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Posts Tagged ‘UCD practice’

ISO 9241-210: Human-centred design for interactive systems

Since founding UXLabs I’ve been involved in all sorts of design projects: both large and small, from simple to complex, start-up to corporate. In that time I’ve noticed some practices that seem to work well, and an even greater number that don’t. In this post I summarise a few as slightly tongue-in-cheek ‘myths’ of the UX design process. I should point out that the specifics here refer to UX projects that involved some element of search or information discovery, but the principles themselves apply much more broadly.

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ECIR 2011

Here’s a quick shout out that on April 18 Endeca colleague Mark Burrell and I will be presenting a tutorial on Designing Effective Search User Experiences at ECIR 2011 in Dublin. For those unfamiliar with ECIR it is the premier European conference on Information Retrieval, possibly second only to SIGIR in academic standing and reputation. This is just one of a whole package of tutorials running that day – register for this one in the morning and you can attend a further one in the afternoon all for a very reasonable fee. Further details appended below. To register, simply go to the ECIR 2011 site.

Designing Effective Search & Discovery Experiences

Introduction

This half-day tutorial provides a practical introduction to Human Centred Design for information search, access and discovery. We present a concise overview of the fundamental principles of search experience design and show how to apply these to a variety of practical problems. A key element of the tutorial is the opportunity to practice these skills in a group exercise.

Our aim is to deliver a learning experience grounded in good scholarship, integrating the latest and most significant research findings with insights derived from practical experience of designing and evaluating search and discovery applications; delivered in a manner that focuses on transferable, practical skills that can be learnt and practiced within a half day session. In this tutorial participants will learn:

  • The fundamental concepts and principles of Design for Discovery
  • How to differentiate between various types of search behavior: known-item, exploratory, etc.
  • Models of human information-seeking behavior, and how to apply interaction design principles based on those models
  • An understanding of the key variables of user type, goal and mode of interaction, and how to apply these variables when designing for different user contexts
  • The role of design patterns, and how to apply UI design patterns from Endeca and those of other pattern libraries in designing search user interfaces
  • An awareness of the key design resources available within the HCIR community and how to apply these to practical design challenges

Course Content

The course comprises the following sections:

  • Introductions and objectives: Group introductions & Ice-breaker. A brief summary of what each participant hopes to gain from the session, and what experiences they bring.
  • Understanding Search & Discovery Behavior: An overview of the key theories and models of human-information seeking behavior, focusing on the work of Marcionini, Bates, Ingwersen, and the later works of Hearst, Morville, Tunkelang et al.
  • Faceted Classification & Search: A review of Rangathan’s seminal work on Colon Classification and its roots in Aristotelian teaching, and an exploration the implications for the design of contemporary faceted classification and search paradigms.
  • Design for Discovery: Varied Solutions for Varied Contexts: An exploration of the universal dimensions that define search and discovery contexts, and how these translate into principles for the design of effective search and discovery experiences.
  • The Endeca UI Design Pattern Library: A detailed examination of best practices in search experience design, embodied as design patterns in the Endeca UI Design Pattern Library. Exploration of the role of patterns in user experience design and comparative analysis of pattern libraries in general.
  • Practical Exercise: An opportunity to practice all the above skills in a group exercise. We will complement these with a practical review of best practices in search experience design and apply these to a real-world scenario.
  • Conclusions & Wrap-up: A review of the overall session, including the shared experiences of the group exercises and the contrasting findings of each. A summary of the follow-on resources and take-aways from the course and the wider HCIR (Human-computer information retrieval) community.

The fields of human computer interaction and information retrieval have both developed innovative techniques to address the challenge of navigating complex information spaces, but their insights have to date often failed to cross disciplinary borders. This tutorial acknowledges and builds on the momentum of recent collaborations (such as the HCIR conference series) to deliver a concise and practical guide to User Experience Design for information search, access and discovery.

Intended Audience

This tutorial is aimed at those who have an understanding of the basic principles of user centred design, or alternatively, some experience of having tackled UI design problems for search & information access applications. As such it should appeal to user experience professionals, information architects, information retrieval researchers and IR practitioners or anyone interested in the designing more effective user experiences for search and information discovery.

 

Related Posts:

  1. Design Patterns for Spatial Information Visualisation and Analytics Applications
  2. The Dimensions of Search User Experience
  3. User Interface Design Patterns for Search & Information Discovery
  4. The Changing Face of Search
  5. Search at the Guardian Newspaper

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There’s no doubt that the recent launch of Google Instant has caused considerable debate within the search community. Some describe it as further evidence of Google’s ability to deploy disruptive search technologies and change the nature of how we search, and, along with it, the dynamics of whole industries such as SEO. Others see it as merely an incremental feature that will make very little difference to the way we search and may even even undermine the user experience through distracting page refreshes.

So who is right?

Before we answer that, let’s clarify exactly what we mean by Google Instant (GI). The basic idea, in case you weren’t aware, is that instead of presenting a static page of results after each query, the search results are updated in real time after every key press as the user is typing. You could think of it as an extended Auto-suggest function designed to occupy the entire result page (BTW, auto-suggest is one of the patterns recently featured in the Endeca UI Design Pattern Library). In addition, GI also predicts likely keystrokes based on the current input, analogous to the predictive text input that is so common on mobile phones. This is essentially an implementation of a design pattern known as Auto-complete, and is used by GI to indicate the default query represented by result set at any given time. But the major benefit claimed for GI is faster searches: Google estimates that Instant can save 2-5 seconds per search, which, if everyone used it globally, could save as much as 3.5 billion seconds a day.

So, given what we now know about Google Instant – will it change the way we search?

The answer is, of course, it depends. Even though opinions vary widely on the value of this feature, what they have in common is they are based on a set of implicit assumptions about the context of use, i.e. the circumstances under which the feature will be experienced. So to answer the question in a principled manner, we need first to make those assumptions explicit, and then establish exactly which aspects of the context are relevant and how they affect the search experience. In so doing, we should look beyond web search and consider the broader discovery experience and human information seeking behaviour in all its forms, i.e. encompassing web search, site search, enterprise search, and so on.

The Dimensions of Search & Discovery Experience

There are four primary dimensions that we commonly use within Endeca to characterize search and discovery contexts. The first dimension is what we call User Type.  Now, there are many dimensions of variation along which we could characterise users, but one of the most important is their level of knowledge or expertise. For example, imagine you are designing the search experience for an electronics retail website: are your users likely to be highly knowledgeable tech enthusiasts or uncertain novice shoppers? Likewise, if you were designing the search application for an electronic component supplier: are your users likely to be expert electronics engineers, or purchasing agents with limited domain knowledge?

In each case, the level of knowledge or expertise affects the level of support they are likely to need or appreciate as well as their ability to quickly interpret and sift through volumes of information. The user with the more limited domain knowledge may be more likely to benefit from interactive support in their query formulation, and hence find a feature such as Instant more valuable.

user-types

User vary in their level of knowledge and expertise

The second dimension of the search experience is the users’ goal and the scenarios within which he/she strives to achieve that goal. These goals and scenarios can vary on a spectrum from highly specific “known item” searches to more complex and indeterminate exploratory learning and evaluative analyses, etc. On the simple side of this spectrum, “known item” searches such as “I want to find the latest Harry Potter book”, the user knows what he/she is looking for and can articulate it appropriately. Even if the user cannot recall the exact name of the book, a feature such as Instant can help them try different variations to locate the right results.

However, consider a goal such as “I want to find shoes to match my interview suit”. In a case such as this, the user may have an understanding of the sorts of results that would be valuable, but much less of an idea how to articulate a suitable query. Clearly this is a much more complex case, in which keyword queries and Instant results may help establish an initial direction for the enquiry, but are unlikely to provide a complete solution. To adequately fulfil the constraint of matching the suit, some sort of dialogue that supports exploration of the various facets of price, availability, colour, style, brand, etc. is more likely to be effective.

Finally, consider the case where the user’s goal is to “find an affordable entertainment system for our family”. Here, the user’s goal is at a much higher level of abstraction and complexity, and the use of keyword queries alone is unlikely to constitute an effective search and discovery strategy. In this case, the user is hoping to engage in a serendipitous discovery experience that leads to a plausible set of options for consideration; guided not so much by an explicit, known target but reactive to the world of possibilities that that may be presented to them and the trade-offs between them. In this context, rapidly changing and “instantly” available results may be useful at the outset in helping the user gain a general appreciation of the immediate options, but are unlikely to support the thoughtful consideration and evaluation of results required to identify an “entertainment system” that meets a family’s needs.

Goals and scenarios vary in breadth and complexity

Goals and scenarios vary in breadth and complexity

The third dimension of the search experience considers the Information Assets that users need to interact with in achieving their goals. In many ways, this dimension and the previous two reflect the classic concerns of user centred design, in which the initial focus is to understand and specify the context of use by identifying “the people who will use the product, what they will use it for, and under what conditions they will use it”.

Clearly, in an information-centric environment, there are many potential factors by which we could characterise such conditions of use, such as social, organisational, environmental, and so on. But one of the most important is the nature of the assets themselves. For example, are they relatively simple, homogeneous records that are human readable and self-describing (such as HTML pages in your native language)? In such cases, the relationship between keyword queries and search results may be quite apparent, and the feedback provided by Instant results can be of clear benefit. But what of cases where the information space is populated by complex, multi-faceted records that act as proxies for real world objects that are only meaningfully understood by their features and characteristics (such as electronic components or assemblies)? In such cases, it is unclear whether Instant results would deliver anything meaningful (except in edge cases such as lookup scenarios where related part numbers arbitrarily share a common prefix, etc.)

Moreover, the information space could be augmented by further meta-information in the form of product reviews, ratings and so on (which are becoming increasingly commonplace in eCommerce environments), or analytics views onto aggregated records (which are typical of enterprise search and business intelligence applications). Again, it is unclear how effective Instant results would be when applied to such complex, heterogeneous information spaces.

Information assets vary in complexity

Information assets vary in complexity

The fourth dimension of the search experience is what we call the Mode of Interaction. In many ways, this is the hardest of the four to define, as it is essentially an abstraction of the many types of behaviours (or modes) that we commonly observe when studying human information seeking behaviour. As such, it is a fluid concept, with many alternative models and approaches. Donna Spencer, for example defines four Modes of Seeking Information: “Known-Item”, “Exploratory”, “Don’t know what you need to know” and “Re-finding”.

Our own model currently defines ten modes of interaction, and draws on the work on Gary Marchionini in his work on exploratory search. In this he defines three broad categories of search activity: Lookup, Learn, and Investigate. Lookup subsumes the basic tasks of know-item search, fact retrieval, etc., and is the focus for much of what current web search engines support. GI, with its focus on interactive support for query formulation, is of clear benefit for such tasks. By contrast, the Learn and Investigate activities deal with exploratory search, and subsume tasks like comparison, aggregation, analysis, synthesis, evaluation. Evidently, these are complex, iterative behaviours that go beyond mere fact retrieval or lookup, and require a much richer kind of interaction or dialogue between system and end user.

Information-seeking behaviour in various modes of interaction

Different mdes of information interaction

In Closing

There’s no doubt that Google Instant is a significant development in the state of the art for web search, not least for the engineering achievement in developing the infrastructure required to deliver such an experience with sub-second response times on vast and diverse sets of information across the web. But the extent to which it will change the way we search really depends on the context of use. At the very least, this should consider the user type, their goals/scenarios, information asset types, and likely modes of interaction. In this context, instantly changing search results can be either instantly helpful or instantly ineffective.

But in many ways, this article really isn’t so much about Instant or any one particular feature of the Google search experience. Instead, it is about establishing a framework by which any feature of the search experience can be meaningfully understood and evaluated; whether it be a part of web search, site search, or enterprise search. In that respect, we are only just beginning to understand the critical dimensions of the human information seeking behaviour and discovery experience, and how to translate that understanding into design principles that help information seekers get beyond “instant” findings to understanding and discovery.

Footnote: this is a revised version of “Is Instant Search Instantly Valuable?” on Search Facets.

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Folks

I am recruiting for the following f/t permanent position. If you’re interested, or know someone who might be, drop me a line.

Tony

User Experience (UX) Architect

Position Overview

We are seeking an accomplished, innovative, and multi-talented UX Architect for our UK/EMEA practice, based in Richmond, UK (just outside of London) with outstanding expertise in all facets of human centered design, with a particular focus on interaction design. We need a senior, articulate, passionate UX leader and doer who can help our field teams, product teams, customers, and partners conceive, design, and build products and Endeca powered solutions and user interfaces that optimize discovery inside and outside the enterprise.

Responsibilities

  • Identify, plan, and execute strategic UX customer project opportunities that inform product development, inspire UI innovation, and contribute to UI best practices and reusable UI assets
  • Collaborate with the UX team and product teams to help accelerate the delivery of high quality product that provides an unparalleled user experience
  • Educate and evangelize  — with internal teams, customers, and partners- regarding Endeca user experience best practices
  • Harvest user knowledge and reusable UI design assets from field work that contribute to product innovation and development
  • Execute user experience work streams to optimize product quality and UX for selected product areas across ebusiness and enterprise discovery applications
  • Conduct user research and create explicit user models (e.g., personas, scenario flow models, mental models, task models) that characterize people’s information access, decision support, and discovery needs and behaviors in key business-user domains/verticals
  • Conceive, design and prototype useful, usable, and compelling user experiences and user interfaces based on an understanding of business goals, people’s discovery goals and needs, the available information assets, and the capabilities of Endeca’s platform
  • Create UI design artifacts – e.g., UI wireframes- to guide development teams and provide UI development oversight to ensure realization of designs and UX-usability quality/effectiveness
  • Conceive, design, and help optimize the usability, effectiveness and adoption of reusable and extensible UI assets for Endeca — e.g., UI components, UI application templates and frameworks, etc. – that enable Endecans, partners, and customers to rapidly create and extend compelling and effective discovery applications based on the Endeca platform
  • Conduct and collaborate on iterative UX/UI design evaluations (e.g. user testing) and user adoption & impact measurement activities to inform continuous product improvement and UX best practices
  • Harvest insights from field projects that contribute to the articulation and evolution of Endeca UX best practices, thought leadership & knowledge base (e.g., Endeca UI Design Pattern Library)
  • Apply domain knowledge (e.g., cognitive psychology, information design,  HCI, human factors, technology adoption, etc.) and knowledge of emerging search/discovery/UX related advances and technologies to support product innovation and evolution

Requirements

  • 10 or more years in user experience consulting, UX architecture and user experience/UI design in business and product development environments
  • Experienced and skilled working with cross-functional development teams; experience working within an agile product development process is a plus
  • Advanced degree or equivalent in information architecture, information design, interaction design, HCI, Cognitive Science, Human Factors, or related field
  • Skilled and knowledgeable across all facets of user experience/human centered design with outstanding expertise in user experience strategy, research, & interaction design
  • Experienced and knowledgeable about designing user interfaces for enterprise software environments and application frameworks (e.g., portal technologies, CMS systems, etc.)
  • Practical knowledge of emerging user interface/web technologies and advances in search and discovery research and UI best practices
  • Skilled in user research and modeling and user assessment methods
  • Strong communication, organizational, and project management skills
  • Experience with business analytics, dashboards, and complex database, business intelligence, and content management systems a plus
  • Experience with B-B and B-E (“behind the firewall”) applications a plus

About the Company

Endeca is a leading provider of search applications. Search applications built on Endeca’s technology deliver the clearest visibility into information, driving hundreds of millions of dollars in cost savings and increased revenue for our customers. Powering these solutions is Endeca’s Information Access Platform, a major enterprise search innovation based on a fundamentally new architecture for building high-ROI applications that let users access any data from anywhere any way they need it. With this improved information visibility, customers make better choices, and employees better decisions. More than 250 million end users around the world access information through Endeca solutions, which are in use at more than 600 leading organizations including: ABN AMRO, Boeing, Cox Newspapers, the U.S. Defense Intelligence Agency, Dell, Ford Motor Company, Hyatt, IBM, the Library of Congress, Texas Instruments, and Walmart.com.

We represent an opportunity to work with bright peers and embark on challenges that stem from rapid growth and building a business around market-changing technology. Endeca offers the resources and reach of a larger company, with great opportunities for those that love innovation, fast growth, and want to make a difference every day.

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ECIR 2010 logo

On March 28 I’ll be presenting a tutorial on Designing Effective Search Experiences at ECIR 2010. This is an updated version of the one I presented at HCI 2009 in Cambridge. Registration is free of charge to ECIR participants, or you can attend the tutorials day alone for £110. Note that since this is a half day tutorial you could attend both this and one of the other half day tutorials or workshops for the same price. Further details as follows:

Designing Effective Search Experiences

Overview

This half-day tutorial provides a practical introduction to Human Centred Design for information search, access and discovery. We present the fundamental concepts and models of human information-seeking behaviour and show how to apply interaction design principles to the design of search user experiences. A key element of the tutorial is the opportunity to apply these skills in a practical group exercise.

Benefits

Participants will learn:

  • the fundamental concepts and principles of human information-seeking behaviour
  • how to differentiate between various types of search behaviour: known-item, exploratory, etc.
  • models of the information-seeking process, and how to apply interaction design principles based on those models
  • an understanding of the key variables of user type, goal and mode of interaction, and how to apply these variables when designing for varying user contexts
  • the role of design patterns, and how to apply Endeca UI design patterns and those of other pattern libraries in designing search experiences

Audience

Web designers, information architects, user experience architects, and HCI professionals and researchers interested in the designing effective user experiences for search and information access.

Instructors

Tony Russell-Rose is User Experience Manager at Endeca Technologies, an enterprise software company specialising in innovative solutions for information search and discovery. Before joining Endeca, Tony was founder and director of UXLabs, a user experience consultancy specialising in technology innovation and applied R&D. Prior to this he was R&D group manager at Canon Research Centre Europe and technical lead at Reuters, specialising in advanced user interfaces for information access and search. He holds a PhD in HCI and a first degree in engineering, majoring in human factors. Tony is also Honorary Visiting Fellow at the Centre for Interactive Systems Research, City University London.

Mark Burrell is Worldwide Lead for User Experience at Endeca Technologies. He has over 25 years of professional experience, including 15 years focused on the evaluation, design, and adoption of interactive technology solutions (with special emphasis on applications that aim to support learning and discovery). Prior to joining Endeca, Mark built and led user experience teams at several leading product and service companies including serving as Sr. UX Manager for Microsoft’s Unified Communications product division and Global UX Lead for Sapient. Mark holds a PhD in Clinical psychology with concentrations in cognitive psychology and epistemology/philosophy of science.

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OK, I don’t want to make this a habit here, but … I do need a(nother) Senior UX Consultant for some upcoming work, starting early January. As usual, we’d like folks who ideally specialise in Search User Experience, but good UX all-rounders who pick things up quickly should also apply. I’d ideally prefer people with a principled, evidence-based approach to design, i.e. folks who understand the difference between judgements based on idiosyncracy and personal preference and those based on sound analysis and objective data. Further details as follows:

Role: Senior UX Consultant / Interaction Designer

Duties to include:
1. User research & analysis (interviewing users, preparing protocols, analyzing results, etc.)
2. Concept ideation (storyboarding, brainstorming, sketching design ideas and screen flows, etc.)
3. Wireframing (detailed interaction design and prototyping, ideally using Axure)

Skills & Experience:
• 5+ years in user experience consulting / interaction design
• Extensive experience in interaction design and wireframing
• Skilled and knowledgeable in concept ideation and human-centred design
• Understanding and competence in user research, analysis and modelling
• Advanced degree or equivalent in HCI, Human Factors, IA or related field
• Ideally experience or knowledge of designing for search and information discovery applications

Location of work: Richmond (London), with occasional field work or travel to client site

Rate: Good

Start Date: early January

End Date: TBD, likely end of Feb / early Mar

Please send CVs asap to trose AT endeca.com.

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I wouldn’t normally put job ads here, but this one’s urgent. If you’re interested drop me a line asap.

Role: Senior UX Consultant / Interaction Designer

Duties to include:
1. User research & analysis (interviewing users, preparing protocols, analyzing results, etc.)
2. Concept ideation (storyboarding, brainstorming, sketching design ideas and screen flows, etc.)
3. Wireframing (detailed interaction design and prototyping, ideally using Axure)

Skills & Experience:
• 5+ years in user experience consulting / interaction design
• Extensive experience in interaction design and wireframing (ideally using Axure)
• Skilled and knowledgeable in concept ideation and human-centred design
• Understanding and competence in user research, analysis and modelling
• Advanced degree or equivalent in information architecture, interaction design, HCI, Human Factors, or related field
• Ideally experience or knowledge of designing for search and information discovery applications

Location of work: Richmond (London), with occasional field work or travel to client site

Rate: Good

Start Date: early December (before Dec 7)

End Date: TBD, likely end of Jan

Please send CVs asap to trose AT endeca.com.

Senior UX Consultant

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