Sep
07
2008
--

The difference between experts and novices

Experts are pragmatists, they re-set or re-frame the problem to make it solvable. Novices are realists, they take the problem as a given and get stuck.

taken from ‘noise between stations‘ – an interesting blog just added to my rss feeds.
So, maybe the stars of tomorrow are easy to spot. Enlightened novices use experts for support and guidance – the others, out of ignorance just get stuck in, passionately getting stuck.

Please don’t ask me which camp I’ve put you in :-)

Written by Guy in: Influences,Noise | Tags: ,
Aug
22
2008
--

Enterprising Island

Guy and panelists outside the Midnight BellPhotographic evidence of me helping out on the panel at Enterprise Island in Leeds.

It was a fun day, giving me the opportunity to advise local budding entrepreneurs and meet some new faces (to me) from the leeds business community. In some ways the format was similar to Dragon’s Den – but we were there to spark up a conversation to offer encouragement and advice.

A fabulous day, making a real difference to some very nice people, in a very nice pub. Shame I was driving and a real shame Michael was away – otherwise things may have gone on a little later.

Written by Guy in: Cosmic |
May
20
2008
--

Top 8 usability mistakes

All I’m going to say is…. this is fabulous… please nobody shout at me.

http://goodexperience.com/2008/05/the-top-8-mistakes-in.php

 

Written by Guy in: usability |
Apr
13
2008
--

Internet World – 2 weeks and counting, & hair-loss at an all-time record high.

We’re back at Internet World after a few years of rest, launching a new service aimed at SME website owners who need usability, called Website Rehab. Every business we’ve talked to about this new service, has been very interested. Infact, very, could be an understatement, we’ve had several offers of block bookings, well before rehab is officially launched.

Preparation for exhibitions is pretty stressful – nothing is straight forward, every decision needs 150% of attention and costs just grow. Not only are we running a growing/busy usability business, in the background we’re also having to ensure everything is ordered, designed, agreed and ready for show setup on Monday 28 April.

Jobs left to do include – ordering shirts, caps and jackets with our new livery, chasing the show organisors for an answer over our request to use a flag on our stand, sign off stand design, birth new website & pamphlet to describe the service and finalise the show risk assessment.

We’re also looking at expanding our offices – which may mean another change of address. Early days yet, but be assured, we’re staying in Leeds, and as close to the Cross Keys & Out of the Woods as possible.

Finally. We’re looking for psychology graduates who want to join our team. If you know anybody in Leeds, with a passion for web and behavioural research – please send them our way. We think it’s a dream gig. Only people that share in that thought will join our team.

P.S. We don’t use recruitment companies – so agencies, please don’t waste our time phoning as rejection often offends.

Written by Guy in: eye tracking,usability |
Mar
05
2008
--

Grace under pressure – a new usability testing technique

We returned from a meeting today, where we had showed off a customer’s website. Unknown to us, it had just been revised to fix an internal shopping cart bug. Anyway – the implemented solution to this bug, was, shall we say, interesting…. and now something we thought may be a new barrier to a sale for some users. 

So we got back to the office and I played a little more with the new feature.

As a business, we’re always open to new website/process concepts and I wanted to test it.

Test it quickly and get some quick feedback.

05 March 2008 2:33pm – we stumbled upon a new (to me) technique for extreme usability testing.

I asked a member of the team, who was busy but could spare a few minutes, to go to this website. I told them to carry out a task in a manner that put them under a bit of pressure. The user failed. I turned up the pressure a bit more and repeated the request. To which they failed again. It took at least four attempts before they realised what was going on and then successfully completed the task.

It was all a bit tongue-in-cheek, but the feedback was extremely useful.

Under pressure, the user, we’ll call Grace, failed spectacularly. The aspect of pressure induced an almost extreme reaction to the system highlighting that this new feature has some usability issues worth exploring.

Sometimes you don’t have time to recruit a structured sample group for testing. Sometimes you need a quick way of finding out if you need to explore an issue further. Putting Grace under pressure, illustrated that there was an issue – an issue that now bumps another impending bug fix higher on the priority ladder.

Grace, I apologise now, for putting you under pressure. Signals was always the better album.

Written by Guy in: usability |
Jan
08
2008
--

Good bye Pandora

Letter from a founder says it all.

hi, it’s Tim, 

This is an email I hoped I would never have to send. 

As you probably know, in July of 2007 we had to block usage of Pandora outside the U.S. because of the lack of a viable license structure for Internet radio streaming in other countries. It was a terrible day. We did however hold out some hope that a solution might exist for the UK, so we left it unblocked as we worked diligently with the rights organizations to negotiate an economically workable license fee. After over a year of trying, this has proved impossible. Both the PPL (which represents the record labels) and the MCPS/PRS Alliance (which represents music publishers) have demanded per track performance minima rates which are far too high to allow ad supported radio to operate and so, hugely disappointing and depressing to us as it is, we have to block the last territory outside of the US. 

Based upon the IP address from which you recently visited Pandora, it appears that you are listening from the UK. If you are, in fact, listening from the US, please contact Pandora Support: pandora-support@pandora.com

It continues to astound me and the rest of the team here that the industry is not working more constructively to support the growth of services that introduce listeners to new music and that are totally supportive of paying fair royalties to the creators of music. I don’t often say such things, but the course being charted by the labels and publishers and their representative organizations is nothing short of disastrous for artists whom they purport to represent – and by that I mean both well known and indie artists. The only consequence of failing to support companies like Pandora that are attempting to build a sustainable radio business for the future will be the continued explosion of piracy, the continued constriction of opportunities for working musicians, and a worsening drought of new music for fans. As a former working musician myself, I find it very troubling. 

We have been told to sign these totally unworkable license rates or switch off, non-negotiable…so that is what we are doing. Streaming illegally is just not in our DNA, and we have to take the threats of legal action seriously. Lest you think this is solely an international problem, you should know that we are also fighting for our survival here in the US, in the face of a crushing increase in web radio royalty rates, which if left unchanged, would mean the end of Pandora. 

We know what an epicenter of musical creativity and fan support the UK has always been, which makes the prospect of not being able to launch there and having to block our first listeners all the more upsetting for us. 

We know there is a lot of support from listeners and artists in the UK for Pandora and remain hopeful that at some point we’ll get beyond this. We’re going to keep fighting for a fair and workable rate structure that will allow us to bring Pandora back to you. We’ll be sure to let you know if Pandora becomes available in the UK. There may well come a day when we need to make a direct appeal for your support to move for governmental intervention as we have in the US. In the meantime, we have no choice but to turn off service to the UK. 

Pandora will stop streaming to the UK as of January 15th, 2008. 

Again, on behalf of all of us at Pandora, I’m very, very sorry. 

tim_signature.jpg 

-Tim Westergren
(Pandora founder)
 

 

Written by Guy in: Cosmic |
Nov
27
2007
--

Digital Shorts – NMA & Mr Jindal

Last Thursday we attended a fabulous presentation organised by New Media Age in Leeds. Ian Jindal of Internet Retailing and various other interesting ventures inspired an audience of retailers and agency people (approx 60:40 split) with a whirlwind tour of the interesting stuff that’s shaping up online retail. Ian’s style was refreshing – no hard sell trying to convince people, just stating that this is what people are doing now, evolve or die. Ian’s in the enviable position of having been involved with pulling together the new House of Fraser website, which he took great pride in demonstrating. Ian introduced us to Chris, who heads up ecommerce at Otto – a local company we’d really like to work with.
It was great to listen to somebody working so hard at raising the digital bar, when so many are happy to just get somewhere close. I understand from our new recruit, Helen, that we will be talking to Ian again in the not to distant future.
Yeah

Written by Guy in: Cosmic |
Oct
28
2007
--

Logo Creep TM

A fine example of a behaviour called Logo Creep TM. I thought this was extinct – but it seems the team at Crocus have done their bit to keep it alive.

On a serious note – we have evidence from eye tracking and verbal feedback to suggest that this really annoys users.

Written by Guy in: usability |
Oct
28
2007
--

Crocus finally join the 20th Century

At long last, Crocus, the online uk garden retailer with links to a famous BBC presenter, has finally revamped their website to make it half respectable. Still has a few usability issues – but a huge step forward on the merchandising front.

Hey – it’s the first time I’ve looked at this established retailer and been tempted to engage.

If it’s an internal team that’s developed it – well done, if it’s an external agency – I’m apalled.

Guy

Written by Guy in: Cosmic |
Oct
19
2007
--

trioBIKE – child carrying cycle that’s more than eye candy

It’s almost pretty enough to hang on the wall… but the new version of the trioBIKE is a very functional piece of engineering that seemed to cause quite a stir down at the cycle 2007 show. I was down to meet the owners of FunktionAlley (one of our exciting new customers) who are the distributors of trioBIKE in the UK. They had the first two bikes off the production line flown into the show for people to try and buy.

I had my video camera with me and filmed a few clips of the inventor talking about the bike and the story behind it. I’m a huge fan of authenticity and once you hear sammy talk about the product – you know that it’s built with passion. The stuff my coffee should be served with.

The Story behind trioBIKE

TrioBIKE in action

Sep
19
2007
--

Bloggers misleading readers with heatmaps / eye tracking

Whilst mouse tracking and eye tracking can produce heatmaps; the data they produce are very different. There is no significant relationship between the mouse movement and eye movement. We regulary demonstrate this with eye tracking session playback. Blame the wheel mouse and users’ total confidence in web.

Here’s another blogger misleading readers into thinking that click tales and crazy egg are a poorman’s alternative to eye tracking.

Watch some of the videos here and note where the eyes are and where the mouse is:
http://www.youtube.com/user/SimpleUsability

I blogged a little more about it here:
http://www.contentfairy.com/?p=89

Written by Guy in: Cosmic |
Aug
29
2007
--

Last.fm usability – do we make them an offer?

I didn’t realise it – but Last.FM are based in the UK. yeah.

I love the concept – but get really stressed with the way it works. There seems to be so much good stuff inside – but how do I use it? I wanted to listen to a user’s radio station in my desktop player and couldn’t work out how to do it. I payed for 3 months of service to see if that improved matters. One of the fab bits about Last.FM is the wikpediaesque library of info about the artists accessed on the site, through the player. I’ve learned alot about my favourite bands recently and discovered some new stuff. Which is what it’s all about.

The main rival to Last.FM is Pandora (apparently only for users in USA, cough, cough) and it’s streets ahead when it comes down to the user experience. Pandora is simple, robust and leaves me with a smile everytime I use it.

Maybe the guys and girls at Last.FM are too close to their baby to understand how joe public use it. Maybe they are all OSX users that haven’t noticed there’s no pause button on the XP player? or tried to listed to a user’s station?

Tom loves Last.FM and has done some clever stuff with the API – but that doesn’t fix my very basic desires:

– build my very own radio station, just how I want it

– explore more music through other people

I’d love to work on the IA and Customer Journeys within Last.FM. I think it would be a pretty major gig/project – which then leads to the 64 thousand dollar question – can they afford the work they need to do? cos it’s ambitious, complex, sticky, etc. I think our heads would hurt doing the project. But hey, what a project?

Written by Guy in: Cosmic,last.fm,Noise |
Aug
28
2007
--

Power of video – the new C-XF

Jaguar had me watching/drooling for over 3 minutes with their video about a contemporary use of materials – how much would that have cost in old advertising money? Even changed my perception of Jaguar.

http://uk.youtube.com/watch?v=u4jrl1UWbBc

Heuga – please shoot some videos. please.

more design-led videos from Jaguar here

http://uk.youtube.com/user/JaguarCarsLimited

 

Written by Guy in: Noise |
Aug
24
2007
--

The future of image resizing

Very clever research and demonstration of how images can be resized intelligently and also information (like ex girlfriends) can be automatically removed from photos. You have to watch this – it’s one of those things that challenges something that you thought could never change. Resizing an image is simple eh? just look at this research. 

Written by Guy in: Cosmic,Pixie Dust,Rocket Fuel |
Aug
20
2007
--

Blogging about home flooring

A few weeks ago, Patrick http://unique-spaces.blogspot.com and Cath from Heuga, started blogging. It’s interesting to see that both blogs have quickly settled into their own distinct styles, reflecting the personalities of the authors.

So, how do we put these blogs infront of people that should be interested in reading about home interiors & the interior industry?

Heuga are changing a fickle industry – slowly moving a behaviour that’s been engrained over many decades of consumer comfort. How do we spread the word and find these blogs an audience?

Written by Guy in: home flooring,mentor |
Aug
14
2007
--

Etsy Firebowl

firebowlI love fire. it’s hypnotic stuff. There’s nothing better than gazing into an open fire. hence my attaction towards these rather special firebowls on etsy.

http://www.etsy.com/view_listing.php?listing_id=6389630

I’ve not seen Etsy before but got me thinking about fellow geekup evanglist – Rob – and his Folksy project

http://www.folksy.co.uk/

coming soon :-)

Written by Guy in: Cosmic,eco |
Aug
01
2007
--

Flooring Trends

Anybody that knows me, knows I’ve got a thing for using carpet tiles in the home (the nice ones from Heuga – not the old fashioned cheap stuff). We’ve had a multicolour design down in the games room for a few years now and they still look as fab as the day we laid the flooring ourselves.

funky lounge flooringThere are many benefits to using carpet tiles over traditional carpet on a roll (less waste, wine spillage is just washed off under the tap, etc) but the thing that I most love is the little known use of tiles to make flooring a lot more interesting. There’s some really cool stuff you can do in a room, once you open your mind to doing something different. The big eye opener for me is the idea of marking out the area around your sofa and coffee table with different colour/textured carpet tiles. This photo shows one idea – but go and explore – there’s lots you can do.

2 new flooring blogs from Heuga:

http://www.square-vision.blogspot.com/

http://www.unique-spaces.blogspot.com/

The photo above looks like it has the shag pile tiles that we have in our office – my favourite product they sell.

Written by Guy in: blogging,Cosmic,home flooring |
Jul
20
2007
--

Pecha Kucha presentation guide

I’m presenting at the next Geekup in leeds about eye tracking and persuasion centred design Pecha Kucha style. that’s 20 slides, each slide 20 seconds long. Hence finding a nice guide to perfecting 20:20 style.

pecha-kucha-guide-to-better-presentation

 

Written by Guy in: eye tracking |
Jul
14
2007
--

BaseCamp for Me

Stumbled upon a rather cool and recommended collaboration/team management application of the BaseCamp ilk. Because it runs on your own server, you can have a seamless repository of docs all accessed over ssl – that’s a big improvement on BaseCamp in my view.

 http://www.activecollab.com

and the screencast admits that it is an effort to copy and improve BaseCamp.

http://www.activecollab.com/screencast/alpha/index.html

in the words of Ali G – Respect :-)

Written by Guy in: collaboration,project management |
May
14
2007
--

Visualising web analytics

A collection of visualisations of analytics. Different cusomters react to different visualisations of their data – so we’re always keen to learn new ways. Food for thought.

http://www.esnips.com/web/WebAnalyticsGraphs

Written by Guy in: analytics,Cosmic |