Content Types

Found this presentation on SlideShare by Blend Interactive which explains content types and content modeling well, it is closely tied to their use in CMS’s


How to QA a Visual Design, a guide for an Interaction Designer

I found recently that one of my knowledge/skill gaps was in working with our visual designer. Knowing how to give her constructive feedback was something I realised I was lacking, I didn’t know how to talk about visual language, I didn’t know what to look for. I didn’t want to comment on the emotional aspects of the design but more on the functional elements. I decided to look in to graphic design theory, and the visual aspects of usability and accessibility. After doing so I came up with this kind of check list, I think the act of writing it instilled most of the knowledge but having it as a reference in the future should be good b/c my mind is like a sieve sometimes, especially when working on more than one project.


The Checklist

This is a guide of what to look at in a visual design, to check it is usable, accessible and follows graphic design standards.

It is based on, our company VCD process and research into visual/graphic design techniques and standards.

Some of the guides are more strict and specific than necessary; they’re really included more as a reminder or reference for future phases of the development.

S.M.P (single minded proposition)

Does the design follow the single sentence that summarises the focus of the design; has it been a reference point for all design decisions, ensuring a clear message?

Visual Hierarchy

Is there a clear visual hierarchy?
Organise and prioritise the contents of a page by using size, prominence and content relationships Is the visual hierarchy correct, do the colours and sizing of elements convey their level of importance correctly? Do the navigation elements and key elements stand out against the contextual elements?

Max Design Checklist:  Basic Usability

  1. Are heading levels easy to distinguish?
  2. Is the design’s navigation easy to understand?
  3. Is the design’s navigation consistent?

Perceived Affordance

Do the links look like they should be clicked? Do the buttons look like they should be pushed?

“The property of an object or system’s action possibilities being easily discoverable” – “To maximize the perceived affordance of clickability,”

Max Design Checklist:  Basic Usability

  1. 1. Are links underlined?  
  2. Are visited links clearly defined?
  3. Does the design reflect the brand values?
  4. Does it use the brand colours correctly?
  5. Is the logo used according to guidelines?
  6. Does the design reflect the tone of the brand if this was required?


  1. Does the design reflect the brand values?
  2. Does it use the brand colours correctly?
  3. Is the logo used according to guidelines?
  4. Does the design reflect the tone of the brand if this was required?


Is the design suitable and appropriate for its purpose.

  1. Does the design reflect its audience?
  2. Does the design reflect the industry it is part of?
  3. Does the design reflect the business? (not necessarily it’s language or structure though)

This is achieved by using language and imagery that reflects the audience and industry, which they will be able to use and recognise.

Max Design Checklist:  Basic Usability

  1. Does the design use consistent and appropriate language?


Does the typography of the design suit users reading methods, is the text easy to read and scan.

  1. Does the site use web safe fonts? If not how will elements be treated on the page?
  2. Does the hierarchy work? e.g.  Heading, Sub-heading Paragraph
  3. Does the line spacing work – do lines look appropriately related and separated, are they easy to read?
  4. Is the contrast of the text enough?
  5. Are elements emphasised correctly?
  6. Does the size and combination of the font of the text make it readable?
  7. Is the font legible (serif, sans serif)?
  8. How is the line height, is the text readable?
  9. Is there enough white space, can the text breath?
  10. Sentence case? Title case? Is it consistent?


Ensure that all information conveyed with colour is also available without colour, for example from context or markup.  Web Content Accessibility Guidelines – checkpoint 2.1

Max Design Checklist:  Accessibility for users

  1. Is there sufficient colour brightness/contrasts?
  2. Is colour alone used for critical information?
  3. Are red and green used to differentiate elements

“There are basically three types of colour deficiency; Deuteranope (a form of red/green colour deficit), Protanope (another form of red/green colour deficit) and Tritanope (a blue/yellow deficit- very rare).  Colourblind Webpage filter Vischeck” (


Do all the pages sit nicely together?

Composition and Organisation

Have all the elements been placed on the grid in a compelling and orderly manner.

  1. Are the margins even?
  2. Is the design balanced and polished?
  3. What grid does it use?
  4. Will it fit to 960, does it size elements in increments of 8px?


Following the ideas of subtractive design, reduce the clutter by eliminating visual elements that don’t contribute directly to the visual communication.


  1. Is the visual language consistent?
  2. Are the sizing of the icons and labels even?
  3. Is the use of language and labels consistent?

Quick user research

On the project I’m working on at the moment I have the usual barrier of no money or time for proper user research, however there is the opportunity after the first release to start interviewing users adding features and tweaking the design for the future phases, so a more iterative approach which is exciting!

The focus of the first phase/release is to get the content onto a CMS so it can be edited, owned, quickly created and culled without having to go through the barrier of their website provider. Also to get the login and search sorted out, so nice small defined goals for phase one.

In taking the site to the new CMS we’ll be creating a new Info Architecture to help the users find the content they need and expose some they didn’t even realise was available to them. This is where we’ve managed to wrangle a little time with real users… I get to talk to about 3 real users for 2 hrs tomorrow and then about 5 “proxy” users a day after. (A proxy user being the people within the organisation who have the most contact with the users.)

I’ve put together my questions and come up with an approach which includes people filling in questionnaires and then one on one interviews so I can extract the most from each person. Mainly based around what follows:

  • what content do the users find the most important?
  • how do the users find out about it?
  • what drives them to the site?
  • what are common complaints?
  • what do they see as pain points?
  • what triggers the users to get in touch or to ask for help?
  • what sort of content do they expect to see on the site?
  • do they have any positive feedback?

In putting together the approach I came across the following resources that really helped direct and reinforce what I was planning. I really like the Guerrilla User and Design Research presentation from Ruth Ellison it deeply reflects how I feel about the subject!

Bite-Sized UX Research
By Steve Baty Published: May 7, 2008 – An article from UX Matters
Affinity Diagrams
Organizing Ideas Into Common Themes – An article about using post-its to group ideas.

Guerrilla User and Design Research A Slideshare presentation by Ruth Ellison.

Data Driven Design Research Persona A Slideshare presentation by Todd ZakiWarfel.

Analytic Tools

I’m working on a sort of UX snapshot for the beginning of a project. It will be used (hopefully) to engage clients with metrics and other tangible things that will inspire them to spend a bit to make a bit. Today I looked at analytic tools and these were the notes I wrote to remember what I learnt. First I had to set the scene so I knew what I was looking for in the online apps, and then I listed out the best in class.

My prerequisites were: they had to be easy to use, create lovely looking reports and graphs that would be presentable for clients and they had to be hosted online.

“As part of the UX snapshot/current state if the client doesn’t already have any analytics information, an analytics tool would be placed on the client’s site for at least 1 week to measure their current state. We’ll also use a combination of other online tools to measure their market data, search rankings and performance in comparison to their competitors (load time, page ranking), as well as the state of their front end code.

The most important information from an IA usability point of view is to know is what pages visitors are going to, how long their staying and what pages their entering and leaving from. Once the most used pages are established though using an analytics tool a heat mapping program should be applied to them to see what the users are clicking on, and what their not clicking on. To get even more in depth you can record their movements on a page (like a screen cast) and see how many are making it all the way through a page or a task.

Other good info from the analytics tools are is where do they come from, search terms they use to get there and what their browser/os set up and geo location.

The tools that best do this and are free or have low cost entry (so for a 1mnth trial) are as follows.

General Analytics

For a quick analysis you want one that’s hosted and free/very low cost. You should be aware that some analytics tools will use the code you put on your site to launch advertising pop ups. You want on that tells you about your visitor’s movements through your site, your most popular pages and trends over time. Also where they came from search terms and where they left, and how long they spent. Free covers all the bases with pro features for larger visitor numbers

“You shouldn’t need training to figure out your web stats program. W3Counter is your free, hosted website analytics solution for answering the key questions about your website: who’s your audience, how they find your site, and what interests them. There’s no installation, no configuration, and tracking starts as soon as you copy-and-paste a snippet of code into your website.” Free easy to use, focus on adwords and conversions
“Google Analytics is the enterprise-class web analytics solution that gives you rich insights into your website traffic and marketing effectiveness. Powerful, flexible and easy-to-use features now let you see and analyze your traffic data in an entirely new way. With Google Analytics, you’re more prepared to write better-targeted ads, strengthen your marketing initiatives and create higher converting websites.” Comprehensive (includes twitter analytics), and delivers a white label API $9.99 US a month

“Clicky blows all other analytics packages out of the water. Hands down the easiest and fastest way to keep a pulse on your website activity.” — Sam Zaid, (it really does) Free and comprehensive

Market research data and site rankings: – A tool to check your ranking and popularity on a variety of sites including Alexa, Google PageRank and more. A sort of snapshot.
– Free web traffic metrics, top sites lists, site demographics, hot urls, and more. Another snapshot.

socialmeter – Check your website’s social popularity on sites like Digg Furl, Jots, and more.

Compare the site against competitors

Webslub – Compare your site’s load time performance to any other site.

Rate the front end code.

IA and Usability tracking $9.00US for a month for up to 10,000 users (requires code to be pasted into site)
Find out: Where are ppl clicking? Where are ppl from certain sites clicking? Find out more about the elements on screen
Free trial of 1 page for free for 30days otherwise £2.50 month for 10,000 visitors
More basic version of crazy egg, but has the free trail. – Flash content analytics.

Video Users movements through the site (good for e-commerce)”

UX TEAM vrs Marketing DPT – round 1

Problem: the marketing dept what to make some changes to the home page and navigation of a site we look after – they don’t want to go through the design team they don’t want us to question them – they think they don’t need the UX value we bring!

So I sent this wee email to the team who will meet with them to help them start thinking about how to show the client(more marketing dept) we do bring value and we don’t just harp on for the sake of it- we care, and we know stuff thats based in research and experience.


So they want to make random drastic changes – based in marketing know how… Argh!!! Where’s the analytics back up when you need it…
Why do they even want to make the change?  – Is it a problem that can be solved in a better way?
Usability testing is the way and the light… they could even do some guerrilla testing themselves with Silverback!

But if they still won’t listen and you’ve got to flex your big fat I know stuff, I’m a UX profes muscles.. check out some of this:

  1. People read from left to right and the The f-shaped reading pattern – check yourself before you wreck yourself bitches! – although the pictures and examples used are in reference to reading content not looking at headers.. this is an interesting article it shows that people look at pictures and feature content first (after the logo to identify where they are) and for the longest.. check out the pictures that show what order people’s eyes travel around the page
  2. Holy crap! Big changes suck!
    Look at the example of ebay –they didn’t want to shock their users with a sudden background change b/c then they’d get mucho negative feedback – so they did it like 1 hexshade a day for about a month (maybe –  I heard a story from someone who heard it from someone who worked on the project)..  Check out this sweet article on the art of the soft and subtle changes and the death of the relaunch
  3. But watch out for random incremental change  –  it needs thought and strategy otherwise you end up with a big fat mess – Yucky Bunny!
    (Well according to user testing reports released by Nielson)
    Users hate change, so it’s usually best to stay with a familiar design and evolve it gradually. In the long run, however, incrementalism eventually destroys cohesiveness, calling for a new UI architecture.”

is UCD sufficient?

Interesting article on the Core77 design blog site.

tools of engagement

“…. do we need to shift the conventional notion of User-Centered Design (UCD) and rethink the very foundation of contemporary design practice?

This may sound like blasphemy, particularly at times like these. With people struggling in so many areas of society it would seem to be more important than ever to focus our efforts as designers on addressing specific, observed human needs. And I am not advocating that we abandon the methods of UCD wholesale. But is UCD sufficient? Is it the right compass to guide us toward the larger scale social changes that we need?

Over and over, I have seen how a UCD process will tend to emphasize certain benefits of an experience like ‘convenience’ over other, more meaningful sources of social value.”

Sketchboards: A Technique for Better + Faster UX Solutions

“The sketchboard is a low-fi technique that makes it possible for designers to explore and evaluate a range of interaction concepts while involving both business and technology partners. Unlike the process that results from wireframe-based design, the sketchboard quickly performs iterations on many possible solutions and then singles out the best user experience to document and build upon. ” – Adaptive Path

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Pecha Kucha – Snowboarding and Info Architecture

This is me doing Pecha Kucha (japanese for chit chat) the 20 slides for 20 seconds each presenting format.. I was so nervous, it was in front of 300 people.

The video

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The slides

And this is an image I created for the Explain IA competition (Jan 14 2010)

Explain IA - Desire Lines

The best guide to UXD

Whitney Hess is an independent user experience designer, writer and consultant based in New York City. She wrote this kick ass article for Mashable.

“Really, a user experience designer could help to improve a person’s experience with just about anything — a doorknob, a faucet, a shopping cart. We just don’t typically refer to the people using those things as “users,” but they are.”

“As user experience designers we have to find the sweet spot between the user’s needs and the business goals, and furthermore ensure that the design is on brand.”

“If you make assumptions about the people you expect to use your product or service — who they are, how they behave, what makes them tick — you’ll probably always be wrong. But take the time to get to know them, and hire the appropriate person to facilitate the process, and you can ensure you’ll get it right.”

You can read it here:

You can read about her experience here:

National Encylopedia – with tag cloud rainbow search

Tag Cloud Rainbow Search

Tag Cloud Rainbow Search

“The assignment of the National Encyclopedia is to disseminate knowledge. We do so in different ways to offer knowledge written by over 4 000 experts and edited by our in-house editors: the free part of which gives the whole Swedish population access to concise and fact-checked knowledge; the large which offers in-depth information in 460 000 articles, together with a Swedish-English and English-Swedish dictionary, interactive maps etc.; and NE SCHOOL which offers inspiration, home study support, theme packages, films and articles written specially for students and teachers.”

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