Dec 21, 2009

Anybody can do usability ...

Hi everybody

I just read the new blog article by Jakob Nielsen and I want to share this great statement with you:
Usability is like cooking: everybody needs the results, anybody can do it reasonably well with a bit of training, and yet it takes a master to produce a gourmet outcome.

I also have the opinion that everybody - if he/she is interested in the topic - can learn the basic skills to find usability problems in advance (by scribbling screens) or afterwards (by reviewing the application). So, read the article ... it's really great.


Dec 15, 2009

Agile & User-centered design (the next part)


once again I want to share with you an interesting blog article by David Farkas about the agile and user-centered design process and how these can fit together?
... and the solution is "communication". And I agree 100%.
Farkas talks about the agile and the UCD process as two equivalent processes that influence the whole project. In my opinion the agile process effecting the whole team is the framework and I try to integrate and align the UCD process to it.
Farkas also shows in the blog article his view of the project lifespan and the transition from the UCD process to the agile process. As I already mentioned I think the UCD Phase 1 can be part of the first few sprints of the agile process - I don't know any project that starts in the first sprint with the whole UI and interaciton stuff :-). Of course at the beginning there is a lot of work for the usability engineer.
So that's my opinion, but what is yours - or have you any further interesting links you want to share?
Br, Claudia

Nov 11, 2009

12.11.2009 - World Usability Day

Hi everybody,

I want let you know that tomorrow is the World Usability Day 2009 and there are a lot of interesting events all over the world. More information about the day in general and events you can find on the general website

In Vienna and Zürich are also some events. In Vienna the german upa - regional group vienna and the Interaction design Stammtisch have organized different workshops and presentations for everyone (in cooperation with Digitalks), an UXcamp for usability professionals and they set up a competition to find the most annoying and frustrating tools - it is called Frustikus. The announcement of the winner will be tomorrow at 8PM in WerzeugH.

More information and the time table can be found at the website of the World Usability Day Vienna.

Have fun.
Br, Claudia

Oct 22, 2009

The Fun Theory or "Can game mechanics helps to improve applications?"


today I want to talk a little bit about a very interesting topic - the power of games and how fun can manipulate the behaviour. At the beginning I want show some real impressive videos created by VW for the project "The fun theory".

The idea of the site is that something as simple as fun is the easiest way to change people’s behaviour for the better. In this video they try to increase the number of people recycling glass. (Visit the website and you can find two other nice videos.)

As you can see in this video - if you have fun using a system you will use this more often and have a higher satisfaction using it.

Very extensively the game mechanics are used by social networks - for example on flickr, facebook, twitter, youtube, etc. It's possible to collect things (friends, followers, views), to customize you view/avatar and you can rate things or you can get an rating ("Your profile is 90% complete", etc.)
And also for example on ebay as a powerseller you get points and know on which "level" you are.

The following is an interesting presentation from the Google Tech Talks by Amy Jo Kim from January 2009 about "Putting the Fun in Functional: Applying Game Mechanics to Functional Software" (1h).

Also a nice example is the Google Image Labeler. To label images is a boring work, but now Google tried to make it fun by creating a game out of it (example by John Ferrara - "Extending Game Design to Business Applications" (video) ).

So I think applying game mechanics to applications is really hard to do, but if you can experimenting and test you ideas with users at the end you get a better, more fun product.

Br, Claudia

Sep 17, 2009

Compatibility... different browsers & different operating systems

today I want to share with you some nice tools for testing web applications where you can test the appearance and behavior in different browsers and also on different operating systems.

IE Test
We all know the problems with the different versions of the internet explorer and IE Test is a tool to check the application in the versions from 5.5 to 8.

Microsoft Web SuperView
Also Microsoft provides a tool where the application can be tested with different IE-versions and the websites can be compared on one screen. You can download it here.


A very nice tool is This websites gives you the opportunity to view your website in various different browsers on different operating system. As a result you get screenshots from the specific page in the different environments.

If you know any useful tool it would be nice if you leave a comment.

Br, Claudia

Aug 17, 2009

Review: A project guide to UX design


last weekend I read the book "A project guide to UX design - For user experience designers in the field or in the making" by Russ Unger (Twitter) and Carolyn Chandler (Twitter).

I found this book because Robert Hoekman, Jr. mentioned it in his Userability Podcast as one of the top 3 books he would recommend.

In general the book is nice and fast to read, the content is very basic and is a good introduction if you want to start in the field of User experience (for me a little bit to low-level). The book focuses a lot on the topics that are relevant for a UX consultant and cover topics like the project ecosystem, proposals for consultants and freelancers, project objectives and approach and Business Requirements.

More interesting chapters for me were about user research, personas, Transition: from defining to designing, Site Maps and Task Flows, Wireframes and Annotations and Prototyping.

Especially the chapter "Prototyping" was interesting because a few weeks ago I discussed with a colleague and he put the need of prototyping into question. Here are some of the key facts from the book...
"... Remember that prototyping is a process and not an artifact. [...] The outcome of the prototyping process is actionable feedback from concepts that can be used to enhance and improve the design."
And Todd Zaki Warfel, president of Messagefirst said the following regarding the goals of Prototyping:
"Prototypes are a way to achieve one or more of the following goals:
  • Work your way through a design
  • Create a common communication platform
  • Sell your design ideas internally (e.g., to your boss, other designers, etc.)
  • Test technical feasibility
  • Test design concepts with end users/customers"
So in my point of view there are a lot of good reasons for prototyping, because the best or most useable design can only be created in an evolutionary process with a lot of feedback from users, customers and stakeholders.

Br, Claudia

@ TechTalkers: If you are interested in the book I can borrow it to you.

Aug 11, 2009

Web Findings ...

Hi everybody,

today I want to share with you some of the links I found in the last weeks - some of them you probably know because I already posted them in twitter.

A program to simulate colorblindness for Windows, Mac and Linux (in the image below you see the TechTalk-Website with a deuteranopia colorblindness) -> Color Oracle

The first world usability day event in Vienna on 12th of november 2009 ->

A nice example that shows the development of a very rough draft to a elaborated wireframe. -> Uwe Thimel's Portfolio on BehanceNetwork

And the last link I want to share is about Personas and how they can be represented ... a lot of different examples ->

Br, Claudia

PS: ReMix in Vienna on the 1st of october 2009 > Microsoft

PPS: TechTalk is looking for an creative user interface designer > TechTalk (german text) (or contact me)

Jul 28, 2009

Get information! Interviews with stakeholders and endusers

One of the basics you need to create a user-friendly interface is that you should know the user. You should know what are his goals, tasks, abilities, workflows, the environment, etc.

So one of the first step in the user-centered design process is to collect the information. One possibility to do so is to interview endusers as well as stakeholders.

A the beginning the usability expert should collect the questions he wants to ask and should always have in mind the general purpose of the interview. The perfect place to interview the enduser is the environment in which the application will be used, so for example in his/her workplace. The usability expert shouldn't ask question after question but rather let the user talk about their experiences and the expert should observe the behaviour of the user.

Several websites provide lists of questions that can be asked during an enduser or stakeholder interview. One website that provides a lot of information about each step in the usability process is They also provide a list of questions (.doc) that can be asked to the team at the kick-off.

Another good resource is the list of questions by Jared Spool and also the article "Putting context into context".

If you have any other interesting sources/links you're welcome to leave a comment.
Br, Claudia

Jun 30, 2009

Finding design alternatives


last week I held an internal workshop regarding heuristic evaluation. Also one part of the workshop was to find the best and the worst design alternative for a specific purpose and today I want to share with you the great suggestions.

The first exercise was to find the worst design for selecting date and time as it is used here:

The first team really quickly found a great worse solution. The user must type in the number of seconds from an specific time on using up and down arrows.

The second team focused on a very often used anti-pattern - drop-down boxes for everything!

And the third group found 3 bad solutions.
The first is a slider where you have to slide to the correct date and time - we don't know if this is technically possible - but a great idea.
The second solution was an empty textfield and the user must type in the date and time in words.
And the idea behind the third solution was to use different controls for each field.

After the fun the teams should focus on finding the BEST solution for filtering an list. The task was described the following:
Find the „best“ design for
multiple filtering on a list of documents

5 different filter parameters (file size, date of the last change, name, read-only, file-type)
Multiple values per filter parameter?
Combination of different parameters and different values of one parameter?

So here you can find some of the solutions. The first team created an control where the user can add filters on demand and then select the related parameters - only the parameters that are available should be shown in the value list of each parameter.
The second team created an solution where the user hast to enter the possiblity to filter using a simple text box or to open the extended mode to filter multiple parameters.

The third team has a really large selection screen - this reminds me on the filtering used on ...

Br, Claudia

May 29, 2009

Improving design of web pages


today I just want to post a short article about improving the design of your web page. Therefore I want to link you to the post of Matt Cronin who collected some ideas about improving factors.

In his article "8 Layout Solutions To Improve Your Designs" he presents 8 different kinds of new web controls to improve designs. Almost all of them are based on new web technologies like AJAX.

The reason why I got aware of this post is the fact, that I am currently having a problem with a menu that takes away a lot of space. Therefore I thought about using a different control to improve the layout and save some space on the page. After doing some paperprototyping I found a good way to layout the menu using the Accordion control.

The following pic shows my paperprototype of this Accordion control.

In his post, Matt Cronin describes Accordin controls as the following:

Accordion menus are based on the same concept as sliders and tabs: it takes a large amount of information and encapsulates it in a smaller area.

So this control is exactly what I need. And he also provides some good examples and links to existing controls and sample sites which reduces the effort of searching for good controls.

So if you need some inspiration to improve your design, check out the 8 layout solutions. Maybe you'll find some nice controls.

Kind regards,

May 25, 2009

Paper Prototyping @ Usability Week


last week I visited the Usability week 2009 in London and today I want to share with you my experience regarding paper prototyping.

On the last day we should work in groups to create a paper prototype in about 1 hour and then test this prototype with a person from another group. I have to say it was really fun and it worked really well. Especially we recognized how easy and FAST a design can be tested and improvements can be found.

In the following pictures you can see fast and creative work :-)

The topic of the paper prototype was part of a shop application where the user has the possibility to create a customized duvet.

In the following short video you can see the start of the test session and our favourite sentence "We are not testing you, we are testing the application".

Hopefully in the next days I have time to add more interesting topics related to the Usability Week.

Br, Claudia

May 18, 2009

Scrum in a real life project


today a short video found on the "All about agile"-Blog about scrum in a real life project (you can turn the sound off :-) ).

Scrum methodology from Soul' on Vimeo.

Greetings from London,


May 8, 2009

Web content accessibility and heuristic evaluation

Hello together,

today I want to introduce you to the WCAGs 2.0 - the web content accessibility guidelines and how to evaluate an existing web site using heuristic evaluation methods as described by Jacob Nielsen.

Web Content Accessibility Guidelines [1]
These guidelines are a good basis to work on when designing web pages for different groups of users including for example visual impaired people and more or less describe what to consider. Important to know is, that these "principles" are just recommendations and not rules.

The W3C consortium describes the WCAGs as follows:
Web Content Accessibility Guidelines (WCAG) 2.0 covers a wide range of recommendations for making Web content more accessible. Following these guidelines will make content accessible to a wider range of people with disabilities, including blindness and low vision, deafness and hearing loss, learning disabilities, cognitive limitations, limited movement, speech disabilities, photosensitivity and combinations of these. Following these guidelines will also often make your Web content more usable to users in general.
These guidelines cover a wide range of different topics like how perceivable or how understandable a site is or how good the interoperability is when just using a keyboard. It would be too much now to go into detail but I want to list just a few principles which are the most important ones for me:
  1. providing alternatives for all elements: this means, providing ALT attributes for images or video content
  2. the contrast between the foreground and background should be a good one to make it easy to differ between real information and background info
  3. the UI should be navigable using a keyboard only - so setting the TabIndex attribute is important
  4. when designing forms, provide the "name" attribute for the input fields and put them into relation with labels using the "for" or "label" attribute
  5. when structuring web content, use the H1-H6 elements to do so, 'cause usually screen reader applications rely on them
Considering just these 5 principles make it much more easier to build good accessible web pages.

Heuristic evaluation [2]

Heuristic evaluation is, according to Jacob Nielsen, a discount usability engineering method for quick, cheap, and easy evaluation of a user interface design.

Heuristic evaluation works the following way:
  1. find "principles" - so called heuristics on which the evaluation should be based on. In our case, these heuristics would be the WCAG principles. Such principles are usually defined by a group or a single person, commonly used and good recommendations to follow but should not be considered as fixed rules
  2. according to these principles, evaluators - who are usually usability experts - go through the whole interface of the application step by step and take notes, when the UI does not consider one of the principles. Usually, a good number for the amount of usability experts to use is between 3 and 6, 'cause one expert will only find 35% of all the problems. 5 experts will find about 75% of the existing problems.
  3. after each evaluator has finished his process, they all meet together and compare their notes. Based on these notes, they rate the problems using the "severity rating". Therefore, each problem is assigned a number from 0 to 4, whereas 0 means, that there is no problem and 4 means, that it is a complete mess and a usability catastrophe
  4. at the end, these results are summarized and presented to the developer team or the customer
When designing web content according to the WCAGs and using heuristic evaluation you can make your content better accessible and help impaired people understanding your web content.

Heuristic evaluation is a quick method for reflecting your UI and finding major usability problems according to various heuristics. These heuristics can be the WCAGs as well as other defined principles.

[1] ... WCAG web site []
[2] ... Heuristic Evaluation []
[3] ... How to Conduct a Heuristic Evaluation []

May 5, 2009

Role of Usability in the agile process


in the last weeks we often have the discussion @ TT which role should the usability engineer have in the agile/scrum process. Is the usability engineer a member of the team or on the same level as the product owner?

In the article "Twelve emerging best practices for adding UX work to agile development" on the blog "" Jeff Patton advises as a main point that the UX practitioners should be part of the customer and product owner team. This has the advantage that the UX expert is in the position to decide and influence what should be build in the next sprint.

In my opinion it's not always clear how this can be handeld during the sprints to keep up the communication between the development team and the UX team - also to get fast feedback and not wait until the end of a sprint.
Another interesting question is how efforts/estimation should be handled? If the UX team is part of the product owner team and not part of the "TEAM" the efforts will not be part of the estimation at the beginning of the sprints. I'm not sure if this is good. Jakob Nielson also mentioned in his blog-article "Agile Development Projects and Usability" that story points should be assigned for the interaction design and usability.

Do you have any opinions and suggestions on this?

Br, Claudia

Apr 15, 2009

Event - Kundenfrühstück bei TechTalk


today in german:

Kundenfrühstück bei TechTalk am 23.4.2009 um 9:00 zum Thema:

"Usability meets Development"
Wie schafft man es den Spagat zwischen Development und Usability optimal zu spannen?
Erfahren Sie auch, wie die Qualität/Userexperience von Applikationen für den Endanwender durch die Zusammenarbeit von Programmierung und Design verbessert werden kann.

Ich würde mich freuen wenn möglichst viele Interessierte dabei wären.

Br, Claudia

Apr 7, 2009

Inspiration needed?


today I want to share some interesting links:

And a great website is the "Wall of Deliverables". The idea was born at the IA Summit 2008 in Miami and the aim of the site is to share examples of deliverables.

Have fun, br Claudia

Apr 4, 2009

MIX09, Surface & Userability Podcast (again)


today I want to recommend to view the following session videos of the MIX09. Of course the Keynote of Bill Buxton (recommended by michbex) and i was really fascinated by SketchFlow (presented by Christian Schorman - our judge @ Imagine Cup 08) and I'm looking forward to try it out. SketchFlow is currently not included in the Blend3 Preview. This is a screenshot of the SketchFlowPlayer:

Microsoft Surface Stove

A nice april fool by the Silverlight team is the Surface Stove.

20 years, No Improvement?

And one interesting podcast with Scott Berkun is now available at the Userability podcast answering the following question:

Don Norman’s seminal, The Design of Everyday Things, is approaching it’s 20th year in print. It explained why so many basic things in life are poorly designed and hard to use, such as pull handles on doors that need to be pushed. Since the world has been aware of these design flaws for two decades, why are so many basic usability failures still around?

Have fun,

br Claudia

Mar 25, 2009

Usability & UX Podcasts


today I want to share some very interesting podcasts related to the Usability and UX topic.

The first podcast is the Adaptive Path Podcast. (iTunesStore) The podcast is a mix between speaks at conferences and interviews with UI/UX/Usability-Experts. The podcast also provides the best presentations from the UX Week Events and the MX.

Boxes and Arrows Podcast (iTunesStore): A lot of interviews are available with professionals from the field of Information Architecture, Interaction Design and User Experience.

UIE Brain Sparks (iTuneStore) : Very interesting podcasts - consisting of SpoolCasts (General infos, interviews and virtual seminars) and Userability Podcasts (A caller asks a UX question and Jared Spool and Robert Hoekman, Jr. try to answer it).

Have fun,
Br Claudia

Mar 2, 2009

Articles about UX in an agile environment


today I want to share with you some interesting articles about the UX work in an agile environment.

The first 2 articles about the "12 best pratices for UX in an agile environment" by Jeff Patton ( are available here:
12 best practices - Part 1
12 best practices - Part 2

(Same article with more pictures you can find here)

And i also want to recommend a second article by Jeff Patton discussing the question "Is user experience relevant where you work?".

Br, Claudia

Feb 23, 2009

Designing Interfaces (Jenifer Tidwell)


last weekend I read the next book - Jenifer Tidwells "Designing Interfaces". In the post about Design Patterns I already mentioned the related website.

For me the book doesn't contain new information. It's a nice compendium of the main patterns and I think the book could be helpful if you want to find a solution for a specific problem.

If you don't know much about the design patterns than you should read the book. The various patterns are really well explained and visualized with good examples.

Br Claudia

PS: @Techtalker - This book is available at the foyer.

Feb 16, 2009

The back of the napkin


today I want recommend you a book about solving problems and selling ideas with pictures. "The Back of the Napkin" by Dan Roam describes a new way of thinking - the visual thinking. On the one hand the book concentrates on possible methods to solve problems with visual thinking on the other hand the book also describes how the solutions can be presented to the audience.
(@Techtalker: The book is available in the foyer @ TTV)

At the MIX 08 conference Dan Roam talked about it and the video is available online. The basics of the book are covered in this workshop.

The visualization of the tools/methods provided in the book are also available on the website.

If somebody used this techniques to solve or present a problem it would be nice to hear something about your experiences.

Br, Claudia

Feb 13, 2009

Usabilitytalks goes Twitter


now you can find usabilitytalks also on twitter. I will use twitter to post interesting links when I have no time to write a blog entry (so probably there will be some redundancy).

A nice visualization of twitter using paper sketches is available on youtube ("in plain english"-series).

Br Claudia

Feb 10, 2009

User Experience Deliverables


today I recommend you a link to an article by Peter Morville about User Experience Deliverables. In this article Morville lists 20 user experience deliverables, including stories, personas, scenarios, concept designs, prototypes, styleguides and design patterns, with links to relevant resources and examples.

A really beautiful visualization of the deliverables is the treasure map.

Have fun,


Feb 6, 2009

Design Patterns - Part 2

Hi *,

now I want to share with you the second part of the links to the Design Pattern Libraries.

Pattern Tap

The first Pattern Library is Pattern Tap. They organized the patterns in collections and additionally they have so called User Sets. User Sets should focus more on detail than collections but they should be connected to patterns.

Designing Interfaces

Designing Interfaces is a book written by Jenifer Tidwell. On the website several patterns are described answering the questions "what?", "why?" and "how?".

Designing Social Interfaces

The last link I want to share with you is the wiki Designing Social Interfaces created by Christian Crumlish and Erin Malone because they are writing about this topic. They use the wiki to share the patterns and to get feedback from the community.

I hope the provided links are usefull for you.

Br, Claudia

Feb 4, 2009

Design Patterns - Part 1 (of 2)

A few days ago I talked with collegues about design patterns and now I want to share with you several pattern libraries available on the web.

UX Patterns Explorer (Quince)

The UX Patterns Explorer is a Silverlight Application and you can browser through different UI Patterns using different modi. For example you can find patterns via a Wireframe or Tag connections. Every pattern is described with the problem, the solution and several "real life" examples.

Yahoo Design Pattern Library

The Yahoo Design Pattern Library provides UI Patterns sorted by the users tasks. Every UI pattern explanation contains also a paragraph concerning the accesibility.

UI Patterns
The UI Patterns website provides articles about several patterns, as well as screenshot collections sorted by the patterns.

UI Pattern Factory

Like the others the UI Pattern Factory is a collection of UI Patterns and there is the possibility to suggest new patterns and add examples using flickr.

In the next days you can find the second Part of the Design Pattern-Libraries here.
Br, Claudia

Jan 23, 2009

Prototyping & Sketching


in the last days a read a lot of articles about prototyping and sketching and today I want to share with you some interesting links about this topic.

The first link is a IxDA discussion about "How many alternatives, concepts, or sketches are enough?" . So how can we be sure to create the best (or one of the best) design solution -> here a short visualisation.

Magnetic prototype
Another nice idea I read about in the last week is the magnetic prototype. I think this could be a really good method to test different UIs if you already know which controls you will need. I haven't used it so far, but i will try it.

Prototyping with Visio
The third link I want to share with you is a tool that could support you to create wireframes with Visio. There are controls and widgets available, also in a sketchy style. The ressources and a introduction are available >here.

The Website Stencil Kit
And for all they want to draw by hand, but are not so skilled .. here a tool that could probably help you a lot.... (Design Commission Shop)

Br, Claudia

Jan 19, 2009

Integrating User Experience and Agile (Cooper)


here you can find an interesting video of a Q&A session by Alan Cooper and colleagues at the company pivot lab. The discussion is about the interaction design process and the challenges of integrating user experience and agile.

... the cooper blog ...

... the video ...

Regards Claudia

Jan 14, 2009

10 ways to ...


today I want recommend you two interesting articles by the smashing magazine.

10 useful techniques to improve your user interface design
This articel sometimes refers to basics of visual perception, for example "White space indicates relationships" and "Using contrast to manage focus".

10 principles of effective web design
This article deals with the user attention and again the topic "Don't make users think"...

... the examples in the articles of the smashing magazine are really well visualized.. and you will find many more interesting articles like 10 Usability Nightmares You Should Be Aware Of and for the friends of Fitts' Law 30 Usability Issues To Be Aware Of (@ Ver: Only a few sentences about fitts.. don't worry ;-) )...

.. have fun,

Jan 10, 2009

How do you design? - A Compendium of Models

Hi all,

today i want to share with you a link to a book which is written by Hugh Dubberly. He also writes articles for the magazine "Interactions".

The new book is called "How do you design" and is a compendium of design models. For the book Dubberly has collected over 100 descriptions of design and development processes.

The book (PDF) is available online > here.

Regards Claudia