Monthly Archives: September 2012

Reading Reflection: Week 4 How to Evaluate Usability Efficiently

From this week’s reading, I get much knowledge about mental models and UX evaluation methods. While I was reading the UX book Chapter 13, I felt very happy because I found that there are so many differences between Chinese and U.S. researchers applying UX evaluation methods. The UX book Chapter 13 introduces six rapid evaluation methods, that is, walkthroughs, UX inspection (especially heuristic evaluation), Rapid Iterative Testing and Evaluation (RITE), quasi-empirical evaluation and questionnaires. So many different and practical methods! Depending on the type of application one attribute might be more critical than another. Firstly, we should see some meaningful differences there. The table is so wide that I can just add an image copy of it. I’m sorry about that. If you can’t discern It, please see the original table here.

Sounds reasonable? No, the process is totally wrong! It makes ourselves fall into the “trap”. Why not do UX evaluation in an early stage? Why not develop a prototype and evaluate it? UX evaluation is so important that we can not ignore it until our product is finished. After learning UX book Chapter 13, I think a more reasonable method should be as follows:While I was in graduate school in China, I have conducted several projects and one of them is designing an interactive game. Instead of applying UX evaluation methods in an early stage, we often used them after the product was done. In our views, UX evaluation methods are just tools which can help us get users’ feedback. So after accomplishing the product, we recruit some participants, let them explore the game and answer some questions. With analyzing quantitative and qualitative data, we evaluate our product and make an improvement.

1. Start by defining the goals for your Interactive Game. Ask ourselves several questions: What is my game about? What is my game great at? What features should I include? The first impression is very important. Goals can help you assess your game’s success. Brainstorming and mind mapping can help with the first step too.


2. Conduct UX evaluation as early as possible and know what your users want. Evaluating aspects of user experience and especially understanding what kind of game play will evoke what type of user experience. With a storyboard and prototype, we can easily review the whole flow of the user interface and interactions. We should conduct UX evaluation as early as possible, well before all the parts affecting the holistic experience are available. Common methods and approaches used in interactive games are: Questionnaires and Heuristic Evaluation. One is user-oriented evaluation methods and the other is expert oriented evaluation.


3. Design iterative series of prototypes, construct and test. Once we know what our users want, design iterations should be evaluated from a user perspective. Meanwhile, be sure to follow ten general principles for user interface design ( This should be done early and continuously during the whole design process until requirements are met.


4. Later stage of evaluation. When we get to later stages of refining our design, typical users’ valuable feedback is the most important thing. Usability requirements for user performance and satisfaction can be tested. Therefore, a different kind of evaluation approach is needed. Combination of questionnaires and retrospective think aloud is a good choice.

All in all, these are my personal thoughts on UX evaluation method. I believe that after completing this smart course, I can have more insightful ideas to share. lol

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Posted by on September 22, 2012 in Reading Reflections



Random Thoughts About The “Steve Jobs Rule” After Tuesday’s Lecture

The day before yesterday, there was a brief lecture on innovation in product design given by Doug Field, VP of Product Design for Apple, Inc. I would like to get some information about product design and user experience design. However, the lecture was so short and he didn’t talk much about designing. Even he refused to answer any questions about iPhone 5. Instead, Doug talked a lot of things about his dream, his career and his belief. He praised Darwin and quoted the quotation of the Darwin many times, “the survival of the fittest” and “nature is a designer”. He said that Organisms should produce more offspring than actually survive. So don’t fear failure because failure is necessary for progress. You can pile up lots of failures and still keep rolling. Hold out and you will succeed in time.

While Doug was showing slides, from his lively face and moving hands, I felt a strong sense of his love and belonging. “What do you love to do?”“What do you believe?” “What is your hobby”. He was showing us how to create aspirations and sell dreams! What an Apple style! As Steve Jobs said:

You’ve got to find what you love and that is as true for work as it is for lovers. Your work is going to fill a large part of your life and the only way to be truly satisfied is to do what you believe is great work. And the only way to do great work is to love what you do. If you haven’t found it yet, keep looking and don’t settle. As with all matters of the heart, you’ll know when you’ve found it.

Do what you love and love what you do, then it will be a great work. In one word, passion is everything. This is the Steve Rules of Success. This is also what I learned from the lecture. Jobs gave the people around the world a compelling reason to own his creation and in turn the world gave him a huge aspiration and respect. I’m sure almost everyone wishes to have one Apple product one day. That’s the power of Apple and the power of dream. Here I would like to share Jobs’ greatest legacy. I think it is the set of principles that drove his success. Here is four principles we can adopt in our jobs.

1. Follow your heart and intuition.

Jobs once said: Know what you truly want to become. Everything else is secondary. Do what you feel passionate about and it really, really matters. We spend most of our day on work. If it doesn’t arouse or excite feelings, passions and vibes, how can our products stir up people’s interest in them. Time is limited. Don’t waste your time on blah and uninspired things. Take courage to follow your heart and intuition.

2. Say no to 1,000 things.

Jobs believes that a good product comes from saying no to 1,000 things. This is a powerful thought from Steve Jobs. In the lecture, Doug also stressed that we should do the best things in life. Everyday we are tossed such numerous directions doing too many things that forget to do the best one. Often, I find myself very very busy in trying different things and never think about saying “no”. Few effects to achieve. I must learn how to select the best from all the stuff and then concentrate on it. 

3. Create a need for the product.

Jobs said that, you can’t just ask customers what they want and then try to give that to them. By the time you get it built, they’ll want something new. It seems to differ from the points in our UX books and other design textbooks which stress the importance of understanding the needs of users. However, another Steve’s words may explain this, It’s really hard to design products by focus groups. A lot of times, people don’t know what they want until you show it to them. According to him, every user wants to own something but does not know what he or she really wants. Just like I know that some products satisfy me while others only frustrate me but I can’t exactly tell why. Maybe it is just my feeling and intuition. However, when I learned the principles of cognitive psychology, it suddenly hits me. Awesome! That’s actually what I want! It makes me aware of anything.

So I think the reason why Steve is the master of all is that he can capture the need in users’ deep heart and create a good product which differentiating it very well with other products and connecting with the users’ minds. In fact, the process of creating a need is selecting the best need and making the users recognizing that. Their need is there! Find it! Give users a compelling reason to vibe their feeling and buy your product.

Another question arises here. How to create that compelling reason? Well, I think the answer is to do user-centered design for the product. We should focus on ideas rather than tools or techniques. This is what I am seeking hard in my CGT 512 class. I need to get the best knowledge from my book and come back to time and time again for inspiration and insight. I am still on the road.

4. Sell dreams, not products.

The dream is not only Jobs’ but also ours. Steve Jobs really understood users and captured our imagination, then presented it on a small button in iPhone or iPad tablet. It seems so easy. As Steve Jobs said, dream bigger, be care about users themselves and believe in yourself. Act at once and you can make it reality and succeed.


Posted by on September 13, 2012 in Thoughts & Ideas


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Gestalt Principles Applied in Website Design

What is a good and creative design? What is a bad and ugly design? These questions are always running through my head. As a web designer, suddenly I encounter a web page that first leaves me breathless, and then leaves me sleepless because it makes me think “why I didn’t come up with it” “I should have thought of that”. Good web design interface is something that grasps your eyes and invokes your feelings when you get into contact with it. To me, it makes me think and appreciate how smart, creative the piece was. I want to make my users smile and evoke some sort of emotional response. They are glad to discuss and share it with fiends. More people will look at it, save it, and come back to it. Yes, that’s an awesome design. I want more of that in my life.

But how? How can I make such simple, effective, and yet brilliant web page that you can’t stop thinking about it with respect and envy? I didn’t get an answer until I recognize the close relationship between Gestalt principles and design. Gestalt Principles is an essential theoretical tool which can help us to find out how visual perception works and how to arrange visual contents in an effective way. A good designer knows of Gestalt principles and employs these rules to have the edge over. The principle of proximity is one of Gestalt principles. It has a big impact on web designing, especially for content-rich websites. Here following the examples of how this rule has applied to web design layout creation.

Because our brains like to make order and cohesiveness out of chaos, our minds have a tendency to perceive objects as a group when they are close to one another. As part of implementing proximity, white space, hierarchy, grid, grouping of related elements should be incorporated in the web design.

Appropriate and bad use of white space and grid

While implementing the principle of proximity, it must be noted that white space or empty space is essential. Experienced designer know how to give website an appropriate empty space and create a harmonious and balanced layout. The empty spacing between the designs can make our mind pick up a pattern easily as you can see below. An organized look is more appealing for visitors.

One way to group related elements is to use grids in web design. With the multiples of the grid columns and structured vertical layout, everything is lined up perfectly. It can force the web designer to apply principles of proximity without even thinking about it. These factors can be used for both good and evil. Yahoo ( is a good example of appropriate use of these elements while Military Corruption ( is a bad example.

Appropriate and bad use of hierarchy and grouping of related elements

Grouping and sub-grouping helps to communicate the purpose of the website. The relationship between items is called visual hierarchy. A clear grouped items are effective to convey the meaning of information and help users get to the main point quickly. A list is a powerful tool for creating sub- hierarchies. We can also use size, color, contrast, alignment and repetition to make it easier to scan. Google News ( is a great example of balancing and displaying a large amount of information with appropriate use of hierarchy and grouping of related elements. Headlines use the biggest size and bolder color to attract reader’s attention. Within separated widgets, the designer of Google News uses list and alignment as powerful forms of organization to associate similar content. Using the above mentioned points, web site becomes easy for users to read and scan. It looks more attractive.

On the contrast, Bavarian Brathaus ( is a really bad example. The awful design makes visitors leave quickly. Heading has the same size and color with the content. And the content is not well-planned. No separated widgets, no visual hierarchy and even no clear list. So how can users read and scan websites easily! Absolutely horrible experience! Just by glancing at the two examples above, without even examining the content, you’ll see that Google News can hold the interest of the reader while Bavarian Brathaus is a failure of design.


Posted by on September 10, 2012 in Good/Bad Interface Design


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