UX Strategy Musings from Will Tschumy, Microsoft User Experience Advisor

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In advance of Windows 8, it’s good to look back at where the Ribbon came from…

August 30th, 2011 by Will Tschumy
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Богородицаиконография

Steven Sinofsky, President of Windows Division at Microsoft, has started a new blog, Building 8.  Like Engineering 7 (the blog that told the story of the development of Windows 7), there’s an enormous amount of information on what’s coming in Windows 8 (with a lot more to come week after next at Build).

One topic that’s gotten a lot of attention recently is the evolution of Windows Explorer, the file manager we all know.  As part of a reimagining of Windows, the team has integrated the Ribbon into the experience as a way to better surface functionality.

It’s always dangerous to look at any internet commentary (and particularly commenters on TechCrunch), but I think it’s worth coming back to where the Ribbon came from.  For that, let’s go back to Jensen Harris’ excellent presentation at MIX08.

Some key highlights from the design process of the Ribbon:

  • The genesis of the Ribbon came out of an analysis of 1.3 billion usage sessions.  Each one of these usage sessions had more that 6,600 data points
  • As the design of the Ribbon evolved, we did card sorting in both directions – we asked one group to sort functions into groups and name the groups
  • We asked a second group to take the groups from the first card sorting exercise and sort functions back into those groups – the sorting matched up (A ha! a trend!!)
  • We did two separate longitudinal studies with groups external to Microsoft

All this led to the most critically acclaimed, best selling version of Office, and then the same with Office 2010 (an evolution and refinement of the Ribbon in 2007).

As a designer / design strategist, it’s really exciting to see the same process and rigor that gave us the Ribbon brought to the next version of Windows.  I can’t wait to see all of Windows 8!

Related Posts:
-  Why I’m excited about the next version of Windows, code name "7"
-  Come to MIX08 – see the sights, follow the UX track, take in a panel
-  Wireframing: there’s got to be a better way
-  “WPF/e” is Silverlight
-  Hey Will, Where ya been?

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When products attack -or- How bad design makes your users loose sleep

June 3rd, 2011 by Will Tschumy
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иконографияКартинимека мебел

I’ll admit it: I’m grumpy right now. 

Why, you might ask? This morning, as I was snoozing blissfully way at 3:30a or so, one of the smoke detectors in my house decided it was low on batteries. <CHIRP>.

Why is always seems to happen in the nether-hours of the evening is another topic, but through the frustration of this experience, it got me thinking about design principles.

Some key elements of the design failure:

  1. The only way that the smoke alarm shows it’s running low on batteries is by making a “chirp” sound
  2. The interval between the chirps in random, though it does seem to come in bunches
  3. The tone and duration of the chirp makes it difficult for me to locate it.  Locating the offending smoke detector is made substantially more difficult by 2
  4. You can check to make sure the smoke detector is working, but you can’t check the battery level

So what happens when the low-bat chirp goes off? You stumble around your house, in my case muttering ‘colorful metaphors.’  The muttering and stumbling is punctuated by standing silent and motionless, waiting for the next chirp, so you can run towards where you think it is.  Depending on how dark it is, you may also do this.

Because the interval between chirps is seemingly random, you give up looking.  Inevitably, just as you crawl back into bed, the next set of chirps starts. 

All in all a terrible situation.

The thing about it, however, is that’s it’s more than just severely annoying and sleep depriving: it’s dangerous and it’s as a result of the context of the user not being taken into account.

Why is it dangerous?  The current design drives users towards two likely outcomes:

  • Pulling down all the smoke detectors down and pulling the batteries
  • Never putting them up in the first place

Given that most people will prioritize a near-term, tangible pain over future potential catastrophe, the most likely outcome of this design decision is to pull all the smoke detectors you have.  Insert obvious irony comment.  The funniest thing about this: I’ve spoken with 5 separate people about my experience last night while writing this post – each as just taken down all their smoke detectors because of similar experiences.

So how could it be different?

First, the goal should be to allow the user to prevent being annoyed by a low-battery signal.  More than that, it’s better from a safety perspective to never be in a low-battery situation.  So how might this be accomplished?

  • First, give me a visual indicator a week before it’s going to start chirping.  Also, make the test button display the battery strength
  • Give me a visual indicator when the battery is critically low.  Is a flashing red LED too much to ask for?  This will make a huge difference when trying to find the damn thing
  • Make sure the chrip has a predictable interval, and make that interval less than a minute.  If this is the only way to find the smoke detector that’s failing, MAKE IT EASY TO FIND
  • Make the smoke detector respond / answer back when it’s in low battery mode – it chirps when you clap, or some such thing

Now I’m off to go buy more batteries and hopefully better designed smoke detectors!

Related Posts:
-  See Will Here: TiE Panel discussion on July 26th, 6-9pm Santa Clara, CA
-  Great Post from Cynergy, A RIA-focused UX agency
-  Intro to Metro, the design language of Windows Phone 7
-  Hear Will Here
-  Come to MIX08 – see the sights, follow the UX track, take in a panel

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15 Design Principles

May 6th, 2011 by Will Tschumy
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So I’m an “occasional” (nee terrible) blogger.  Most of my time at Microsoft is spent in my role as User Experience Advisor – that means I’m working with our customers to help them produce product or service experiences that give their businesses a competitive advantage through great design. 

That should give me a lot to talk about, right? Well, my ‘juice’ comes from the specifics of a project – general abstractions are useful, but often not interesting enough for me to want to spend time writing about it.  This blog post is trying to change that.

Over the course of the last year or so, I’ve spent a lot of time building mobile applications.  In addition, I’ve also led the building of larger-scale touch applications.  What follows are some of the key elements I’ve taken from these projects.  Call it my contribution to 21st Century Design.

  1. Wireframes are (usually) pretty but useless. At least as a tool for developing a design.  Illustrator and Visio / OmniGraffle are fun, but you can indulge your info-graphic itch elsewhere. Wireframes are important for documentation, but don’t get that confused with the process of developing your design
  2. Visual Design is a part of User Experience design, not a parallel effort. As I’ve written in the past, design is a process for solving problems.  One of the aspects of accepting this truth is that good design is driven by user understanding – Visual Design needs to work from the same set of understanding, just like Interaction Design or Information Architecture, towards the same goals – delighting users.
  3. Understand your user; Understand their context; Understand their goals. If you can’t define what makes your user happy, and what will make them tell their friends “you’ve got to try this,” you don’t know enough.  If you don’t know where they’ll be using your product or service, you don’t know enough. See a pattern?
  4. Process is for solving problems predictably, not checking boxes. The point of any process is to get a project done – not check of elements on a list.  There’s a phrase I’m fond of “have as little process as possible, but as much is as necessary.” Truer words were never spoken.

    This means a couple things: First, if you’re part of a project with lots of people, or many moving parts, some process is inevitable, if for no other reason than there’s a need for predictability.

    For small teams that are in close communication, you can skip some steps.  Just remember: skipping steps introduces project risk, so you need to be careful, and experienced enough to know if it’s an acceptable risk!

  5. Make a decision. Eliminate unnecessary choices. Solving problems (Design) is about making decisions.  If you’re not doing that, you’re pushing that complexity onto your user.  At best, you’re annoying your user by making him / her answer something s/he thinks is extraneous. At worst, you’re confusing and instilling a lack of confidence in your user.  If you’re really having trouble making a decision, try using a a different frame to evaluate the question from.  Always remember #3.
  6. You aren’t the center of your user’s world. We live in a low-attention (and often low-information) world. It’s likely that you don’t have your user’s full attention, or at rate, not for very long – design for this.
  7. If you’re not prototyping, you’re doing it wrong. See #1
  8. Be polite and respectful, but be smart about it. This doesn’t mean asking permission for each step of a process.  Be careful of intrusiveness.  See #5 and #6
  9. Understand what you’re trying to accomplish. I call this a “Shared Thesis” – some have also called it Tenant-driven design.  This is the single representation, across the project team, of why you’re doing the project.  Everything you do should roll back to this statement.
  10. Transitions and motion are just as important as screens and end states. Don’t skimp on these.  See #1 and #7.
  11. Satisfaction is nice, but Advocacy is the goal.  Satisfaction is no indicator of loyalty to a product – advocacy, however is.  Think about it: would you be willing to recommend (advocate) a product to your friends or family if you didn’t really love it?
  12. Blank sheets of paper are traps. As in, It’s a…! Design without constraints isn’t really design – it may be fun, and it may be a useful ideation exercise, but it doesn’t really do much to solve a problem.  Remember your solution is always bounded by three questions: 1) what’s desirable to users; 2) what’s viable in the market; and 3) what’s possible with the technology.
  13. Inspiration comes from lots of different places. Parallel thinking, looking for patterns in related fields, is an important tool for creative problem solving.  Don’t for get this.  If all else fails, don’t forget the old adage from Picasso: Good artists copy; Great artists steal.
  14. Sacred Cows make the best burgers. Orthodoxy, tradition, and inertia all represent potential blind spots for your design solution. These traditions can hide the root cause of the problem you’re trying to solve. You won’t always be able to solve the root cause, but knowing about it is a lot better than not!
  15. Designing for touch is more than just touch target size.  This is really a post in and of itself. Touch interfaces, NUI’s (natural user interfaces) – touch-driven interfaces are paced differently than mouse-driven / GUI experiences.  There’s a symmetry between the resolution of input and the density of experience consumption – because touch input tends to be less precise, the density of experience tends to be lower (number of tasks on a screen, etc).

Related Posts:
-  See Will Here: TiE Panel discussion on July 26th, 6-9pm Santa Clara, CA
-  Phizzpop Design Challenge LA: December 6th
-  When products attack -or- How bad design makes your users loose sleep
-  Oh, and in case you haven’t noticed
-  Phizzpop Design Challenge LA – Feb 20th, 2009 at Zune LA

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The most important design talk you’ll see this year

May 6th, 2011 by Will Tschumy
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From MIX11 – August de los Reyes, Design Director of Artefact Group (formerly of Microsoft Surface) outlines his vision for the future of design.

It’s 10 minutes that will change your life.

Related Posts:
-  15 Design Principles
-  My favorite MIX07 sessions
-  For anyone who’s ever worked in an agency…
-  Phizzpop Design Challenge LA – Feb 20th, 2009 at Zune LA
-  Great Post from Cynergy, A RIA-focused UX agency

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Intro to Metro, the design language of Windows Phone 7

December 3rd, 2010 by Will Tschumy
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Now that Windows Phone 7 is in market, I can talk a little about some of the work I’ve been doing.  Part of being in DPE means that I’m responsible for helping the early adopters build great experiences on new products.  I’m a big fan of the design work that went into Windows Phone 7 – it’s incredibly smart – it’s also different from everything else out there.  While the team has done a great job building documentation (the Metro UX Guidelines), I’ve found in my customer work that they need a voice over.

One area where Windows Phone differentiates itself from the competition is this idea of a “Live Tile.”  When thinking about your application, it’s easy to forget about this – you can’t, however.  The Live Tile is the start of your conversation with your users.

image

In most cases, application enter into an opening Panorama.  The Panorama is maybe the most quintessential Windows Phone experience.  An example:

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Or

image

The Panorama is a visual display of what your application does – in addition to this, it provides enough glancable information for your users to understand what part of your application they might want to explore further.  The Panorama is your first, best chance to make a good impression – make sure you fully take advantage of it – use the background, express your brand!

When Windows Phone 7 was first announced, and in my conversations with customers, there’s been some confusion about the difference between the Panorama and the Pivot.

imageimage

Pivots are about drilling down to a specific decision, or looking at a facet of your data in more detail.  While the left / right swipe may be similar between the Panorama and the Pivot, they’re at opposite ends of a user’s experience!

image

Part of drilling down on a facet of information is taking action.  Often, you’ll see an Application Bar.  This is the one predictable spot where your users will go to perform actions.  The App bar can hold a maximum of 4 icons, and another 5 items in the menu below it.  It may feel weird to not have a big button floating on the screen, but trust me, love the App Bar.

The above is a very high-level overview of the key aspects of the Windows Phone 7 UX.  As your building your app, remember the following key points:

  • Metro helps you and your users solve problems consistently
  • Embrace motion as a way to convey importance and emotion
  • Have a single left margin for all your elements on screen
  • Experiment!

Related Posts:
-  “WPF/e” is Silverlight
-  In advance of Windows 8, it&amp;rsquo;s good to look back at where the Ribbon came from&amp;hellip;
-  Why I’m excited about the next version of Windows, code name "7"
-  Who am I and why am I here?
-  Linerider Launches today – powered by Silverlight 2 and Windows Live Services

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Speaking on launches – if you haven’t used eBay Simple Lister, what are you waiting for?!

June 20th, 2010 by Will Tschumy
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икониканализация???????

As long as I’m ending my long spell of not blogging, I wanted to also make sure everyone knew about the recently launched eBay Simple Lister application, powered by Silverlight 4 and built by our fantastic partner, Cynergy.  Check out the video overview here:

Get Microsoft Silverlight

This video was taken at MIX10 this year.  Cynergy and the eBay Simple Lister were also featured at Sliverlight 4’s launch as well as Expression Studio 4’s launch at InternetWeek in NYC two weeks ago.

I was deeply involved in the project, co-leading it with my great colleague, Raj Ramabadran.  Working with Cynergy is consistently a great experience, and building an application like eBay Simple Lister was a lot of fun!  eBay Simple Lister is being rolled out to about 1/6th of eBay’s Casual sellers right now.  If you want to be sure to get it, check out http://pages.ebay.com/garden/srp/SimpleListerInstall.html

Related Posts:
-  Oh, and in case you haven’t noticed
-  Photobucket Visual Search launches!
-  About Will Tschumy
-  Schematic’s 2010 Cannes Lions Touchwall Launches, powered by WPF
-  Announcing Express Yourself

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Schematic’s 2010 Cannes Lions Touchwall Launches, powered by WPF

June 20th, 2010 by Will Tschumy
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Get Microsoft Silverlight
 
Following its introduction at last year’s Cannes Lions festival, Schematic’s high-definition, multi-user Touchwall has been updated using Microsoft Windows 7 and returns to Cannes in 2010 as a faster, more efficient technology platform.  In addition to reprising its central role as the information hub of the event, the 12 foot long by five-foot high Touchwall will be used to showcase the future of experiential, digital marketing as it debuts two, large-scale branded experiences created in partnership with Nokia and Dell.  The Touchwall will be centrally located on Level 1 of the Palais des Festivals, between the entrances to Debussy Theater and Grand Auditorium.

Personal Note:  I’ve had the pleasure to lead the Microsoft contribution of this project for the last 3 months or so (it doesn’t seem like it’s been that long!) – It’s so great to see one of our partners launch such a fantastic experience like this.  I wish I was in France to see it!  More videos to come at touchwall.cloudapp.net.

Related Posts:
-  Linerider Launches today – powered by Silverlight 2 and Windows Live Services
-  Speaking on launches – if you haven’t used eBay Simple Lister, what are you waiting for?!
-  My favorite MIX07 sessions
-  Photobucket Visual Search launches!
-  Tales from the road

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Looking Glass in Ad Age

September 28th, 2009 by Will Tschumy
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One of the things that can be difficult as a Microsoft Evangelist is knowing about really cool stuff and not being able to talk about it.  Looking Glass is one of those things.  Ad Age had a great write up of it here: http://adage.com/digital/article?article_id=139199

Looking Glass is built on top of SharePoint, taking advantage of it’s advanced workflow, tracking and routing capabilities.  In addition, it also uses SQL Server for reporting.  On top of all that, the UX is built in Silverlight and extensible – you can develop your own visualization as needed.  Check it out!

Updated: Check out the more in-depth article at Microsoft Advertising

столове

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Photobucket Visual Search wins “Best in Industry” award from Web Marketing Association

September 28th, 2009 by Will Tschumy
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image

After all the work that went into this, it’s great to see Photobucket Visual Search Win.  Check out the award site here.

Photobucket Visual Search is here.

Related Posts:
-  Photobucket Visual Search launches!
-  Cynergy wins it all!
-  Cynergy’s winning entry, Ben, posted
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-  Problem Statement for Phizzpop Design Challenge LA posted!

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Come see me at the IxDA SF next Tuesday, 8.25

August 21st, 2009 by Will Tschumy
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ixdasfI’m hosting IxDASF at Microsoft’s San Francisco offices Tuesday, August 25th. I’ll be giving an hour long demo of SketchFlow, Microsoft’s new rapid prototyping and ideation environment.

There will be food, drinks and give aways. Check out www.ixdasf.org for more information. Looking forward to seeing you there!

Related Posts:
-  Want to join the best damn UX Evangelist Team in the world?

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