Monday, December 19, 2011

Why car companies need to do usability testing

Overall I love my Toyota Prius. Under the hood, it is an engineering marvel. Prius' have been around for 10 years and still sell like hotcakes.  I honestly don't understand why Ford hasn't made a competing product by now.

I have come to realize that I pay attention to design more than the average person. I hate it when simple design mistakes ruin an overall well designed product. The interior of my Prius has some obvious problems that could have easily been fixed had they asked the right questions.


Separation of Concerns
Is there any reason they needed to put the door lock/unlock button between the buttons that operate the windows?


The buttons feel different - therefore its not likely that I'm going to press the wrong button. However, nearly every time I want to use one one of the buttons I have to take my eyes off the road and look at the buttons to choose the correct one or I have to feel each one to get the correct one. This simply violates the principal that you shouldn't make your users think necessarily.

Positive Actions vs Negative Actions
-and-
Direct Users To The Most Common Action
To me, Toyota completely confuses button shape and action. Its been nearly 8 months and I still have to stop and think about which is the correct button. I occasionally make the wrong choice and send a caller to voicemail rather than picking up the phone. Take a look at the phone answer and hangup buttons:



The button to hang up the phone (the top one) is raised. I consider this the negative action. The button to answer the phone (bottom) is sunken in. This bothers me for two reasons:

#1 If I'm driving and the phone rings I'm being interrupted.  Thus, I'm not 100% focused on the phone yet. The easiest button to find is the raised button. This should be the button I hit to answer, but Toyota made this the hangup button. Maddening.

#2 When I'm ending a call the sunken button makes sense. No matter what mnemonic I go through the raised button doesn't work for ending a call/conversation.

Because I'm thinking about what the right button should be I sometimes make the wrong choice because I'm thinking too hard about doing the opposite of what comes naturally.

*Note: They make all Toyota Prius' for the whole world in Japan. The above concerns might be personal issue or an issue of how British/Americans view the world. I don't know if Toyota makes all of their cars the exact same for all geographies either. 

Friday, December 9, 2011

Looking Back at My Most Popular Posts

Anybody who has worked with me knows that I'm a fan of analytics. If you are selling soap or software development services, I strongly believe you should be capturing metrics on how people use and interact with your product. As such, I have Google Analytics on my blog. I have learned quite a few things about my content over the past few years.

#1 Short blog posts are the most popular.

#2 However, the longer multi-part ones engage users more

#3 Good content draws people in. Of the people who stay on my blog for more than 10 minutes - which is a long time in the web -, half come in through the top 5 posts.

The top 5 posts are:
Boarding Pass - You're doing it wrong
How to Interview and Hire a Good Project Manager
Effective vs Efficient Teams
Principled Leadership
Maker's Schedule, Manager's Schedule

...not in the top 5, but one of my favorite posts...
Systematic Amateurism

Patterns of traffic

Usage:
  • 10% of traffic comes to the site and reads the blog in depth. They stay for 600 or more seconds. These people are truly finding the value in the content. I'm pretty happy this is so high.
  • 30% of traffic reads the very short posts and sometimes shares them with other people via twitter or email.
  • The other 60% of visitors bounce out immediately. This is actually pretty low compared to what I have seem on other sites.
Traffic Sources (non-bounced i.e. the other 40% of visitors):
  • 20% of traffic comes from searching Google for my name. I assume these are people whom I have met at meetups or have heard about me. If this was higher I would be a bit disappointed. I want people to come to the blog in order to get valuable content. For me, its not only about personal marketing. 
  • 75% of the traffic comes from people looking for a specifics topics. For example, "Lean Software Development Techniques"
  • 5% of traffic has no disernable pattern. For example, "dominator influencer supporter critical cd"


Conclusion
  • No more book reviews. They are time consuming for me to write, have a very high bounce rate and get very little traffic
  • Most of the medium sized blog posts (4-8 paragraphs) are not valuable to people. This tells me I need to put a quick post together or cover a topic in depth. This is good news as well. I find quick posts enjoyable and the longer ones I really dig into and think about for quite some time which is also enjoyable.

Monday, December 5, 2011

Jakob Nielsen's Kindle Fire Usability Findings

I don't like to re-post, but I highly recommend reading this. Tablets are, finally, not going to go away and will only increase in usage.

Jakob Nielsen does a great job of discussing the usability and design of 7-inch tablets. Then he talks about the future of 7-inch tablets based on the market and design choices required to ensure their future.

http://www.useit.com/alertbox/kindle-fire-usability.html