Archive for Rachel Defriend

Dashboards, a Dickens Tale

Posted by Rachel Defriend on October 8th, 2009 at 12:00 am

Have you ever seen one of those movie renditions of a Charles Dickens story? Somehow, there's always a scene in there with some downtrodden clerk at a bank, toiling away at vast ledgers in the semidarkness, armed only with a quill pen, adding and subtracting endless columns of figures. A great Empire and an entire Industrial Age took its decision support from such mountains of dusty quill-scratchings.
Fast forward a hundred years. Now the office has better lighting, and those vast ledgers have been replaced by vast stacks of computer printouts. And business leaders could now make their decisions in a matter of hours, simply by scouring reams of spreadsheets.
Today, our quest for knowledge and for speed has brought us to the dashboard, where the very essence of the facts we need is presented in an easy-to-access and easy-to-understand format. Just the information we need, at a glance.
My manifesto for 2010 is simple – evolve these things we call 'dashboards'.  Why?  Because the time is right for this revolution/evolution.  A recent Gartner prediction/study said that one third of dashboards will be "mashups" with heavy analytics overlaid into the graphical user interface (GUI).
This is awesome news, as the more information that... Read more

May The Force Be With You: 3 Ways UX Designers Are Like Jedi

Posted by Rachel Defriend on August 13th, 2009 at 12:00 am

According to Wookieepedi, Force-sensitive beings are able to tap into the Force to perform acts of great skill and agility as well as to control and shape the world around them. They seek to understand the Force so they can use its power to protect and aid the people they serve. Here are three ways UXDs are surprisingly like Jedi:
1. They are bound to the ForceLike Jedi, UXDs use their powers to gain greater knowledge in order to get inside the mind of the user. They find a balance between the needs of the user and your business objectives. And when they are true to the Force, they are able to motivate and persuade the user to take the actions you want — be it opting into your email program, making a purchase, providing feedback, etc. 
2. They harness the ForceUXDs come armed to projects, ready to defend the user and promote their needs. And they usually do so with sharpies and scrap paper in hand. Starting with paper prototyping, UXDs create quick user-interface sketches that let the team evaluate usability early on with little expense.
Wireframe and prototyping software also play a big part in your UXD's process. Usually created... Read more

Return on User Experience: ROUX Part DEUX

Posted by Rachel Defriend on June 4th, 2009 at 12:00 am

In my last blog, we examined what goes into the calculation of Return on User Experience, and I promised more on "cooking up the improved ROUX."
In the culinary world, roux is a mixture of flour and fat used as a thickening agent in soup, sauces and stews. (For those of you who take things literally and like to eat while you think, here's a great recipe for Cajun roux.)
In the interactive world, ROUX is Return on User Experience and has nothing whatsoever to do with pots and pans let alone the art of sauce making, which is good because I am not a cook (although my mouth is watering right now for a heaping bowl of gumbo). Let's exit the kitchen now and enter the interwebs.
So, here's my recipe for improving the return on your user's experience. You won't end up with a tasty roux, but you will end up with a better ROUX.
Ingredients you'll need:
Site metrics An understanding of your users An open mind Defined goals for improvement
Step 1: Prepare. Start with your site metrics. Focus on conversion rates. Of the peeps visiting your site and engaging, are they finding success... Read more

Where's the Value? Return on User Experience (ROUX).

Posted by Rachel Defriend on May 5th, 2009 at 12:00 am

Everyone wants to know the return on everything these days, so it was inevitable we'd start hearing a lot about Return on User Experience (ROUX). The problem is most people try to put this into highly complex Einstein-esque formulas that frankly make my brain ache.
As a User Experience Architect, my job is to simplify (from the perspective of the user, anyway). What is it we're really trying to show with ROUX? Is there a way to pinpoint a value to the user's experience? Let's start with a comparable concept we all know and love: ROI.
Return on investment is used to evaluate the efficiency of return on any expenditure of money. To calculate ROI, you divide the benefit (return) of an investment by the cost of the investment. The result is expressed as a percentage or a ratio.
What might a similar ratio look like for ROUX?
 Value means moneyThe benefit or return that interests us is based on the action taken by the user during or after interacting with our website. To be worth anything, improved user experience should result in greater monetary value from user action. (We are, after all, in this for the money.)
We therefore need to... Read more

UX – Past, Present and the Moon

Posted by Rachel Defriend on February 19th, 2009 at 12:00 am

As I commented in my last post, experience design has been around since cavemen. Since the beginning, the human condition encounters circumstances that trigger a need followed by an expectation of satisfaction. Experience design exists to figure out how to deliver that satisfaction. Once the experience cycle begins with the original need, innovation enters the picture and new products, solutions and updates begin to form around the user and those needs. It is important (and fun!) to look back to where we have come from to help us understand where we are and, hopefully, to be better prepared for where we are going. The funny thing is, with experience design, there are always two constants — the user and the user’s needs.
UX of yesterday
Looking back through history, we see that experience design is woven through every era helping us continually evolve, learn and be delighted. From ancient Romans to recent Harvard grads, user experience designers have no mold. They just have one common practice — figure out the user, his needs and a way to satisfy them.
Here are some classics:
When: 300 B.C.
Need: Area for large audiences to watch sporting events, theatrical performances and other “entertainment” (when the gladiators... Read more