user interface design. People often end up asking “what is the difference between all these fields and which one do I need?” This article examines the term and field of user experience to plainly extrapolate its meaning and connect the dots with these other fields.

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