UX

iOSDEVUK(number: 7)

So we come to the end of yet another iOSDEVUK. This was my 6th year making the annual pilgrimage to Aberystwyth and as ever the conference didn’t disappoint.

Amidst the usual visits to Weatherspoons, the sea front and the pier it was once again a pleasure to grace Rummers on Tuesday night! Work never seemed to end though as I found myself submitting apps for Apple Beta Test review with the help of the DJ in preparation for my talk on Wednesday afternoon. As it turned out the Apple Gods weren’t with me and the app didn’t make it through review on time but Harambe was still well received by the crowd; coding UX into every app.

Photo courtesy of @weiran!

 

So what did we learn? @macdevnet would have us believe that as developers we should be reeking havoc and disrupting our workplaces in order to make better software. @capitalonegeek on the other hand can’t believe that agile isn’t embedded into the heart of every team.

General Themes

I think the theme of the conference this year has definitely been focussed around the anatomy of the team. It is evident that software developers in every company are working in ever more agile ways and the case studies of agile working practices that are being presented clearly demonstrate the business case for doing so. Companies who do not understand the benefits of working agile are lagging behind in the software development world.

Another key theme was centred around the need to focus on code quality; Code Reviews should not be an optional add on and teams need to take responsibility for the quality of their products.

@capitalonegeek – Agile Workshop – I’m not a bottleneck! I’m a free person!

One of the clear highlights of the conference for me was the Agile Workshop ran by @weiran and @chrisroddisf from Capital One. If you aren’t comfortable with the benefits that agile working can bring I would highly recommend spending a couple of hours making boats and hats with your team and you will soon realise how your bottleneck is limiting profitability.

Sam Davies – @iwantmyrealname – I’ll tell you what you can do with Core ML

Machine Learning was given a lot of stage time this year at WWDC but since the event I haven’t really had the opportunity to explore how the technology can be used in my apps. Sam’s overview of Core ML was an enlightening experience delivered in top class witty style which really has inspired me to take a more in depth look at the library. If you ever get the chance to hear Sam speak I would highly recommend it.

Adam Rush – @adam9rush – Continuous Delivery

We all know that setting up an effective continuous integration pipeline is the holy grail of an effective software development team. Adam gave a fabulous insight into some of the trials and tribulations he has found implementing Jenkins while changing the world one contract at a time. Adam will also be speaking at CodeMobile in 2018 so if you missed his talk or want to hear more from him there is a great opportunity in April 2018.

Luke Rogers – @rizergames – A thousand no’s for every yes

Luke is in an enviable club in that he is making money selling his app on the app store. He argues not enough to live off but none the less he has generated an income source with his app Pixaki.

Luke gave an inspired presentation talking about how as developers we need to focus our ideas and crucially how we should not forget to value our time in order to measure return on investment.

 

As ever there is simply to much to write about in one blog post. Chris and the Team in Aber did a fabulous job of organising the event. If you are interested in, or do anything with iOS then this is simply an annual event that you can’t afford to miss.

See you next September!

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Categories: Apple, Apps, Conferences, UX | Tags: | Leave a comment

Your Problems are NOT your Users Problems

How many times have you been faced with this:

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I complete captchas on a daily basis and am faced with them wherever I go on the internet. What does the captcha represent to you?

To me as a developer it’s a way that developers use to reduce the amount of spam that is received as a result of automated bots that roam the internet exploiting weaknesses. To me as a user it is a burden on humanity that gets in the way of me achieving my aims and objectives of using the web.

The issue I have with this overused annoyance is that it does not solve any problem that I as a user have! Instead it solves problems that I face as a developer! The real issue here and my big revelation is that:

YOUR PROBLEMS ARE NOT YOUR USERS PROBLEMS

Just stop for a second and read that again! Your problems are NOT your users problems.

If we forget the problem that the captcha solves and focus on our users, captchas are a horrific creation. They interrupt the users flow, get in the way of what the user wants to do but worse that they the humble captcha annoys the user especially when they are so complicated its impossible to work out what the system wants you to type or click. Whoever thought that a captcha was a good idea in my view should be taken immediately and put into room 101.

So what are the alternatives? It would be wrong of me to sit here berate you as a for using a captcha without offering some alternatives.

The real issue is that as developers we need to verify that the person who is using our system is real; I believe a captcha is a lazy way of doing this.

Take this scenario! You have a contact form that you are expecting a user to complete; you are worried that unless you use a captcha you will receive huge volumes of spam because there is nothing to prevent a bot from submitting the form.

In reality it is going to take a few second for the user to complete each of the fields – if there is a long message box it might take even longer still.

Computerised bots don’t hang around when completing forms; they get to the form and they repeatedly spam it submitting it multiple times a second.

A potential solution here is to track the behavior of users on our pages. If we record how long it takes the user to complete the form, we can come up with a pretty good idea of whether our user is a real human.

If we get suspicious that the user isn’t real because the form was completed to quickly then maybe this is the point that its ok to use a captcha. But for 95% of users visiting our site its ok just to let the submission through because their behavior verified that they are real.

Of course the above scenario and solution throws up problems. Is it ok for us to track what our users are doing on our websites; will our users be happy with this? My view is that we need to educate users; make the reasons for this clear within the privacy policy so they can read about it – you could even tell them that the alternative is to have a captcha before every submission and I’m sure most users will sympathize and understand.

The work being done by the guys at NUCAPTCHA explores all of these ideas and is revolutionising the way that Captcha works.

Another interesting way to beat the captcha and improve our users experience is to gamify the experience. If we are going to make the user do something tedious what’s wrong with making it a more enjoyable experience; everyone enjoys playing games. That’s exactly the approach that is being taken by SweetCaptcha as they try to make captchas fun.

I’m not naïve enough to think that the captcha is going to go away anytime soon but I hope that this post will make you stop and think about whether there is a way you can solve your problems in a better way that improves your users experience; or at least makes your user smile to brighten their day.

Of course this is only one very small example of how developers inconvenience users to solve their problems. Next time you are faced with a scenario where you need to solve a problem consider what impact your solution will have on the end user and then ask yourself if your solution is a legitimate burden to a user or whether it to should be resigned to room 101.

Categories: Design, UX | Leave a comment

Brilliant UX

I’ve recently found myself talking to people more and more about what makes UX either really really good or really really bad.

I came across this image online which I think sums up best practice of user interface design.

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Its important to look at how this manifests itself in real life. The best example of exceptional user interface design that comes into every day life is the common Door Handle.

doorhandleThe door handle is a brilliant example of user interface design because it is quite simply one of the most intuitive objects of everyday life.

I don’t ever remember being told how to use a door handle; and its a concept that in thousands of videos online you see conquered by children and animals alike with absolutely no direction.

This is so true that in nursery schools often the door handle is moved so it is out of reach of the children because staff know if the children can reach the handle then they will be able to open it.

The door handle is quite simply an elegant solution to a complex problem. It hasn’t been over engineered and actually goes unnoticed for the vast majority of the time. Yet imagine the issues we would have if the humble door handle didn’t exist? We would struggle to open doors, wouldn’t be able to lock doors and secure our property, car boots and cars more generally would face difficulties; and if expand the concept to cover the generic handle how many every every day objects would be effected.

Compare and contrast this to UI on the web. We regularly see examples of good clean UI, simplistic in its nature, not over engineered and easy for our users to understand. One of the best examples of stunning UI on the web can be seen on the gov.uk website.
Screen Shot 2016-08-28 at 19.45.46
This website learns from the simplicity of the door handle by making it very obvious what to do. A user has w very clear options when they visit the home page, search or click on a relevant link. When you consider the volume of information published on this website it really is a triumph that it has been categorised into 16 clearly defined areas.

Now lets consider the navigation on this website

Screen Shot 2016-08-28 at 19.56.55

I acknowledge that I have selected an extreme example; but in the website above the navigation is confusing, over engineered and doesn’t help the user to find the content that they are looking for.

The creators of the website above have worked on the principle that everything on the website should be accessible within 2 clicks. While this is a good principle in theory there are times when the rules doesn’t work and simply isn’t helpful to our users. As designs as we search to optimise or users experience by reducing the number of clicks we often find ourselves giving users a greater number of choices which only serves to confuse our users.

The moral of the story here is that we should all try to make our websites more like Door Handles; emulate the simpicity and improve our users flow as they access our online content.

Categories: Design, Technology, UX | Leave a comment

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