Cognitive psychology, design thinking, usability, usability testing, User Behaviour, User Experience, User Psychology

When Don Norman talked about my “How I explained the solar system to my mom in Hindi” story in his speech

Tales of UX in childhood:

As soon as I shared a childhood episode with Don over lunch, he immediately called out his colleague and asked me to repeat what I said, with a confused face I thought I said something unsuitable,  nevertheless I repeated and said “One day when I came back from school, my mom asked me “What did you learn in school today? I was wondering how do I explain to her the Solar System in Hindi today? And in a way which is digestible to her? Hailing from a village, my mother had never been to school but she was always curious to learn. That was probably my first step towards simplifying ideas into bits of chewable information for the right target audience.

Sharing stories of my childhood experiences with UX

Stories are exciting

Don Norman and I share an immense passion for education, as we believe that is one important aspect is shaping the future of this world and after hearing my story he quoted “We need curiosity in our education system, a learning form which can never be replaced”

Who is Don Norman?

Don-Norman

Don Norman

Recently I had the opportunity to host world famous Donald Norman – a cognitive scientist who joined the team at Apple in the early 90s as their User Experience Architect – making him the first person to have UX in his job title. He came up with the term “user experience design” as a way of encompassing all that UX is. By this time Don had also written his classic book, “The Design of Everyday Things,” which championed design for usability and functionality rather than aesthetics. it remains hugely influential for designers today. At the heart of his approach is human and activity-centered design, combining knowledge of cognitive science, engineering, and business with the design.

Hosting Don Norman in India

Being an active member of the Ispirt Volunteer team and having shared my usability expertise on mega projects like Bhim, UPI, EkStep and DigiYatra, It was time for the next big thing for Ispirt.

Ispirt works to transform India into a hub for new generation software products, by addressing crucial government policy, creating market catalysts and grow the maturity of product entrepreneurs.

The conversations started with the living legend with an exclusive closed-door meeting at [24]7.ai situated in the Silicon Valley of India, Bangalore where various solutions/products were discussed to get his unbiased feedback.

Public Speech by Don Norman had for over a hundred designers, developers and product folks. I remember before the talk Don asked me a peculiar question, “Shaheena; should I use a presentation?” and I said yes sure. But then an entire conversation went around why presentations are needed or why they are not. Well, eventually I was of the opinion how about experimenting and not using one? Well to my surprise he did not use one.

During lunch and coffee, we shared stories and spoke about cultural behaviours from an Indian perspective and hearing his insights too. As we walked to meet the press and waited at the elevator area he looked at me and said “how does one know which elevator to call and how to do these buttons function” and we had a sneered at each other like we knew what we were referring too.

A complex problem does not have a simple solution: The Talk of the Legend

20190222_160343(1)Don started off by imploring designers to ask a question to themselves, what is the problem that they would want to work on? Healthcare? Education?

A complex problem does not have a simple solution, it is solved bit by bit because in the process of helping some people it might harm some other people. Hence it is important to test the solutions on a smaller set of people and then learn from that and iterate and keep iterating.  We learn from testing and its important that we tell ourselves that we have not been proven wrong if we fail but we have learnt a lot more than what we knew before. This term was fondly called “Muddling Through” because as per Don, Experts do not always understand cultural nuances, behavioural biases and deeply hidden insecurities of the people the solution is eventually built for.

He is a strong advocate of “Community Driven Knowledge” i.e Citizen-Based Knowledge Systems, this is the most sustainable form of design solutions because they are conceived by the people for the people.

This is the role of a designer to get people together for a common cause.

Understand the Problem Deeply:

Helping Don sign the booksA designer is someone who designs something that has an impact on society. A solution that is aimed at technology first is a good recipe for failure, we will never to able to start by finding technology solution. What we must do is understand the problem deeply.

A designer must understand which discipline is necessary for designing a solution. They must know a bit about every aspect of the ancillary problems associated with the core problems. It’s important to know about the other fields that he is exposed to as opposed to just blinker focus on your core area. We must not simply design solutions, they must be accepted by the society that’s the goal of every solution. A human mind understands the cause and effect of the actions he will be doing. Hence it’s easier to build for behaviours of people as opposed to changing the behaviour because behavioural change eventually happens on its own. Human mind understands the cause and effect relationship, hence give them a problem they care about that’s when they learn and change. Build something first quickly, and give people to try also called “Research Through Design” is the way by which you learn much faster. Ending the session with autographs on his books, it was now time for the press.

Ending the day discussing some social projects that affect the medical and education sector of the country, it was amazing to share the table and discuss hypothesis, assumptions and biases with Don.

Advice to Designers: Be curious

The 82-year-old Don Norman is anything but an old, he is curious and would always like to be that way. He tries anything that is different. Humble and asks tonnes of questions.

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An Autograph as unique as the man himself

 

Cheers,

RuthlessUX

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User Experience

How you are fooled online by “Dark UX”

What is Dark UX – Mislead Ethically

As online businesses and market gets competitive so does the war to acquire new users, even if that means at the cost of fooling or misleading users ‘ethically’.

Although there technically can’t be such a thing as ‘mislead ethically’, its a collective behavioural pattern businesses choose to adopt slyly to fool users online. Anything thats misleading has an unethical intent behind it. It’s a lot like how lawyers find loop holes in the system and get their way out same way product designers have found a loop hole called “Dark Ux” to get their way!

Power of Dark Side – Users believe What They See

Dark UX are subtle hints used in websites and apps to make a user perform an action which he might otherwise not choose to consciously do if presented with a clear picture of what is going on. Its a way to influence or trick users to get a desired product outcome in an undesired situation.

When we are online most of times we skim through information eg – terms and conditions of any app or website, we assume that whatever must be written would be under of purview of being reasonable.

Hence, if a company exploits a crucial point in a user journey,  and makes it look like something you would expect to see on a page contextually in a normal course of journey, then, its easier to trick the user and make him believe like he is doing the right thing while in reality it could be something else. Alot like a friend who is fake but you do not realise he is fake!

Example of Dark UX Pattern – How premium companies fool you to upgrade by using Dark UX Design Pattern

This video review of a medical insurance website is a great example of  how to spot “Dark UX Pattern” and be an aware netizen. (you can skip the read and watch the video directly 🙂 )

On a daily basis we do some or the other financial transaction online and skim through data assuming its true eg t&c in apps and website. Paying a premium is also a similar activity but done once a year. Most of users assume they will login to the website online and simply renew the amount pending from their account.

Use Case: As a user i am trying to pay my medical insurance renewal premium online. My insurance policy is for 5 Lac and My premium amount every year i pay is around Rs 6000, and this year i was upgraded to 10 Lac, i am not aware but good for me and then the catch is with that upgrade my premium amount also increases, and if i am not alert i would have probably paid for it as well assuming im doing right!

 

 

However issue happens when the businesses take this as an opportunity to over sell you.

Notice the Red Flags:

  1. The congrats! section looks like a part of the main information. Ideally a attention seeking pop up asking for my explicit permission would be better as oppose to a sneaky congrats and a
  2. Any information that a user has not explicitly indicated his intention about must not be assumed as a positive indication. Here for example by default my premium amount was set to the upgraded amount. That is plain bad practise.
  3. Having a separate UPGRADE button and then disclosing options makes more sense where you have taken explicit consent from user about his intention.

Disclaimer: The video is created only for educational purpose.

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#WtfUx, FuckedUpUx, Industrial Design, usability, User Behaviour, User Experience, User Experience Review, User Psychology

#WtfUx : Bad user experience design can make you feel dumb in the washroom

You must have heard of kids getting locked in the washroom but its so embarrassing to imagine if an adult was struggling to find his way out. Washroom is one place you would not want to overload your brain with any form of cognitive processing, i mean getting in and out of a washroom should be a piece of cakewalk right? Not for the washroom designed in the lobby area of The Trident Hotel- at BKC in Mumbai.  The hotel like one of those over-friendly friends who is constantly around for no good reason tried to be “over creative” by designing a very confusing looking washroom lock and in that process successfully flushing down the drain basic principles of user centric designs  which are required to be adhered while designing objects of daily use.

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(Image by RuthlessUx: Lobby area washroom / or as it is labelled in hi-fi settings as cloak room (ladies) at the Trident Bkc, Mumbai)

Why in the world would a designer have an open knob separate and a lock unlock knob separate? And to dig their own grave further add shabby “suggestive” stickers on them which are peeling off! Argh! I have coined a term for these kind of designers – “Creative Assholes” Lol. Because they’re doing something not just stupid and annoying, but mean.

Usability is a common courtesy that designers owe to their potential users and a good user experience designer  (not restricted to digital products, it could be a space experience designer, industrial designer working on ergonomics of usability etc) will always indirectly and lucidly amalgamate the abstract logic of usability with literal understanding of common sense in forms and designs that’s more digestible and intuitive based on the past experiences of the users and seems to be a part of common sense.

Why would a designer make a simple task like opening a washroom lock complicated – to be different? to think out of the box? to be abstract? – unless they wanted to do some sort of ‘IQ’ test on how peoples brain function after peeing or pooping? or may be are people that attentive after they have eased themselves? or can people find their way out of our so called innovative lock system?

 

The moment you make a user think for a task that is “more mechanical or routine” in nature and doesn’t really require “thinking” you have clearly lost as a designer and delivered a #WtfUx. In simple language any routine task where a user doesn’t have to think much and can understand fast from the design and placement of the sections or its intuitive design visuals is more probable to accomplish that task – (in this case its not the first time a person would be unlocking a washroom door to exit. which means its a learnt behavior and complicating that is stupidity)

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The left designs are way more usable and intuitive then the right hand one

Empathy is the key to designing usable products and we as designers should put our self in the position of the person who will will eventually use your product.

I mean i totally buy the fact that you need to be creative but this knob design does anything but give me a delightful experience.  If you wish to reinvent the wheel, then the usability aspect can never be compromised? Be it Maruti or Rolls Royce the wheel shape is round for both organisations vehicles. Rolls Royce simply because they can, don’t go ahead and build a complicated hexagon shape wheel.

I know complaining about a design problem at a luxury hotel might make you question “umm am i the only one who is feeling this knob is awkward? or do other people feel the same? Its intimidating and most people i interact with just feel that its them who are incapable of figuring the way out and feel they will be seen as a fool or a less intelligent person if they speak about a problem such as this.

So keep a watch for that “Creative Asshole” around you.

Cheers & Keep it #RuthlessUx

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design thinking, FuckedUpUx, Interface Design, Product Design, usability, User Experience, ux review, Video Review

When networking is over friendly : Linkedin UX & Usability Review

Linkedin has always tried to make networking fun and engaging. But even the monopoly in this field does not deter them to make some silly usability and Ux glitches. I mean before they implement such functions and features what do they even think?

This is one reason why i love to dig down and critique them. You are never short of content here 🙂

In one of my previous articles about linkedin regarding their ui revamp on the design i had pointed out some very basic design changes which were not really necessary and more over changes which degraded the ux from the then existing ux.

But then thats LinkedIn for you.

Cheers,

Keep it Ruthless

 

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design thinking, FuckedUpUx, Product Design, Product Review, User Experience, ux review

Re-invent the user behaviour pattern wheel Or Revise it?

Today the need to look different and be different all the time has become more like a necessity for social acceptance, be at work or personal. We want to be seen as innovators and be applauded all the time. The subtle societal notion of ‘if you’re not doing anything different, is equivalent to you’re not doing anything valuable’ is actually taken very seriously today. But at what point does one decide what is actually and truly different and what is valuable? Because sometimes you could be doing something that’s different but it turns out that it’s not valuable.

The clear answer lies in the adoption curve of the eventual users of such the product or service. Because technology changes quickly compared to the peoples’ adaptation habits and learning curve, which is comparatively slower.  Because as humans we have over the years learnt and formed a collective pattern of behaving in a similar fashion towards some of the most generic situations. And our reactions to those are more or less same if not drastically different.

Anything we design is eventually doing either of the two things – displacing the old user behaviour pattern or simply extending them.

Changing the collective user behaviour pattern is nothing short of what I would call as a Digital Evolution today.

User Behaviour Pattern is not just limited to Humans but animals as well have an accumulated and evolved learnt behaviour over generations that make them behave in a collective way. I recently read a case study about “Mountain lions fear humans, flee when they hear our voices”. It reveals how human behaviour as a predator to the felines – which is a predator to other animals – has eventually caused these species to develop a type of a fear based learning mechanism to protect themselves from humans.

Designers are often reluctant to take advantage of the already existing conventions that have been followed and over the period and which has been subconsciously well learnt by the users.

But the designers get tempted to try and reinvent the wheel because they feel that they always need to do something new and different that has not been done before. While that’s a good thought to start at but as designers there are certain start points and basics that need to be adhered to. Like you clearly need to define the learning curve vs. the value you are trying to replace of the already existing solution or convention.

How to make the users learning curve as minimal as possible and yet achieving the eventual product and business goal is something that a designer must always strive to do.

So what needs to be kept in mind is to ask yourself that do I really need to reinvent the wheel or revise it?

A quick and literal litmus test here is that all automobile companies use the same shape of wheels, which were invented way back in circa 3,500 B.C. They have all the resources and funds to make a square wheel, a trapezium shaped wheel and so on.

Point is they don’t shy from using existing conventions and technology because by leveraging the existing they make their own innovative part of the product better. And that’s what the people need -a better version of anything existing. Nature adapts and evolves and so do we as humans. We build on the existing to make the present much more delightful.

A Quick example would be corporate parks having unnecessary complicated design for the most simple of the things. Eg: Elevator Call buttons

This is the mot simple and easy to understand elevator call button

The button you see here is the easiest way to understand a elevator call button without any ambiguity.

Now most of the corporate park utility designs are complicated for example the images of buttons below.

Conventions which have been used and already learnt by the users is a great way to kickstart design thinking process as it puts less cognitive load on their minds and also makes them feel less dumb. We have to as designers or utilities keep in mind that if the user is finding it difficult to use the service or object designed its our fault and not the users. 

 

Revising or enhancing user behaviour is a better option than completely reinventing because unless it really displaces the value of what is already existing its adaptability and scalability is highly  questionable.

Hence keeping things reasonably simple is more important than making them functionally fancy and ambiguous.

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Data & Experience Design

Speaking at the  Women Techmakers July meetup organised by the Google Developer Group – Mumbai

The relationship of #data and #design is as old as it gets. Speaking on one of the hottest topics in the tech industry about how data needs to be made consumable to the end user whether B2B or B2C. Catch me speaking on two case studies of Spotify and Wigzo and get insights on how to leverage data to take better and informed decision as a business or an end customer.

The more we head towards digitising our living the more we require to craft better experience to synergise the equation between man and machine. What consumers actually care is how your product or technology is going to enhance their existing version of life and not the tech or #machinelearning #algorithm that your product is built on.

Get the presentation to my Google Talk below

 

 

To download Click here

 

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Speaking at the Panel

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Design in the Physical world vs Design in the digital world

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At the Panel

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