Recent posts in my Usability Category

November 21, 2012

David Byrne on the perils of ebooks and developing enhanced editions

Sounds like David Byrne has been having a tough time developing an enhanced ebook version of his “How music works”.

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November 9, 2012

Guardian comment system changes: The perils of designing for all users, not just the vocal ones

The Guardian are currently trying out some changes to their commenting system. Like most changes to a major website, the backlash amongst some users is very, very vocal, and everybody gets to watch.

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October 1, 2012

“Responsive IA: IA in the touchscreen era” - Martin Belam at EuroIA

This is an essay version of the talk I gave at EuroIA 2012 in Rome, looking at responsive design and touchscreen devices have changed the approach I take to my IA work.

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September 30, 2012

Building a coupon app for iPhone - Hermann Hofstetter & Gregor Urech at EuroIA

One of the few sessions at EuroIA I saw that actually had footage of using testing was a cases tudy of building a discount coupon app for the iPhone in Switzerland. Here are my notes on Hermann Hofstetter & Gregor Urech’s talk.

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“RITE: Testing and a business driver” - Jim Kalbach & Carola Weller at EuroIA

Here are my notes on James Kalbach and Carola Weller talking about the RITE methodology at EuroIA 2012 in Rome.

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September 28, 2012

“The dirty magnet” - Gerry McGovern at EuroIA

I’m at EuroIA in Rome, and will be trying my usual blog-it-as-it-happens approach. Whilst also putting the final touches to my talk on “IA in the touchscreen era” tomorrow. Here are my notes on the opening session from Gerry McGovern...

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August 23, 2012

Why your news site should never automatically open external links in a new window

A question that I used to get asked time and time again in the comments underneath techie blog posts on the Guardian was why the site didn’t open external links in a new window. And I get asked variations of it elsewhere, so I thought I’d just take five minutes to set out why, on the 21st century internet, forcing links to open new browser windows is wrong.

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July 30, 2012

My notes from Design Jam London #5

On Friday and Saturday I attended Design Jam #5 in London. A group of around thirty-or-so designers got together over a 24 hour period, to form teams and to try and research and design products to meet a specific challenge. This time around the challenge was: “Design a service for people who read for pleasure”

Here are my notes from the event.

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June 6, 2012


You might have seen that the Usability Professionals’ Association has rebranded as the User Experience Professionals Association. Here’s why it has been a dreadful user experience for me.

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May 10, 2012

“Do you want your internet to work? Yes/No”

There was an interesting post on the eConsultancy blog from Graham Charlton yesterday about the forthcoming changes that mean websites are being obliged to obtain consent for the use of cookies.

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April 11, 2012

A handful of lessons from beta testing features on the Guardian’s website

If you subscribe to the theory that you should “release early, release often”, and that you want to “fail fast” and learn from those failings, then you end up in a world where you should be regularly testing variations of your digital product on your audience. If you don’t go about it the right way, this can be a bruising experience for all concerned. Today I wanted to outline some thoughts prompted by a recent trial of threaded comments on the site that I was involved in.

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March 8, 2012

Your product is flawed. That should hurt.

Andrew Chen wrote an excellent blog post a few days back entitled “Why you’ll always think your product is shit” No digital product is ever finished, and the flaws in the one you work on should hurt you.

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September 24, 2011

iPads, kids and design lessons for adults - Wouter Sluis-Thiescheffer & Brian Pagán at EuroIA 2011

I’m trying to keep up the pace with “live blogging” the sessions from EuroIA as soon as they finish today, but there was so much packed into Wouter Sluis-Thiescheffer & Brian Pagán’s talk that I didn’t quite manage to write it up in the fifteen minute break that followed. It was fantastic though - and really great fun as well as useful. And please excuse an above average number of typos...

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“Pervasive IA for the Sentient City” - Andrea Resmini and Luca Rosati at EuroIA 2011

I’m trying to “live blog” my notes from EuroIA in Prague as quickly as I can. Here are my takeaway points from Andrea Resmini and Luca Rosati’s talk about pervasive IA in our cities, which has just finished. You’ll have to be forgiving of an above average number of typos...

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September 23, 2011

“Designing today’s web” - Luke Wroblewski at EuroIA 2011

This year’s EuroIA Summit kicked off with a keynote from Luke Wroblewski - whose book on web form design is one of my personal bibles. Here are my notes.

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“Navigating the Digital Spice Route” - Terry Ma at EuroIA 2011

Over the course of the next couple of days, I’ll be blogging my notes from the sessions at EuroIA in Prague. Not necessarily, it must be said, in the right order. I’m starting with my notes from a session that has just finished - LBi’s Terry Ma talking about localising web design to compete in the Middle East and Asian markets.

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July 25, 2011

4 key pieces of audience engagement missing from Andy Rutledge’s news redux

Andy Rutledge published a fascinating blog post last week looking at the design of digital news, and to illustrate his points he did a redux of the New York Times. Whilst appreciating the visual design, I thought there were 4 key areas where I very much disagree with Andy’s analysis, and think it would fail to engage with mainstream news readers.

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July 4, 2011

Better contextual mobile testing, and barriers to adopting usability - UPA Redux #3

Recently I was in Atlanta for the UPA conference. Here is part three of my notes from the week, featuring Amy Buckner & Pamela Walshe talking about contextual mobile research, Susan Dray talking about barriers to adopting usability techniques, and a big helping of my own technology failure.

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July 1, 2011

Using measuring and using humour in UX - UPA Redux #2

Last week I was in Atlanta for the UPA conference. Here is part two of my notes from the week, featuring Kuldeep Kelkar, Rolf Molich and Danielle Cooley.

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June 29, 2011

Body language, cults and choice - UPA Redux #1

Last week I was in Atlanta for the UPA conference. Here is part one of my notes from the week featuring Brooke Baldwin, Kathi Kaiser and Susan Weinschenk.

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June 28, 2011

“Social by design” as a disruptive force - Paul Adams at UPA 2011

Paul Adams opened the UPA conference in Atlanta with a keynote talk that looked about how the web is being rebuilt around people. With a liberal dose of Facebook’s “Social by design” mantra, he explored the nature of our offline social networks as humans, and the differences between strong, weak and temporary ties between friends and people. Here are my notes from the session.

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June 27, 2011

“Citizen usability testers” debate at the UPA conference

One of the sessions I enjoyed most at the UPA conference was the debate featuring Michael Hawley, Steve Krug, Rich Buttiglieri, Jen McGinn and Bob Thomas. Titled “Dangerous in the Wrong Hands, or Power to the People?”, it tackled the issue of “amateurs” running usability testing sessions.

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June 23, 2011

Changing the Guardian through guerilla usability testing

Today at the UPA Conference in Atlanta I gave a presentation entitled “Changing the Guardian through guerilla usability testing”. Here is an essay version of the talk.

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All your UPA 2011 slides are belong to us

Here is my almost certainly doomed attempt to gather together a running linklog in one place the slides, resources, posters and blog posts from the speakers and attendees at the UPA 2011 conference in Atlanta as they appear on the web. If I’ve missed one, let me know in the comments or tweet me the link to @currybet.

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June 16, 2011

“Come as you are” - Part 3: The Sony years

Part three of “Come as you are” looks at some of the things that I learned about about being an IA/UX practitioner whilst working for Sony in Austria - including treating internal systems with as much care as you focus on end users, and why sometimes UX cannot rescue a flawed product.

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May 24, 2011

Is the New York Public Library’s “Biblion” app actually the paleofuture of iPad magazines?

Alexis Madrigal asked in The Atlantic if it was “the magazine app of the future”, and I’ve been playing around with Biblion, the app produced by the New York Public Library. Although it has generated some rave reviews, I thought there were some flaws and missed opportunities in the app.

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March 18, 2011

"Strategic UX" by Leisa Reichelt at London IA

I was going to start this blog post off with a quote from Leisa Reichelt’s recent London IA talk, but she came out with so many pithy one liners that it was impossible to pick one. Leisa’s basic premise was that if you read some of the very best books about management strategy and techniques, they sound awfully familiar to anyone who has ever read a UX book. For example, they have a focus on businesses being successful by serving customers needs - a criteria for design success that we are all familiar with.

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February 22, 2011

Upcoming talks in London, Manchester, Warsaw, Denver and Atlanta

I’ve been sitting on the news for several weeks now about some upcoming talks and appearances at conferences that I’ve got planned, but since they all seem to have finally been publicly announced I can reveal my jet-setting plans for the next few months.

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February 9, 2011

"What we can learn from the intelligence community" - Lucy Spence at Lightning UX

This time last week I was looking forward to an evening of Lightning UX organised by Lee McIvor, a very welcome addition to the events calendar on the London UX scene. I've been blogging my notes from the evening, and this post is about Lucy Spence's talk on puzzles and mysteries.

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January 31, 2011

"Putting the user at the heart of digital development" - Julie Dodd talking at PublicZone's user research event

Last week I attended an event hosted by PublicZone, and their head of user experience, Julie Dodd, spoke about ways non-profit organisations could involve users in their digital product and service design.

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December 21, 2010

news:rewired - “Reader-centred journalism”

A fascinating section in Joanna Geary's news:rewired keynote last week looked at brand loyalty, and how people happily have tattoos of company and band logos inked onto their bodies, but you never see someone with a masthead tattoo. An important feature of how we develop digital news products is now how we interact with our audience.

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December 3, 2010

No more 'us and them': Part 5 - Designing products with the audience

In early November 2010 I gave a presentation at the London UKUPA meeting for 'World Usability Day'. In it, I took the day's theme of 'communication', and examined how twenty years of digital technology had smashed the boundaries between media organisations and their audiences. In this five part series, I've written that talk up as an essay, covering how the media now have to deal with users on a much more personal level, involve them in product design, and build tools to enable story-telling. This is the final part.

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November 11, 2010

Linklog special: UK UPA World Usability Day talk

Tonight I'm talking at the UK UPA's event for World Usability Day. Here is a list of the links and things that I'll be mentioning.

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October 4, 2010

The MacGyvers of mobile usability testing - Belén Barros Pena and Bernard Tyers at EuroIA 2010

At EuroIA this year, Belén Barros Pena and Bernard Tyers were presenting their approach to DIY usability testing on mobile devices. Having listed various expensive ways of doing it, and their drawbacks, the duo then MacGyver'd up a device that clamped to a phone, and filmed the screen as a user carried out the test.

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September 27, 2010

All your EuroIA slides are belong to us

All of the slides from this year's EuroIA that I have been able to find online gathered in one place.

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September 20, 2010

Talking 'identity' and news websites at EuroIA this week

I'll be talking about this week at EuroIA in Paris. My presentation is on the first day of the programme, entitled "Implementing 'Identity' on". I'll also be taking part in the evening IA Jam session, explaining why "Tags are magic!".

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June 4, 2010

8 tips for making ambush 'guerilla user testing' clip reel videos

Yesterday I posted my 10 tips for ambush 'guerilla user testing'. Once you've got some footage of people using your website, you need to find the best way to present that back to the business. I like to make a summary clip reel of the testing, and here are my 8 tips on putting your clip reel together...

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June 3, 2010

10 tips for 'ambush guerilla user testing'

Over the last couple of years I've been practicing 'ambush guerilla user testing', which is basically the art of pouncing on lone people in cafes and public spaces, and quickly filming them whilst they use a website for a couple of minutes. It isn't by any means a formal research technique, but you can soon build up a valuable clip library of initial reactions to you and your competitors' products, and tease out interesting anecdotal evidence about the way that people use and feel about your website. Approaching strangers in a public place and asking to video them using the Internet sounds pretty daunting, so here are my top 10 tips to help you get started....

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June 1, 2010

Future of web design: Inclusive web design by Robin Christopherson, and a couple of misses

Here are my 'Future of web design' notes from an excellent talk about inclusive and accessible website design from Robin Christopherson, and some notes from a couple of sessions that didn't quite do the trick for me...

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May 26, 2010

Future of web design: "Play, Destroy, Create" by Brendan Dawes

In the first of a series of posts writing up my notes from this year's "Future of web design" conference in London, here is what I made of the keynote by Brendan Dawes.

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January 14, 2010

The UX of moving house: Part 8 - BT's customer service on Twitter

Over the last two weeks I've been writing about the user experience of moving house when trying to utilise online tools to do a lot of the work. On the whole, whether it has been poorly optimised estate agent search, registering for council tax, or appalling customer service from Sky, it wasn't a happy one. It is sometimes a lot easier to be critical of things rather than constructive - and I make no apology for that. In the recent...
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January 12, 2010

The UX of moving house: Part 6 - Officialdom

In part 6 of this series, I turn my attention away from estate agents, and towards the user experience of dealing with Haringey and Waltham Forest councils.

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January 11, 2010

The UX of moving house: Part 5 - A more native web experience

Globrix and Rightmove are two 'digital native' websites that illustrate that the user experience of searching for a new home online need not be as painful as most estate agent websites seem to make it.

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January 8, 2010

The UX of moving house: Part 4 - Transport links

In the fourth part of this series, based on a presentation given at 'London IA in the pub' in October 2009, I look at different online interfaces to help you determine the transport links surrounding your potential new home.

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January 7, 2010

The UX of moving house: Part 3 - Experimental interfaces and 'the curse of the tiny image'

Not all estate agent websites follow the same formula. In this part of the 'UX of moving house' series, I look at an experimental flash search results page, and ponder why so many estate agent sites make such poor use of images.

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January 6, 2010

The UX of moving house: Part 2 - Estate agent search results

Looking for a new home is essentially one long search process over a set of structured data - location, price, number of bedrooms etc. You'd therefore expect most estate agent sites to be heavily optimised around the search experience. You would be wrong, as part 2 of this series illustrates.

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January 5, 2010

The UX of moving house...with a pregnant spouse: Part 1

Last year my wife and I bought a house for the first time. She was heavily pregnant during the process, and so I did much more of the leg-work that I'd usually expect to. Naturally, I tried to do everything online, and document the good and the bad about the information architecture and user experience as I went along. This is the first of a series of posts based on a presentation of my findings, which I originally gave at 'London IA in the pub' in October 2009.

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December 11, 2009

The curious case of the enterprise software design from the nineties that just would not die

Several presentations of enterprise software I've seen recently have made me wonder why we tolerate interfaces and interactions in this sphere which would never make it into production for web tools.

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November 3, 2009

Ecommerce Expo: Part 2 - "Persuading users to buy & eliminating checkout drop-offs"

Last week I started blogging about my visit to the Ecommerce Expo in Earls Court, where I attended some of the free seminar sessions that were on offer. If you can pick your way through the more obvious sales pitches, then there are usually a few worth visiting. I first posted about a case study from British Airways on multi-variant testing. Today I wanted to write about Trenton Moss from Webcredible, and his presentation on optimising the checkout process. "Persuading...
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October 30, 2009

Ecommerce Expo: Part 1 - "How little changes made a big difference at"

Last week I made my annual trip to the Ecommerce Expo in London. Although in my current role at The Guardian I don't generally deal with Ecommerce day-to-day, I've done plenty in the past for people like Sony. The exhibition had a four-track two day programme of free seminars running alongside it, and if you can pick your way through the more blatant software and service sales pitches, you can find some really interesting case studies from some big (and...
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September 3, 2009

London IA Mini Conference III: UX London Redux

It seems an age since it took place, but a couple of weeks ago we held the third London IA Mini Conference. This time the venue was a space near London Bridge donated by The Team, and the theme of the evening was a redux of the UX London conference organised by Clearleft. The event was kindly sponsored by Zebra People. Andy Budd on the future of UX London Andy Budd of Clearleft opened the evening, talking about how UX...
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July 31, 2009

Social media unplugged: Part 4 - Google Bookmarks, Fark and Mixx

During the course of this week I've been studying the user experience when you encounter social bookmarking services for the first time. This has varied greatly, from something like Yahoo! Buzz with a comprehensive registration process which ends up asking you to confirm your 'buzz up' for the article that started your journey, to Newsvine, which just seems to throw up a browser security error if you are not logged in. In today's final part I'll be looking at Google...
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July 30, 2009

Social media unplugged: Part 3 - Newsvine, Reddit and Facebook

This week I've been writing about 'social media unplugged' - finding out what the user experience is like when you approach social bookmarking for the first time via using an icon on a content site. I contend that having detected an attempt to share by a user who isn't logged in, these services need to provide an opportunity for an existing user to log in, for a new user to register, and they should take the opportunity to showcase their...
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July 29, 2009

Social media unplugged: Part 2 - Yahoo! Buzz and Delicious

This week I'm looking at 'social media unplugged', finding out what the user experience is like if you click one of the multitude of share buttons that litter the web without being logged in to the service you are attempting to use. In yesterday's first part I examined Digg and StumbleUpon. Both of these put the novice user through a registration process, only at the end to have not captured the URL that they were hoping to submit. Today I'm...
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July 28, 2009

Social media unplugged: Part 1 - Digg and StumbleUpon

Social media unplugged
A series of posts looking at the user experience of social bookmarking sites when people first visit them via clicking an icon.

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June 28, 2009

Sale Water Park making audience research fun for kids

One of the things I advocate when trying to do user-centred web application design is to take every possible opportunity to talk to real users to get their input into the process. That can range from running focus groups, carrying out online surveys, undertaking controlled testing in lab conditions, or just plonking myself down next to people in cafes and 'ambush' user-testing them with Silverback. I'm always on the look-out for ways that other organisations carry out this kind of...
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June 27, 2009

Daisy dares you to be young

I can't remember who pointed me to it, but earlier this week I was directed to a free download of a track by Daisy Dares You - the project of 15 year old Daisy Coburn. In order to get your free mp3 you need to sign up for some permission marketing. I always like to see a well optimised form, and so it was good to see 'United Kingdom' and 'Ireland' head the list of territories. There had obviously been...
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June 22, 2009

London IA Mini Conference II: Notes, facts and take-away quotes - part 1

"London IA Mini II"
My write-up of the recent London IA Mini Conference at the Sense Loft in London.

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May 6, 2009 and Euroffice at the Endeca e-Business Forum

Yesterday I posted some of my notes from a trip to Endeca's Richmond office to attend the "Endeca e-Business Forum". They covered Ashley Freidlein's keynote talk about "Beautiful Basics". Today I wanted to look at some of my other notes from the event. Most of the presentations had a dual format, with a presenter from Endeca demonstrating some of the features of the platform, followed by a customer case study of how they had implemented them. It is always intriguing...
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May 5, 2009

"Beautiful Basics" - Ashley Friedlein at the Endeca e-Business Forum

Last week I was at Endeca's offices in Richmond for their "Endeca e-Business Forum". The keynote was being given by Ashley Friedlein of, and was about "Beautiful Basics - The things you need to be doing really well online to succeed". What I liked about it was that Ashley used lots and lots of real world examples and live demos. Instead of just presenting bullet point lists of 'must do' website features, he showed excellent user experiences in action....
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