User Experience. Or UX, to you.

Last week, Christian and Kelvin went to hear a talk about User Experience, aka, UX. Apparently the discussion, led by Martin Belam, was really interesting, so they’d like to take this opportunity to get a bit techy on you.

Christian UX

First, a definition of a good user experience: To meet the exact needs of the user without fuss or bother. A UXer needs broad knowledge of skills across the spectrum from the ‘nerdy’ to visual design, and in-depth knowledge of one.


During the evening, we were set a few short tasks – which is why Christian has a number three on his head in the photo (it’s a long story). Every task showed that each of us looks at information differently.

Visual testing seems to be much more impactful and telling than questionnaires. For example, videoing users as they struggle with a website’s navigation creates much more compelling evidence that something needs fixing, and can’t be brushed aside as easily by developers/designers or marketers. (Ref: For this there is a really great tool)

When it comes to a tablet strategy, it turns out that it doesn’t matter as much as creating products that users actually want. And the only way to do that is to create a product – and test it.

And finally, we both loved this one: when generating ideas, use pen and paper. It’s fast and you don’t feel as precious about it. The longer you work on a concept, the harder it is to change tack and come up with new ideas if the original doesn’t work.


Bog-standard banking… We know it’s important to ALWAYS test the product. But when it comes to testing, forget the old style focus groups beloved by marketers. A lovely story Martin told us was of a bank in the US who wanted to launch a mobile phone banking app. They thought only young people would use this service, not ‘old’ people. Another assumption was that the service would primarily be used when people were out and about. The testing the bank carried out was called ‘diary testing’. People were asked to record where and when they used the app – and to take a picture too. It turns out that, besides learning that some people do their banking while sitting on the bog, many used it while sitting next to a PC! By having this extra level of visual info – which a conventional questionnaire would never have covered or explored – the test revolutionised the understanding of who uses such services (all age groups do, not just the young) and people actually prefer to use their mobile phone over a computer.

The Guardian Puzzler… The Guardian decided to update their crossword as the java script the old one used got blocked by corporate servers. They launched the new crossword with input from their dedicated crossword buff. But they weren’t prepared for the complaints. What had gone wrong? Their crosswords expert used his photographic memory to note all the questions – and therefore neglected to place them in a prominent position so users could actually see them and play. The REAL mistake, however, was that they’d been so confident with themselves that they never asked for even one outsider opinion, let alone do a simple test with a few other people.


“The user should be able to access your info/website without fuss or bother.”

“Have empathy with the user”

“Think about unhappy users” Sounds weird, but spurs you on to design things better. The happy user is already taken care of.

“Happy ‘paths’ are easy paths – do one thing simply.”

“Unhappy ‘paths’ tend to be over complex – allowing lots of opportunities to foul up.”

“Every idea should be designed to work on everything. Why wouldn’t it?”

“I approach every job expecting everything I design to be wrong, in order to get to what’s right.”

“Don’t lump mobiles with tablets – they’re used for different things.”

“Mobile has already ‘tipped’.” ie. people do just about everything on their mobiles, even when sitting in front of their PC!

On getting people to take online actions: “People will say ‘No’ twice, might say ‘Yes’ on the third ask, will say ‘Yes’ on the fourth ask, but then ‘No’ forever after that.”

On market research: “Research above everything. If he could have, Henry Ford would have made faster horses.”



Inspired – Marty Cagan

Content Strategy for Mobiles – Karen Magrane

Rocket surgery made easy – Steve Krug

Information Architecture for the Web – Peter Morville & Lou Rosenfield

Simple and Usable Web – Giles Colbourne