Archive for the ‘general’ Category

I have migrated this blog to uxcube

August 19, 2009

I have set up a new website which now hosts all of my blog files. It’s still wordpress based, just a different domain.

Please visit to continue reading my blog updates.

and to check out my portfolio or request, website design or optimisation services.


A quick way to provide comments on a design

December 7, 2007

I just found a firefox extension called fireshot which is a really useful tool for grabbing a screenshot of any webpage and then allows you to add comments.

usability testing

October 30, 2007

I have been running a series of usability tests and I know I’m stating the obvious but you can’t underestimate the importance of them. I guess this is especially true for me who is the usability specialist that sits on the design team – of course I end up getting too close to the product.

I’ve tried not to get too close and remain objective. However, this has manifested itself in me being overly critical, where I was beginning to get seriously worried that we were way of the mark and with very little time to deliver, yet having the opportunity to run some tests this week with real end users has brought me back to a sense of realism.

Google mini error

June 20, 2007

I’m currently working on a project to improve search engine results of a website and we decided to go with Google mini as the technology that makes it all work. Google as a brand have a great reputation, however I’m disappointed with the product. We have encountered numerous issues with it and currently are unable to use it due to an error that keeps closing the connection. Not only that, Google’s help documentation is not particularly helpful and their support centre is slow to respond.

I would be hard pressed to recommend Google mini as solution in the future.

It would be good to hear if anyone has experienced any difficulties with the product and found a solution the following error message:

‘The underlying connection was closed: Unable to connect to the remote server’

Does poor usability really put us off?

February 2, 2007

Poor usability stops me when I cannot complete a task or find what I’m looking for. However, even with a little bit of pain I might just stick it out for things that are just difficult to find.

All to often I find myself moaning about poor usability and still going back to websites, for example a website that wants me to register just to browse their content, makes me think that I’m not going to bother and I will leave the site frustrated to look for alternatives. However, finding alternatives can be just as painful – so I may return to the website and end up registering against my inclination and will.

Also if something is a little hard to find – it may annoy me but I have found it so I will bookmark it for the next time I visit.

An unpleasant experience but I will still use it.

what user testing is not – part 2

January 12, 2007

In my last entry What user testing is not, I spoke about the use of wireframes and screen shots of visual design as a means of getting user’s feedback. The following day, I had to put together a few pages for a client to show how a site might look and work. Before I sent it off I asked some of my peers to review and provide comments, with the instruction – ‘don’t pay too much attention to the image as this is just a placeholder. I am proposing that we have an image here, but it won’t be this one’. 

50% of respondents commented on the image, in that it didn’t fit with the design etc.  

This is an example of why wireframes and visuals are not useful in user testing as they will not see beyond what they are looking at.

What user testing is not

January 9, 2007

User-centred design incorporating user testing is not:

  • Showing them wireframes, or
  • Screenshots of visual designs


  • Wireframes are fundamentally meaningless to a user, and
  • with visual designs they will comment on colours and whether or not it is visually appealing to them.

User testing is about witnessing a user’s interactions with an interface. This will give you a great insight into whether a user can use your website/software, informing you of things you perhaps didn’t expect to see and things the user didn’t expect to experience.

My point here is quite simple; lets not cut corners and claim to have engaged user’s in the design process when all we have done is given them a sneak preview of what it might look like.

Christmas shopping online!

December 12, 2006

I’m not sure whether this is worse than fighting your way through crowds in the city centre shopping area.

A day (if I can last that long) shopping in town – leaves me feeling tired and my legs and feet ache, but I would have possibly bumped into someone I know and had a chat and some Christmas wishes and in some bizarre way feel a bit of the Christmas spirit.

A day shopping online (and yes for me it does take as long)– leaves my wrist and mouse fingers with a feeling of RSI, my eyes tired and a desperate need for some fresh air.  If you don’t know what you’re looking for browsing for gifts is much more difficult. You can search for gift ideas, but generally you need to have some idea of what you are looking for. The Web (for me) doesn’t lend itself to impulse buying or spontaneous gift ideas.

Is this about the usability of websites or limitations you have with interacting with a PC? Probably a bit of both – the websites could be improved, but we are limited by our human capacity to sit in front of a PC all day. 

Usable design improves credibility

November 28, 2006

I recently attended the Content Usability 1 & 2 seminars presented by John Morkes at the Nielson Norman group’s user experience 2006 event held in London. 

John Morkes gave a number of useful examples of websites and studies that relate to usability of websites and how good usability leads to a website’s credibility. Credibility is extremely important to a website’s success, especially in the current age where users are increasingly concerned about giving out personal details over the web. This basically means, if they don’t trust a website then they are less likely to buy or visit again – they will just stick to the sites they know and trust. 

A study by Fogg et al suggests that “creating websites that are easier to use, increases its credibility” For more information about this study read the following report The point here is that you cannot underestimate the importance of ensuring that your website is easy to use. I have spoken before about companies losing out in sales or audiences because of poor usability, but it is greater than just losing sales: a company puts its reputation on the line by having a website that is difficult to use.