Getting at the core of UX – UX Camp CPH 2015

I was quite eager to hear the opening keynote for Day 2 of UX Camp CPH. Ida Aalen had flown down from Netlife Research in Norway to talk about the Core Model and share experiences in using it at the Norwegian Cancer Society, Telenor, and the Norwegian Blind Society.

Ida Aalen standing at the front of the auditorium presenting at UX Camp CPH 2015

I really loved Thomas’ talk the previous evening, but I think this talk topped it with its case studies, storytelling, and examples. UX in action. I do think Ida and her team grasped the idea of believing that Thomas had preached. The quality of the presentation and of the content was proof of that. If you hear about a conference where Ida is speaking, just go! And follow her on Twitter: @IdaAa. I’m a fan!

(This blog post covers only the opening keynote on Day 2. I felt it was important enough to give it its own blog post, and breaking my Day 2 notes in two might help me publish this post sooner rather than later! A later blog post will cover the sessions I attended.)

Here are my slightly cleaned up, but scribbled notes from Ida’s talk. They make most sense when you have reviewed her slides because I comment on the basis of the slides. There are also links to read at the end of my notes. This topic of the core model is definitely worth your while.

She started out her talk by saying that your website projects are about designing the home page of that website. But… surprise, surprise. By the end of her talk, she proved that you do not design for the home page at all. She showed how you look for the overlap between business objectives and user needs and design for this “Venn overlap” – the cores. If you don’t have an overlap between these objectives and needs, you’re doin’ it wrong! It also made me think of “EPPO” – the concept that every page is page one.

The core model came to the attention of the world in 2007 when her colleague, @AreGH, presented it at the IA Summit and EuroIA.

While she was talking, I quickly googled and found the A List Apart articles she mentioned:

“Who screams the loudest gets to decide.” Yup. Sigh.

Do user research and establish business objectives. AMEN!

It’s harder to protest when you have taken part in the design discussion phase.

(I made a note to connect Ida with Whitney Quesenbery because they have both done lots of work on cancer society sites in their respective countries. They did not know each other, so I feel pleased at introducing them.)

The inward path is the journey the user takes. Studying this is what makes you think more about the user and their perspective.

Interesting point about having to state something about prevention for a form of cancer even where there is no prevention. People WILL ask so if there is no information, the users will be dissatisfied and search elsewhere – and maybe get wrong info. Sometimes stating what is obvious TO YOU is important because it is not obvious to THEM.

Forward paths – where you send the user after they solve primary task.

Business objectives should be in context of the user tasks!

Keep facts and opinions clearly separate. And do this respectfully.

I like her story about changing the templates for the core model. They had one that was messy when they came out of meetings. They redesigned for mobile, but then redesigned once more. Goal: Core is same on all devices!

Content, not device, tells you about people’s situation

You google cancer because you care! 3.48 minutes spent on computer, 3.57 minutes spent on mobile. People read.

Getting more calls after redesign, but that is OK. Good point!! Some nurse said the callers are now more informed when they call in.

They didn’t care about journalists as a target audience, and now Journalists are referring to their site all the time!

So, does all this work for big business for profit? She turns to Telenor.

They had 2299 pages!!!!!!! And all thought their pages were important. Ugh.

Change is hard in big corporations!

They deleted 80% of pages on mobile broadband; sales went up 80% and support emails went down 35%!

Survey is about what’s on top of the list, but ALSO what’s on the bottom of the list. You might want to fix things if you have a business objective at bottom of user tasks.

Really fascinating to hear about her use of Statamic. You cannot publish if you don’t know the targets.

“Learn a lot about presenting design when presenting design to the blind.” @idaaa on designing for Norwegian Blind Society. There was a great photo of her presenting to some people, and one of the attendees had his head turned away. He was blind, so where he was looking was irrelevant. She said it took some getting used to.

Accessibility first! [Writing this a month after the Camp, I cannot remember where this came from. I believe Ida has a colleague who talks about this in depth in one of his talks. Ida mentioned it, but it is not in a slide. I just know I go all weak in the knees when someone acknowledges this, so I only noted the phrase and not the context.]

Ida gave us a handy link to her slides and more follow-up information to the talk.

I recently learned that Gerry McGovern’s book “The Stranger’s Long Neck” is an excellent book to read in connection with the core model that Ida presented. It’s already added to my reading list.

Ida Aalen presenting at UX Camp CPH 2015 with a slide displayed on the large screen behind her

The language of inclusion on a form

While surfing Twitter, I was drawn to this article because of its title: “Disability-smart customer service: handling difficult situations“. I clicked the link to get to the article, but I didn’t read it. I happened to scroll at the same time and ended up at the registration form section of the page. The form really caught my attention.

After the usual name and email fields on the form, I saw a text box labelled “Adjustments”. Inside the box, placeholder text stated:

Please tell us if you require any adjustments for this event e.g. dietary, access, assistance, alternative formats, interpreters or disabled parking

Screenshot of the registration form showing the Adjustments text box in the middle of the form.

I think using the term adjustments and the language of the placeholder text is neutral. This could be far less stigmatising than the label of “Disabilities”, “Accessibility”, or “Special Needs”, and much more inclusive.

The article is on the Business Disability Forum website. The event for this registration is aimed at “Customer service managers and supervisors responsible for resolving complaints and handling complex situations that may be related to a customer’s disability.” The event will discuss “some of the more challenging situations faced by customer service professionals when interacting with members of the public particularly when they have non-visible disabilities such as mental health problems, learning difficulties, dementia, autism or Asperger’s or sensory impairments that aren’t immediately apparent.”

I have no affiliation with this event or website. I just wanted to share an example of more inclusive language – simple microcopy that can make a positive difference. Nice to see that they aim to “walk the talk”.

Rebooting UX in Denmark – UX Camp CPH 2015

Once again the day came to pass where all fans of User Experience descended on the campus of the IT University of Copenhagen to talk UX, eye-tracking, card-sorting, service design, touchpoints, CX, CJM, UX, SUS, UCD, and all the other magic incantations they knew so well from their lives in the Real World. Now, they could meet, talk, and network with others of their own kind. It was once again time for … the UX Camp CPH!

The rat pack of UX Camp CPH 2015

Ah, it was good to be back in ITU and its big open space today for Day 1 of the fourth iteration of UX Camp CPH. It was good to see familiar faces and meet new ones.

We had three speakers lined up for this evening.

All eyes were on the first speaker, Jonas Priesum from The Eye Tribe.

Jonas Priesum talking at UX Camp CPH 2015

He spoke about eye-tracking technology and areas for its potential use. I thought there were interesting opportunities in the field of healthcare and gaming. When I say gaming, I mean accessible gaming. Could a person with multiple disabilities who could barely use a joy stick enhance their experience by controlling the game with their eyes? Intriguing thought.

Johan Knattrup was up next with a tale about how he made a “first-person movie installation” using Oculus Rift!

Johan Knattrup talking at UX Camp CPH 2015

I was extremely intrigued by some of the behaviour findings they had. The challenges were great. With a seemingly simple short film where five people sit around a dining table and converse and interact, you don’t just have one script. You have five. Five people with different perspectives on what is happening. To know the entire story, you’d have to see all five films! To see the films, you go to one of this movie’s installations and put on an Oculus Rift. When the movie is over, the magic happens. People talk. People ask how others saw the scene. It sounded like people were given a character to become (with the Oculus Rift) that did not match their body type. A small person would wear the film of a character who was big. A man would play a woman. A woman would play a little boy. I will definitely check out his movie, Skammekrogen, or The Doghouse, later on.

The final speaker of the evening before dinner was Thomas Madsen-Mygdal. Waves of nostalgia poured over me as he spoke. The title of his talk was “believing”. He mentioned Reboot, a conference that he ran up until 2009, the year that I was fortunate enough to attend. I thought he was channelling a lot of the Reboot spirit in his talk, which made me nostalgic. At the same time, it reminded me of the effort you have to make yourself if you want to drive something forward. I felt a connection to the talk Euan Semple gave in 2009, one of the best Reboot talks for me personally. Thomas had wonderfully simple, yet completely powerful slides using a clean, green serif font. It was an excellent talk about believing. Believing in your idea. Believing in your team. Believing in your vision. Believing in yourself. One slide summed up the concept of believing: “It’s OK to believe. It might actually be the most important design tool in life. Pursue your beliefs.”

Thomas Madsen-Mygdal in front of his slide with the quote about believing at UX Camp CPH 2015

Because we all believed in food, we filed out of the auditorium and into a queue for some delicious food from Grød. After scintillating conversation, it was time to head home to rest up for Day 2, which kicks off early Saturday morning.

In which I rant about Twitter and quoted tweets

I am so annoyed with Twitter’s changes to the quoted tweet that I actually decided to write a blog post about it!

I posted a mild rant on Twitter the other day about the change to quoting a tweet:

What is with the new quote style on #Twitter iOS app? Is quoted tweet an image?? If yes, that’s bad for accessibility.

If you view that link, you will see a long discussion mostly in Danish.

From my other account, @accesstechcomm, I retweeted my mild rant. There, I got a reply from @patrick_h_lauke where he said

it IS announced reasonably using VO (though getting some funky focus/context issues it seems), so not just image

Funky seems to be an inappropriate word to use with a user experience. (VO is VoiceOver, the built-in (built-in!!) screenreader on Apple products.)

It was a relief to find @aardrian’s blog post about the quoted tweet thing as an accidental accessibility improvement. That aspect was also cool to discover. I mean, how many images are floating about on the internet without alt text? Many. Too many. I hoped to drive people to discuss this issue on @aardrian‘s post, but no one took the bait. I finally did, but then moved my entire rant here so as not to upset @aardrian’s delicate constitution!

From @accesstechcomm, I tweeted (twice):

(RT) I’d really like to see lots of discussion on @aardrian’s post re: #Twitter’s change to quoted tweets. #a11y #ux

And @aardrian replied:

Ditto. Though not so much on my post, but instead on the whole quoted-image-tweet-as-#a11y-aid thing.

@aardrian sent that reply to me (as @accesstechcomm) with the quoted tweet feature as shown in this screenshot from the Twitter web app showing notifications to my account:

I circled his entire tweet in red. The screenshot includes a later notification tweet from @aliceandrachel to illustrate another point…

I couldn’t see that same tweet at all in my mentions on Hootsuite because my Twitter name was inside that box and therefore not visible to Hootsuite to regard as a mention! The screenshot shows the @aliceandrachel mention, but the @aardrian mention where my Twitter name is hidden inside the quoted section is missing:

Argh!! There are so many things that irritate me about this “enhancement” or “new feature” that I don’t know where to begin.

Oh, and I see it in the notifications section on Twitter on the web, but not in the mentions for the reasons I just, uh, mentioned.

I decided to post a comment on @aardrian’s blog post. I clicked on the link I could see in the quoted part of his tweet. All that happened was that I went to my original tweet. Only then did that URL turn active. Now I could click again! This time, it worked and I arrived at the blog post. Two clicks shouldn’t be bad because you know where you are going, as Jakob Nielsen says. Here, 2 clicks was an annoying pain. I was rudely surprised that my first click didn’t take me to the blog post. Might this be a slight cognition issue in some cases? Readers of “The Inmates Are Running the Asylum” know that the user always blames themself. As in, “I didn’t get to where I wanted to go to, so I must have done something wrong”, and not, “someone coded or designed this poorly and is making me work more and think more”. Bad! Bad Twitter! More ARGH!

I think the idea of being able to add alt text as @aardrian points out is marvelous. Of course, we can all just use the EasyChirp Twitter client on the Web, which now lets you add alt text. @EasyChirp is fixing something that @Twitter should have had in the first place! I have a sneaking suspicion that only sighted people who know what alt text is are thinking like @aardrian is in his blog post. There are millions who are clueless about the existence of alt text and happily tossing pictures of whatever around the twittersphere every day, blissfully unaware of those they are excluding from the discussion or the laugh.

And this morning I discovered this news from Medium: Medium proudly announces the text-shots feature. Ugh. It’s an uphill battle.

Over on my own Twitter account (@kmdk), I complained the moment I saw this quoted tweet thing as I wrote at the beginning of this rant. I often use the quoted tweet feature as a basis for a new tweet. I use part of the original tweet like the URL, a phrase, and/or hashtags, and then I add more to it – classic curation. You can’t do that on Twitter iOS any more. You can (still) curate on the Tweetbot (iOS) app, which I did. Ditto on Hootsuite and, of course, EasyChirp. When I tweeted my complaint, one person told me it was an awesome feature and why would it be a problem. A friend stepped in and said “screenreader”. I was relieved when @patrick_h_lauke said (see first part of this rant) that the screenreader could get at the quoted text, but how does a screenreader get into this text box, which is apparently not quite an image, and I cannot?

Another user pointed out with great concern that anything like hashtags or (as I already mentioned) URLs do not function inside this quoted section. This is where I thought sighted people, especially those working with social media professionally, would get very upset. When searching on a hashtag, these tweets will not appear. Thus, if you use the quoted tweet to quote something from your favourite restaurant with the hashtag #FavRestaurant to win a prize, that restaurant won’t find your tweet when searching for those who retweeted the tweet for the competition. Fans quoting tweets with their fav sports team / movie star / movie / whatever hashtag will not appear in the hashtag search, which can disappoint severely, what with them being fans and all.

I took two screenshots to show the different behaviour of the quoted tweets in two different iOS apps. They don’t have URLs or hashtags, but bear with me.

First, I show a tweet from @patrick_h_lauke from Twitter iOS where the quoted tweet appears as a box inside his tweet:

Then I looked at that same tweet on Tweetbot iOS and there is a URL in place of the quoted tweet:

Consistent user experience, anyone? In other words, there is some weirdness going on here that seems to go against the whole point of hashtags and sharing.

My head hurts when I try to figure out the whole alt image thing that @aardrian describes. I mean, if I cannot quote my own tweet with an image, how am I supposed to provide that service, especially on a mobile device? I really have to think a lot to figure out the best way to tweet an image on my own share someone else’s image and get the alt text in there. Again, those who know about alt text may make the extra step. Your average alt-text-ignorant user will not.

I really really really hope Twitter is listening to all this, although I have only read the voices of four people even discussing this issue. I want to see Twitter have their devs and designers walk through the whole process and test with users of all abilities for a change.

PS If you work in tech and haven’t read “The Inmates Are Running the Asylum”, go get The Inmates now from Amazon or from your local library. We must stamp out the apologists!

PPS To counter the negative vibrations in this rant, go visit @marcysutton‘s new Tumblr blog called Accessibility Wins and cheer up a bit.

Show some respect for invisible illnesses!

Let’s get some respect for people with invisible illnesses here, OK? The Molly’s Fund blog has an explanation about invisible illness that you should go read. That link is courtesy of @pfanderson – thank you!

However, that post has two images of things to say and things not to say to someone with an invisible illness, and there is no alternative text (alt text) for those who cannot read the text in the image. Therefore, I am posting them here with some alt text.

10 things to say to someone with an invisible illness

I confess that I have a quibble with some of these, but I will say that 1, 2, 3, 9, and 10 are definitely spot on.

  1. How are you doing today?
  2. Is there anything I can do to make things easier?
  3. I am here for you, whatever you need.
  4. It must be very difficult to have a disease where you feel so awful on the inside, but it doesn’t show on the outside.
  5. I am so sorry that you are going through this.
  6. I wish I could take away your pain.
  7. I hope you are feeling better soon.
  8. I will keep you in my thoughts and prayers.
  9. I may not completely understand your disease or what you are going through, but I would like to.
  10. I am so sorry I judged you before understanding your disease.
Image of 10 things to say to people with an invisible illness from the Molly’s Fund blog.

10 things not to say to someone with an invisible illness

Some of these might get you a “if looks could kill” look. Don’t say these things. Just don’t.

  1. You have what? I’ve never heard of it.
  2. You need to exercise more.
  3. Aren’t you feeling better yet?
  4. Maybe an anti-depressant would help.
  5. “But you look just fine.” or “You don’t look sick.”
  6. You are taking too much medicine.
  7. You need to change your diet.
  8. It’s all in your head.
  9. Losing weight might help.
  10. If you just had a more positive attitude.
Image of 10 things to NOT say to people with an invisible illness from the Molly’s Fund blog.

The Great Spoon Theory

Number five on the NOT list brings me to the spoon theory. You don’t really need the pictures or lists. You just need spoons. The best ever explanation about invisible illnesses that I share again and again and again and again is The Spoon Theory by Christine Miserandino. Read it and follow it. People I know who have invisible illnesses say it is awesome. Excellent example of storytelling and clear communication about a tricky subject.

You never know

This is a story I have never before discussed because it is embarrassing, but to emphasize my point, I will now. Several years ago, I had walking pneumonia. I had a cough that stuck with me for 8 whole months. The first couple of months while I was still battling those dratted Mycoplasma pneumoniae, I could have coughs so violent and so sudden that… I wet myself. I was, of course, mortified and stayed home for several weeks. Luckily, I could work from home. I was bored out of my mind with the illness so work was a relief although I could only work for about an hour and then go rest for an hour. When I finally dared leave the apartment to walk about 300 meters to the grocery store (oh, I wasn’t contagious by this time – I just couldn’t shake the cough), I could not cross the street at the traffic light in one go. I walked so slowly to avoid triggering a coughing episode. I walked like a 90-year-old with a walker – but I had no walker and I am not 90. I looked fine. I felt like crap. Cars waited for me to cross to the island in the middle of the road where I could wait for the next green light. Oh how I felt their impatience with me. I was never bothered much by people walking slowly before (with the exception of slow-walking tourists), but you can bet I have the greatest respect and sympathy for them ever since my slow-walking episodes. Been there, done that. Not recommended.

I am fine now, but this one incident hammered home the point for me that you should never ever ever judge a person with an invisible illness. I confess that anytime I encounter someone dissing someone with an invisible illness, I feel like a lioness whose cubs are threatened. Don’t mess with me! :) I follow number three on the things to say list.

What does this have to do with communication?

Everything. It is interpreting what others do and how they behave. You do not know everything about others. Not unless you ask. Talk to people. Ask. Ask politely. Show respect. That is what we owe everyone around us. After all, isn’t respect what you want for yourself?

My first UA Europe conference – but not my last!

I couldn’t turn down an opportunity to visit Krakow. A brand new city and country for me to visit. Yay! It involved attending (and speaking at) a technical communication conference. Mixing a conference and tourism is my geeky idea of a vacation.

UA Europe is a technical communication conference held in different cities around Europe each year. This year, Krakow was host to the event. I flew in the night before the conference began (like, at midnight) and stayed on for 2 days for some sightseeing. The Technical Documentation Manager from my company attended the conference, too, so we split the session between us. This blog post is a summary of the talks I attended. The notes are lightly cleaned up raw scribbles. If I had any thought bubbles to share publicly, I include them here in square brackets. If I take time to edit these raw scribbles into a better narrative, this post will be dated 2015…

Matthew Ellison welcomes us

After breakfast in the hotel and registration with the friendly faces behind UA Europe, we were ready for Matthew Ellison’s welcome speech. He introduced a cute quiz in our bags. There was a list of 17 music bands – one for each of the countries represented at UA Europe. Actually, we only had a thumbnail of the bands. We had to 1) figure out which country they represented and 2) figure out what technical communication “thing” they represented. You see, we had to fill in our areas of interest with our registration. If I wrote “MadCap Flare”, one of those thumbnails represented Flare and was on my name badge. We could look for others who had the same thumbnails and know that we had at least one area of interest in common. This was a great idea and I had fun trying to figure out what areas of interest were represented in one of the groups I was in at one point during the day. I think I had one right – and I forgot to turn in my slip for the competition. Oh well!

Who are we? A mirror for UA professionals – Welinske

Joe Welinske, WritersUA, started the show with a walk-through of his famous (in the world of technical communication) surveys and their results. (It’s worthwhile signing up for his low-volume newsletter, which will also notify you about the surveys and the results of those surveys.)

Various snippets from the presentation. Interviewing is number 2 in the list of things techcomm’ers do all day.

He used to have a question about doing indexes. Now he split the old index question into search and index. Gave 28% and 48% split as a result.

He was surprised content reuse hasn’t changed much – now 63%.

Usability testing is only 39% which he also thinks is low.

DITA now 21% and has slowly been rising.

He has been combining HTML and CSS, but will split it next year to break that down.

He sees more need for techcomm knowing programming languages and scripts. Those ranked at 10% and 7% only. [I see the problem as being time for on the job training.]

24% use HTML help which was last modified by MS in 1998!!!

In the next survey, he’ll break apart the browser-based help to get more granular.

PDF Manuals 77%. 22% do print. [I wonder if he connects it to the industry – manufacturing is probably strong here.]

Social site are increasing to 13% [wonder if those people also use it privately – any correlation?]

Wikis at 2% but many use internally and not as open forums. [I wonder about use of mobile platforms vs country and culture. He said Windows Phone is popular in Poland, so I wonder if that influences what platform products are developed on.]

Agile and DITA are growing. [I wonder if he should also have TBA listed as a variant of DITA.] Microsoft and Amazon are now starting to use DITA

[Seems he doesn’t have many respondents that have only a few years experience. [I wonder if he is just not reaching the younger audience. Ask him if he knows that Scott Abel is looking to get in touch with those under 30.]
[Mette asked about his EU salaries and perhaps getting more EU input. Maybe ISTC and Cherryleaf could help promote it more to get more data from EU.]

Responsive web design in user assistance – Self

Dr Tony Self, HyperWrite, talked about responsive vs. adaptive. Ethan (Marcotte) did responsive and Aaron (Gustafson) did adaptive. Tony says adaptive is broader in scope. Adaptive uses JavaScript and browser sniffing.

[I think there is some nervousness about browser sniffing in the screen reader community but I can’t remember the details. I know I’ve seen tweets from Jennison Ascunion and Leonie Watson about this.]

[I really need to check out media queries some more]

Progressive enhancement is the responsive way to do things.

Mobile first is more a mindset thing. [Thought of Janet Swisher’s “Mobile Matters Most” phrase.]

He says adaptive is good, but responsive is better.

Remember to base breakpoints on content.

Showed Chrome Emulation Mode Tool in Developer Tools in the Chrome browser.

You design for viewport browsers and don’t have to worry about new platform builds.

Loads of example grids in this article from Design Instruct.

Practical HTML5/CSS3 for real writers – Gash

Dave Gash, HyperTrain is a code guy, not a concepts guy. Looks at HTML5 CSS3 from techcomm angle. we focus on content and HTML5 provide elements for that.
(typable is not typing but semantic typing)

Have to discuss semantics here. Not much semantics in HTML but there is a lot in HTML5. DIVitis in HTML4 that has no semantics. Doesn’t tell you the organisation you intended.

HTML5 took HTML4 divs with ids and class and turns them into HTML5 elements. HTML5 elements are what they mean, they are semantic. Remember: HTML5 elements don’t do anything! They have to wait to be styled. (Remember separating form from content). This is the heart of structured authoring.

He’s not a fan of browser specific features in CSS3. Prefers things to work across all browsers.

[He makes me think he could do a CSS3 Zen Garden for TechComm.]

I like his link-nudging thingy.

Wanted to explain that divs with independent classes can be overdone in HTML and therefore you lose sight of your structure with div div div. Must look and read classes to understand the structure of your page.

His take on mixed case: dislikes immensely because it causes problems. You have a harder time troubleshooting.

Prefers use of dependent classes/selectors because it is safer.

Contextual or ‘descendent selectors’ (new term). Means the second element listed after a space will only get something applied only when it is inside the previous element and possibly where that previous element specifies the class. E.g.: ‘aside.navsidebar img’

Key point he had in parting:

Remember, learning new stuff is good for everyone: you, your users, your company

[I told him about using WAI-ARIA. He didn’t know about it, but was immediately curious to learn more.]

Designing transactions successfully – Atherton

Dr Chris Atherton, Equal Experts, works with a part of They said they had to be accessible, usable, assisted digital, mobile. Assisted digital is helping users help themselves.

She was told she had to do user research almost every other week.

Shareable pain – film people using something and then show the film clip to the powers that be. That has a lot of power to change people’s mind.

First point: How to improve readability and usability by limiting page content. People can only take in so many things at once.

Nice transition from page full of questions to a page with one question only. Then save and continue button.

Not many in the room are doing discussions about, say, how to make forms cleaner like this example.

Great slide about war crimes. Perfect for some plain language treatment. When is less more or enough.

Snowflake pattern – I’m a snowflake, I am special. Like progressive disclosure.

Get it wrong a lot early on is my best advice

Hint text – to help you decide what to answer and hint text to help you understand the question. Subtle difference.

Dislikes free form field because it is hard to parse for the admin handling the form.

Trying hard to show only what’s relevant.

Talked about the name field that is culturally challenging.

They have to ask for Titles Mr, Mrs, etc. because a backend system requires it! We shouldn’t design for the systems, but for the people!!

Use visible navigation to frame users understanding of what’s going on and just where they are.

Cool explanation about discussing patterns to find a good nav.

A case study of enhanced user assistance in the GUI – Khurana and Tiwari

Rajesh Khurana and Rajeev Kumar Tiwari, Ericsson India Global Services presented this case study.

Wanted to place an icon in the GUI that can show context sensitive video help is available. They have traditional ? as help icon, but now have video icon to open video on right of screen to describe just the context.

Have challenges with authorisations for showing videos. User with 4 specific authorisations should only see those 4 videos.

Video reuse – for 1st time users and embedded in GUI. In other words, in different channels. Have challenges in hand-held devices because there can simply be too much info at once and not enough screen real estate.

Videos can make the application heavy, but can consider streaming.

They work in agile so they are planning their videos accordingly.

Designing user assistance for mobile business apps – van Weelden

Willam van Weelden, WvanWeelden Consultancy talked about just in time and just enough with embedded in UA. UA = user experience design. BYOD = Bring your own backdoor!!

Interesting to see the bailiff app and how security is crucial here. Showed how architecture is crucial for IT to ensure that the security is OK.

Discusses IT vs End users. IT used to tech – tools are their job. End users’ tools are just that – tools. What people think – apps are simple and not more need for support/UA.

Argues that help takes you out of the app. Separate is a bad idea. We only alleviate pain but don’t take it away!

Our creating manuals today costs money and doesn’t make sales.

Shows what he calls halfway there – opening an app that has 5-6 screens with walkthrough of what you _can_ do.

We need a new paradigm: user experience design. Customer buys the entire experience.

Thinks of interface as user assistance in itself! Becomes just in time and just enough. Always up to date and helping without being intrusive.

Best is if no one ever thanks you or notices your manual. !! Then it must be integrated well. He says if they thank you and say how the manual has helped them understand and use the product then it means the product is actually crap and you saved them and something – the entire system – is not a good experience.

Took him 1.5 years to get people to listen to him in his company. Now they listen to him and they get a better product.

UX design goes beyond service design thinking he says.

Ray’s comment is that we are all designing for user experience.

Embedded Help: nuts and bolts – Gash

We’re on to Day 2 now. Dave Gash, HyperTrain, shared the actual actual “how-to” for making embedded help.

Create content in, e.g., Flare. Each page in Flare has a unique element
Content has DITA –> Output is HTML

Just identify the pieces you want to grab and show in your application.
These must be accessible to the Web app.

Web app is JS code. He wants to read, extract, assemble, and embed.

Did one run-through with HTML which was alway a bit at high-level. Now he is showing XML. Looks almost the same, but he gives a more granular help. More specific.

He says EditPlus is a good HTML/XML editor because it has useful extra features to help check tags are done well, etc.

Uses unique IDs for the content elements.

He likes the .innerHTML attribute. [Must investigate.]

His way to improve the XML help would be to load the entire XML file into a variable so that is all accessible and available already for whever he clicks and asks for help.

He has a slide with differences. He won’t say which is better. It will depend on the situation. THe last point is interesting, thought. HTML requires build process. XML doesn’t.

Getting to know users – Atherton

Dr Chris Atherton, Equal Experts, says everyone has to start somewhere. But hard to put yourself in the position of someone who doesn’t know.

Usability testing on a shoestring. You can start small.

  1. Start with 1 regular user.
  2. Focus on an easy task – what puzzles them

Novices may be shy and feel all is their fault. So, they might not say much, so you have to observe them more than anything.

Check your ego! Just listen.

Let the other person figure it out and encourage them to talk.

Remember to remind them that nothing is their fault.

Brief and debrief

Emphasise that they can help with the good development of the software – it is empowering.

You don’t even need working software.

Scale it up like a pro. After 1 person, try testing with 6-8 people.

Find participants who conform to a relevant trends. E.g. make sure they have similar backgrounds if testing financial software so you know they have a similar basis for performing tasks.

If you can write a script, it can be helpful. Gives you something to lean on.

Note down the best quotes.

Helps, too, to have someone with you because it can be hard to talk and listen to a person while also taking notes.

Quotes can be fascinating. Can be more powerful when talking to colleagues. Also helps to catalog the common problems.

Report back to your dev team. Chris’ does a This Week in UX newsletter. Not everyone has time to document all these things. Make summaries, share a few quotes – her example is 20-50 line emails. Very quick to make and not an extra burden.

Put your important points right at the top. Don’t think chronologically if there is a hot point you want to ensure that people see.

Next level is to run regular testing days. E.g. once per month, once per sprint.

Find real users. They are motivated, even if they don’t realise it. They want good working software.

Record your sessions: Silverback, Camtasia, Screenflow.

She likes the ones that show the user doing the testing so you see them peer into the screen. Says more than any text can say.

Good approach is using post-it notes. Everything you hear or see that sounds good – jot it onto post-it notes. Then do a card-sort and structure, grouping. Leave the post-its where all will see.

Show people the clips – the more painful, the better. (Video clips of users doing testing.)

No wireframe survives contact with the user!

Concrete research findings are easier to act on than guilt feelings!

Knowing your users reduces depersonalisation.

Your benefit from doing usability testing? Quality time with others will improve your mood. Contributing to making your software better helps you feel useful. This is positive feedback.

From user assistance to user guidance (+ Business Intelligence) – Graat

Jang F.M. Graat, JANG Communication, says Business Intelligence is where the money is.

User assistance – minimalism. Only add something to the equation if you absolutely have to – Occam’s Razor!! He “invented” minimalism, says Graat with a smile.

Weakest link is the mind that thinks ‘Oh, I thought…’ Eliminate that from user assistance and turn it into user guidance.

Procedure will lead the user.

Has good slide about getting big data – usability research, customer feedback, service staff reports, surveys.

Jang gave good example of an engineer coming up to an engine that needs repairs and thinking I know what to do, I don’t need to read the help, but they have, despite much experience, not worked on THIS engine before so they can make serious mistakes.

A technical writer’s role in redesigning the application UI – Tkaczyk

Agnieszka Tkaczyk, IBM, gave an excellent presentation. I hope to see and hear more of her in the future.

Tech writers are good people for usability.

She showed a great example of a long, long answer for how to disable SSL, but no one had looked at the interface. All that was needed was ‘clear the Use SSL check box’!!!!

Answers to requests to make good changes: It doesn’t have impact!

Showed how she went through and helped to re-write some UI content.

Cool. When Agnieszka was preparing for her talk and looking for examples, she found inspiration for fixing the UI!
Thanks to the conference she was able to log some errors about the UI which gave her great satisfaction because she was always getting errors logged about documentation.

She showed example of bad design of error information and how she proposed new designs to make the information more clear.

In Q&A, Rajeev said he gets his ideas registered in backlogs so he can record metrics about his worth.

Matthew Ellison, UA Europe – How long is a topic?

He collects examples of help as a hobby.

He’s seen things in help that are cool, but he’s never tried them. That realization surprised him. He wondered if we ever used them and whether it was help at the wrong time.

Evernote added a subject to the note Matthew started at UA conference in Palm Springs.

Articles should be neither too big nor too small – advice from wikipedia on size of articles.

He gives a definition of a topic:

  • 1 idea, 1 topic
  • A tpoic supports 1 task
  • An answer to a question
  • Shortest effective piece of communication

His definition: self-contained cluster of chunks of information, where each piece depends on the others for context, on a single theme with an overall narrative flow.

Topics should have a narrative flow!

The way you link stories together improves the understanding (he referred to a talk by Tom Johnson at a past UA Europe).

Funny anecdote about the related links. He used to think people loved his writing so much they wanted to see more. Now he knows they are mostly surfing and not happy with what they got and they use the links to move elsewhere.

This was a very entertaining talk, but I am not going to give you the answer to how long a topic should be! You can share your answers to the question in the comments.


This is a nice size crowd with good presentations, but ample opportunity to chat with the other attendees and talk about the nitty-gritty of your daily routines – and your dreams and hopes. I know the 2015 conference – the 10th anniversary conference – will be somewhere in the south of England next year. The location doesn’t matter. I am ready to register as soon as the virtual doors open.

You can see my conference photos over on Flickr. I’ll be posting my post-conference-sightseeing-in-Krakow-area photos in a few days.

By the way, if you love mixing conferences and tourism, too, check out the soap! conference in Krakow 2-3 October 2014. I liked Krakow, and I like the idea of supporting this young technical communication conference. They have an energy that can inspire you in your own techcomm world.

Continuing to get things done – UA Europe conference follow-up

I had the good fortune to give a presentation for UA Conference Europe 6 June where I had a time slot of 45 minutes to share content for a lifetime. My next action after the presentation was to share the various articles that inspired my talk design in the early months of 2014. Not all were directly related, but they all gave me “getting things done” inspiration and got me thinking about the things that I need to or want to get done.

My talk was an introduction to the concept of getting things done. My talk was tool-agnostic, but I am using certain tools: Microsoft OneNote (I use it at work), Evernote (I am user number 640,681 out of the 100 million using the six-year-old app), and Cultured Code’s Things (Mac). Yes, it looks crazy to use three different tools, but it’s working for me so far.

The list of links

That last link has a great quote:

The problem is not that we’ve suddenly started depending on technology, but that the technology we’re depending on is poorly designed, too often focused on making money for its creators at its users’ expense.

I said my “next action” was to write and publish this blog post and yet over two weeks have gone by without me doing it. Well, the key thing was to remember to define this task and put it on my list of next actions. As I point out in my slides, GTD never does the work for you. I still had to sit in front of my computer and do the writing. Life happens. :) Hey, it’s a work in progress – for the rest of my life!

Here are the slides for my presentation:

The conversation is continuing in September at TCUK14 where I will be speaking on the same topic, but with the added experience of 3 more months of getting things done.

If all this getting things done is getting to be too much, take comfort in Hyperbole-and-a-half’s explanation of why she’ll never be an adult.

Long live the WordPress community – and a new look!

A friend in the WordPress community saved my blog today, so this blog post is dedicated to her. :)

Let’s back up for a moment. I attended WordCamp this past weekend. In fact, I was one of the organizers together with the awesome team of @markgazel, @dejliglama, @risager, and @anetq. WordCamp Denmark 2014 was also awesome. That is not an exaggeration. Our hosts,, provided excellent facilities and great food. And they are blessed with an employee who thinks baking gigantic cakes for 150 people is fun!

What happened at WordCamp does not stay at WordCamp. Those stories will get shared. The WordCamp site has links to the slides and the photos, etc. I left in a fantastic mood from the last three conversation there with three happy people. They were all so excited by the weekend that they said they wanted to get more involved in the community around WordCamp. The excitement was tangible. I left with lots of warm fuzzies.

I went home and said thank you to all the participants by posting in the various Danish WordPress groups on Facebook. I also expressed the hope that those who couldn’t attend this year would come next year. And I plugged our monthly WordPress Meetups in Copenhagen.

It was probably one of these postings that caused one of my friends on Facebook to check out my blog – and find it replaced by one of those “this site is hosted by” messages. This is where my little blog was saved. offered WordCamp attendees free hosting, and I took advantage of that over the weekend. When the redelegation came through, I thought more about my email than my blog. Thanks to my friend’s kind nudge, my site is up and running again. I said goodbye to the Beast-Blog theme by Mike Cherim that I had used for more than 7 years. It was an accessible theme, and I loved those green leaves, but it hadn’t been updated for ages, and that is a dangerous thing. Thank goodness I knew about the Blaskan (accessible) theme. I can’t talk about accessibility and not have an accessible theme!

The Danish WordPress community has always been helpful and generous in spirit. I felt like the message about my troubled blog was just one more example of how we help each other out. The episode gave me an opportunity to thank her anonymously here, announce the change on my site, and give a little shout-out to all the people I know who work with WordPress professionally or just for the sheer fun of it all.

This entire episode is almost worthy of a new Hanni Ross presentation called “How to really and truly break your blog, and how to fix it”. :)

My Ignite talk at UX Camp CPH 2014

My Ignite talk on the first day of UX Camp CPH was a success! Here is the transcript. The video is available on Slideshare and is embedded at the end of the transcript. All images are described here in parentheses for each slide. If there is an RM before the word “image”, it means the images come from Rosenfeld Media’s Flickr account where they are CC by 2.0. All other images are my own or from Wikimedia Commons .

The text here is my guess as to what I said! It was based on some key words, but somewhat spontaneous and changed over the many times I practiced!

Slide 1

Hi. We are going to talk about user experience over today and tomorrow here, in case you hadn’t noticed. I want to talk about accessible user experience. I have a few minutes to discuss this. You have a lifetime to follow up.

Slide 2

Let’s start with an example of a pain point we all know. The cost of the development/design lifecycle. Fixes are cheap early on, but expense late in the process. Accessibility is often thought of late, so it’s expensive, so it gets dropped. How can we change this pattern? (Image shows an x, y axis with a Euro sign on the y axis and a clock on the x axis. A curve starts low on the money and time axes and moves right, curving up to be high on the money and time axes. Hand-drawn in Sketch on the iPad.)

Slide 3

There are a couple of books that can help you build accessibility in from the beginning. One is the free, online book called Just Ask, which is a great resource. I want to focus on A Web for Everyone published in January by Rosenfeld Media – a sponsor! It’s the inspiration for my talk.
(Images of the two books’ covers.)

Slide 4

The authors [Whitney Quesenbery and Sarah Horton] propose a framework of 9 principles for helping you build a practice of accessible user experience. I am going to introduce you to those 9 principles now.

  1. People first
  2. Clear purpose
  3. Solid structure
  4. Easy interaction
  5. Helpful way finding
  6. Clean presentation
  7. Plain language
  8. Accessible media
  9. Universal usability

Slide 5

Principle 1. People first
I hope this is an obvious choice for you. You know about personas. Well, are you designing for differences? Are you working with people with disabilities? (RM images for some of the personas from the “A Web for Everyone” book: Persona Carol, Persona Trevor, Persona Jacob, Persona Lea) You really should be because…

Slide 6

Disability is … a universal human experience. (Extract from a quote from WHO at I keep using this quote in my presentations and will continue to do so to hammer home this message. We all have various abilities and we should be designing for them.

Slide 7

When we ignore people with disabilities, we are creating Digital Outcasts. Technology can leave these people behind, but… necessity being the mother of invention, they are doing it for themselves. A lot of innovation is going on here. Why not work with people with disabilities and benefit from that synergy?
(Image of the book “Digital Outcasts” by Kel Smith.)

Slide 8

Principle 2. Clear purpose
This is having clear goals. Imagine working on the user experience of voting forms for an entire nation. You certainly need to consider different abilities. Once you start working that way, I think accessibility will always be part of how you work. (Reference to a quote from Sarah Swierenga, Director of Usability and Accessibility Research Center, Michigan State University, in the book.)
(Image of one of the “Field Guides to Ensuring Voter Intent” from

Slide 9

Principle 3. Solid structure
Of course, you need a solid structure underneath all your design. Built on standards. For example, headings that can be seen visually, but also interpreted by a screen reader.
(RM image of jelly bean page on wikipedia and an image of a screen reader listing headings.)

Slide 10

Principle 4. Easy Interaction
Things should just work. This continues the idea of the standards coding. You shouldn’t have a keyboard user get trapped inside a video viewer where only a mouse click can help them escape. A blind person wouldn’t use a mouse.
(Screenshot image of Easy YouTube from

Slide 11

Principle 5. Helpful Wayfinding
When you click on a link on a page, do you get to the destination you are expecting? When you get there, can you find what you are looking for? I let these pages speak for themselves.
(Two screenshots from the Danish-language site about setting up the Danish Digital Mailbox: first, the page about setting up the digital mailbox where I clicked the link in step one on the page to get to the actual task of setting up the mailbox.)

Slide 12

Principle 6. Clean Presentation
This covers typography or color. I show an image of 6 lines of color. I placed colorblindness filters on top of part of that image. What colors are you perceiving? What does that mean for your design?
(Images from wikipedia: The Rainbow flag and the same image manipulated to show protanopia, deuteranopia, and tritanopia.)

Slide 13

Principle 7. Plain language
Let me emphasize. Plain language is not dumbing down. It is using the language that is appropriate for your audience so they can start their conversations. I love Ginny Redish. This is a great book. Just go buy it, read it, and keep it on your shelf for reference.
(Image of the “Letting Go of the Words” book by Janice (Ginny) Redish.)

Slide 14

Principle 8. Accessible media
Do you have audio or video on your site? Are you preparing audio description, captions, or transcripts for them? These benefit not only the deaf and blind communities. Others can use them, too.
(Image taken from one of my older presentations where I describe how to caption YouTube videos.)

Slide 15

Principle 9. Universal Usability
Here we have the 9th principle where we can transcend technology and just be ourselves and enjoy our lives without a lot of clunky things to bother us.
(Image of a TDD machine to represent the old way and a screen shot of a man using Apple’s FaceTime to sign with his girlfriend on the iPhone 4 from a YouTube video.)

Slide 16

So why not get started with baby steps? May 15th is Global Accessibility Awareness Day. Try unplugging your mouse that day, all day. How much can you do at all without the mouse? Try it! (Follow @gbla11yday on Twitter plus the #GAAD hashtag.) (Image of statue of mother holding a baby taking steps.)

Slide 17

Or could you sign your name to a document stating that you had considered accessibility throughout your project and that you had involved people with disabilities in your research? Could you do that?
(Image of John Hancock’s signature. The quote on the slide “…a document must be signed off by the responsible party annually to show that you have considered accessibility in your design and you have reached out to the user community and experts in the field…” comes from the episode of A Podcast for Everyone about CVAA with Larry Goldberg.)

Slide 18

I don’t think that the creators of the Danish Digital Mailbox took any of the 9 principles into account. Of course the book didn’t exist then, but perhaps we lack enough knowledge in the Nordic area?
(Screenshot of the Danish-language site Malene and the Digital Mailbox in Danish only that covers – in Danish – one person’s troubles with the Danish Digital Mailbox. See also another great article – in Danish by Susanna Rankenberg for additional excellent discussions on the same topic.)

Slide 19

I could only think of Funka Nu in Sweden as a place that works with accessible user experience. Are there others? Maybe we need to build more knowledge. This could be a business opportunity for you.
(Screenshot of the Funka Nu website and a link to the Swedish languge page with their mobile accessibility guidelines in multiple languages.)

Slide 20

Maybe you can go out and be the early bird who gets the worm. You can build the knowledge that helps you saves costs for customers so you can build a web for everyone.
(Image of robin feeding a worm to a young robin in the nest)

The haves and the have-nots

I am worried about our society and the attitudes we have toward each other. My worry is anecdotal, something I sense in my occasional dips into the passing Twitter stream. In the past month or so, I have read tweets about poverty and what seems to be an increase in discussion about the haves versus the have-nots. On their own, these articles might easily disappear in a tweet stream. Putting a few together in a little blog post might get at least one more person thinking about these topics and possibly coming up with better ways to fix these broken bits of our society.

Then this article came along: Why I Make Terrible Decisions, or, Poverty Thoughts. The writer describes what poverty is to her. She does say these are not all her experiences, but a conglomeration of experiences. The subsequent backlash on Twitter is that “no poor person can write that well”, etc. I guess the idea is that poor people should stay quiet on their patch of cardboard? I did want to know if this was genuine. In my search, I found Erin Kissane and others discussing the reality of povery and sharing links like Being Poor, a 2005 blog post from John Scalzi, and The logic of stupid poor people. Today, when I decided to put these thoughts into a blog post, I discovered an article that calls out the “Poverty Thoughts” essay as false: That Viral “Poverty Thoughts” Essay Is Totally Ridiculous.

I don’t know what is true or what is false, but I do know that having this discussion is important. I read Barbara Ehrenreich’s “Nickel and Dimed” some years ago and found it quite shocking. When I got back from my overland trip to India and Nepal back in 1978, I looked at all the pictures and their captions in Jacob Holdt’s “American Pictures” and pretty much freaked out. I had seen poverty on my trip and now I was seeing some pretty awful examples in “my own backyard”. What in the world was the meaning of life? Why such disparity? I was able to have a roof over my head and three meals a day, but should I or could I do something about those who couldn’t. This moment really shook up my 20-year-old complacency for about a year or two, but I never did try to start any revolution. Something is wrong with this picture, I thought, but I had no idea how to save the world on my own.

Shortly after the Twitter discussions about poverty, I came across a different type of article that was at the societal level. Cyrus Farivar shared this article on Twitter or Facebook: S.F. tech companies’ civic image at stake as backlash grows, and I found this on my own: In This Silicon Valley Tech Culture and Class War, We’re Fighting About the Wrong Things. Then Cennydd Bowles shared a tweet that led me to this article: Silicon Valley Is Living Inside A Bubble Of Tone-Deaf Arrogance.

I was shocked at the arrogance and the growing gap between the haves and the have-nots. There was also something that reminded me vaguely of distopian, post-apocalytic science fiction movies. Suddenly, it seemed like scriptwriters weren’t making things up, but were looking at what was happening to society today. It was David and Goliath IRL.

There is no conclusion to this blog post. I want to raise awareness about these issues and thought they deserved more than 140 characters. I felt a need to share them in the hope that others out there talk and think about these issues. Maybe one of us will have a constructive idea and a way to carry it out.

One way to start this conversation is showing a lot more respect toward each other. Stop the labels! I’ll close with one more thought-provoking piece – a 2006 blog post from Ted Drake that Jennifer Sutton shared on Twitter. It’s about racial comments, but I think it applies to any of the labels we apply, consciously or subconsiously, throughout our day.

Come on, people. Let’s be nice out there.