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Tech news from the Big Apple

The real truth about what goes #viral in #SocialMedia

Posted on May 6th, 2015

 Make stuff that works – pop-up conference, #makestuffthatworks

 NYC UX Acrobatics

05/01/2015 @Loft W, 240 Kent Ave, Brooklyn, NY

Ida Jackson first differentiated between having a popular web posting versus having a useful site. She emphasized that the most useful sites are not very popular since they are the nuts and bolts of how to do things, such as apply for a passport.

With that said, she then talked about what makes a web site popular. The key is generating a strong positive emotional arousal. This might include hilarity, inspiration, astonishment, exhilaration. These are not characteristics we would want to see in banks, local governments, etc.

To appeal to a lot of people you need to reach them emotionally and know what they are willing to share. Two essential characteristics are:

  1. Will it pass the mom-test?
  2. Do you stand out?

Other factors that are often important are?

  1. Does it appeal to a sense of community
  2. Does it tell a story?

Make sure you know which content is too important to be a viral hit.

posted in:  NYC UX Acrobatics, UX    / leave comments:   1 comment


Posted on May 4th, 2015

Make stuff that works – pop-up conference, #makestuffthatworks

NYC UX Acrobatics

05/01/2015 @Loft W, 240 Kent Ave, Brooklyn, NY

Donna Lichaw @Greatnorthernelectric talked about the importance of a story to communicate your ideas and convert customer insights into customer actions.

Donna first talked about how a story moves along a narrative arc (her slides)

  1. beginning – exposition (hero, goal, setting); then the inciting incident or complication
  2. middle – rising action. A crisis (close to meeting goal, but a problem). climax
  3. end – falling action or denouement

The end needs to be better off than in the start. The end also sets the stage for a sequel

The narrative arc is a powerful tool as it emotionally draws the audience into the story.

Donna next talked about her experiences as a customer and the importance of her emotional involvement in the sales narrative: she envisions the customer’s journey s a hero’s journey with the climax being inciting the customer to action. In the most successful sales pitches, the narrative is not selling products. Instead, the story:

  1. communicates a shared vision
  2. innovates and prioritizes against that shared vision
  3. aligns the user towards that shared vision

The key is to build story into the conceptual model where the climax provides value or delight.

The following links are to Donna’s previous presentation on the role of stories in prototyping and David Kuelz’s presentation on story design for games.

posted in:  NYC UX Acrobatics, UX    / leave comments:   1 comment

WTF #Wearables: making wearables useful

Posted on May 4th, 2015

Make stuff that works – pop-up conference, #makestuffthatworks

 NYC UX Acrobatics

05/01/2015 @Loft W, 240 Kent Ave, Brooklyn, NY

Liza Kindred @ThirdWaveFashion talked about the 9 billion connected devices that populate our world and why many only clutter our lives. She first compared the me-too products such as “just another fit band” versus some products she sees as both innovative and useful:

  1. June UV monitoring bracelet – limit sum exposure for skin cancer
  2. Color correcting glasses – to help those with specific types of color blindness
  3. Motion sensing baby monitor – to avoid SIDS
  4. Motorola Tattoo – unlock a user’s mobile device display with only the use of their voice that is monitored by an electronic skin tattoo.

Liza next talked about some guidelines she recommends when developing a new wearable :

  1. No more novelty – create only for utility or joy
  2. Future proof the technology – devices can be upgraded
  3. Provide security – device needs to be secure
  4. Build for the network – talk to each other
  5. Build wearables for humans – make the interaction natural
  6. Blend fashion with technology – people are going to want to wear what we create
  7. Narrow the digital divide
  8. Make something the world needs – e.g. the Kite patch makes humans invisible to mosquitoes.

She summarized her thoughts in three key questions for users and developers/designers:

  1. Would I wear this? Is it beautiful? Is it aesthetically pleasing?
  2. Will I keep this device charged? – does it have long lasting benefits
  3. Does the world really need this?

posted in:  NYC UX Acrobatics, UX, Wearables    / leave comments:   1 comment

Designing web sites to maximize user participation: the #CoreModel approach

Posted on May 2nd, 2015

Make stuff that works – pop-up conference, #makestuffthatworks

NYC UX Acrobatics

05/01/2015 @Loft W, 240 Kent Ave, Brooklyn, NY

The conference was a highly informative and entertaining look at web site organization to focus on the needs of customers and the goals of the business. The conference was the culmination of a one week off-site by @Netlife, the conference sponsor with home offices in Norway.

Netlife presented their approach which they call the “Core model”. This is both a philosophy of web organization as well as a tool to design the site consistent with this philosophy.  Other presentations were made on a variety of topics include #WearableTech,  successful products as a story, and how to make blog posts go #Viral.

This post will concentrate on the #CoreModel. Subsequent posts will highlight other presentations at the conference.

Martha Lyngnes talked about NetLife’s emphasis is on creating web sites that focus on the intersection of the user’s tasks and the company’s goals. The intersection might be the purchase/sale of specific products or finding/disseminating  information. This intersection constitutes the core content which the key page. Next, the emphasis is on which paths lead to this core content page and how to makes these in-coming paths as efficient as possible on delivering traffic.  This is followed by an analysis of the output paths once the core content has been delivered. The main points of the core model are:

  1. Where users solve their tasks & business matches goals
  2. Paths are more important hierarchies
  3. No dead ends

The construction of the core content is done by a working group with the characteristics:

  1. Work in pairs
  2. Identify core pages
  3. Inward paths – how to get there
  4. Core content
  5. Forward paths – what’s next?
  6. Prioritize elements

They use the following worksheet to insure they have considered all these elements:


The larger discussion of the web site includes

  1. Facilitator
  2. Your team: UX, design, developers, ….
  3. People with expert knowledge of the content
  4. Content owners
  5. People who should collaborate
  6. People with strong opinions

The core should be the same on all devices, but the priorities may affect how items are shown on a small screen.

Design the home page last.

This process is in contrast to what often takes place in the design of the home page. Real estate on the page is divided by company organization without regard to the needs of most users and the web commerce business goals. This leads to long lists of options which are displayed using menu carousels. This design leads to a cluttered page which is hard to navigate or filled with irrelevant information. As a result the vast majority of the pages on the site are never be visited by uses and sales may be missed.

Anders Waage Nilsen & Torstein Norendal further amplified this idea by considering how the ideas derived when determining the core content can feed back into the way the business operates. They start with the idea that company strategy statements are often unusable for the following reasons:

  1. out of date,
  2. hard to understand
  3. lack of involvement (top down)
  4. too simple 1 dimensional
  5. unresponsive
  6. lacks an edit button – focus is intentions, not better decisions

They then contrasted the strategy document with the content-driven approach for the core model and asked whether the outputs (core qualities, core challenges, user tasks, business goals and how they are addressed) could be a structure around which the company could build a story about itself.

Naturally, there is much more to designing a web page than just executing the core model. Other speakers talked about specific aspects of creating a successful web page.

Jostein Magnussen emphasized the importance of creating a custom page for the client that brands the company, matches the specific business goals, takes full advantage of the specific needs of the users, and matches the “digital maturity” of the company. He cited an example in which a Norwegian bank uniquely branded itself by emphasizing its location in a fjord.

Kjell-Morten Bratsberg Thorsen offered many suggestions for site that are not explicitly selling products and therefore cannot use many of the conventional metrics such as sales conversion rate.

Since we still want to know the effectiveness of web site, he recommended three strategies.

  1. Create a link that you can click even if you are not selling. Have users click to get information so you can monitor the click through rate.
  2. Use time on page or scroll length as a sign of interest. This is like an inverse conversion rate.  (he doesn’t like this option)
  3. Ask the user: a #popup asks why you came to the site and whether you accomplished your task: self report conversion rate (this is his preferred method)

But popups are hard to do correctly.

  1. The popup needs to be as soon as task done, but not before. Too soon and the user has not finished their task. Too late and the user closes the window before the popup appears.
  2. One could track mouse movements to anticipate when the user completes the task and then display the popup. This is difficult since users move the mouse for a variety of reasons. Tracking completion time might be another possibility.
  3. One could ask if you want to participate later or immediately display the popup in lower right corner.

The bottom line is that people hate popup surveys so one can usually expect only a 1 to 2 percent response rate.

posted in:  NYC UX Acrobatics, UX    / leave comments:   3 comments

Patterns of #Card User #Interface #Design

Posted on July 9th, 2014

NYC #UX Acrobatics


Christopher Tse, Saikiran Yerram

7/8/2014, Amplify, 55 Washington Street, Brooklyn, NY

A web page, an app, a file, or an api all convey information. Organizing, categorizing, etc. these items can improve our ability to understand and communicate. Christopher presents a framework for thinking about ways to make better tools to aggregate and magnify the power of these pieces of information.

Christopher correctly labels all these items as carriers of information and uses the term ‘card’ to signify their similarity to physical cards that we can order, spatially place, add notes to, put in containers, etc. He proposes this as a metaphor for our use of information in the future.

He talks about different types of cards from 1. permanent records to those that are 2. teasers to get us to further explore topics to cards that are 3. alerts which demand immediate action, but are ephemeral. The unifying concept is that each contains three elements:

  1. Context – environment (location, time, previous behavior)
  2. Lens – the compelling part of a larger body of information
  3. Triggers – opportunities for the user to do something

The context is usually invisible to the user. The lens will be longer for longer-lived cards. The trigger is more prominent in the shortest-lived cards.

Cards can also be grouped different ways:

  1. Narrative containers – helps you tell a coherent story. Can be nested. Saikiran provided an example when teaching math.
  2. Discovery containers – harness the collective. E.g. Pinterest., Facebook, Twitter.
  3. Conversation containers- directed by participants
  4. Workflow containers – chain a series of actions.

Cards are part of a revolution in knowledge as we move from a high-level single point of view toward a more emergent POV. It draws on many inspirations including the vetting of scientific research by peer review and the distinction between linear story-telling and the emergent story telling in many video games. (see Story Design for Games). 

You can get the deck here

Christopher also mentioned the use of cards by the Guardian. Here is some background on their use of cards.


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