Well, it happened again – the same thing that happens every time any digital product is put through usability testing. We found out that the people designing the thing (people who know exactly what it’s supposed to do and how it’s supposed to work) are not the same as the people actually using the thing. And the people who are supposed to use the thing don’t get it. And because they don’t get it, they have three options for how they might respond.
Summary: Hidden features, reduced discoverability, cognitive overhead from dual environments, and reduced power from a single-window UI and low information density. Too bad.
With the recent launch of Windows 8 and the Surface tablets, Microsoft has reversed its user interface strategy. From a traditional Gates-driven GUI style that emphasized powerful commands to the point of featuritis, Microsoft has gone soft and now smothers usability with big colorful tiles while hiding needed features.
Ford Australia engineers and designers are living in a virtual world, and loving it. The company has unveiled its new Virtual Reality Centre, a high tech digital evaluation and design environment
Years before a Ford vehicle shines on stage at a car show or arrives in dealer showrooms, Ford researchers are hard at work behind the scenes, building virtual vehicles that allow the company to design, analyse and enhance the driver experience before a physical vehicle ever exists.
Known as the Powerwall (Trekers would have preferred the term Holodeck, maybe next time) the new Virtual Reality Centre houses a 6m x 3m screen used to evaluated 3D models of proposed cars.
Gesture-based computer interaction, as depicted in “Minority Report,” looks like it will soon become commonplace. “The Leap” peripheral lets you control UI elements using gestures made in the air.
The mobile revolution has prompted not only new forms of computers but also new ways to interact with them.
[In this first article in a new series, college professor and user research Ben Lewis-Evans takes a look at different methods of game user research, offering up a handy guide to different ways you can collect useful information about your game.]
This article, and its forthcoming followup, is intended to give a rough idea to developers of several different methods that can be used in games user research.
However, many, many books have been written on research methodology and I cannot cover everything. Therefore these two articles cannot be taken as completely comprehensive.
In the first of the articles I will be covering a few general points about Games User Research and then discussing three methods, focus groups, heuristic evaluation and questionnaires in some detail.
Summary: Overloading different outcomes on similar commands can be confusing. Using the same command for multiple actions enhances usability if the results are conceptually the same.
One way to manage interaction design complexity is to have commands serve double duty. There are two ways of doing this, with different usability implications:
- Generic commands use the same command in different contexts to achieve conceptually the same outcome, even though details of the specific effects might differ.
- Overloaded commands use variants of the same command to achieve different outcomes — sometimes depending on the context and other times depending on where the command appears on the screen.
I discussed generic commands in depth in an earlier article. The most famous generic command these days is the pinch-zoom gesture, which works in most touchscreen user interfaces. In fact, the command is so pervasive that users expect it to work universally — and are sorely disappointed when they encounter an application that doesn’t support it.
Summary: Better to accept a wider margin of error in usability metrics than to spend the entire budget learning too few things with extreme precision.
Last week, I made a slide for the new User Experience (UX) Basic Training course with the recommended number of test users for different types of studies. I like teaching foundational courses because they afford me just this kind of opportunity — to distill 25 years of usability process research into a single table. Patterns crystallize when complex topics are condensed to the essence.
How good design can make users effective
It is an honest question: how smart are your users? The answer may surprise you: it doesn’t matter. They can be geniuses or morons, but if you don’t engage their intelligence, you can’t depend on their brain power.
Far more important than their IQ (which is a questionable measure in any case) is their Effective Intelligence: the fraction of their intelligence they can (or are motivated to) apply to a task.
Take, for example, a good driver. They are a worse driver when texting or when drunk. (We don’t want to think about the drunk driver who is texting.) An extreme example you say? Perhaps, but only by degree. A person who wins a game of Scrabble one evening may be late for work because they forgot to set their alarm clock. How could the same person make such a dumb mistake? Call it concentration, or focus, we use more of our brain when engaged and need support when we are distracted.
Television and cinema screens that produce holographic images without the need for special glasses are being developed by computer giant Apple.
Most current 3D technologies require viewers to wear glasses that allow the right and left eye see slightly different images to produce the illusion of a three dimensional image on the screen
A recently granted patent reveals that Apple, the company behind the iPod and iPhone, has been working on a new type of display screen that produces three dimensional and even holographic images without the need for glasses.
Read the manual before using the interface. (Kinect Adventures)
(Yes, it’s a *cute* manual, but these are still instructions to memorize.)
Summary: Inconsistent gestures, invisible commands, overlooked warnings, awkward dialog confirmations. But fun to play.
Kinect is a new video game system that is fully controlled by bodily movements. It’s vaguely similar to the Wii, but doesn’t use a controller (and doesn’t have the associated risk of banging up your living room if you lose your grip on the Wii wand during an aggressive tennis swing).