Monthly Archives: October 2012

Reading Reflections of Week 11: Usability Testing

Reading Materials Covered: UxBook Chapter 14 Rigorous Empirical Evaluation: Preparation

                                             UxBook Chapter 15 Rigorous Empirical Evaluation: Running the Session

These two chapters are very close contacted with each other. Chapter 14 is about how to make a good preparation for evaluation. Firstly, we should know how to plan for rigorous empirical UX evaluation, especially indentify the most important design issues and user tasks to investigate. Secondly, select our team members and appropriate tasks to support evaluation. Thirdly, determine our evaluation methods and data collection techniques which can fit our evaluation goals and needs. Just remember our approach to choosing these methods are goal driven. The following procedures are participant selection, recruitment and management. The book lists concrete steps to do these things and things what we should avoid. The last one is pilot testing. It is an effective method to find weaknesses in the prototype and solve problems in and early stage.

Chapter 15 is a continuation of Chapter 14. The article focuses on the details of running a lab-based evaluation. It begins with some essential preliminaries and protocol issues. Then the author uses three sections to discuss how to generate and collect quantitative UX data, qualitative UX data and emotional impact data. At last, wrap up our evaluation session.

This week’s materials are all about usability testing. The basic question is what is usability testing, why it’s done and how it is done.

1. What is usability testing and why it is done?

As a web designer, we need to do usability testing to see if our system works correctly as we expect. Jakob Nielsen defines usability testing and he says:

Usability is a quality attribute that assesses how easy user interfaces are to use. The word “usability” also refers to methods for improving ease-of-use during the design process.

In my opinion, usability testing determines the efficiency, satisfaction and ease of use for our product. How can users find and use the features the first time they interact with our system? We want to know whether or not the users can accomplish their tasks easily, effectively and satisfactorily. That is what usability testing should do and the goal is to refine and modify our design.

2. How is usability testing done?

As UxBook mentions, there are two types of tests: lab-based test vs field-based test. Because our goal is to test whether our website product satisfies users’ needs, I will focus on lab test. There are several steps and methods to do usability testing.

  • Plan and Preparation

The first thing is to make a plan and prepare for the test. Select a team, determine our product and set our evaluation goals and measurements. Do not forget to select participants and recruit them.

  • User study

Learn about users’ physical and cultural characteristics, motivations and mental models. Also, why they use our products and how they use it. Especially, explore users’ goals and things they need to achieve.

  • Task study

Select appropriate tasks to support our evaluation. Except for benchmark tasks to measure issues, we can also select issues that uncover problems if they exist just like controversial issues. Keep an eye on critical incidents. Sometimes they can reflect some obvious and severe UX problems.

  • Conduct the usability test

Just let user finish the task and do not intervene them. Comprehension is very important. Reassure that there is no misconception. If a user asks a question, don’t answer it directly. Just observe what they behave and write it down. We can also use videotape to help us record but paper notes taking is necessary. Then we can categorize data and analyze data. Determine the causes of problems and find relevant usability issues.

  • Documentation

Complete and polish our usability report. Keep in mind who will read the report. Well done!

Leave a comment

Posted by on October 31, 2012 in Reading Reflections



Reading Reflection of Week 10: Information Architecture and Prototyping

Reading Materials: UxB Chapter 11; Conceptual Design: Information Architecture

The first article on Blackboard is about information architecture. The author articulates what information architecture is, how people navigate, how to develop an architecture, and some labels and orientation cues. The article is clear and concise and addresses the main aspects of the topic which allows me to grasp concepts quickly.

As the author mentions, information architecture means the structure or organization of the web site, how we design and label complex elements in practice. This area contains many issues such as navigation, searching, planning and organization. No matter what you use to organize information, the most important principle is that we should satisfy users’ needs and help them achieve their task. With this in mind, our web design is effective and creative.

When developing the information architecture, I think card sorting is a user-centered technique. Because card sorting is to involve perspective users to collect suggestions for the web site, it is a very useful approach to examine what people think and how they form concepts and categories. The open card sort method is quite common and the steps are very clear and easy to follow.

  • Label the cards
  • Brief the users
  • Let the users group the items and label the groups
  • Listen to other comments about the content
  • Group the groups, or subdivide the groups
  • Write down the hierarchy the users created, and repeat with more users
  • Combine the results

Often, we have a large number of materials to know and need to organize information into a coherent and complete form. In other words, we use different pages to convey information and different pages should be linked together. The way how they are linked is topology. There are various website topologies, as is show below:

Hierarchy topology: It divides information into different level and subgroups. The pattern is a symmetrical pattern where each level is connected to the next higher level. The top-down hierarchy topology is most commonly used.

Linear Topology: When moving through ordered list of similar items, an ordered sequence can be used which is linear topology. The disadvantage of this topology is that it may be time-consuming and tedious.

Matrix or Grid: Appropriate for two-dimensional organization. Not a very common use.

Full Mesh: More useful for small web site where every page is linked to every other page. It allows rapid navigation.

Arbitrary Network: Sites link back and forth with other sites with no dominant structure. It can help users find information when no central authority can determine the organization.

Hybrid: Information is complicated and topologies are not pure. Hybrid is a combination of these various topologies. Use it carefully and avoid confusing user or conveying vague information.

After reading UX Book Chapter 11 which discusses prototypes, I get an increasingly clearer picture of the different types and prototypes and how to choose the appropriate one.

Different types: Horizontal and Vertical Prototypes. Horizontal means broad and vertical means deeply. When we start with prototyping, horizontal prototype is a good choice as it can explore more concepts from a broad overview. While we need to give some details, it is better to use a vertical prototype which can show task sequences or associated user actions in depth.

Different fidelity levels of prototypes:

  • Low-Fidelity Prototype: Sketches, fast and disposable mockups, ultralow fidelity. They are used in the situation where few details are needed to flesh out or they may be quickly changed later. For ideation and sketching, we use low-fidelity prototype to support brainstorming and discussion.
  • Medium-Fidelity Prototypes: Evolution from low-fidelity prototypes. It includes wireframes, pixel-perfect interactive mockups and computer-printed paper. Sometimes we want a bit more fidelity in our procedure and medium-fidelity is a good choice. It often occurs when we undertake interaction design and early detailed design.
  • High-Fidelity Prototypes: Programmed Prototype. When our project is almost done, we can use high-fidelity prototypes to evaluate details in order to refine and modify the system. It is very effective to find many UX problems.

Additionally, prototyping has some pitfalls and drawbacks. The book has mentioned three pitfalls That is,

  • Get cooperation, buy-in, and understanding
  • Be honest about limitations and do not overpromise
  • Do not overwork your prototype

In my opinion, I should pay more attention to the third one which means do not “fall in love” with your prototype. Sometimes, after finally accomplishing our prototype, we are so excited and treasure our work so much. People all tend to be on a continuum of perfectionism. We modify and polish our work again again and again. It is totally wrong for prototyping because it is just some early things to realize design alternatives and evaluate interaction design. The fast you go, the sooner you know. So keep in mind that do not fall in love with your prototype and focus on something more important.


Posted by on October 30, 2012 in Reading Reflections



A Nice List of Responsive Design

Recently responsive web design becomes more and more popular. We should redesign our website when bring them in line with smartphone and tablet. Here I found some wonderful collections of free WordPress themes with a responsive layout-15 Free WordPress Themes with a Responsive Layout.

You can view the demo and download for free. That is really cool! Also, we can pick up some basic techniques very quickly.

Have fun!:-)



An Informative Article About User Interface Design

I found an interesting and informative article written by Anastasios-User Interface Design, Getting the Basics Right. Here is the link.

As we are doing our big UR3 report, these key principles of user interface design will be very helpful. The author highlights four principles:

  • Visual Chunking: give interfaces a clean and consistent structure by visually separating areas that represent inherently different functionality.
  • Respect the Device: respect the idiosyncrasies of the device for which you are designing.
  • Remove the clutter, not the features.
  • Empathize with the user. Don’t make design decisions lightly.

By the way, I really like the Microsoft Word 2010 example and Apple Mail for OS X Lion example he used to illustrate his ideas.

Have fun!  Find important things we should bear in mind in these blogs!



Does Seem Like a Useful Tool to You?

My third Research Article Analysis is concerning about website. The author concluded that information-seeking is the most prevalent motive for individuals who use I have a question: Does Yelp.con seem like a useful tool to users? In order to answer the question, I create a Yelp account and use Yelp.

When I open the website, the search box is prominent in the homepage. I notice that my address is already filled in one of the search box. As a user who is looking for a wonderful frozen yogurt shop, I enter Frozen Yogurt and my address is West Lafayette, IN.

It shows that there are no results for Frozen Yogurt. However, it gives me a link of a category of Ice Cream & Frozen Yogurt and lists two shops. Below these things, there is a clue: Do you mean frozen yogurt?

Have you noticed that I misspelled the word Frozen? Oops, it is the reason why there are no results. But Yelp did understand my meaning and give me a hint. So I click frozen yogurt. Wow, there are 18 results for that! Just see the screenshot below. With the goal of information-seeking, I want to search quickly and easily by typing some keywords rather than a clear word. As a novice and lazy user, I am not very familiar with Yelp’s search keywords and sometimes I did make a mistake. Notice that the term “forzen” is misspelled, but with a fuzzy search, results containing the correctly spelled term “frozen” are found. It will not confuse and overwhelm. The home page contains a wealth of information in an attempt to be helpful. If the searching function has many restrictions, it will annoy user and make them feel very uncomfortable.

Well, now I finally arrive on the webpage of frozen yogurt. There is a map! Maps convey a lot of important information. Crap…What is the meaning of Mo’ Map? Need Decipher again. After clicking the label, I know it allow users to expand the map and provide more details of the searching results. For a first-time user, the meaning is not obvious and it is time-consuming to decipher the words. Why not use the normal word More instead of Mo’ just like Less Map label used in the website. I think it will be more recognizable as well as consistent. The design of the map should not require user to learn them but make their overall experience fluid and easy.

As a user who loves to read and write reviews, does seem like a useful tool? I go to the Red Mango Yelp page and find 26 reviews for it. There is a rating distribution which shows five star levels of comments. I want to read all five star reviews. Unfortunately, they are not clickable. If I’d like to browse through the worst reviews, the two star comments are not clickable too. Yelp sorts the reviews by rate, useful, funny, cool, total votes, friends and elites. The default Sort By choice is Yelp Sort. I am confused what such a sort entails. Why not sort by different rate levels? By doing so, I don’t need to scroll down to scan all the reviews. It will save time and make users more convenient to find what they need.

What’s your opinion? Do you think is a useful tool to you? 🙂


Posted by on October 28, 2012 in Good/Bad Interface Design



Reading Reflections of Week 9: Conceptual Design

The reading materials are Cooper chapter 7 and UxBook chapter 7, 8, 9. Copper chapter discusses how to design an effective product based on our requirements. Through defining the interaction framework, the visual design framework, the industrial design framework, a solid and stable framework definition is reached. After conceptual design, the designers should collect user feedback and do usability tests to find major problems with the interaction framework and refine some features.

UxBook uses three chapters to talk about how to design a new system. The author first presents three design paradigms and then comes up with design thinking, ideation and sketching. In the second chapter, the author focuses on how to create conceptual design and design for embodied, ubiquitous and situated interactions. The following chapter illustrates how to implement the design with annotated scenarios, prototypes and wireframes. Compared with Copper, UxBook is more meticulous and specific.

In order to understand these articles more deeply, I read the four chapters again with the five questions. Here is my answer.

1. What are the products of conceptual design? When we are done with conceptual design, what tangibles do we have?

Conceptual design is an implementation of the mapping to convert the designer’s mental model to user’s mental model. As a part of an interaction design, the products of conceptual design contain a theme, metaphor, or idea of a system. It is a concept!

After determining our personas, scenarios and requirements, the first step is conceptual design instead of sketching any widgets or objects. With synthesizing all our ideation and sketching results, we can examine what the system is to users from the ecological, interaction and emotional perspectives. When you show conceptual design ideas and sketching them based on the three perspectives, we are done with it and we have our tangibles, that is, what the product is, how it fits with its ecology and how it operates with users.

2. Some of the tools that help us come up and communicate the conceptual design are sketches, wireframes, and prototypes. They have various levels of fidelity: low (sketches); medium (wireframes); or high (prototypes). Although we read about prototypes next week, try to figure out: Why do we use redundant tools at different levels of fidelity? And what does it mean for something to have less or more fidelity?

When we start to design an effective product, it is impossible to achieve a perfect system in the beginning. The design group should modify and refine their versions again and again. That’s why we need different tools because design is lifecycle iteration and various types of design have their own kind of tools and evaluation. Just as Uxbook says, for each different project context and each stage of progress within the project, you have to adjust the amount of any kind of design, prototyping and evaluation to fit the situation in each of these incarnations of that lifecycle template.

Fidelity means the quality of being faithful or loyal. Here it denotes the degree of similarity. If the model reproduces main properties of the real product, it has a high level of fidelity, just like prototypes which serves to provide specifications for a real, working system. If the models just represent multiple alternative conceptual design ideas, they have a low level of fidelity, just like sketches which convey a broader design concepts and ideas. Less fidelity product is an uncompleted objects and it often happens at the first stage of lifecycle iterations in design. The tangibles are ideation and sketching. While more fidelity means more concrete and more accurate, these products are almost finished and it often happens before design refinement where we need to complete specification of interaction design.

3. What are other useful tools and techniques for creating conceptual design?

According to UxBook, participatory design is a useful tool for creating conceptual design. It is a good way to involve users in the design process and usually starts with reciprocal learning. In the situation, designers and users are the same. Anyone can express their design ideas or change some features. It is very effective for interaction situations.

According to Copper, user feedback sessions and usability tests are useful techniques too. They can identify major problems with the interaction framework and refine many important features like button labels and widgets. Without usability tests assess products’ effectiveness, we can not make a compelling product.

4. What are some major do’s and don’ts of conceptual design?


  • There is only one user experience — form and behavior must be designed in concert with each other.
  • It’s very easy to explore a variety of ways of presenting information and functionality and to perform radical reorganizations, if necessary.
  • It’s also important to consider environmental factors and persona aptitudes when devising visual styles.
  • It is often useful to develop one or two extreme options that push the look-and-feel a bit too far in one direction
  • Keep in mind that prototypes alone are rarely sufficient to communicate underlying patterns, principles, and rationale, which are vital concepts to communicate to programmers.
  • It requires vigilance to ensure that the design vision is faithfully and accurately translated from the design document to a final product.


  • Never show a design approach that you’re not happy with; stakeholders just might like it.
  • Don’t let yourself get distracted by the details of a particular area of the interface. Spending too much time and effort on intricate details early in the design process discourages designers from changing course to what might be a superior solution.

5. What role do users, user research, and user feedback play in conceptual design?

All our conceptual design is user-centered. It is the basis for interface design that makes sense to the user. The conceptual design is not just the designers’ business but users. We can involve users in our design session. It is not a substitute for learning about uses’ roles. It is the objective of contextual analysis.

User research must occur before ideation. Our design should be based on a solid research foundation. It is very important to determine the personas, scenarios and design requirements. Without user research, without effective data collection and analysis, our design is merely a castle in the air. How can we implement a clear and compelling product if lack clear definition of the target users and their goals and needs?

After conceptual design, we can collect feedback from users in order to refine and modify our system. Given less time and money, we can use informal feedback sessions. With clear explanation of our notions and ideas, we observe how users respond and evaluate. Meanwhile, we can ask how they feel and think about the idea.

Leave a comment

Posted by on October 27, 2012 in Reading Reflections



RAA3: Why People Use An Exploration of Uses and Gratifications

1. APA Citation:

Hicks Amy, Comp Stephen, Horovitz Jeannie, Hovarter Madeline, Miki Maya, Bevan L. Jennifer (2012). Why people use An exploration of uses and gratifications. Computers in Human Behavior, Volume 28, Issue 6, November 2012, Pages 2274-2279.

The link is

2. Purpose:

User-generated media (UGM) refers to these media which allow users to create and share media with others such as Facebook, MySpace, YouTube and Wikipedia. It revolutionized the way we think, communicate and entertain. is such kind of UGM which becomes very popular among individuals who like to read and write reviews about any type of service or rely on evaluations of other individuals who have received a service. However, there has not been much research concerning the popular website and find why so many people visit and use Research into the motives behind users will be beneficial not only to customers but also to business industry. As such, the purpose of the paper is to explore the intentions behind why individuals visit from the perspective of uses and gratifications (U&G) theory. Specifically the study examines restaurant reviews on

3. Methods:

Based on previous research findings, the author posed three concrete questions.

RQ1. What are the predominant motives behind users rating and critiquing restaurants or reading existing restaurant reviews?

RQ2. Do individuals who use to rate and critique restaurants report different motives for usage than individuals who read existing restaurant reviews?

RQ3. Does the frequency of usage relate to motives for usage?

RQ4. Does the perceived influence of restaurant reviews relate to motives for usage?

With these questions, the author conducted a survey via and targeted users age 18 and over. Almost all the participants were recruited online through Facebook, Yahoo groups, and LinkedIn. They were also encouraged to pass the survey to other individuals who may be interested. The procedure of the anonymous survey is as follows.

After collecting the data, the author measure users’ motives with Internet Motives Scale on a 7-point, Likert-type scale (1 = Strongly Disagree, 7 = Strongly Agree). Meanwhile, five uses and gratifications motives were examined: interpersonal utility, pass time, information seeking, convenience, and entertainment.

Furthermore, as to the frequency of visits, the author measured it via a single item. The analysis is based on the six types of frequency: rarely, monthly, once a week or less, a few times a week, once a day, or multiple times a day. Also, two 5-point, Likert-type questions were combined to measure how influential participants perceived restaurant reviews to be.

  •  How influential is Yelp in making your choice to visit a restaurant?
  •  In general, how much of an impact do you feel Yelp restaurant reviews have on consumers?

4. Main Findings:

Through the online survey, 144 effective questionnaires have been got. And the following table shows the demographic data.

To answer RQ1 which examine the motives of users, the results show that the highest mean of the five uses and gratifications motives was information-seeking. In addition, 123 respondents chose information-seeking as their primary use of As such, information-seeking is the most prevalent motive for individuals who use, followed by entertainment, convenience, inter-personal utility, and pass time by a large disparity. Interestingly, the results also indicate the’s interactive components, such as the option to invite your friends, message other users and partake in events, seem to be secondary to the website’s primary purpose of information provision for the participants.

Via a series of univariate analysis of variance tests that compared the two groups’ usage of each individual motive, RQ2’s results determined that the users who read and write reviews reported significantly higher means for each motive except for information-seeking than those who only read reviews. Uses and gratifications theory could interpret these findings. Those reader and writer group is more psychologically connected to than those who are only readers.

Furthermore, the data indicates that Information-seeking was also unrelated to frequency of visits. The results also determined that the more influential restaurant reviews were, the more participants endorsed the information-seeking, interpersonal utility, and convenience motives. Thus, though unrelated to frequency or whether an individual read reviews or read and wrote reviews, information-seeking was related to influence.

5. Analysis:

Overall, from the perspective of user and gratification theory, the study examines the motives of the popular UGM website-the uses and how influential a particular medium is. The utility of uses and gratifications theory will benefit other studies of UCM media such as Facebook and Myspace. Our users are not stiff but active and they can determine what media they prefer interacting with and how they use that specific media platform. Furthermore, by understanding the deep motive of website users, the managers and company owners could also benefit from that.

However, there are some pitfalls of the paper. The author conducted an online survey and analyzed the data with quantitive method. The survey was send like a snowball and only those who have strong interest in the topic would participate in it. So this is a voluntary response sample and it is not representative of the whole population. By doing so, the result may have bias of its own. In the scientific research, such methods should be avoided.


Posted by on October 27, 2012 in Research Article Analyses