The Kano model is a theory of product development that has a great way to describe user’s reaction to product features as well as help prioritize feature development. Of course, it is neatly flattened and visualized with two axes. I’ll take the upper right quadrant, thanks.
Lukas Mathis retells a nice story that illustrates a hidden bias that can pollute a usability test.
Clever Hans, his horse, quickly learned to do a number of complex math calculations – the horse could add, subtract, multiply, divide, do date calculations, and even understand German. It would tap out the answers to any math question with its foot. It could even read and give the correct answers to questions written on a piece of paper.
Of course, when psychologist Oskar Pfungst investigated the horse, he quickly figured out what was happening. The horse didn’t understand German, couldn’t calculate, and couldn’t read. Instead, it responded to involuntary cues in the body language of Wilhelm von Osten, who, in turn, solved the math problems for his horse. Von Osten was completely unaware that he was providing these cues to the horse.
A good design pattern library acts as a dictionary, allowing one to be more expressive by making abstract concepts concrete. When you can ground concepts you can use them to build something greater than the sum of its parts. You can’t solve an algebra problem without the basic language of arithmetic, in the same way you can’t design a social system without a basic language of interactions that compose it. This wiki collection of social design patterns serves as a companion site for an upcoming O’Reilly book from Christian Crumlish and Erin Malone – and judging by the wiki, it should be a good one.
This pleasantly illustrated website, courtesy of Roberta Tassi’s thesis, catalogs a wide array of design ‘tools’ used in a design process. A tool in this case can be a ‘Use Case’, a ‘Customer Journey Map’ or ‘Group Sketching’. The nice thing about the organization, once you grok it, is that you can answer a question like: what design tools can I use to examine the interaction? Or, what can I do in the testing phase?
My favorite parts are the infographics found on the about page. For example, this one maps the tools in the context of a design process as well as the people’s capabilities required to use the tool. While this one displays the tools in the context of the disciplines that gave rise to them.
Maxymiser is a company that specializes in optimizing a website’s performance using multivariate testing. Like eye-tracking studies, and heatmaps, the results of multivariate testing are inherently captivating for they provide an empirical stamp on design decisions. Maxymiser releases the results of their testing as case studies (you need to enter your name and email to download them), but it’s even more interesting when you remove the conversion data and ask your site visitors to predict which design will perform better. A lot of people get it wrong.
In this shopping cart example, a lot of the variations have fundamental design problems, so my [unverified] prediction was dead on.
However, the latest gave me pause. I’ll let Harry Brignull set it up:
Which one of the designs below do you think got the highest number of clickthroughs to an item detail page? And which one do you think got the highest number of ‘call me back’ requests?
Best at Cruises - Variation A
Best at Cruises - Variation B
As an FYI, Google’s Website Optimizer helps you perform analogous tests on your site for free.