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Archive for January, 2013

The Key for Delivering Useful and Effective Solutions

The key for delivering useful and effective user centric solutions is simple. It is better to answer the “why” question and not the “what” question. Often I have found myself involved in projects that were already started only to discover that it was started by answering the “what” question. For example, an executive group may have made the choice to implement a mobile app, or they want to re-do the intranet, or re-design the website, or perhaps they want to be better connected in the social media arena.

Answering the “what” question is fine if you are trying to define requirements or goals but it is not an effective pillar on which to build the strategy for better User Experiences. The “what” tells us what to do with what exists or at least what is believed should exist within the constraints of our own perspectives. It however does not directly address what the needs of the user are and why those needs should be met. How would that translate into a better User Experience overall?

I remember a project that I worked on at Maxim. I was recruited right before they transferred 200+ servers, tens of thousands of users, and hundreds of thousands of files and documents. It was projected to take 3 months and about 12 resources (Developers, Server Administrators, Database Administrators, SharePoint 2010 Developers, etc.) working 8 – 10 hours a day. At the first meeting the complexity of this overwhelming task was discussed. When it was my turn I asked several simple questions: “Why do we have to move everything?”; “Is everything indispensable?”; “Has anyone checked the value and integrity of the folders, files, and user?”.

To my amazement, the project owner’s request to move everything was never questioned. This means they were answering the “what” question first (All files and folders for all users from all servers need to be move and replicated on a SharePoint environment.) instead of answering the “why” (Why is it so important to move everything?). This is especially bad when it is not known if the action that is about to be taken makes sense in the first place.

After working closely with the project manages, server administrators, and local IT administrator it was determined that what actually needed to be moved was only 20% of the files and folders and not 100% as originally thought. One reason was because some employees were no longer with the company. Another reason was because some folders and files had not been accessed in several years. Still another reason was that there were lots of duplicates floating around.

To remedy this, I created a 4 Step Strategy for the IT and server administrators for each office

OOTF_02

Step 1: Back up everything

Step 2: Clean everything (If an employee had away from the company for more than 1 year, archive folders but do not transfer. Anything not accessed in 2 years or longer would be archived but not transferred. Utilize software that finds and compares duplicate files at the hex level and archive older duplicates but transfer the new ones).

Step 3: Develop a new site structure and create document, knowledge, archive, and template libraries to house commonly used documents.

Step 4: Identify user group types and create sub-master page templates tailored specifically to their needs.

By answering the “why” not the “what” the team transferred the files in 1/6 the projected time, using 1/3 of the originally planned resources, thereby saving the company a lot of money on man hours and equipment while delivering a much better user experience. So remember it is all about answering the “why” not the “what”.

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User Interface Types

 

Direct manipulation interface is the name of a general class of user interfaces that allow users to manipulate objects presented to them, using actions that correspond at least loosely to the physical world.

Graphical user interfaces (GUI) accept input via devices such as computer keyboard and mouse and provide articulated graphical output on the computer monitor.

Web-based user interfaces or web user interfaces (WUI) that accept input and provide output by generating web pages which are transmitted via the Internet and viewed by the user using a web browser program.

Touchscreens are displays that accept input by touch of fingers or a stylus. Used in a growing amount of mobile devices and many types of point of sale, industrial processes and machines, self-service machines etc.

Command line interfaces, where the user provides the input by typing a command string with the computer keyboard and the system provides output by printing text on the computer monitor.

Touch user interface are graphical user interfaces using a touchpad or touchscreen display as a combined input and output device. They supplement or replace other forms of output with haptic feedback methods. Used in computerized simulators etc.

Attentive user interfaces manage the user attention deciding when to interrupt the user, the kind of warnings, and the level of detail of the messages presented to the user.

Batch interfaces are non-interactive user interfaces, where the user specifies all the details of the batch job in advance to batch processing, and receives the output when all the processing is done. The computer does not prompt for further input after the processing has started.

Conversational Interface Agents attempt to personify the computer interface in the form of an animated person, robot, or other character (such as Microsoft’s Clippy the paperclip), and present interactions in a conversational form.

Crossing-based interfaces are graphical user interfaces in which the primary task consists in crossing boundaries instead of pointing.

Gesture interfaces are graphical user interfaces which accept input in a form of hand gestures, or mouse gestures sketched with a computer mouse or a stylus.

Intelligent user interfaces are human-machine interfaces that aim to improve the efficiency, effectiveness, and naturalness of human-machine interaction by representing, reasoning, and acting on models of the user, domain, task, discourse, and media (e.g., graphics, natural language, gesture).

Motion tracking interfaces monitor the user’s body motions and translate them into commands, currently being developed by Apple[1]

Multi-screen interfaces, employ multiple displays to provide a more flexible interaction. This is often employed in computer game interaction in both the commercial arcades and more recently the handheld markets.

Non-command user interfaces, which observe the user to infer his / her needs and intentions, without requiring that he / she formulate explicit commands.

Object-oriented user interfaces (OOUI) are based on object-oriented programming metaphors, allowing users to manipulate simulated objects and their properties.

Reflexive user interfaces where the users control and redefine the entire system via the user interface alone, for instance to change its command verbs. Typically this is only possible with very rich graphic user interfaces.

Tangible user interfaces, which place a greater emphasis on touch and physical environment or its element.

Task-Focused Interfaces are user interfaces which address the information overload problem of the desktop metaphor by making tasks, not files, the primary unit of interaction

Text-based user interfaces are user interfaces which output a text. TUIs can either contain a command-line interface or a text-based WIMP environment.

Voice user interfaces, which accept input and provide output by generating voice prompts. The user input is made by pressing keys or buttons, or responding verbally to the interface.

Natural-language interfaces – Used for search engines and on webpages. User types in a question and waits for a response.

Zero-Input interfaces get inputs from a set of sensors instead of querying the user with input dialogs.

Zooming user interfaces are graphical user interfaces in which information objects are represented at different levels of scale and detail, and where the user can change the scale of the viewed area in order to show more detail.

 

Reference: Wikipedia

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