Tonight I attended a talk by RIM’s Director of UX Research, Joey Benedek, at uxWaterloo.
Joey joined Research in Motion as Director if UX Research in the summer of 2009, just in time to kick off the Blackberry6 development effort. Prior to RIM, Joey spent 9 years at Microsoft spending most of his time in the User Experience organization for Windows finishing his career there as the UX Research manager for Windows 7. Originally from Canada, RIM has provided a homecoming for Joey who completed his graduate work at Carleton’s HCI lab.” -Mark Connolly
Joey Benedek had many interesting things to say, but I thought I’d reiterate some of the more interesting things for myself as well as my loyal reader (also myself).
Facets of Design
There are many facets to the design of a product, as both Joey Benedek and RIM realize:
- User research
- Interaction Design
- Visual / Auditory Design
- Industrial / ergonomic Design
User research involves requirements gathering- what does the user need and how should their needs be addressed? Interaction design focuses on creating a meaningful interaction between the interface and the user; again this involves user research. Visual and auditory design partially cover candy UI, but also creating features that are pleasing and not annoying with repetition. Industrial and ergonomic design focus on the form factor. And finally, branding focuses on keeping that recognizable feel. It’s all a lot to juggle when designing a product, and being equally vital in the design process, it is important that all of these design elements harmonize.
Menus – Efficiency vs. Aesthetics
- In his experience, text-based one-dimensional menus provide users with far more efficient use. However, in my experience, this is only when users become proficient and memorize where menu elements are. There is still a lot of overhead in processing all that text to begin with.
- In his experience, image-based multi-dimensional menus provide a better experience, but slow user efficiency
One solution to this problem is to used text-based menus with associated icons. However, as Joey states, it is important not have the iconography overpower the text and distract the user.
Settings – Series vs. Parallel
- In series, or in sequential flow, is the way that settings have typically been done in the past. Looking at any Windows version up to Vista you will notice that the computer settings are accessed through a very long list. Again, someone can become proficient at navigating this list over time, but for the majority of users who access settings infrequently this creates a lot of overhead. Another example on Windows and the Blackberry is wizards- wizards force the user to modify their settings one step at a time. There is no flexibility of control. Often users will get fed up and exit the wizard without setting anything pertinent up.
- In parallel, users have the option of setting up whatever they want, in what order they want, by selecting an according action. For example, “Set up-email” or “Change Display Preferences.” The best way categorize these settings is to do card sorting with users, getting them to label categories as verbs.
Don’t break design patterns
- If users have become accustomed to using your product in a certain way, and they enjoy it, don’t change it on them next revision. This poses a new challenge for designers: How do we create the next iteration of design without breaking the thing that users are used to, enjoy, and identify with us.
Personas vs. Scenarios
- Knowing your target user is important, but the goal of developing personas is not to directly use this information to evaluate the product, rather to understand the contexts of use. Once you have developed your contexts of use (scenarios), use those to design and evaluate the product.