Tuesday, July 5, 2016

How much does that electrical work cost?

Just had the electricians in to give me a quote on some wiring work. One of the options included a surge protector on the breaker box.

I tried to figure out what the difference was between the different levels other than $500-1000. The comparison chart didn't integrate all of the information. Instead, the pricing and comprehensive details were listed below the chart. There was some sort of attempt to tie the information together visually using green colored circles in the comparison chart, but that was lost on me.

That's when I got to explain what I do for a living. The electrician was nice enough to let me prattle on about design and user experience and how the chart was useless. He agreed and said he usually spends a lot of time trying to explain the chart to customers. I resisted the urge to diagram out a better comparison chart.

Monday, June 3, 2013

How much do you want that money??

Have you seen those Chase bank commercials? You know the one with the dinner party where the attendees pay the lady with the check via the Chase mobile app with a money transfer. I always wondered if they were all supposed to be Chase customers. Well, today I tried the money transfer at my bank.

I needed to refund some vacation deposit money to a friend and thought, "Why not try money transfer?" Who knew it would be an adventure in UX pain...

I'm a customer at Wells Fargo, my friend has her account at Bank of America. Luckily, Wells Fargo doesn't care! All I needed to do is set up my money transfer option (via verification of email and phone number) and then add her to my transfer list. Adding her to the transfer list was easy! All I needed was her name and either phone number or email address. Done. And done. Off went the refund. Or so I thought.

*Cue dramatic pause*

Now, the next part I would have heard about over drinks--if she hadn't been sitting across from me at the time I sent the transfer. Suddenly I heard grumbling and thought "Oh no, this can't be good." Apparently, Bank of America wasn't quite as ready to receive the funds as Wells Fargo made it for me to send to her. 

First, she tried to access the funds on the mobile Safari browser on her iPhone, which promptly redirected her to the BoA app to get her to download (but she already had it downloaded...).

She proceeded to sign in to her account via the browser and saw no funds waiting to be transferred. Then she brought in her PC. She accessed her email and when she clicked on the same link she had on her phone, it took her to a different page. Then she had to decide what to do with the resulting page. What BoA wanted her to do is choose which bank she wanted to use to deposit the money in to.


 Does this page communicate that to you? 

Unfortunately the call to action was lost on the page for her--for a while. She thought it was advertising! In the moment, she was desperate to find the option that would allow her to deposit the money which caused her to overlook the setup video and other Quick Help options on the left. Once that hurdle was overcome, she was then presented with what could be a existential question: Inside or Outside the bank?


I still am not sure what the difference is. Remember, at this point, she is still just trying to set up her transfer account to accept the money I sent her! I initially thought: "Does this mean you need to be physically inside the bank to use the 'Inside the Bank' tab?"

 Outside the bank:

Turns out, these tabs were actually asking her to set up her transfer account in the event she wanted to send money to someone else: 1) without a BoA account and 2) with a BoA account.

There are several issues with this:
1. That is not why she started this process. She only wanted to accept the transfer I sent her.
2. No clear indication that setting up a transfer account was actually taking place. Sure it could have been in the disclaimer, but when's the last time anyone has ever read that??
3. The mobile experience is divorced from the desktop experience.

I suggest that BoA do a bit of user testing. Or just read this post. Seriously. Fix a few things:
1. Separate the acceptance process from the setup process. Since she has a BoA account, she should just be able to say 'yes, I accept the transfer' in the most simplest of setups.
2. Provide a clear call to action for the setup process. Include clear steps and inform users what they need to do in order to complete them.
3. Do some task timing. Seriously. The only reason I didn't go with PayPal is that my recipient didn't have her bank account linked to it. But that process is seamless and quick. Why am I transferring funds electronically? For convenience and because it's quick. If it's not easy or quick, then this won't catch on.
4. If someone accesses this option via their mobile device, it should go through the same process it would have had it been the desktop interface. Moreover, mobile interactions should be simpler--so don't just port everything over from the web.

Wednesday, October 5, 2011

The Del.icio.us Debacle

So have you heard? Delicious is no more. They were bought by Yahoo in 2005 and had more than 5.3 million users by the end of 2008. In 2011 it was sold to AVOS Systems (according to Wikipedia). And on 9/27/11, it all came crashing down.

AVOS launched a 'back to beta' site that September day and suddenly there were screams heard around the web.

Where are my bookmarks?
Why am I banned?
Why can't I log in?
Why wasn't I told about this?

Many features users had come to rely on had been disabled, removed or were temporarily unavailable. Understandably, users were pissed and they railed against the changes.

How did it go so wrong? 

AVOS didn't bother to understand how people were interacting with the site.  Just talking with some users, informal interviews even, would have provided this information.  As a result, the tagging system (used by so many) is now harder to find than gold at the end of a rainbow. 

Changes AVOS made weren't really needed or desired.  Delicious worked just fine without any interventions. Sure, there were improvements that should have been made along the way, but the API played well with others and some communities (especially fan-based ones) had long since integrated the capabilities of Delicious into their online lives.

AVOS threw away the idea of legacy. I've seen clients want to come in and redesign their site and make a radical shift in IA and/or graphic design and then be perplexed when this new design didn't test well with their current users. You have to give a nod to the previous design. Whether it be carrying over the majority of the IA or using the same logo and colors, users need something to identify with while they are learning to navigate through a new design.

So what happens now?  I suspect that AVOS will loose bucket loads of users right and left. Why should they stay if their bookmarks and favorites are gone? That was the only reason they were using it in the first place.

In the mean time, a new site, Pinboard, has cropped up. It's been around for a while but hadn't been able to garner many users when Delicious was still in wide use. Now that Delicious has spurred their users, many are turning to Pinboard. It looks a lot like Delicious did in its early years: lean, no frills and very useful.

The founder, Maciej Ceglowski, has reached out to Delicious users via Twitter, encouraging them to put together a list of features they would like to see on Pinboard. So what did the users do? They started a google doc:


This is the greatest example of user driven design that I have seen in a long time.  Maciej will get on there now and again and make comments about the suggestions, giving direct feedback to the users on the features they want.

It's like taking usability testing or feature focus studies and turning it up a notch to include 100s of people.

Tuesday, July 19, 2011

Google+: The straw that broke the social media back--or is it?

Like any geek, I signed up for Google+ when it was announced. I had no idea what it was other than a social media site put out by Google.  I loved their maps and email, why shouldn't I love their social media site?

Then I started adding people to my circles. That's when it got a bit out of control. Apparently when you do that people get an email telling them they've been added to a circle you created, regardless if they were a Google+ user or not.

This tended to make my friends paranoid. How could they be added when they didn't sign up? What were they added to? How much of their information could I access now that I had added them to a circle?

That got me questioning the whole usefulness of Google+.  Was it really better than FB and Twitter? Was it different from the other social media sites? And really, what did it DO?

I've spent some time with it and still wish it interacted with FB and twitter. If it did, it would make it so much easier to keep up with streams from Google+ as I apparently am only capable of keeping up with 2 social media sites daily.

Google+ has some issues:
1. What differentiates it from FB and twitter? You seem to be able to filter the stream according to your circles but what else makes it different?
2. Google has had some misses in the past (Google Wave, anyone?) and those who signed up for those services and then had them yanked back are a bit cautious.
3. It's often seen, at least in my circles (no, not Google+ circles, real circles of friends) that this is just the last straw. One more site they have to keep up with.
4. No app for the iPhone. I get it, Google=android. But if you really want everyone to adopt your new social network, you should design for everyone, not just your favorite group.
5. It's creepy to know that they know where you have lived for the past 10 years. Yeah, I know this stuff is out on the web, but I was really hoping that no one was going to consolidate it at one site.
6. How to use the damned thing. There have been 'how to' articles published for noobs to figure out how to use it. (don't remember seeing this for FB and twitter):  http://www.pcworld.com/article/235526/10_google_tips_for_beginners.html

to quote my friend via twitter:

"Google + seems like so much work, lol. I don't want to have to figure it out. I'll save it for some day when I feel like concentrating" 

Monday, May 16, 2011


According to the article, I'm a holistic thinker--which explains so much. I always want to know the history when it comes to discussing an issue either around the office or during a test because the history of an item or event will most often inform how it's currently influencing others.

Monday, May 9, 2011

Social media vs Usability

All I wanted to do was watch the latest episode of The Game of Thrones which just so happens to be airing on HBO. The episode is available on their online site: HBOgo.com .  All you have to do is subscribe to the channel and then sign up for access to the site.

I had signed up previously and was able to get in and watch all of the latest shows and movies which made me happy as a subscriber (I felt I was getting more than I was paying for through my cable service). I also had a favorable impression of HBO since putting this access on line made it seem like they were 'with it'.

But then HBO went down the social media rabbit hole. They redesigned their Go site to include message boards and all sorts of social media communication. And apparently this redesign demanded that their loyal users re-register to have access to these options.

Really? Re-register?  What kind of lame-ass redesign was this?

They sent no emails letting you know of the changes. There was no way to opt out of using the social media features and continue as you had been.

You had to re-register.  So I did, desperate as I was to watch the latest Game of Thrones episode.

Seeing as this was a national company, a recognizable brand, I expected this process to go smoothly. I would be re-registered and watching the new show in no time.

20 minutes later, I was ready to cancel my subscription.

I had gone through the re-registration process only to be thwarted by the activation email link. When I clicked it, I was informed 'there was an error with your account'.

Really? What sort of error? There was no way to know if i had successfully re-registered or not as the statement gave no further feedback or a way to solve the issue.

So then I tried to log in. No dice. I knew my email hadn't changed but perhaps I had gotten a temporary password that I was unable to access? So I chose the 'forgot password' option but was then told that 'this feature is unavailable'.

I can only assume, at this point that the redesign caused some major technical difficulties on the back end as I still have yet to receive any communication from HBO.

I did email them though, using their web form. I filled out all the required fields and explained to them my issue with the site (there was no way to call them). The final straw? When I clicked 'submit', it erased all the text I had typed and the time delay between that action and the message informing me that my email had been sent was enough to make me panic and believe that I had just erased everything and would have to type it over.

HBO, you can NOT convince me that you did ANY user testing on this new design. Or maybe you did--in concept but not actual coded pages?  Either way, you are violating very important usability and design principles with this new site:

1. Never punish users for using your features; don't make them re-register
2. Time delay between 'submit' and displaying a confirmation message should be under 1 sec; don't leave the users time to question if their action went through.
3. Provide alternative ways to contact you (phone number??? tech support???)
4. Allow for mouse wheel scrolling (forgot to tell you that the new site REQUIRES the use of the scroll bar)
5. If a feature isn't ready for the real world, don't push it out and hope for the best.

Let's hope they get it fixed soon. Otherwise, my TiVo will be filled up in no time.

Wednesday, February 9, 2011

Check Engine Soon

Ever been driving around and saw that your 'Check Engine Soon' light is on? If you're anything like me, you see this and immediately panic. Surely there must be something wrong! Quick, I must let a professional look at my car and determine the issue!

Which is immediately what went through my mind.

So I did some quick Googling and determined the light could mean any of 10000 things. To find out which one might be the actual issue, there were a couple of things I could do: take it in to the shop, take it to an Autozone and have them use a code finder tool or do it myself.

The shop cost around $115 just to look at it and pull the code off because, as was explained to me, "That light could mean anything is wrong with four major systems of the car and we have to check each one." The UXer in me thought 'what a silly thing to do? to have one light to indicate any issue (from 1-10000)?'.

Autozone was next. It was free for them to pull the code off the car. I was fascinated to watch them plug in their device under the dash and presto changeo there was the code! Although when it was referenced in the computer, it was narrowed down to 4 broad topics.  Off to the next option.

Doing it myself seemed too daunting. It involved turning the key in the ignition a certain degree, pushing on the break in a sequence and then counting the blinks of the 'Check Engine Soon' light.  The code could have up to 4 numbers and each number could have up to 9 blinks to indicate it. I quickly determined that I didn't have CIA code breaker certification so I opted to pay the dealership to figure it out.

Half a day later, they called to tell me what was wrong with my car. Was something broken? Nope. Something torn? No.

The light had actually only indicated that a certain part was out of warranty. And luckily they didn't charge me to figure it out.

I'm still amazed that the designers of the car use one light to indicate so many different issues/problems. I know you can't possibly have one light for each issue on the car, but there's got to be a better way!