Wednesday, May 14, 2008

Can card sorting be used to define visual design?

Card sorting has been one of the key techniques to define the informational hierarchy of an application. As Jacon Nielson mentions "Card sorting is a generative method: we don't yet have a design, and our goal is to find out how people think about certain issues. There is great variability in different people's mental models and in the vocabulary they use to describe the same concepts. We must collect data from a fair number of users before we can achieve a stable picture of the users' preferred structure and determine how to accommodate differences among users."

Can this be extended to defining the visual design? We do not have the style specifications yet and different users relate or interpret various visual elements differently. Interpretation of color, form, fonts, layout are based on the individual's past experiences, cultural, socio-economic background and various other such factors.
Card sorting can be used to define visual hierarchy and the style of the application. It can be done with end users or within the design team or involving various teams, clients or all of them.

Keep reading this blog to get to know how to conduct a card sort for visual design

Saturday, May 3, 2008

Personalize or Customize?

There are two major trends in displaying information in the interface to users.
Personalized Interface and Customized Interface. Below is the description of differences from the slides of Vinay Mohanty and Devesh Jagatram on slideshare

Customization allows users to explicitly specify what you want. It gives user control at a generic feature level , where users see/hide etc what they want Eg: My Yahoo - user chooses which information elements might be presented on a home page, choosing display colors, etc.

Personalization uses implicit interests and learns what you like from your actions (you are what you click on and what you buy ) E.g. getting the information related to one’s preferences and regular activities Personalization is at the data/ content served level is an example of personalization where the latter learns your interests and adapts to your needs. Personalization also are called 'Adaptive Interfaces'

This brings the question where do I which one?
Customize interfaces toBold
    • Prioritize content
    • User controlled content
    • Customized Look & Feel for each user
    • Promote regular usage
Customizable interfaces work for interfaces like My Yahoo! Here user can customize features like colors / layout , placement of features on screen, etc.

Personalize when you need to
    • Promote sales of various products
    • Build a relationship that encourages the customer to return
    • Provide customized experience for online shopping to make it as real as in-person shopping
    • Target each individual customer differently by providing one-to-one marketing
    • Predict customer needs and purchase patterns
    • Identify customer characteristics by initiating 2 way communication
    • Make the interaction efficient and satisfying for both parties
A good example is Personalization features in Amazon record customer preferences by asking her to rate/tag products ( 2 way communication), displaying recommendations based on user's shopping history or wish list.

Personalization doesn't waste time as it shows users what everyone else sees and then asking you to search or display / hide things. Make the interaction efficient and satisfying for both parties.

Personalization is increasingly becoming popular as it offers a way to focus on customers / users. Tools like collaborative filtering, rating, click stream analysis, cookies help personalization.

Few examples where it can be used - e-Retailer promotion, Financial portal content recommendation, Help desk or on-line technical support content, Gift recommendations for e-Retailer, Music, movie, book , or other product rating and recommendations, Travel - trip planners

Before defining the interface, decide which one you want to choose. Define what you want the interface to accomplish and select accordingly.

Few materials online -