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Posts Tagged ‘Usability’

OS X Lion – The 3 features that worth your $30

July 25th, 2011 No comments
1. Preview now lets you add a signature to any PDF
This is a HUGE feature. A truly disruptive one that is going to make you stop the bad habit of printing a document, signing it, scanning it to a PDF and then emailing it. 

 

Lion_os-add-signiture


 
2. Resize any window from anywhere

Yes, yes, just like in Windows. No more being limited by either going full size (clicking on the green + button at the upper left corner) or using the resizing control at the bottom right corner of a window. Every edge got a resizing control.

 

3. Mission Control

 

I was never a big fan of Spaces in OS X Leopard. The process of moving windows between spaces was not easy. Mission Control is changing things dramatically. It is super easy to view all desktops (3 fingers gestures up), navigate between desktops (3 fingers left-right gesture) and move app windows between desktops. My desktop is no longer a mess.

 

Mission_control_-_mac_os_lion
So I say, don’t hesitate. Upgrade to OS X Lion. And if you can afford spending a little bit more, buy the super sleek MacBook Air which comes pre-installed with it.

 



Design for Intuitiveness

April 13th, 2010 No comments

Last week we got a new shipment of beautiful clear blue Nalgene BPAfree OTG water bottles to Idealab. I picked one and filled it with water from the cooler in order to drink at my desk. When I reached to my desk I tried to open the top with my thumb in what I thought was the right way to open based on the lid’s design (pic below).

Trying to open a Nalgene OTG Water Bottle

Surprisingly, nothing happened. I applied more power using my thumb but the lid refused to open. I looked closely at the lid’s opening mechanism to make sure I got it right. I tried to push it in a different angel but it remained locked. As a desperate move, I tried to push and squeeze the black rubber that covers the top of the lid, just because it looks “press-able”. Nothing happened. I spent a good 30-45 seconds trying to open the lid in all sorts of ways, applying more and less power, trying to pull the cover away from the lock yet it did not open.

I almost gave up and was about to unscrew the lid and drink the water directly from the bottle. But then, as I was holding the lid using two fingers and gently squeezing it between my fingers, it poped and opened (picture 2 below).

Finally opened a Nalgene OTG Water Bottle

That was a eureka moment for me and from that point I “adjusted” the way I open the bottle. I am not sure exactly why it did not work originally. I can only assume that for a brand new water bottle the lid had to be opened 20-30 times to make the mechanism loose enough to work as intended but what is clear is that the product does not “Allows for easy one handed operation” out of the box like its web page says.

I wanted to test if it was only me who could not open the bottle so I asked two colleges to try opening it (of course without telling them what is the right way to do it) and they both followed the same steps I did and quickly got pretty frustrated that the lid did not open. They also applied more and more power and nothing happened until they concluded that “something is wrong with this bottle”.

Why am I telling this story? Simple. To remind product managers and designers to always evaluate the intuitiveness of their designs and whether it actually works in the real world.

I am sure that if the Nalgene designers were sitting next to me while I was struggling with their water bottle, they would go back to the drawing board and work on a new design that actually works.

For anyone who is in the business of designing and building web products and services things are a lot easier than to those creating physical products. There are many great tools that let you see exactly how users use and interact with your website. All you need is to install and use them. Beyond the obvious Google Analytics, I also recommend ClickTale, a great service that records user behavior and lets you watch complete user sessions as videos. And finally, let friends and family try the product and watch, like a fly on the wall, how they interact with it. When they are done completing the tasks you gave them interview them and see how well they can describe what they were doing and how they were using your website. You will learn a ton from it and probably have to change a few things to make your product more intuitive.



YAY! No more Horizontal Scrolling in TweetDeck

February 18th, 2010 3 comments

There are many goodies in the new version of TweetDeck (0.33). The one that I like most is the Column Navigator, a usability improvement that makes navigation between columns a snap and will make you say goodbye to horizontal scrolling.  

Another worth mentioning feature is the additional media types you can view inside the client, like Flickr images and YouTube videos.

Posted via email from jaymeydad’s posterous



Innovative Web Form Buttons From Disqus

November 24th, 2009 25 comments

I logged into the Disqus console today to change some settings and noticed a new feature. The settings pages do not have a visible “Save” and “Cancel” buttons.  Instead, only if you change a value/option on the page the buttons float and appear from the bottom of the visible area. This is a big usability improvement as it eliminates the need to scroll all the way to the bottom of the page and hit save. I think this is very innovative and very cool. I have not seen this feature on other website but I am sure it will happen soon.

Disqus-buttons

TweetDeck for iPhone not on par with TwitterFon Pro

June 17th, 2009 1 comment

Since the first Twitter clients on the iPhone came out, I have tried many of them. Eventually I picked TwitterFon and when the Pro version was released I immediately upgraded to it. I find the feature set rich, it is very easy to use and has overall good stability and performance.

But as a long time user of TweetDeck’s desktop client, when I read that an iPhone version was just released, I thought to give it a try.

Well, I must say that TweetDeck for iPhone still has a long way to go before it becomes my preferred twitter client on the iPhone. Here are a few reasons why based on a 5 minutes usages:

  • The app is not stable at all. In 5 minutes it crashed 5 times on me. In one of the cases, after a crash I had to try 3 times before the apps actually worked
  • Strange error message indicating that I am not connected to the internet appeared while I was on Wifi kept appearing (see gallery below)
  • The app does not seem to have a local cache of draft messages. If the app crash while you type a tweet, after restart you will have to start all over again!
  • If you type in a tweet and then attach to it a photo, your tweet message will disappear and gets replaced by the link to the photo. Ugh!
  • Search is not easily accessible. A few steps are required before you can do that which makes search a feature for power users only. First you need to add a new column called “Twitter Search” and set its initial search tern. Then whenever you want to actually edit the search term you have to: (a) navigate to the search column (b) click on the column settings wheel (c) change the search term. However, on TwitterFon search is a main function that is always visible at the bottom bar which makes it very easy to modify a search term
  • Too many times and extra click is required:
    • TweetDeck opens by default in the column preview mode and it forces you to hit another time a column in order to make it use all screen area. IMHO, this should not be the default logic as for most user the Friends column is what they want to read most of the times when the app loads. Better usage of the 80%-20% rule would help here
    • When viewing a streem of tweets, you can not just click on a link that was tweeted to open it. You first need to open a specific tweet in a large preview mode and only then the link becomes live
  • Last personal preference is the UI color. I prefer a light and bright app

On the positive site, TweetDeck has some features that I wish could be added to TwitterFon like:

  • Growl integration – those little notification icons that float at the upper left corner whenever there is a new update
  • QuickFollow button which lets you quickly type in a user name and follow

It is interesting to see how the battle to be the most popular twitter client is accelerating. But for now, I stick with TwitterFon Pro as my preferred Twitter client for the iPhone.

For a detailed comparison check out this great post.

The New Yahoo Homepage Signals: We Are Back

April 28th, 2009 2 comments

Back in Oct 2008 Yahoo was testing a new homepage. This version of the homepage has not become live yet and probably won’t given the fact that Yahoo has now a new CEO, Carol Bratz, that has a very clear vision for the company. A vision that is also reflected in the new version of the homepage I just got (probably as part of a small percentage test Yahoo is running) – big focus on search, display advertising and a better portal to generate more page views on the Yahoo network.

Couple of observations:

  • The header height was shaved by a few pixels, the Yahoo logo was moved right next to the search box instead of above it, and almost all of the essential information is viewable above the fold! pretty impressive that Yahoo was able to achieve that without getting eliminating links and content that is on the current homepage
  • The expandable tabs that are used in the left side bar (called Favorites) make the home page extremely extensible with all sorts of information and applications, from Yahoo properties (Finance, Messenger, Flickr, movies) and partners (eBay, NPR, BBC, and more). It is also great for advertising since there is a medium rectangle ad (most desirable ad size on the market) on every tab. This should increase the number of home page ad impressions sagnificantly. Anyone wanys to model what it will do to the stock price?
  • Yahoo clearly wants you to do more searches and that’s why they moved the “popular searches” box to the top and made it so prominent
  • Yahoo also wants to regain their position as a portal to the Yahoo network. That’s why they:

(a) placed the link “View Yahoo! Sites” which expands to a directory of all the Yahoo sites at the top of the Favorites left bar

(b) moved the articles section to the top and increased its size from 5 to 10 links

  • One very interesting application that was pre-installed for me on the favorites bar was MySpace. I wonder if that is a first sign for a deal that might happen between MySpace/FIM and Yahoo (the Google deal is supposed to end in mid 2010) or is that just a traffic aquisition campaign mySpace is running on Yahoo

Overall, I like the new design. It is lighter, cleaner and the information is organized in a more logical and accessible way compared to the existing homepage. Who knows, if this version will eventually become the live one, I might switch my homepage back to Yahoo like in the good old days.

Update: According to Sillicon Alley Insider, this new homepage is not a test but a phased rollout.

Here are some photos of the new design

How To Add Signature Right After Reply In Entourage

March 12th, 2009 99 comments

By default, Microsoft Entourage automatically adds a signature at the very bottom of an email thread. I reply to dozens of emails every day and for a long time I used to cut the signature from the bottom and paste it to the correct place.

You might ask yourself how come I kept doing this. Very simple, I just could not find the right setting under the Preferences pane that would change the behavior. There is also no setting related to the positioning of the signature under the “Signatures”window to address this.

I finally found the time and did some online research and was able find the answer. I figured others could benefit from this tip as well. So, here it is. To get Entourage automatically add the signature at the top of the reply/forward, make sure you have the setting as in the screenshot below.

Alternatively, you could upgrade to Outlook which is a much better email client for Mac and is part of the new Office 2011, or use a webmail like Gmail.

Microsoft Entourage - adding signiture at top

Tropicana Orange Juice Gets A New Design – The Old Carton

February 23rd, 2009 5 comments

Consumers are consumers no matter what online service or product they use. Once we use a product and like it, we are emotionally attached to it and become very passionate about it. This has not changed for years, but in current days, we (the consumers) have powerful tools such as blogs, twitter and facebook, to express ourselves quicker, louder in order to make a change.

Seeing companies make a (stupid) decision and then revert back as a result of users protesting against it using all sorts of social media applications is a pretty common thing in the online world. The last example was Facebook and its T&C fiasco. Seeing more an more big offline companies acting the same way is a nice surprise for me.

Take these two sentences:

“We underestimated the deep emotional bond they had with the original packaging. Those consumers are very important to us, so we responded.”

“I feel it’s the right thing to do, to innovate as a company. I wouldn’t want to stop innovating as a result of this. At the same time, if consumers are speaking, you have to listen.”

If you think they were told by Mark Zuckerberg or another executive of some popular web company you are wrong. They were said by Neil Campbell, president at Tropicana North America, who is about to announce today, according to the NYTimes, that Tropicana is going to scrap the new packaging and return to the old one. Why? Because we , including myself on this blog, complained about the new design and asked for the old one.

Just like Wheeler & Katz wrote in their book “Brand Atlas, Branding Intelligence Made Visible” : “Stay customer centric. The best brand decisions can only be made with the customer’s needs and experiences in mind. See the world through the eyes of your customers.”

So, I applaud to PepsiCo for listening to its loyal customers and acting fast. I can’t wait to see the good old carton, with orange & straw, in stores.

AutoParenth – Microsoft Excel’s Most Desired Function

January 7th, 2009 1 comment

I was using Microsoft Excel the other day and had that Eureka moment. I typed in a simple formula that had a closing parenthesis but forgot to put an opening parenthesis. An error message popped up and I realized that I have been getting that same error message, for doing the same mistake, ever since I have been using Excel. And even though Microsoft has released several Excel versions along these years, this specific problem has been carried from version to version without getting an elegant solution.

I am pretty sure that the same exact error happens to millions of users every day, and many of them are clueless and do the same thing – they get frustrated, delete the formula that has a minor error and start over.

So, here’s my suggestion to a very simple killer feature – AutoParenth. Excel should automatically add an opening parenthesis whenever it detects that a cell: (a) has a function (first character inside the cell is minus, plus or the equal signs) and (b) it has a closing parenthesis. This feature should be built similar to the AutoCorrect feature to give the users greater control.

If that’s too difficult to implement, Excel should at least provide an informative error message, just like Apple Numbers and Google Docs do. This is such a common error that a specific error message with clear instructions is necessary.


Apple Numbers informative error message.


Google Docs also provides enough information to guide the user.

I hope that someone at the Microsoft Office team will read this post and add this request to their todo list.

A cool new Recent Readers widget from MyBlogLog

February 16th, 2008 No comments

I like the new “Recent Readers” widget MyBlogLog released. The glossy design shaped as an iPhone, the simple configuration process (less is more) and the ‘flyouts’ – those little nuggest of information about a reader that appear when you point to a member, very much like Snap Shots.

Check out the new widget on the right sidebar of this blog.

MyBLogLog-New Recent Readers Widget