Posts Tagged 'Usability'

Measuring Readability of your Copy

One of the most important things in building web sites is content. How do you know how readable your content is? If you have Microsoft Word, you can measure it.

Active is better than passive

readingYour English teacher probably told you to avoid writing in the passive voice. Use the active voice–it’s more exciting to read. How well do you do at that? Use the  Passive Sentences Test to find out. For this test, the lower the score, the better.

Long sentences and words with lots of syllables are harder to read

To tell how easy your text is to read, you can use the Flesch Reading Ease score.  This test measures how long your sentences are and how many syllables are in the words you used. The higher the score, the better. Aim for something above 60.

Big words take more thought

Similar to the Flesch Reading Ease test, the Flesch-Kincaid Grade Level test gives back something we can all relate to — a grade level, meaning the level of education needed to understand your text. Even if you’re writing for an educated audience, they appreciate having text that is easy to read. Face it; we’re all busy and swamped with so many things trying to grab our attention. We’re more likely to read things that we can easily read. Shoot for a grade level of 8 at the max.

So go find out how to measure your readability. If you’re writing for the web, just copy and paste your web copy into Word and check your readability scores.

Just for fun, here are the scores for this article:

  • Passive voice: 0%
  • F. Reading ease: 77.8
  • F.K. grade level: 5.3
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Back to Usability — how about a checklist?

download checklistOkay, enough sidetracking to Facebook, time to get back to usability.

There’s a very good 25 point web site usability checklist on usereffect.

Checklists won’t make your site usable–it’s best to usability test your site with the target audience and really sit back and watch what they have trouble with–but a checklist will help you avoid the most obvious mistakes so when you sit down to a usability test you’re not completely embarrassed that they can’t even tell what your web site is for.

Trackthis integrates package tracking into social networking

If you twitter or facebook and you order things that you have shipped to you, you’re gonna love this: TrackThis figured out how to take those hard-to-crack shipping APIs and let you track your packages via facebook or twitter.

I was all excited to try it, until I went to Facebook and discovered:

This application cannot be added to your Pages. Facebook applications for Pages can be specialized for certain Page categories (e.g. Restaurants or Bands). Either you have no Pages that fit the category of this application, or you have already added this application to your eligible Pages.

What kind of Facebook page do I need to be able to add it? That’s really confusing and is not making for a very good user experience. (Um, well, it’s denying me from even having a user experience! Hate that!) 

Well, maybe I’ll try it on Twitter.

Hey, I wonder if TrackThis would like to share some of their shipping API expertise with our comment-ers who are having difficulty integrating the buggers? See the comments on my shipping API post.

Use Verbs on your Buttons

Jeff Saxton at FutureNow pointed me to a post by Dmitry at Usability Post with a really good point.

It’s more usable if, instead of the traditional “Yes” and “No” buttons, you use strong verbs such as “Save” and “Don’t Save”. I don’t even have to show you the example dialog box he shows (but I will, anyway) for you to understand what the “Save” and “Don’t Save” buttons mean–where with the “Yes” and “No” buttons, you would have to read the question on the dialog box and think about what you are saying yes or no to.

What’s more usable?

This:
windows save dialog

Or this:
OS X save dialog

Great point! Thanks for bringing it up, Dmitry!

Alan Cooper’s talk on how User Experience Design fits in Agile Development

Agile programming is big now, and I know several programmers who subscribe to it. But how does usability and user experience design fit in an agile world? Many usability experts couldn’t tell you because they’re still trying to figure it out themselves. I’ve long been arguing that we need to stop and figure out what the user really wants and design the user experience first–then hand it over to the programmers to build. Does that work with Agile programming? Why wouldn’t it? I’ve won part of that argument in our company. They let me design the user experience, but there’s no time for user research, user personas, or usability testing of the interface before I have to hand it over. They’re in such a rush to meet the deadlines set by the “board”.

But, thanks to a thread I was following on CUACentral (a social networking site hosted by Human Factors International for their Certified Usability Analysts), I ran across this gem from Alan Cooper, one of the leaders in Interaction Design and the author of The Inmates are Running the Asylum. It’s his keynote speech, complete with all his notes, that he gave at Agile 2008.

Enjoy!

Something to make Analysts Wet Their Pants

Visual analytics softwareI’m trying not to be too excited about this, but I am an analyst at heart and so it’s really hard for me to contain myself over this data visualization product I stumbled upon this morning. If I only knew how to link to our data sources, I would be exercising their 30-day trial to the max.

My task for the moment is to figure out how to build and deploy an operations metrics portal. Our biggest client wants real-time access to sales pipeline, product sales, and transaction numbers at the top level, but with the ability to drill-down into the data so he can see just how each customer is doing if he wants. We are using SugarCRM for our customer relationship management, so we were hoping to utilize that, but it just doesn’t meet our needs. Besides that we’ve discovered it’s pretty glitchy in some areas–it’s driving our QA guy (who happens to be my hubby) batty. I was thinking we may have to develop our own solution, which isn’t really even an option because our developers are completely swamped.

So I spent hours yesterday just searching for solutions that could help us. I looked at charting software like Visual Mining, Corda, Dundas, and Easy Charts. I looked at portal software, including Traction Teampage, DynaPortal, Intranet Dashboard, JBoss, Liferay, Metadot, DotNetNuke, and Apache Jetspeed. And it’s not that all these don’t offer good solutions–it’s just that they don’t make it really simple to analyze, visualize, and publish dashboards–in my case, operations metrics, but it’s extensible and useful for analyzing ANY data.

Ok, Ok, what is it already?

It’s Tableau. They offer a couple different products that I’m really itching to try: Tableau Desktop, which is what you use to build the visualizations, and Tableau Server, which allows you to publish your visualization to the web, with full Web-2.0-style interaction, filtering, and drilldown–in real time. What got me excited was:

·         It looks extremely powerful, easy, quick, flexible and does not require any programming time.

·         You can create many different kinds of data visualizations with their desktop product, then publish to the web.

·         There’s full application-level, view-level, and data-level security. You can publish to 1, 100’s or 1000’s of users.  You have full access control for every user at all levels. You can control who has access to the data, how they interact with the data, and how much/which data they have access to.

·         It can link to any data source: oracle, all sorts of other database formats, and even excel spreadsheets.

·         It has dynamic drilldown and filtering.

·         You can easily view the underlying data and copy/paste right into Excel–or copy a graph or chart for use in a powerpoint presentation.

I watched the Tableau Server demo and am just amazed at all the things this software can do by dragging and dropping and a few clicks of the mouse.

I immediately e-mailed some of my geeky analytical friends and am hoping they’ll try it out and tell me what they think of it. Anyone out there tried it yet? Please comment and let me know what you think.

Of course, I’ll post my thoughts (after I convince my boss to let me try it).