5 Radical Ideas From Usability Presentations


Five Radical Ideas from Usability Presentations

Everyone needs a good shake-up now and then, and that’s why these 5 radical ideas from 5 rad usability presentations are well worth your time. Being influenced by radical ideas can lead to big changes in how you do things, and thus bring big positive results. To improve, it’s sometimes necessary to throw-out old conventions, including some old conventions of usability and user centered design!

The reality is your usability and user-centered design could probably use a boost, to among other things:

  • Help you do a better job of adding usability to design
  • Change the way you think about interaction
  • Present new ideas and new concepts to your processes
  • Help you sell your new radical ideas to the masses

So, here then are the 5 radical ideas as presented from these 5 rad usability presentations. Enjoy!

1. Usability 2.0 – Greg Bell

This is an excellent presentation that provides great ideas to help you improve; planning, recruiting, conducting analysis and presentation of findings for usability research. I like the implication that they analyzed the problem (boring usability results presentations nobody reads, no follow-up changes based on reports) and created new solutions – by usability testing their own usability research process! Now there’s a radical idea!

  • Radical idea #1 – Conduct usability testing (and subsequent improvements) on your own usability research methods!

This presentation demonstrates how to tackle the problem of delivering usability testing results in a way that doesn’t bore the clients, and more importantly gets acted upon. This presentation includes very helpful screen-grabs of new approaches you can use to plan, recruit, conduct data analysis and present findings. Way worth your time to watch and learn from, in my humble opinion.

2. How *Not* To Get Noticed – Liz Danzico

A brilliant little presentation that in 54 easy-to-read slides demonstrates the core concept of a good user experience – the user should not even be aware they are using the application, website, beard trimmer, etc.

Anybody who’s been using WordPress for a few years remembers the major improvements made to the administrative interface not too long ago. That was a pretty radical change! This presentation provides an overview of how the research that influenced that radical change was done, and much more importantly, the mantra that went into the process of improvement. As the quote states:

“That’s when I know WordPress is doing its job: when people aren’t even aware they’re using it because they’re so busy using it!”

– Mark Jaquith, 21 February 2007

  • Radical idea #2 – Focus your design / development team on the mantra: “We reach application usability success when our users are not even aware they’re using our application!”

This presentation can help you have that all-important conversation with your design and development team, and anyone on your team who’s been using WordPress for several years will know the truth that is provided in this presentation.

3. – Secrets of Simplicity – Giles Colborne

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Guess what, did you know that simplicity does NOT equal usability? Neither did I! But this amazing presentation walks you step by step through the process of understanding simplicity; why it’s good, why it’s not always possible (or desirable) to achieve, and the 4 ways to affect simplicity. Here’s the core concept; in general, you can try to remove, hide, group or displace complexity. But as this presentation so beautifully describes, each has positive and negatives on design and function that must be understood.

  • Radical idea #3 – Simplicity does not equal usability, it equals making the experience compact and aligning your design to what’s core in the user’s experience – and recognizing the trade-offs involved in trying to reduce complexity.

Don’t let the 128 pages of this presentation scare you, this is a VERY simple experience that communicates VERY well and will leave you ANXIOUS to try these concepts out yourself. And it’s chock-full of really helpful examples of complex situations with simplified end-result experiences.

4. – How People Really Use the iPhone – Bill Westerman

This presentation should be considered sacred to all iPhone or multi-touch app designers and developers. This is a very useful and usable presentation that defines the 8 rules of thumb for iPhone and multi-touch app development. Because it includes visuals of the multi-touch UI do’s and don’ts for design of apps, it’s really easy to quickly understand and conceptualize the core 8 rules of thumb.

You should also pay VERY close attention the Application pricing slides, which have an amazing finding – pricing an app higher actually generates MORE trust in the app (does that trust convert into sales?). Technically there are two really radical ideas – but I’m going to group them into one, because, well, it’s more usable that way:

  • Radical ideas #4 and 4a – Users felt there was LITTLE TO NO DIFFERENCE in pricing between a $4.99 app and a $0.99 app (then why not charge $4.99?), and users are most successful when they can transfer a specific behavior from one app to the next – so copying conventions is key.

Considering the more than 90,000 views of this presentation, probably all the designers and developers that develop “an app for that” are already aware of the 8 rules of thumb. But if not, this one won’t be a waste of your time. And a refresher for those that have seen this already wouldn’t hurt!

5. – Designing for Social Traction – Joshua Porter

Another brilliant presentation, this one clearly and concisely defines how to solve the three big problems of; signing up, first use and ongoing engagement of social software. The reality is however this is the perfect Primer for any application in which you want (need) to drive adoption, social or otherwise. The amazing thing is putting the context of signing up into the correct format, which is to say you can’t wonder how easy or difficult it is to sign up (usability), instead, you should wonder if people are motivated enough to care (persuasion).

  • Radical idea #5 – Gain sign-ups, first time use and ongoing engagement not by pushing features, but by motivating, not by selling, but by teaching, not by reminding, but by engaging.

Bonus Presentation:

Usability: An Overview – Craig Tomlin

OK, this is my presentation, but that doesn’t mean it’s not good! Anyway, I’m not including it in the list of 5 radical usability presentations because, well, I created it and you probably don’t want me tooting my own horn too much, right? And also, the concepts in it are not radical (useful yes, but not radical). But it’s short, sweet and to the point and so it’s worth a bonus mention.

Conclusion: 5 radical ideas from rad usability presentations

So there you have the 5 radical ideas from 5 rad usability presentations. I believe there’s plenty more radical ideas in these presentations and hope you find and try them! I suspect you’ll find the presentations helpful and useful. I would add that watching each of these should help you motivate yourself and your team into new ways to create more user-friendly designs, but I think you’ll come to that conclusion by yourself, and create some new ways to become radical.


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