Monthly Archives: July 2015

Why I Don’t Use Facebook’s Messenger App

Once upon a time, on those infrequent occasions when someone would message me on Facebook and I wasn’t sitting at a computer, I could pick up my phone, pop open the Facebook app, and read and respond to the message.

I miss those days.

Last year, Facebook broke the messaging feature into its own app and took that feature out of the Facebook app because… reasons. Apparently Messenger is a “better experience?” I wouldn’t know because I haven’t used it. I’m not in the habit of filling my phone with every single app I can get my hands on. Storage is at a premium and I care a lot about how I organize my apps.

I can say that my experience of using the Facebook app declined greatly. As if it’s not enough that you can’t read and reply to messages in Facebook, the Facebook app knows when you’ve received a message, and it shows you the first several characters of that message, and there’s a notification right in the interface to tell you that you have an unread message. You just can’t read it.

Can someone explain to me how this is an example of good user-centered design?

Removing this functionality is a naked example of business driving design decisions. All it has done is drive me to using the web version of Facebook when I need to respond to messages in a pinch, but, mostly, it just means I don’t using their message feature as much anymore. Good job, Facebook. It’s nice to get a reminder that although good design can seem so obvious, it’s still an uphill battle.

ConveyUX in February 2016

It looks like I’ll be going to Seattle in February 2016!

I’ll be teaching a workshop on Web Analytics for User Experience at ConveyUX. It’ll be an iteration on what I taught at UX Lisbon. Who knows what an extra year of thought will produce?

I really value these opportunities to share what I know about the topic of using web analytics for user research. It’s an important tool for us to have in our toolkits, but it’s outside the comfort zone for a lot of folks in the user experience field. However, it’s nothing we can’t handle!

This will be my first trip to Seattle, so that’s a bonus. I’ve often wondered if the Pacific Northwest is for me, so this trip will help answer that question.

Thoughts on UX Lisbon 2015

A few weeks ago, I went to Portugal for the first time to attend UX Lisbon. It was a good conference, and not just because I gave two workshops there!

The conference had three days—the first and the third consisted solely of half day workshops, and the second day was a continuous series of talks. I gave my analytics workshop on the first and third day. It was exhausting but worth it. You get things out of teaching that you just don’t get any other way. I had the chance to do a lot of thinking about how to present the material and that’s going to pay off soon.

The lineup of speakers on the second day was great. I find that lately, I want to see short talks that will provoke thought rather than practically useful talks, because there just isn’t that much room to impart practical information in 30-60 minute timeslots. Lisa Welchman and Josh Seiden kicked off the day with two solid talks. I wasn’t familiar with Lisa before the conference and information governance is at a nice intersection of being super interesting and super important. The downside of a talk like this, and other ones that call for us to engage in changing the world, is that they assume a level of power that you rarely see in the world of UX.

I had the chance to see a short talk by someone from Facebook, talking about how they managed the transition of forcing people to download Messenger, and how disabling a feature in the Facebook app was actually an improvement for users. I politely listened—there’s no sense in heckling someone when they’re giving a talk.

Why Ignite UX Michigan?

Why have Ignite UX Michigan? Because diversity is important.

When you look at UX conferences, you see a lot of the same people headlining, over and over. There are more people that are worth hearing from in our community, and we’re not going to hear from them unless we make an environment where it’s possible.

Making an environment with more voices means extending opportunities to speak to more people, obviously. While Ignite UX Michigan doesn’t have that far of a reach, what we can offer is an opportunity to gain experience speaking, to try out one’s ideas on an actual audience. I would love to see Ignite UX Michigan as an early stop on someone’s speaking career.

User Researchers Are Important

“Usability testing doesn’t have to be done in labs, doesn’t require experts, and doesn’t have to be expensive.”

So says Greg Nudelman in his article for UX Magazine, “How to Perform Your Own Lean Mobile Testing.” And, all right, yes, it definitely does not have to be done in labs. It does not have to be expensive. But with regard to experts….

Well, garbage in, garbage out. A bit of user research is better than no research at all and this Nudelman guy is right that you shouldn’t give up on research if you don’t have the expert researcher. What he minimizes, though, is the risk of research when you don’t know what you’re doing. And getting bad data can be worse than no data.

What Nudelman would have you believe is that his five tips for mobile usability testing is all you need to get started. I’m sorry, but it’s not that simple. It takes training and practice to create experiments that actually answer the right questions, to work with research participants, and to effectively analyze the data. And conducting bad research runs the risk of giving user research a bad reputation when that bad research leads people down the wrong path.

What really gets me about this article, though, are passages like these:

Over 3000 years ago, people believed that the priestess of Oracle of Delphi was the only person who could deliver enigmatic prophecies from the mouth of Apollo. Today, many people believe a similar myth: that only a professional usability researcher can deliver the straight dope from the mouth of customers.

Please direct me to some of these people that hold user research in such high esteem. It would be very exciting to get taken that seriously.

Don’t get me wrong: having a professional usability researcher on your team is just fantastic. However, limiting your testing to a few hours done through this one “official channel” is contrary to the entire spirit of user experience work. The entire product team is responsible for the experience your customers will have with your product.

I’m not really clear on how having the entire product team invested in the experience of users is incompatible with having a specialist on the team to facilitate the research. If expertise doesn’t matter, why have experts of any kind? Or is there just something particularly un-challenging about user research?

It’s true that some UX teams have separate designer and user testing roles. However, in most highly functional UX teams, the roles tend to be much more intertwined: everyone fully participates in user research to the best of their ability. Furthermore, user research is not treated as a separate activity to be undertaken only by the exalted usability researchers, but instead, it becomes the center of the design process and the focus of the entire team.

Again, please direct me to these people that feel that researchers are worthy of exaltation. Seriously, I don’t understand the need for this tone. Any good researcher wants the entire team to be involved in research. The role is not to take over research and conduct it in isolation, it is to facilitate this important part of product development in the context of the team.

Imagine the same article, but substitute “developer” for “user researcher.”