Profile

Frank Garofalo

Frank is an interactive multimedia developer with professional experience including operating a web design firm since 1999, working as a project manager in marketing departments, as well as past employment with the Walt Disney Company and Bank of America. As a graduate of Purdue University's Computer Graphics Technology program, he has focused on web design, multimedia applications, and digital marketing. His research interests are in the areas of usability, accessibility, and user-centered design.

Web Site: http://www.frankgarofalo.com

Posts by this Contributor

20 November 2011

Posted by Frank Garofalo | Topic: Cooking with a UX Architect

Coney Dog Wrap

19 November 2011

Posted by Frank Garofalo | Topic: Cooking with a UX Architect

Eggplant Parmesan

First I set-up two mixing bowls, one with 2 whisked eggs and one with flour and ground pepper. Also, I had a frying pan with a coating of olive oil on a low/medium heat.


Next, dip the slices of eggplant into the egg then the flour before placing them in the frying pan. Allow the slices to become golden brown on both sides. Go ahead and set the oven to 350 degrees F.


Next, place the slices of eggplant in a glass dish. Add tomato sauce and mozzarella cheese.


Place the dish in the oven for about 10-15 minutes. Finally, serve and enjoy.

18 November 2011

Posted by Frank Garofalo | Topic: RIAs

Some thoughts on the ArcGIS web mapping APIs

Adobe recently made some announcements about the future of the Adobe Flash Player and mobile devices. The new direction is... "our future work with Flash on mobile devices will be focused on enabling Flash developers to package native apps with Adobe AIR for all the major app stores."

So for web mapping APIs, Esri has posted these thoughts to the ArcGIS Resource Center Blog

17 November 2011

Posted by Frank Garofalo | Topic: Cooking with a UX Architect

Grilled Chicken, Stuffing & Cranberry Pita

17 November 2011

Posted by Frank Garofalo | Topic: Cooking with a UX Architect

Roasted New York Strip Steak

I first seared the steak on both sides for about 5 minutes each. Then placed the frying pan with the steak in the oven (set to 350 degrees F) and let the steak sit in the oven for about 45 minutes to 1 hour. Then let the steak rest for about 5-10 minutes.


2 November 2011

Posted by Frank Garofalo | Topic: Travel

SoCal - California after 4 months

Well September and October turned out to be a fairly busy months...

Weekend of September 17th
Visited Andrew, a friend from grad school, at his home in Santa Monica. We went to the beach and the famous Santa Monica Pier.

Weekend of September 24th,
My dad traveled to Southern California for business and was able to visit me on the weekend. Little did he know, my cousin and I had a plan. Her father (my uncle) was visiting her family. So neither my dad or my uncle knew the other was in Southern California and we all met up for lunch in Hermosa Beach.

Weekend of October 1st
I attended Adobe MAX 2011 in Los Angeles, CA. (I love going to Adobe MAX!)

Weekend of October 15th
Well, on Thursday October 13th I joined my cousin and her family at Disneyland to celebrate some birthdays (mine, Elle's and Liam's). Then on Friday, October 14th I met up with Tom Paczolt from Purdue to go to a live taping of the Tonight Show with Jay Leno.

Weekend of October 22nd
I purchase a Trek road bike ...finally!

Weekend of October 29th
Hitting the roads around Redlands and getting into cycling.
29 October 2011

Posted by Frank Garofalo | Topic: Cooking with a UX Architect

Negimaki Meatloaf

This follows the same basic recipe as the Negimaki Burgers.

I cooked the meatloaf at 350degrees for 50minutes. Approximately every 15 minutes I brushed Teriyaki sauce on the top of the meatloaf to keep it from drying out.



This was delicious!

23 October 2011

Posted by Frank Garofalo | Topic: Cycling

Purchased a bike today

Today I purchased my first bicycle for cycling. Here is a list of recommended items:

  • Bike
  • Pedals
  • Helmet
  • Sho es
  • Socks
  • Shorts or bib
  • Shirt / Jersey
  • Gloves
  • Tire pump
  • Water bottle(s) and holder(s)
  • Lights (front & rear)
  • Extra tire tubes
  • Tire tool

Also, I learned that bikes for cycling are like automobiles, each year manufacturers make a new series. Bike shops will typically have sales late each calendar year to clear out inventory for the next year's series.

9 October 2011

Posted by Frank Garofalo | Topic: Cooking with a UX Architect

Homemade Applesauce

Yesterday I went apple picking with my cousin and her two toddlers. We picked apples at a local farm in Mentone, CA.

Today I made my first attempt to make homemade applesauce. First I chopped all the apples into small wedges.



Then I boiled the apples and added in a slice of butter as well as a cup of apple juice.


After five minutes, I drained the apples and mashed them.


I plan on adding in cinnamon (once I buy some at the grocery).
5 October 2011

Posted by Frank Garofalo | Topic: RIAs

Adobe MAX 2011 - Day 2 Highlights

  • Adobe Flash Player 11 released
  • AIR 3.0 released
  • Adobe is investing in both HTML 5 and Flash Platform
  • jQuery Mobile Theme Roller - to be released in late 2011
  • PhoneGap
  • CSS Excludes
  • CSS Shaders
  • Rainn Wilson, "Dwight" from NBC's The Office, hosts the MAX Awards 2011
  • Weezer performs at MAX Bash 2011

Check out my post of Adobe MAX 2011 - Day 1 Highlights

4 October 2011

Posted by Frank Garofalo | Topic: RIAs

Adobe MAX 2011 - Day 1 Highlights

Adobe MAX 2011 - Day 1 (Los Angeles, CA) Highlights
  • Adobe Creative Cloud announced, 3 primary components:
    • Creative Services
    • Community
    • Applications
  • Adobe Touch Apps announced
    • applications targeted for touch (tablet) devices, including Adobe Kruler, Adobe Ideas, Adobe Photoshop Touch, Adobe Proto, Adobe Collage, Adobe Debut
  • Adobe Proto announce
    • wireframing / prototyping for HTML / CSS / JS sites with an easy transition to Adobe Dreamweaver to turn wireframes/prototypes into a starting point for development
  • Adobe Edge
    • Currently in Adobe Labs, animation editor for HTML 5 / CSS / JS

2 October 2011

Posted by Frank Garofalo | Topic: RIAs

Adobe MAX 2011


Heading to Adobe MAX 2011 tomorrow!

Follow me on Twitter: @fgarofalo
29 September 2011

Posted by Frank Garofalo | Topic: User Experience

Usability Testing: Understanding Users thru Observation

27 September 2011

Posted by Frank Garofalo | Topic: Cooking with a UX Architect

Portobello Burgers



Grilled Portobello Mushroom Burgers with a salad

Total Prep and Cooking Time: ~10 minutes
22 September 2011

Posted by Frank Garofalo | Topic: User Experience

New Pandora Radio Interface

Pandora has launched a new interface for their free user accounts (it was rolled out to the paid-accounts a couple of weeks ago).

The album art is now displayed larger with two song album covers by default, however with a drag handle you can increase or decrease the size of the album for the current song and there show/hide album art from recently played songs.

I also like the added option to select "I'm tired of this track" for a particular song, in addition to the standard like and dislike.

For more details about Pandora's redesign, read their article at www.pandora.com/newpandora

16 September 2011

Posted by Frank Garofalo | Topic: Cooking with a UX Architect

Baked Potato loaded with Sloppy Joes



This dish was inspired by a meal that I saw Robert Irvine, host of the Food Network's Restaurant Impossible, make as part of an entree for a sports bar. Irvine used pulled pork to stuff the potato.
15 September 2011

Posted by Frank Garofalo | Topic: User Experience

Interaction Design Association (IxDA)

I've joined the Interaction Design Association (IxDA). Their self described mission is to improve the human condition by advancing the discipline of Interaction Design. They go on to define "interaction design" as the structure and behavior of interactive systems.

13 September 2011

Posted by Frank Garofalo | Topic: User Experience

Storyboarding for UX - Like Building a House

11 September 2011

Posted by Frank Garofalo | Topic: Cooking with a UX Architect

Grilled Salmon with Pineapple and Pesto Rice


This dish was inspired by a meal I had at Disneyland's Club 33 Restaurant.

I grilled salmon with Teriyaki sauce and slices of pineapple. I cooked the rice with garlic, butter, olive oil, and pineapple. Then when the rice was finished I added in pesto sauce.

Total cooking time: ~10 minutes
10 September 2011

Posted by Frank Garofalo | Topic: User Experience

Usability Professional's Association

In August 2011 I joined the Usability Professional's Association (UPA), which "supports people who research, design, and evaluate the user experience of products and services."


6 September 2011

Posted by Frank Garofalo | Topic: Cooking with a UX Architect

Grilled Chicken with Vegetables



Grilled Chicken wrapped with Red Peppers, Green Peppers, Black Olives, Mushrooms, and barbecue sauce.
5 September 2011

Posted by Frank Garofalo | Topic: Travel

SoCal - California after 2 months

So here is another update (seems like it might become a once a month thing).

Weekend of August 6th
I joined Andrew, a friend from grad school, and some of his friends for a hike into Eaton Canyon, near Pasadena, CA (Wikipedia article).

Weekend of August 13th,
Explored Big Bear Lake area (Wikipedia article). It is a huge lake with tons of recreation choices.

Weekend of August 20th
My friend from grad school, Andrew, came to visit.

Thursday, August 25th
My cousin Mike was in Anaheim with his family on vacation, so I drove down to meet them for dinner at Downtown Disney at the Disneyland Resort in Anaheim, CA.

Weekend of August 27th
I joined Andrew and one of his friends at a LA Dodgers game - and they won!

Friday, September 3rd
My cousin Laura was in town with her family. So my cousin Laura with her family and my cousin Lynn with her family spent the day at Disneyland. We were fortunate to eat lunch at Club 33 (Wikipedia article). I had a blast, both spending time with relatives as well as going to Disneyland for the first time since I was 3 years old. It was interesting to see the similarities and differences from the Magic Kingdom at the Walt Disney World Resort in Florida. I had a chance to ride the Matterhorn twice, Space Mountain three times (so much better than the one in Florida), and the new Star Tours in 3D twice (very cool). I hope to go back soon and spend the day at Disney's California Adventure Park.

28 August 2011

Posted by Frank Garofalo | Topic: Cooking with a UX Architect

Two-Cheese Steak Wrap with Grilled Veggies


Two-Cheese Steak Wrap with Grilled Veggies

  • Swiss Cheese
  • Colby & Jack Cheese
24 August 2011

Posted by Frank Garofalo | Topic: User Experience

Levels of Storyboarding

23 August 2011

Posted by Frank Garofalo | Topic: Cooking with a UX Architect

Steak with Sauteed Mushrooms & Red Onion in Red Wine

Grilled Steak with Sauteed Mushrooms & Red Onion in Red Wine


The Sauteed Mushrooms & Red Onion were cooked in a frying pan with olive oil, garlic, Italian seasoning, and butter. First the olive oil, garlic, and butter were placed in the pan. Then the mushrooms, red onion, and Italian seasoning were added. After a few minutes of mixing the ingredients in the frying pan, the red wine was added last.

Total cooking time: less than 10 minutes
21 August 2011

Posted by Frank Garofalo | Topic: Cooking with a UX Architect

Grilled Pork Chop with Sauteed Sweet Potatoes


Grilled Pork Chop with Sauteed Sweet Potatoes

The sweet potatoes (yams) were originally baked, then placed into a frying pan with olive oil, garlic, and butter.
13 August 2011

Posted by Frank Garofalo | Topic: Cooking with a UX Architect

Negimaki Burgers

Negimaki is a Japanese dish usually with broiled strips of beef marinated in Teriyaki sauce and rolled with scallions. This is a slightly different spin on that dish, prepared as burgers.

Ingredients:
  • Ground Beef (1 lb; 90-95% lean)
  • Teriyaki sauce
  • Scallions (green onion)
  • Garlic
  • Asian Ginger Root

Step 1: Pour Teriyaki sauce over the ground beef.



Step 2: Chop garlic, scallions, and ginger root (I had too much scallion)



Step 3: Mix all the ingredients together



Step 4: Grill (I also prepared some Red Potatoes as a side dish)



Step 5: Enjoy

11 August 2011

Posted by Frank Garofalo | Topic: User Experience

How to "Do" Lean UX in 5 Easy Steps

11 August 2011

Posted by Frank Garofalo | Topic: User Experience

Users' Story: UX Storyboarding

This presentation is based on a presentation at SxSW 2011 by:
Joseph O’Sullivan, Intuit
Rachel Evans, Intuit
http://schedule.sxsw.com/events/event_IAP7349
http://www.slideshare.net/IntuitInc/conserve-code-storyboard-experiences-with-customers-first

7 August 2011

Posted by Frank Garofalo | Topic: Cooking with a UX Architect

BBQ Chicken with Grilled Egg Plant and Zucchini

BBQ Chicken with Grilled Egg Plant and Zucchini
I prepared the egg plant and zucchini with olive oil, Italian seasoning and ground black pepper.

3 August 2011

Posted by Frank Garofalo | Topic: User Experience

User-Centered Project Management

First of all, I don't consider myself a project manager. However, I decided to make a blog post that combines typical project management life cycles with common user-centered design methods.

Making use of these UCD Methods earlier in a project can help to uncover potential issues while still at the "blueprint stage" instead of finding potential issues during the "construction stage" (In other words, it's easier to add a door to a wall with a pencil and eraser while its on the drafting table, rather than once the wall has been built at the construction site).

  • Initiation
    • UX Storyboarding
    • Prototyping
    • Heuristic Evaluation
    • Card Sorting
  • Planning or development
    • UX Storyboarding
    • Prototyping
    • Usability Testing
    • Heuristic Evaluation
    • Card Sorting
    • Surveys
    • Focus Groups
    • Field Studies
  • Production or execution
    • Prototyping
    • Usability Testing
    • Heuristic Evaluation
  • Monitoring and controlling
    • n/a
  • Closing
    • Usability Testing
    • Heuristic Evaluation
    • Surveys
    • Focus Groups
    • Field Studies
    • Server Analysis
    • Search Analysis
3 August 2011

Posted by Frank Garofalo | Topic: User Experience

Usability Testing = User Acceptance Testing, right?

I've commonly found that those outside the disciplines of UCD/UX occasionally confuse "usability testing" and "user acceptance testing." Below are the Wikipedia definitions for both:

"Usability Testing is a technique used to evaluate a product by testing it on users. This can be seen as an irreplaceable usability practice, since it gives direct input on how real users use the system.1 This is in contrast with usability inspection methods where experts use different methods to evaluate a user interface without involving users. Usability testing focuses on measuring a human-made product's capacity to meet its intended purpose." Source

"User Acceptance Testing (UAT) is a process to obtain confirmation that a system meets mutually agreed-upon requirements. A Subject Matter Expert (SME), preferably the owner or client of the object under test, provides such confirmation after trial or review. In software development, UAT is one of the final stages of a project and often occurs before a client or customer accepts the new system." Source.

In my opinion, there are two primary differences between these two processes. First, Usability Testing involves an expert facilitating actual end-users performing specific tasks with a system / application. Where as User Acceptance Testing involves a trial / review conducted by a subject-matter expert. Second, User Acceptance Testing typically occurs near the conclusion of a project. On the other hand, Usability Testing should occur as early as possible in a project. This can include performing a usability test on a paper prototype ("mock-up") and/or interactive prototype. However, Usability Testing can be conducted at any stage of a project, even after a project has concluded. In some of these instances, a usability test can be used to compare two versions of a system / application.

The intention of this post is not to down-play User Acceptance Testing. There is a very specific purpose of User Acceptance Testing. Rather the goal is to highlight the differences between these processes.

3 August 2011

Posted by Frank Garofalo | Topic: Cooking with a UX Architect

Grilled Red Snapper

Grilled Red Snapper with a balsamic-vinaigrette spinach salad (topped with water chestnuts, dried cranberries, Italian squash, & feta cheese).


31 July 2011

Posted by Frank Garofalo | Topic: Cooking with a UX Architect

Italian Sausage & Pepper Wrap

Instead of using hoggie rolls for this Italian dish, I used tortillas. In a way it was an Italian fajita.

31 July 2011

Posted by Frank Garofalo | Topic: Cooking with a UX Architect

Egg Wrap

I've decided to embrace some of the Southwest cuisine incorporate it into some of my favorite recipes. This particular one was delicious.


I cooked some scrambled eggs with pepperoni and black olives. With the wrap I added some marinara sauce and some mozzarella cheese.

31 July 2011

Posted by Frank Garofalo | Topic: Travel

SoCal - California after 1 month

Well, it has almost been 1 month since I moved to California and started working at Esri (www.esri.com), and I realized I should post an update regarding my SoCal adventures...

Friday, 15 July 2011
Traveled to Marina Del Ray (wikipedia article) for a party to celebrate Andrew Britton's 1 year in California - after finishing grad school. It was great to see Andrew. Also, the party was on a boat!

Friday, 22 July 2011
Traveled to Hermosa Beach (wikipedia article) to visit my cousin Lynn and her family (husband Hamish and two children). I had a blast visiting them. We built a sandcastle at the beach.

Saturday, 30 July 2011
Traveled to Riverside (wikipedia article) to explore their downtown area. I visited the historic Mission Inn (wikipedia article).

26 July 2011

Posted by Frank Garofalo | Topic: User Experience

ROI of Usability

The other day I took a look at Jakob Nielsen's Alertbox article from July 18th 2011, entitled "Intranet Portals: Personalization Hot, Mobile Weak, Governance Essential." The overall article was very interesting and I've come across some of the UI/UX issues when implementing personalization capabilities into a system.

However, one paragraph of the article especially stood out to me. For quite some time now I've been looking for a way to justify usability improvements through a financial context. Now, thanks to Jakob, I can reference his article and the ROI for Usability formula.

Nielsen describes the formula as "the annualized value of a design improvement that saves t minutes in time-on task." In other words, by reducing the time end-users (such as employees) spend on a task can save an organization money through increased productivity and efficiency.

  • t = minutes descreased completing a specific task
  • e = number of end-users who perform this task
  • n = number of times per year a typical end-user performs the task
  • s = average end-user salary / compensation per minute

Now multiply: t x e x n x s = Dollar amount in potential savings through usability improvements.

For example:

  • t = 10 minutes descreased completing a specific task
  • e = 1500 end-users who perform this task
  • n = 520 times per year a typical end-user performs the task (10 times per week)
  • s = $0.401 average end-user salary / compensation per minute (based on avg salary of $50k and 40-hr work week)

Calculate: 10 x 1500 x 520 x $0.401 = $3,125,00.00 in potential savings through usability improvements.

11 July 2011

Posted by Frank Garofalo | Topic: Miscellaneous

ArcGIS & Esri User Conference - Day 1

Today I watched the live feed of the opening sessions for the Esri International User Conference 2011. I was impressed with the announcements and demos of new innovative software being produced by the company I just joined. Some of these announcements and demos include:

  • Intelligent Web Maps for ArcGIS Online
  • Web Map Presentations
  • Integration with MS SharePoint
  • ArcGIS configurable interfaces for organizations
  • Managed Services - Map Hosting, Caching, and Image Processing

For more details read the official announcement: What's New? July 2011 or watch the videos at http://www.esri.com/events/user-conference/agenda/plenary-videos.html.

There were also several exciting demos...

For more details about the Esri International User Conference 2011, visit: http://www.esri.com/events/user-conference/

The postings on this site are my own and don’t necessarily represent Esri’s positions, strategies or opinions.

7 July 2011

Posted by Frank Garofalo | Topic: Miscellaneous

Thank you to Michael Gaigg for the welcome to ESRI

I would like to thank Michael Gaigg, my manager at Esri, for the warm welcome to the company and to Southern California.

His blog post: Welcoming Frank Garofalo to our UI Design Team

20 June 2011

Posted by Frank Garofalo | Topic: Miscellaneous

New Chapter - "Recalculating"

ESRII'm heading out to California over the 4th of July holiday weekend, to start a new chapter - my employment with ESRI (www.esri.com) where I will be a UI Engineer.

5 June 2011

Posted by Frank Garofalo | Topic: Cooking with a UX Architect

Shrimp Scampi with Pasta & Steamed Veggies


Shrimp scampi with pasta and steamed vegetables, accompanied by a glass of 2007 Kokomo Wines Pinot Noir.


The shrimp were sauteed in olive oil, butter, garlic cloves, and Italian seasoning.
12 May 2011

Posted by Frank Garofalo | Topic: User Experience

UX Specs - Capturing What You’re Not Implementing

UPDATE: A version of this article by Frank was published in an online industry magazine, UX Magazine. Read the article at: http://uxmag.com/strategy/capturing-what-youre-not-implementing



The UX process is usually a creative, exploratory process as you and your fellow project team members go through brainstorming sessions. When iterating through the process, a variety of artifacts are typically created. As ideas and concepts are eliminated from a project, don’t discard those ideas or the related artifacts archive them instead. By archiving the various artifacts of each project, the ideas and concepts generated throughout the life of the project are not discarded and lost. The ideas can be retained and potentially reevaluated for use in future projects or as a starting point for further ideation in future projects.

Early in a project, you and your team may start to exchange concepts through dry-erase board sketches and paper sketches. Capture those ideas and retain them as digital artifacts by taking digital pictures of the board sketches and making scans of the paper sketches. This also applies to any other artifact generated throughout the entire process that is not originally in a digital format.

Most organizations have a method for documenting the UX specifications for a project. These documentation methods usually focus on what is to be included in the project. As you and your team continue to iterate on the specifications through the life of the project, some ideas will be removed. For example, an entire use-case description might be determined to not be significant enough to be accounted for in the project, so the concepts related to that use-case are “scoped out” of the project. However, don’t discard the related artifacts that have been already generated. Those ideas, though not implemented in the current project, could be a viable solution for another future project.

Although, what is included can be equally as important as what has been considered and determine to not be included in the project. This documentation can be useful, perhaps as an appendix to the UX specifications, to highlight decisions made during the UX process with a brief description as to why it was not included in the project. If someone later asks why a design was made in a particular manner, you will have documentation to reference regarding the other concepts considered and the reasoning behind the decision made.

An excellent tool for archiving these artifacts is a wiki (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Wiki). Most wikis maintain a change log for content, and also have tagging and searching capabilities. Each artifact can be associated with the specific project within the wiki as well as tagged with common terminology across all projects. Digital scans of sketches and other documents can be tagged with, for example the project name as well as a “scoped-out” tag (certainly other tags could be created as well). These tags can then be used in searches within the wiki. This archiving process effectively generates a Knowledge Management Repository (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Knowledge_management) of both concepts used in projects and concepts eliminated from projects.

From the lens of Knowledge Management, this method of capturing what has and may have not been implemented offers an organization the ability to collect the ideas, concepts, and knowledge of their employees into an organized format.

11 May 2011

Posted by Frank Garofalo | Topic: User Experience

UX: Don’t Hate, Participate

Yesterday I read an article on the UX Magazine web site by Stephanie Arnold, Executive Director of User Experience Design at AT&T Interactive, titled, "UX: Don't Hate, Participate." Arnold shares her thoughts on how she has strived to establish relationships across different teams within AT&T Interactive. Several of the methods she describes also reflects several methods also promoted and recommended by presenters at SXSWi 2011 - including Steve Krug, author of "Don’t Make Me Think" and "Rocket Surgery Made Easy."

Arnold starts off by describing the importance of establishing strong, trusting relationships between the UX team and other teams within the organization. She states “other teams will trust and depend on your team more when they understand your process and feel like they are participating.” This is an important aspect of the relationships between the teams. When members of the various cross-functional teams feel like they have contributed towards the end result of a project, plus receive credit for their contributions, then trust can begin to be built among the team members. She also highlights that including members of "other teams into the UX process allows you to ensure that your designs are built and reviewed with different lenses and perspectives."

She pin points three primary cross-functional teams, in addition to UX: the executives, the product team, and the developers.

The Executives

  • Usually have time/bandwidth constraints, so keep them involved at a high-level but don’t burden them with too many in-depth details.
  • Provide updates that reflect results and returns for the organization.
  • Data for a creative process can be provided through Usability Testing results. Arnold states: "We invite the entire executive team to weekly usability sessions… after the session are run, I share our high-level findings in a weekly readout, further, twice a month we review our most recent design comps with the CEO..."
    • One key item to point out, which I as well as other UX professionals agree with, is the method of conducting weekly user testing sessions and, as Steve Krug says, "make it a spectator sport" - get key stakeholders of the project to attend the sessions.
  • Arnold's summary for The Executives: "The trick with this group is to use their time efficiently. Get to the point. Show them data. Don’t inundate with details, but show progress. And definitely find a way to keep them informed and interested."

The Product Team

  • These are the individuals usually in the trenches along side of you.
  • Build constructive participation from the product team into your UX design & research process through constant communication.
  • When starting a new project, hold kick-off meetings with the product team.
  • When brainstorming and iterating through ideas, wireframes and design comps - invite the product team to join in the discussions.
  • If a strong relationship can be established between the UX team and the product team, and members of both teams are comfortable with meeting informally to collaborate, then the need for formal, scheduled meetings may be able to decrease.
  • Invite and insist that the product team attends usability testing sessions. Furthermore, invite them to actively participate in the planning process for the usability testing to determine what is actually tested.
  • Invite them to participate in the testing debriefs to review the results of usability testing and make recommended action items.
  • Through all the active participation, product teams are able to observe firsthand the reasoning behind decisions made by the UX team to further fine-tune their product.
  • Arnold's summary for The Product Team: "Communicate regularly. Establish collaborative relationships. Invite them to take part in brainstorming. Give them a peek into what has motivated your design decisions (usability, outside research, competitive research, etc.). Treat them as a partner in UX, and not as an outside threat."

The Developers

  • Just as with the product team, the relationship between the UX team and the development team is "most successful with a lot of communication and collaboration."
  • "Usability testing is valuable to the developers… it is one of the only times they are able to get insight into end users, and it allows them to see the product through a completely different lens than they are used to." The can see both the success of testing participants using the product as well as the issues where participants come across challenges and issues.
  • Invite them to attend the usability testing sessions, as well as the post-testing debriefs (same as with the product team).
  • Invite developers to brainstorming sessions (especially early in the process) and reviews of UX deliverables - this provides another perspective on the product design. By "involving them early in discussions allows you to explore new ideas as well as get a reading on the viability of your UX solutions." I would take Arnold’s statement a step further and say not only the viability of the UX solutions but also a timeline to have the potential solutions included into a release cycle for implementation.
  • Arnold’s summary for The Developers: "Communication. Show and tell. Collaboration and brainstorming. Involve them early and utilize them as a sounding board for potential ideas and solutions."

Arnold goes on to discuss the common threads that runs throughout each of the teams.

  • "Hone in on the language that each team speaks when they view UX."
  • Determine which UX deliverables are most important to each team - research results, wireframes, comps, etc.
  • "Usability testing is invaluable for cross-collaboration. Urge participation from any and all groups ...to fully appreciate the value that usability testing brings to the organization, it is imperative to watch it firsthand."
    • I couldn't agree more with Arnold's statement. Anyone and everyone involved with the project should make all possible attempts to attend usability testing for that project. Seeing challenges users may experience firsthand is more valuable than being told about the challenges. Plus, when the user has a positive experience, as Arnold suggests earlier in the article, provides a sense of accomplishment to the project members.
  • Overall the most important aspect of all of this, as Arnold concludes her article with, is relationship building. Collaborate with all the project members and strive to institute an environment of constructive participation where ideas, suggestions, and critiques can be freely shared. Work towards having all the project members feel like they have contributed to the project's design to hopefully generate buy-in for the solution from all involved.

Read Stephanie Arnold's full article on UX Magazine at: http://www.uxmag.com/strategy/ux-dont-hate-participate

10 May 2011

Posted by Frank Garofalo | Topic: User Experience

Communication with Cross-Functional Teams

As a user experience architect you typically find yourself working with other teams, such as executives, product managers, designers, content writers, and developers - just to name a few.

Today my father sent me a picture that, I think, illustrates a metaphor for how the user experience can be negatively be effected when communication between cross-functional teams fails.

The development team in a hypothetical organization is told that for a sign they need to build a horizontal arrow.

The content writers are told that the sign needs to have a description telling the user to turn.




If quality communication between the teams doesn't occur, the user experience can suffer - especially if conflicting information is communicated to the user.

Furthermore, if this had gone through a round of user testing, hopefully challenges to the user could be discovered and acted upon.

Now I know this is a very simple, and silly, example, but unfortunately communications break down between teams too frequently.
26 April 2011

Posted by Frank Garofalo | Topic: Cooking with a UX Architect

Grilled Pork with Sauteed Red Potatoes and Onion

Marinated Pork in a sesame ginger glaze, then grilled. Added some salt, pepper and brown sugar while grilling. Sauteed some chopped red potatoes and sweet onion in a frying pan with olive oil, Italian seasoning, and brown sugar.

Complimented with a glass of Kokomo Winery 2006 Cabernet Sauvignon.


22 April 2011

Posted by Frank Garofalo | Topic: Cooking with a UX Architect

Tomatoes and Mozzarella with Balsamic

This is the perfect fresh and light snack.

Ingredients
  • Fresh tomato
  • Mozzarella
  • Fresh basil
  • Balsamic vinegar
  • Italian seasonings

When I took the picture, I had forgotten the fresh basil and after already eating a few...

12 April 2011

Posted by Frank Garofalo | Topic: User Experience

Animated Tribute to UX Design by Lyle Alzaldo

"AN ANIMATED TRIBUTE TO UX DESIGN" by Lyle Alzaldo
30 March 2011

Posted by Frank Garofalo | Topic: User Experience

UX R&D

A concept that I started thinking about today I'm calling "UX R&D." The principle behind that concept comes from the notion that user experience really is a "research and development" process. Some of the inspiration behind this concept came from Jeff Gothelf's presentation called "Lean UX" at the SXSW Interactive 2011 conference. I agree with Jeff's "Lean UX" concept, as I further share details of his presentation on another blog post.

In Jeff's concept of "Lean UX," he defines it as "Inspired by Lean Startup and Agile development theories, it's the practice of bringing the true nature of our work to light faster, with less emphasis on deliverables and greater focus on the actual experience being designed." Jeff emphasizes "true nature" and "actual experience" - he states that these are really the same thing, the true nature of the work done by a UX professional is trying to determine the actual experience.

With this "true nature" to determine the "actual experience" is very much a research and development process. The order of the words need to play the childhood game of leap frog and constantly swap order, as this is an iterative process to determine the actual experience. To expand on Jeff's Lean UX process here are some thoughts on a UX R&D process:
  1. Concept - research the actual problem of the customer, research how your solution will have the vision to solve the customers' problems,
  2. Prototype - develop wire frames, develop paper prototypes, develop coded/functional prototypes
  3. Validate Internally - research by talking to stakeholders, managers, dev team members, business analysts
    • User Testing
  4. Text Externally- research by testing individuals outside your organization
    • User Testing
  5. Learn from user behavior to develop improvements to the concept
  6. Iterate - for the same project, repeat the process
I would like to hear your thoughts, contact me on Twitter: @fgarofalo Hash tag: #UXRD and Jeff Gothelf's hash tag for Lean UX is: #LeanUX
22 March 2011

Posted by Frank Garofalo | Topic: User Experience

Lean UX: Getting Out of the Deliverables Business

Jeff Gothelf, Dir of User Experience at TheLadders, gave a presentation at the SXSW 2011 Interactive conference. Details of his presentation are at: http://schedule.sxsw.com/events/event_IAP5362 and his presentation slides are available at: http://www.slideshare.net/jgothelf/lean-ux-getting-out-of-the-deliverables-business

Jeff defines "Lean UX" as: "Inspired by Lean Startup and Agile development theories, it's the practice of bringing the true nature of our work to light faster, with less emphasis on deliverables and greater focus on the actual experience being designed." Jeff emphasizes "true nature" and "actual experience" - he states that these are really the same thing, the true nature of the work done by a UX professional is trying to determine the actual experience.

The Lean UX process:

  1. Concept
  2. Prototype (wireframes, paper, coded, etc.)
  3. Validate Internally - talk to stakeholders, managers, dev team, business analysis
    • User Testing
  4. Text Externally
    • User Testing
  5. Learn from user behavior
  6. Iterate

Get to the "just good enough" phase quickly and iterate on it. Post your concepts, wireframes, sketches in public where people can see it to get feedback.


This diagram depicts the benefits feedback can provide to help achieve meeting the objectives of a project. (Image Source)

Lean UX is not...

  • Lazy - "...the best part ...is that the team is doing a xxxx-ton of UX. They document a ton of stuff explicitly on the walls and implicitly in shared understanding among team members." ~Austin Govella
  • The only thing being removed is waste.
  • This is NOT design-by-committee.

Lean UX is...

  • Control - don't need "The Spec" to keep control; "Keeper of the Vision" to show work early and show work often
  • Momentum - Everyone's engaged, Everyone's motivated.
  • Quality - don't compromise; "Speed first. Aethetics second." ~Jason Fried, 37Signals.com; Iteration means quality continually improves.
  • Feasibility - make sure it can be built (and built well); talk to the developers regularly and frequently; prototyping - focus on the core flow to focus on what the customer needs and what the business needs; validate it with your customers and demo it to your team; the prototype becomes the documentation (to minimize additional documentation)
  • Test Often, Test Frequently, Test Cheaply - show the prototype to your customers; schedule regular user testing sessions with about 3 people each week - keep it light and cheap; show them a sketch on a napkin, a prototype, etc.
  • Fill in the Gaps - What did you not think about? The more you talk about it the more you get critiqued to realize what is missing from the experience. Iterate forward.


This document shows the different interpretations of information, however through having visual sketches and wire-frames drafted, shared, and iterated can help to reduce miss communications. (Image Source)

Jeff goes on to describe how this model can be accomplished...

Internal software/web design shop:
"You are in the problem-solving business and you don't solve problems with design documentation. You solve them with elegant, efficient and sophisticated software.

External agencies:
Agencies are in the deliverables business.

Collaborative Sketching:
Get members of cross-functional teams to sketch together

  • Design studios
  • Cross-functional team, get everyone involved early
  • Everybody draws, presents and critques
  • Refine ideas through 3 rounds
  • Generate tons of raw ideas
  • Huge head-start for UX
  • Early team-wide alignment
  • Team-wide feeling of ownership & buy-in

Lean UX is a team-based model - having transparency, building trust. Designers may be the largest obstacle. This is not a revolutionary concept, it's an evolution. Get back to the experience design business and out of the deliverables business.

21 March 2011

Posted by Frank Garofalo | Topic: Cooking with a UX Architect

Grilled Teriyaki Pork with Steamed Fresh Veggies


Marinated a pork chop in Teriyaki sauce. Cooked on a grill for 6 minutes.
Steamed Fresh Vegetables for 4 minutes (added balsamic vinegar, olive oil, and Italian seasoning on top)
11 March 2011

Posted by Frank Garofalo | Topic: User Experience

SXSW: Talk from Marissa Mayer, Google

I attended a presentation from Google's Marissa Mayer on Fri, March 11. She showcased several new features / products / services / projects from Google - most of which are focused on location-based technologies especially for mobile. Here are a few:

  • Vector-based maps for Google Maps for Mobile
  • Traffic Avoidances for Google Navigation
  • Google Places "Hotpot"
  • Google Art Project
  • New Augmented Reality
  • Contextual Discovery
  • Combining data captured from location, calendar, weather, etc.
4 March 2011

Posted by Frank Garofalo | Topic: User Experience

South-by-Southwest 2011

SxSW 2011

Next Thursday I will be traveling to attend SxSW 2011 - Interactive. This is my first time to attend this conference and I'm looking forward to it. Throughout the conference will be posting to this blog and on Twitter (@fgarofalo). If you're going to SxSW, send me a tweet.

26 February 2011

Posted by Frank Garofalo | Topic: Cooking with a UX Architect

Alfredo Pasta with Coconut Rum Scallops


Alfredo pasta with coconut rum sauteed scallops.

Total Cooking Time Estimate: 10 minutes

I sauteed the scallops in: coconut rum, olive oil, garlic power, Italian seasoning, butter, and salt & pepper.

7 February 2011

Posted by Frank Garofalo | Topic: User Experience

Quote about Iteration and Understanding

Quote from Aza Raskin: "You are iterating your solution as well as your understanding of the problem." In other words, through each iteration of a concept and a prototype you are able to better understand the challenge you are trying to solve.

Related Blog Post: How to Prototype and Influence People

2 February 2011

Posted by Frank Garofalo | Topic: RIAs

Google Unveils Android Honeycomb

Google has announced the latest verion of Android: Android 3.0 "Honeycomb" which is intended for tablet devices. Read more on Mashable

They also announced the new Android Market (market.android.com). According to Ben Parr's post on Mashable, "you buy the app, your phone/tablet automatically gets a notification and starts downloading the app. No wires, all cloud."

29 January 2011

Posted by Frank Garofalo | Topic: Cooking with a UX Architect

Red Wine Sloppy Joes with Cranberries


Red Wine Sloppy Joes with Cranberries on toasted Italian bread with a glass of Kokomo Cabernet Sauvignon
29 January 2011

Posted by Frank Garofalo | Topic: Cooking with a UX Architect

English Muffin Pizzas

Before:


Ingredients:
English Muffins
Tomato Sauce
Cheese (whichever your cheese of choice is)

After (about 10 minutes in the oven at 200deg):

24 January 2011

Posted by Frank Garofalo | Topic: Cooking with a UX Architect

Pesto Lobster Ravioli



Lobster Ravioli with Pesto Sauce and a glass of Cuvee red wine from Kokomo Winery.
23 January 2011

Posted by Frank Garofalo | Topic: Cooking with a UX Architect

Homemade Macaroni & Cheese

  • Egg noodles
  • Kraft Velveeta Cheese

Certainly better than the powered cheese stuff!

20 January 2011

Posted by Frank Garofalo | Topic: Cooking with a UX Architect

Chicken Salad w/ cranberries and olives


Chicken Salad with cranberries and black olives on toasted English Muffins
16 January 2011

Posted by Frank Garofalo | Topic: Cooking with a UX Architect

Red Wine Gourmet Hamburgers


The Before: I marinated ground beef in red wine over night. Added in some Italian seasoning, salt, & pepper.


The After: Cooked on my George Foreman grill for 9 minutes and a side of mash potatoes. Delicious!
16 January 2011

Posted by Frank Garofalo | Topic: Cooking with a UX Architect

Tequilla Marinated Scallops

13 January 2011

Posted by Frank Garofalo | Topic: User Experience

Provide Confirmation Messages to the User

A system, regardless of being desktop-based or web-based, needs to always provide the user with a sense of what the system is doing. Here are some example scenarios:

Example 1
If the system is loading information and the user needs to wait for that information to be loaded, provide a progress bar of the percentage complete. Providing a numerical or visual indication of the amount completed is better than just an arbitrary animation.

Example 2
If the device just changed data such as added data, updated data, or deleted data, inform the user that it was successfully completed.

These concepts follow the six design rules from "The Design of Future Things" by Donald Norman:

  • Provide rich, complex and natural signals
  • Be predictable
  • Provide a good conceptual model
  • Make the output understandable
  • Provide continual awareness, without annoyance
  • Explicit natural mappings to make interaction understandable and effective
11 January 2011

Posted by Frank Garofalo | Topic: User Experience

Give Survey Participants a Progress Indicator

This article is a combination of user testing and user experience. I don’t mind filling out surveys for companies wanting feedback. Being in the user experience industry and knowing the value of customer feedback, I’m willing to share my opinion. However, all too often when I’m completing a web-based survey an indication of my progress in the survey is not provided. This lack of information is an extremely frustrating experience. At times, I’ve exited out of a survey after completing page 10 of a survey and not knowing how many more pages exist.

To solve this issue, communicate to the user with an indication of where they are in the process of completing the survey. This can be accomplished in a variety of formats, such as:

  • Dot Indicators

  • Progress Bar

  • Numerical / Percentages
    Simply state either “Page 3 of 10” or “30% Completed”

These methods are easy to implement, from both a design perspective as well as a development perspective. To the user, this provides a sense of location of where they are in the process. If you are concerned with providing this information because of the length of your survey, then you may need to re-address your survey content.

8 January 2011

Posted by Frank Garofalo | Topic: Cooking with a UX Architect

Black Olive Alfredo Pasta with Artichoke Hearts



Tonight I cooked egg noodles with Alfredo sauce. I decided to mix things up a bit, so I added in black olives and some Feta cheese. Also, on the side I added artichoke hearts.

Oh yes, and don't forget the glass of 2007 Cuvee red wine from Kokomo Winery.
7 January 2011

Posted by Frank Garofalo | Topic: User Experience

Why Your Form Buttons Should Never Say Submit

A friend of mine and fellow web developer, David Auble (Twitter: @dauble), shared with me an article he found on UXMovement.com titled "Why Your Form Buttons Should Never Say Submit."

This article discusses how an interface appears more friendly to a user when the terminology labeling a button is more related to the action that occurs as part of the user's task instead of labeling the button simply as "Submit."

I've been trying to do this more as I've been building interfaces.

Read the article at: http://uxmovement.com/forms/why-your-form-buttons-should-never-say-submit

6 January 2011

Posted by Frank Garofalo | Topic: User Experience

Treating Users as Customers: Designing the end-to-end

"Treating Users as Customers: Designing the end-to-end" (what a brilliant concept), is the title of an article by Steve Workman, a consultant at PA Consulting Group in London, UK. Workman begins his article with a discussion about how for web designers it is easy to divide elements of the user interface and/or the user experience into small parts. He states: "Breaking an experience into small parts allows the details to be worked through and perfected." This is true. However, only looking at the situation with a magnifying glass can miss details seen at the big picture level, as Workman describes: "It's rare that web designers think of the bigger picture - not just the end-to-end journey of a user, but the entirety of a customer's experience." The full span of the customer experience can take numerous weeks to occur, or "it can be as immediate as someone being told about an app, downloading it, playing with it for five minutes, and leaving a review." I strongly agree with Workman's point of: "...the need for designers to think big in order to deliver customer experience has never been so important."

The path a customer takes to arrive to your user interface can greatly affect the expectations they will have of your interface/system. Workman breaks these path/expectation combinations into three categories, to quote:

  • Search gives the lowest expectation because relatively little information is contained within search results.
  • Advertising often paints a rosy picture of products or services so expectations are higher.
  • Social networks produce the most realistic expectations, as this is the only channel where both negative information and independent praise can be found.

Trying to match what a customer is expecting with methods to develop the interface/system to meet those expectations, UX professionals usually turn to generating use cases. Workman states:

Many designers simply view this touchpoint as a single use case, and attempt to group people into buckets to predict what they will do. If customers expect more than a use case can describe, it is entirely possible that they won't be happy with a product or service - their expectations won’t be met.

With the increased number of web sites and mobile apps available on the web, customers' standards for customer support have also increased. I agree with Workman's thoughts on this:

A few years ago, a frustrated customer would simply sigh and give up on a difficult product, or try to accomplish the same thing using another service. More recently, though, people have been treating web sites and "garage-made" apps as if they were products from multi-national corporations, expecting the same level of service from a one-man band as they would get from their electric company.

This is now presenting one-man bands as well as companies of all sizes with several new challenges; "...expectations for support are also going up, often faster than the companies can keep up with," says Workman. He goes on to make the observation, which I agree with, of "...many companies, both large and small, are not providing the same quality of customer service that they provide for their core services as for their mobile apps... they make the mistake of assuming their application is good enough and their customers are technically savvy, so they don’t have to put much effort into customer support."

Looking at the big picture there are several actions that can be taken to improve the full experience of interacting with a company. Workman describes this as:

The customer's experience must be considered at all stages of UX design; the big picture should always affect in the design of the small picture, as each touchpoint in the ecosystem is crafted. Marketing teams must be involved in designing the customer experience, so that the holistic experience of using a service or interacting with a company conveys the right message every time.

Once again, the discussion leads towards collaboration with user experience, information technology, marketing, operations, and customer support. Customers today are expecting an open dialogue with a company to resolve any issues they may encounter. Not only are customer support departments being called upon to help resolve these issues quickly, but information about the issues need to be communicated efficiently to the other departments within the company so that the company can learn from these issues and better respond to the customers' needs thus moving towards the continual goal of providing the best experiences.

I'll wrap up this post with the last paragraph from Workman, which ties the idea together very well:

Thinking of the customer experience, rather than just the user experience, leads to a more complete product, one where customers’ expectations are met before, during, and after their journeys. Thinking of the big picture leads to happier customers, not just happier users.

Read Steve Workman's full article on UX Magazine at: http://uxmag.com/strategy/treating-users-as-customers

3 January 2011

Posted by Frank Garofalo | Topic: User Experience

I'm a User, I'll Improvise

This past weekend I had the opportunity to see Disney's TRON: Legacy movie (http://disney.com/tron/). The storyline overall was good, however two quotes from the movie stood out to me (and even made me laugh):

  • "I'm a user, I'll improvise" ~Sam Flynn (Garrett Hedlund)
  • "I fight for the user" ~ Tron (Bruce Boxleitner)

The first quote (as is the title of this blog post) especially stood out to me. As I've mentioned in other blog posts, one most recently "Information Architecture," users will come up with their own use cases for a product or a system. Just because a designer, developer, or UX professional planned for a product or system to be used in a particular manner, doesn't mean that once in the hands of the end-user, that is how they will actually use the system.

What does this mean to a UX professional...

  • Plan for the unexpected
  • Give users options instead of making decisions for them
  • Collect data / feedback whenever possible about how they are using the system to better understand the end-user
3 January 2011

Posted by Frank Garofalo | Topic: User Experience

Making User & Customer Experience a Business Competency

Harley Manning, Vice President Research Director for Customer Experience at Forrester Research, sat down with UX Magazine for an interview regarding "Making User & Customer Experience a Business Competency" found the thoughts Manning shared to be very interesting and quite accurate.

Manning defines customer experience (CX) as "the perception that customers have of their interactions with your organization." In comparison to user experience, customer experience is the perception of the interaction your customers have with your organization from start to finish (product packaging, advertisements, customer support call centers, products, services, web site, etc.); whereas, user experience is the perception of the interaction your customers have with an interface your organization is associated with (such as a web site or a software device). According to Manning, companies are starting to see that marketing, IT, business, customer support and design are not separate silos on an organizational chart but rather are interconnected in the eyes of the customer.

When assisting a current customer to resolve an issue, it is one thing to determine what happened to cause the issue. However, to dive in deeper it is another thing to ask how the customer perceived what happened. This is where underlying details can be captured about the customer’s opinion of not just their user experience, but rather their thoughts on your company’s brand as a whole.

Watch and read Harley Manning’s full interview (and transcript) with UX Magazine at: http://uxmag.com/strategy/making-user-and-customer-experience-a-business-competency

29 December 2010

Posted by Frank Garofalo | Topic: Miscellaneous

JigarWines.com goes live with HTML5 & CSS3

Today the new web presence for Jigar Wines was launched: www.jigarwines.com This site is a new landmark for Cyber View - the site was built with HTML5 and CSS3. One of the new capabilities of these relatively new technologies allows for a web site to recognize the screen size / resolution and re-adjust appropriately for that specific device.



For example, the site will determine the best display for a smart-phone, desktop computer, tablet, or web-enabled television. Additionally, the Jigar Wines site is powered by our content management system, CyberStudio Version 5.
29 December 2010

Posted by Frank Garofalo | Topic: Miscellaneous

7 Rules to Understand Design & Designers

Now I consider myself to be a hybrid designer and developer... the other day I saw a poster called the "7 Rules to Understand Design & Designers" (http://www.harmonie-interieure.com/home.htm) and I really enjoyed it.

  1. Designers are meant to be loved, not to be understood.
  2. The purpose of design is to make the ordinary extraordinary
  3. The best designers are the ones who find the good clients
  4. Designer must seduce, shape, & more importantly, evoke an emotional response
  5. Good design can be planned but great design just happens
  6. Design the right things, design the things right
  7. Imagination is more important than knowledge
28 December 2010

Posted by Frank Garofalo | Topic: Miscellaneous

Rules

I've been watching too much NCIS (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/NCIS_(TV_series))... I'm starting to develop my own list of rules:

  • Rule #1 - Make products/services that don't suck!
  • Rule #2 - Give credit where credit is due!
  • Rule #3 - Always be prepared (esp. for meetings)
  • Rule #4 - Expect the unexpected
  • Rule #5 - Ask "Why?"
  • Rule #6 - Pay attention to details
  • Rule #7 - Do what you love and love what you do
  • Rule #8 - Be observant
  • Rule #9 - Live in the here & now
  • Rule #10 - Seek clarification
28 December 2010

Posted by Frank Garofalo | Topic: User Experience

Information Architecture

Introduction
Planning, designing, developing and building the user interface for a system has a plethora of parallels to constructing a house. Just as an architect for a house needs to plan the structural support for the house as well as the aesthetic design of the house, the same applies to planning the user interface for a system. Planning must occur for the functional development of the system, as well as for the aesthetic design of the system. But it isn't just that simple. There are business and consumer needs which factor into the equation, so the architect has to work within the threshold of the construction company's needs as well as meeting what the new home owner will want. Again, parallels exist from an architect for a house to planning a user interface. Considerations for the user interface need to be made for the business needs as well as the needs of the consumers. Overall, throughout the process there is a concept lying in the center trying to find this balance; that concept is called "information architecture."

The two primary items on either side of the balancing act for information architecture are 1) creative design, and 2) functionality / interaction. The other smaller players in the game at varying levels can typically include, but are not limited to: marketing, software, engineering, language translations, copy writing, and upper-management.

Planning for Information Architecture
When building a house, there are usually blueprints, material lists, schedules/timelines, and budgets. The same documents need to be generated when building an interface. Each of these documents are very important to have listed and detailed. This allows the key stakeholders for the project, in addition to the individuals actually working on the project, to know exactly what needs to occur. Sounds like another field is involved here… called project management. However, for this discussion I'm not going to focus on project management in relation to user experience and/or information architecture. Let’s further dive into the process of drafting blueprints in regard to information architecture. To quote renowned architect Frank Lloyd Wright, "You can use an eraser on the drafting table or a sledge hammer on the construction site." Planning and concept development are essential, or perhaps you need to invest in a large quantity of sledge hammers (which from another aspect could result in a low morale among workers since now they are tearing apart what they just built).

User Experience vs Information Architecture
The two concepts of user experience and information architecture go hand-in-hand. However, if a "high-level" of one exists, that doesn't automatically mean that a "high-level" of the other will exist. I think Oliver Reichenstein, co-owner and manager of Information Architects (MA Philosophy; former senior brand consultant at Interbrand), describes this well in his following quote: "Architects design houses that lead to a spectrum of experiences, some foreseen, some not. But they do not design all possible experiences one can have in a house." In other words, an extravagant house can be designed and constructed; however, just because the architect designed for a room to be the dining room, the home owner could place a billiards table in that space instead of a dining room table.

The same is true for user interfaces. A quality interface can be produced with excellent information architecture, however all the possible use cases that could occur when in the hands of a consumer are almost impossible to conjure up. Yes, I'm stating that in my opinion, even a leading user experience expert would be challenged to account for all possible use cases for a given product or system. Although, through user testing and observing individuals, better use cases can be generated. To further explain, just because a team of designers and developers define a list of use cases, this does not mean that the consumer will use the system exactly as the use cases had described. This introduces a whole other topic where I've observed numerous occurrences of users essentially forming "hacked" methods of using an interface or system to achieve what they want the system to really be able to do in comparison to what the designers and developers plan with the use cases.

Recap
During the blueprint phase of planning, designing, developing, creating, and/or building a user interface, try to work out as many ideas and issues as possible. Build prototypes to test the concept and observe people interacting with the prototype. This is a cyclical, iterative process… make changes with a "pencil" and try to reduce/avoid the need for a "sledge hammer."

Find a balancing between what is visually pleasing on the screen and what is a natural interaction… in other words a middle ground between creative design and functionality / interaction with the goal to achieve a strong information architecture.

24 December 2010

Posted by Frank Garofalo | Topic: Miscellaneous

Mastering resilience is the key to survival

My parents shared a column with me that they saw in a December 5th 2010 edition of the Courier Journal. The column, entitled "Mastering resilience is the key to survival" is by New York Times best selling author and business executive, Harvey Mackay.

Mackay starts the article by sharing an old saying: "It is easy to change things. It is hard to change people." He goes on to state: "Resistance to change is perhaps the biggest threat to progress a business can face."

He gives an example of a young individual in the early 1970s named Gary Boone who had pitched the idea of a "full computer on a chip" to management of his employer Texas Instruments. The top computer expert is said to have told Boone, "Young man don't you realize that computers are getting bigger, not smaller?"

In another example, Steve Jobs and Steve Wozniak tried to pitch the idea of personal computers to their supervisors at Atari and Hewlett-Packard. And now the company they founded is a house hold name with revenues over $20 billion (as of Sept 2010), called Apple, Inc.

Mackay suggests that "to not only survive, but to thrive, the skill you need to master is resilience." He relates this to companies by stating "your organization's ability to change quickly depends on your employees. Memoes and new mission statements won't produce results on their own. Change has to come from within your work force."

I found the advice that Mackay offers to managers and supervisors to be very interesting: "If you're a manager, you need to set the stage so employees know what is happening in your company and in your industry, or they won't see any reason to do things differently. Share as much as you can about your finances, the problems your organization is facing, and what's likely to happen if you all do nothing."

Mackay offers a list of essential items, to quote:
  • Learn from experience. Resilient people reflect on what happens to them - good and bad - so they can move forward without illusion.

  • Accept setbacks and losses. Face the reality of what happens in order to get past it.

  • Recognize emotions. Resilient people identify what they're feeling and express their emotions appropriately.

  • Think creatively and flexibly. Look for new ways to solve problems and face challenges.

  • Ask for help. Resilient people don't try to do everything themselves. Ask others for assistance, and learn how to do so graciously and effectively.
Mackay's Moral to wrap up the column is: "If you still believe you can't teach an old dog new tricks, you might as well roll over and play dead."

For more about Harvey Mackay visit: www.harveymackay.com
22 December 2010

Posted by Frank Garofalo | Topic: User Experience

UX related Quotes

  • "You can use an eraser on the drafting table or a sledge hammer on the construction site"
    ~ Frank Lloyd Wright

  • "The joy of an early release lasts but a short time. The bitterness of an unusable system lasts for years."
    ~ Anonymous

  • "Although I firmly believe that there is no such thing as a stupid question, there can indeed be stupid answers"
    ~ Don Norman

  • "Studying and questioning users does no good if you tell them the answers"
    ~ Jakob Nielsen

  • "It's so simple, it just may never be implemented."
    ~ Jon Stewart

  • "Customers always know what’s wrong. They can't always tell you what they want, but they always can tell you what's wrong"
    ~ Carly Fiorina

  • "...pay attention to what users do, not what they say"
    ~ Jakob Nielsen

  • "If the user can’t use it, it doesn't work"
    ~ Susan Dray

  • "Any darn fool can make something complex; it takes a genius to make something simple"
    ~ Albert Einstein

  • "I have not failed. I've just found 10,000 ways that won't work."
    ~ Thomas Edison

  • "To invent, you need a good imagination and a pile of junk."
    ~ Thomas Edison

  • "Solve the obvious problems others seem to ignore"
    ~ James Dyson

21 December 2010

Posted by Frank Garofalo | Topic: User Experience

The Psychologist’s View of UX Design

Susan Weinschenk, a psychologist shared her thoughts on user experience design with UX Magazine in a November 2010 article. She started off by sharing the following story, which I think is worth sharing:

A king brings six men into a dark building. They cannot see anything. The king says to them, "I have bought this animal from the wild lands to the East. It is called an elephant." "What is an elephant?" the men ask. The king says, "Feel the elephant and describe it to me." The man who feels a leg says the elephant is like a pillar, the one who feels the tail says the elephant is like a rope, the one who feels the trunk says the elephant is like a tree branch, the one who feels the ear says the elephant is like a hand fan, the one who feels the belly says the elephant is like a wall, and the one who feels the tusk says the elephant is like a solid pipe. "You are all correct", says the king, "You are each feeling just a part of the elephant."

This story highlights how individuals will have different perspectives, even of the same shared experience. Weinschenk broke down her thoughts into the following points:

  1. People don’t want to work or think more than they have to
    For this point, I especially liked her discussion on: "Only provide the features that people really need. Don't rely on your opinion of what you think they need; do user research to actually find out. Giving people more than they need just clutters up the experience." Guessing what your user wants versus listening to what your user wants can provide two very differing solutions - I would wager that the "guess" would be the fastest to fail.

    Another point that stood out was: "Pay attention to the affordance (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Affordance) of objects on the screen, page, or device you are designing. If something is clickable make sure it looks like it is clickable." To me this has a strong connection to information architecture (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Information_architecture) and I'm a huge proponent.

  2. People have limitations
    Here is another point I enjoyed: "People prefer short line lengths, but they read better with longer ones! It's a conundrum, so decide whether preference or performance is more important in your case, but know that people are going to ask for things that actually aren’t the best for them.

  3. People make mistakes
    Weinschenk states: "Preventing errors from occurring is always better than helping people correct them once they occur. The best error message is no message at all." I could not agree with this more.

  4. Human Memory is complicated
    Here Weinschenk shares: "People reconstruct memories, which means they are always changing. You can trust what users say as the truth only a little bit. It is better to observe them in action than to take their word for it." I'm glad to see another expert who agrees that it is better to observe users rather than listen to them. I believe that people are fundamentally bad at communicating - expressing to others what they have and what they want.

  5. People are social
    "People look to others for guidance on what they should do, especially if they are uncertain. This is called social validation (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Compliance_(psychology)#Social_validation). This is why, for example, ratings and reviews are so powerful on web sites," states Weinschenk . Hmmm... I wonder why Facebook and Twitter are so popular - it's all about seeing what others are doing and making decisions based upon that social interaction.

  6. Attention
    For this point, Weinschenk describes attention as one of the primary factors to "designing an engaging UI." She goes on to say: "Grabbing and holding onto attention, and not distracting someone when they are paying attention to something, are key concerns."

  7. People Crave information
    Here is another one of the points I enjoyed most: "People need feedback. The computer doesn't need to tell the human that it is loading the file. The human needs to know what is going on." I've heard others in the industry say something to the point of "well the user can wait" ...ok, tell the user why they are waiting, that we are processing something and will have it available to them in a moment. Then a response I've heard is "but then it might show the user that we are slow at doing the processing" ...I would counter that statement with "so you would rather have the user wait for the processing to complete without knowing why they are waiting?" Talk about frustrating your users.

    On this point, Weinschenk also states "People will often want more information than they can actually process. Having more information makes people feel that they have more choices. Having more choices makes people feel in control. Feeling in control makes people feel they will survive better." I totally agree with Weinschenk, while there is challenge to not overload the user with information, giving them choices is always preferred rather than picking something for them.

  8. Unconscious Processing
    "Most mental processing occurs unconsciously," states Weinschenk. "People's behavior is greatly affected by factors that they aren't even aware of ...called framing."

  9. People Create Mental Models
    "In order to create a positive UX, you can either match the conceptual model of your product or web site to the users' mental model, or you can figure out how to 'teach' the users to have a different mental model." I'm not usually a fan of teaching a user something new, unless it is a novel concept. To further explain myself, I've heard over and over again, well the user can learn what this "star" icon means - the symbol of a "star" is used throughout a variety of interfaces for a multitude of meaning and now you are wanting to add yet another meaning... I'm not a fan of that. Whenever possible, I agree with Weinschenk that it is better to map your product or web site to the users' mental model (how do you know what the users' mental model is you ask… through a thing called user research).

  10. Visual System
    This point simply highlights points about colors, fonts, and positioning. Weinschenk recommends, as I agree with, the use of "groupings to help focus where the eye should look ...things that are close together are believed to 'go' together."

Read Susan Weinschenk's full article on UX Magazine at: http://uxmag.com/design/the-psychologists-view-of-ux-design

20 December 2010

Posted by Frank Garofalo | Topic: User Experience

How to Prototype and Influence People

In an article by Aza Raskin (Creative Lead for Mozilla Firefox) on the UX Magazine web site, titled "How to Prototype and Influence People," Raskin shares some thoughts on prototyping that I found interesting.

Raskin states: "The goal of a prototype is to sketch an idea and to inspire participation: you are creating a narrative."

The Principals of Prototyping, as suggested by Raskin, are:

  1. Your first try will be wrong. Budget and design for it.
  2. Aim to finish a usable artifact in a day. This helps you focus and scope.
  3. You are making a touchable sketch. Do not fill in all the lines.
  4. You are iterating your solution as well as your understanding of the problem.
  5. Treat your code as throw-away, but be ready to refactor.
  6. Borrow liberally
  7. Tell a story with your prototype. It isn't just a set of features.

From these principals, I enjoyed #1, #4, and #7. I especially enjoyed #4, when problem-solving with issues related to UX / UI / UCD, through each iteration of a concept and a prototype you are able to better understand the challenge you are trying to solve.

Read Aza Raskin's full article on UX Magazine at: http://uxmag.com/design/how-to-prototype-and-influence-people

20 December 2010

Posted by Frank Garofalo | Topic: User Experience

Evolved UX: Using Social Media to drive UX

I recently came across an article on the UX Magazine web site by Alexander Negash titled, "The Evolved User Experience: Using social media technologies to drive UX design and product strategy." I found several points from Negash to be very valid.

  • Breaking traditional approaches
    He starts off by discussing how in today's market a product can fail just as quickly as it is released to the market. The failure to have a successful launch can be caused by the product being "either less than useful and engaging or isn't innovative enough." He goes on to suggest that the root of this problem for many companies appears to be inability to "break away from more traditional approaches to product design and development process... this often means they design complex features that are dependent on a single big launch, but consequentially companies can't predict and design for future changes in user behavior trends." It's to no surprise the number of companies who can't break out of the old mindset. My suggestion, which isn't novel, would be for companies to launch a product that can last for years with the built in capability to push software updates to it... sound like a familiar concept? (perhaps, among other products, just like software updates pushed to smartphones).

  • From listening to reacting
    Listening to your target audience on a day-to-day basis can certainly generate fresh ideas, as Negash highlights. One of the main benefits is the ability to capture changing user behaviors so that over time your organization can become better at predicting user behavior. I completely agree with Negash's statemen: "the difference today is that social technologies enable ongoing user interaction with the product in real time, allowing product designers to vet ideas with users, and learn from users' concerns and firsthand experiences."

  • Empowered users
    Negesh describes how social media has empowered users in ways unlike in the past with new avenues to "consume media, do business, and share information." In other words, the target audience of your brand no longer consists of "passive consumers," they now can take ownership in your brand and their experience of your brand… plus share it rather quickly with their friends, both the positive and the negative. Nagesh also suggests that UX teams need to collaborate with other divisions of their company that may already have established communication methods with social media technologies. Collaboration is always a good thing. However, from what I've seen the other divisions (most likely in this cause some combination of marketing, communications, and PR) seem to use social technologies to push out messages from the company. The UX team needs to use social technologies to at least listen, or better yet a two-way dialog.

  • Incorporating feedback into development cycle
    With the ability to capture feedback from your target audience and adapt to changing user behaviors, as Negash points out "social technologies can allow UX teams to quickly and iteratively inject fresh ideas throughout the development cycle, enabling them to move faster to match the more agile product development cycles." This is a very good point. I have seen several companies move towards adopting some of the more rapid development cycles, such as the Agile model. Therefore UX teams need to find ways to be compatible with these models. They are challenged to find the balance between what the user wants, what the business wants, and to make the concept become a reality within the timeline of the development cycle.

  • Showing a business value
    Proving the value and benefit of using social media technologies to the business can be challenging. One of the playing cards in your favor is that for the most part, social media technologies are free to use. I agree with Nagesh's statement: "UX teams need to evangelize the value of user insights to enhance the user experience and the business' success."

  • Intellectual property concerns
    There is one fundamental concern I have with UX teams using social media technologies which Nagesh doesn't address. This concern is regarding the ability to welcome feedback from users, or furthermore even throughout a topic for users to provide feedback. However, if the topic is sensitive intellectual property a challenge is presented with using social media technologies to have a dialog with your target audience without putting the idea in front of your competitors.

Read Alexander Nagesh's full article on UX Magazine at: http://uxmag.com/strategy/the-evolved-user-experience

13 December 2010

Posted by Frank Garofalo | Topic: Miscellaneous

Nothing but the Web - Chrome OS



This is great. For more info about Chrome OS visit: http://www.google.com/chromeos
11 December 2010

Posted by Frank Garofalo | Topic: Miscellaneous

Blocking Google TV?

The major television networks are blocking content on their web sites from being accessed through Google TV. For example, if you go to the USA Network web site and try to watch a "Full Episode" of a television show (which has already aired on television), that video is blocked on Google TV.

Currently (I have no idea what Google's long-term plans are for Google TV), it seems that Google TV (which is based off of Android) is intended to be a common platform for televisions - not to replace television channel distribution. In fact, to use all the features of Google TV the user needs digital cable - if the user just has basic cable they cannot use the full power of Google TV.

Ok, so there are two forms of content on web sites:
1) Content on a web site that is member-only or subscriber-only and is blocked on the web site unless the user logged in and verified their subscriber credentials.
2) Content on a web site that can be viewed by anyone without a member/subscriber status.

I can understand if member/subscriber-only content is blocked on a web site, when viewing the web site with Google TV, until the user authenticates themselves. However just blocking any content just because it is viewed with Google TV is stupid.

Here is a link to a CrunchGear article about blocked content on Google TV:
http://www.crunchgear.com/2010/11/08/now-even-fancast-com-is-blocked-on-google-tv/
8 December 2010

Posted by Frank Garofalo | Topic: User Experience

10 Common Misconceptions about User Experience

I recently read an article titled "10 Most Common Misconceptions about User Experience Design," by Whitney Hess, an independent user experience designer, writer (authors the blog Pleasure and Pain) and consultant based in New York City.

Here are my thoughts on her "10 Most" list:

  1. User experience design is NOT... User Interface Design
    I agree with Hess' statement that "UI is just one piece of the puzzle" ...and it usually is a complex puzzle.

  2. User experience design is NOT... A Step In the Process
    Creating something that offers a great experience to your user requires keeping the user in mind from start to finish. This doesn't mean to make assumptions on what the user would want, what it means is that a user-centered process is an iterative process: 1) You have an idea, 2) you build a prototype, 3) you test the idea, 4) you analyze the data from your test which should generate new ideas, 5) repeat from step 1. In this process, you can refine your ideas to generate an end-result that offers a great experience to your users.

    Hess states that we "need to keep listening and iterating" - I partially agree with this statement. My modification would be to keep observing and iterating. It is quite interesting to observe what a user will do when interacting with a product/system/software/device, and how they will describe what they did when they interacted with it - these two sets of data can be very different. I prefer to do both, observe and listen, however I place more emphasis on the observations.

  3. User experience design is NOT... About Technology
    I don't completely agree with Hess here. She describes that "user experience designers use technology to help people accomplish their goals. But the primary objective is to help people, not to make great technology."

    The Merriam-Webster Dictionary definition of technology is: "the practical application of knowledge especially in a particular area." Technology is usually a means to provide a solution to a challenge/problem. Through a user-centered design process, the UX professional can strive to provide a solution that the user can use and wants to use.

  4. User experience design is NOT... Just about usability
    I agree with Hess on this point. User experience is a balancing act between design, technical, and information to produce a result that the user is able to use as well as a result that the user wants to use.

  5. User experience design is NOT... Just about the User
    I also agree with this one too. To add to the balancing act, a UX professional must also take into consideration the business' needs.

  6. User experience design is NOT... Expensive
    Just as Hess describes, user experience doesn't have to be expensive. She quotes another UX professional in her article, who's quote I agree with "In reality the best designers have a toolbox of options, picking and choosing methods for each project what makes sense for that particular project." There isn't an end-all solution that magically solves all the problems (that could be expensive). The UX professional needs to select, for example, the appropriate testing technique for each project (see my article titled "Preliminary Exploration vs. User Testing").

  7. User experience design is NOT... Easy
    Honestly, what is easy in life? I agree with Hess' statement regarding "cutting corners on some important steps such as UCD is a recipe for disaster."
    Hess included a statement from Erin Malone, principle at Tangible UX. Malone states she "finds that both product managers and programmers believe they will create the experience as they build it. 'UX designers are caught in the middle of trying to speak the business language and the developer language to justify why we need to do our jobs and why it's important to success."
    Hess goes on to state that making assumptions about your users can be dangerous - that as a UX professional you need to get to know your users in a facilitated manner... again, observe them interacting with your product/system.

  8. User experience design is NOT... The Role of One Person or Department
    This is true - while there can be a team of dedicated individuals for user experience, it really needs to be a company-wide culture to be user-centered. However, I have seen cases where the interpretation of "user-centered" means to make assumptions of how various individuals working on a project think the user would interaction... don't make a guess, build a prototype and go test it to observe the user interacting with it - then you know!

  9. User experience design is NOT... A Single Discipline
    "User experience" as a discipline is in its infancy. Because of this it is difficult to define the role. When a company hires an accountant, they know what they are going to get. However, when a company hires a user experience designer / information architect / interaction designer / etc. it is a challenge for the company to know what they are going to get.
    Because of this it seems to lend very well to promote collaboration to utilize the skill sets of everyone on the team.

  10. User experience design is NOT... A Choice
    Definitely agree with Hess on this point. She quotes Jared Spool, founding principal and CEO at User Interface Engineering, which highlights the flaw most companies make: "good experience design is an add-on, not a basic requirement." If you start with the experience at the end, or near the end, then simply put you are setting yourself up for a potential path for failure.

Read the full article on Mashable visit: http://mashable.com/2009/01/09/user-experience-design/

5 December 2010

Posted by Frank Garofalo | Topic: Cooking with a UX Architect

Cranberry Glazed Grilled Chicken

This had all sorts of flavor... started with a chicken breast marinated with a sesame ginger sauce then grilled it on my George Foreman grill. Once cooked, added a cranberry-orange relish.

Served with a side salad and a bowl of broccoli-cheese soup.
4 December 2010

Posted by Frank Garofalo | Topic: Cooking with a UX Architect

Pasta & Meatballs



Approx prep and cooking time: ~15 minutes

I think pasta is one of the easiest things to cook. To save time I used a jar of tomato sauce, although nothing is better than homemade tomato sauce.

Don't forget to add olive oil to the water you boil to prevent the pasta from sticking to the pot.

I used some store-bought frozen meatballs (again I went the fast route instead of

When cooking, if you make extra then you can have the left-overs for lunches during the work week.

2 December 2010

Posted by Frank Garofalo | Topic: Miscellaneous

Google TV has arrived



I want to thank Adobe Systems and Google, as well as Logitech for the gift from Adobe MAX 2010 of the "Logitech Revue with Google TV."

I'm excited to start developing optimized web experiences to display on computer screens, smartphones (thanks again Google & Motorola for the DROID 2 at Adobe MAX 2010), and now Google TV.
2 December 2010

Posted by Frank Garofalo | Topic: Cooking with a UX Architect

Philly Cheese Steak Sandwiches & Sweet Potato Fries



Total prep & cooking time: ~10 minutes

Thinly sliced steak, swiss cheese, BBQ sauce on hamburger buns with sides of sweet potato fires and homemade pickles.
1 December 2010

Posted by Frank Garofalo | Topic: Cooking with a UX Architect

Pesto Tortellini & Clam Chowder



Total Prep & Cooking time: ~15 minutes*
*which mainly consisted of boiling water and cooking the tortellini.

The New England clam chowder was store bought (but living in Missouri where else am I going to get clam chowder?) and the brandname was Legal Seafood (http://shop.legalseafoods.com/New-England-Clam-Chowder).
1 December 2010

Posted by Frank Garofalo | Topic: User Experience

Preliminary Exploration versus User Testing

User Experience = Test Everyone?

As a user experience professional, emphasis is always placed on determining whether or not your target user can successfully perform the intended tasks within an interface. I think Dr. Susan M. Dray, President of Dray & Associates, Inc. (an international consulting agency for interface design and usability), states it best, "If the user can't use it, it doesn't work." In other words, the system can have the very best backend data algorithms, cutting edge processing capabilities, etc; however, if the user cannot interact successfully with the interface of the system then everything else is of little or no value to the user. So how do you solve this?

Numerous experts, from Jakob Nielsen to Don Norman, recommend that user testing needs to be performed as frequently as possible. So let's say a functional, or semi-functional, prototype is produced to allow you as a user experience professional to put the prototype in front of people and collect data. But when it comes to user testing, where do you start?

Types of User Testing

From my own experiences the term "user testing" is thrown around very loosely. Everyone needs to do user testing, but what actually is user testing? From what I have seen performed in some instances, user experience professionals will ask five to ten people for their opinions on a workflow process or a visual interface design. For example, placing either a paper prototype or software prototype in front of those five to ten people and ask them simply "What do you think?" The benefits of this are that it is cost effective and can be done relatively quickly. However, the underlying problem arises when user experience professionals attempt to make generalizations across a larger user population based upon the opinions of a few people, such as ten individuals. Furthermore, if the user experience professional is only asking the participant for their opinion, they are missing a key piece of information. To quote Henry Ford, founder of the Ford Motor Company, "if I had asked the public what they wanted, they would have said a faster horse." The user experience profession needs to give value to taking notes from their observations of the participant. "...pay attention to what users do, not what they say," said Jakob Nielsen. To expand on Nielsen's statement, I find it interesting to compare what I've observed a participant do during a testing activity to what the participant tells me about what they did during the testing activity.

Key Differences

With that said, in my opinion and from my experiences in academia, there are really two forms of user testing: "Preliminary Exploration" and "Structured User Testing." Both forms can provide very valuable data. The key difference is the configuration, or methodology, for how the testing is conducted. On a side note, while I love working within Photoshop and Illustrator, the researcher in me prefers to use the "scientific" terminology. Let's break apart each form.

Preliminary Exploration is simply asking a few people for their opinions. This can provide a sense of direction based upon the perspectives of those individuals but generalizations across a larger audience of users cannot be made with true certainty. I would consider this an alpha test, or even a pre-alpha test.

Structured User Test should have a defined methodology. A series of questions can be generated for each participant to answer as part of a pre-test data collection process. Then for the test itself, a target audience in which the user experience professional is trying to collect data about needs to be chosen. Since it would be impractical to test the entire target audience, a sample population is selected from that audience. I will go into more depth about sample population with respect to qualitative research and quantitative research in the next section. Once the sample population is determined, a set of criteria to actually test needs to be selected. For example, if having the participants complete an activity, there should be tasks and goals establish for each task. This provides a methodology that is defined, and can be replicated and then verified by other researchers. Finally, a post-test set of questions should be generated. How the post-test questions are constructed again brings me back to quantitative research versus qualitative research methods.

Quantitative versus Qualitative

To break this down further, the sample population size depends on the type of research you are conducting, as well as the format for the questions you ask: 1) Quantitative, 2) Qualitative, or 3) a hybrid of quantitative and qualitative. Below is a table breakdown of the differences between Qualitative and Quantitative research methods:

Qualitative Methods Quantitative Methods
Methods include focus groups, in-depth interviews, and reviews Surveys
Primarily inductive process used to formulate theory Primarily deductive process used to test pre-specified concepts, constructs, and hypotheses that make up a theory
More subjective: describes a problem or condition from the point of view of those experiencing it More objective: provides observed effects (interpreted by researchers) of a program on a problem or condition
Text-based (for example, open-ended questions) Number-based (for example, ranking scales)
More in-depth information on few cases Less in-depth but more breadth of information across a large number of cases
Unstructured or semi-structure response options* Fixed response options
No statistical tests Statistical tests are used for analysis
Can be valid and reliable: largely depends on skill and rigor of the researcher Can be valid and reliable: largely depends on the measurement device or instrument used
Time expenditure lighter on the planning end and heavier during the analysis phase Time expenditure heavier on the planning phase and lighter on the analysis phase
Less generalizable More generalizable

Source: Oak Ridge Institute for Science and Education; Retrieved on 29 November 2010; http://www.orau.gov/cdcynergy/

* I wanted to clarify the terminology regarding "unstructured or semi-structured." This is stating that the user experience professional would ask open ended questions to the participant. This is not stating that the user testing study itself is "unstructured" or "semi-structured." Additionally, for qualitative research I prefer "semi-structure" - you have an initial set of questions, but you are also free to ask follow-up questions to the participant to dig deeper into their responses.

To aide with determining what sample size should be selected if using a quantitative research method, there are tools available as sample population size calculators. Here is one example that I found with a quick Google search: http://www.surveysystem.com/sscalc.htm.

The Application of User Testing

Conducting research and user testing with a product release timeline can be challenging. There are plenty of situations where prototyping and user testing are cut from an overall project in order to meet release deadlines. "The joy of an early release lasts but a short time. The bitterness of an unusable system lasts for years," Author Unknown. As a user experience professional, a push to upper management needs to be made to strive to keep prototyping and user testing in the development life-cycle of projects.

Testing individuals outside of your organization usually means that those individuals want to be compensated for their time - now there is an expense associated in addition to just your expense to the organization. I agree with other industry professionals that if you are going to test participants, the value of the data collected can be significantly more beneficial by testing the target audience you are striving to gain as new customers. However, now you need to justify the additional expense to upper management. In addition, now that you are testing individuals outside of your organization regarding experimental concepts there may be the need to use Non-Disclosure Agreements to protect your organization's interests.

Pulling it All Together

The role of a user experience professional has its challenges, just like any other profession. In this role we try to be advocates for the user / consumer. We do this by collecting data from the users, also known as user testing, rather than just making assumptions. User testing in and of itself has several possible processes that can be utilized, each with their own advantages and disadvantages. The proper method needs to be selected on a case by case basis, which is up to the user experience professional to determine.

These are just my thoughts from my experiences, but I would love to have a dialogue to get perspectives from others.

About the Author

Frank Garofalo is an on-line and interactive architect living in Kansas City. Currently, he has two roles, one running his own company Cyber View, an online media and interactive solutions agency (www.cyberviewsites.com), and second as a User Experience Designer for Garmin International (www.garmin.com). He started designing and building web sites in 1999. Frank has a Master of Science in Computer Graphics Technology with a specialization in qualitative research for interactive multimedia from Purdue University. His passion lies in producing a quality experience for the user by combining creative designs and functional development to achieve a balance of information architecture. You can follow him on Twitter @fgarofalo

1 December 2010

Posted by Frank Garofalo | Topic: User Experience

Response to: Why Products Suck & Make Them Suck Less

Originally posted at http://www.cyberviewsites.com/blog/posts/?pid=58 on 1 Dec 2010.

I recently read an article on TechCrunch.com by David Barrett titled "Why Products Suck (And How To Make Them Suck Less)." In the article he discusses how making a product not suck (and to avoid the "tar pit" of sucking) is actually a complex challenge - if it was easier, more products would be on the market that didn't suck.

Barrett's 5 key points are:
1. It only takes one person to make your product suck
From Barrett's discussion on this point, I liked the following statement: "Convey to your team and the world that not sucking is your primary goal."

2. Nobody ever got fired for sucking
In other words, hire intelligent people - Barrett shares the quotation: "A people hire A people, B people hire C people."

3. It's easier to suck more than suck less
This point made me laugh, especially when he elaborated and said: "Sucking is like a tar pit: once you step in, your struggles only pull you in deeper. After you make that one product compromise to satisfy some crazy customer, then you’ve got to support that setting." We certainly have run into that issue. Customer A wants specific features as a solution to their current challenges. But the feature is so specific to Customer A, now whenever you have to upgrade the system for all your other customers you have to upgrade these small plug-ins specific to Customer A. It causes such a headache...

4. There are more ways to suck than to not suck
Barrett's states for this point: "If sucking is like a tar pit, then building a product that doesn't suck is like walking a tightrope over La Brea (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/La_Brea_Tar_Pits)."

5. Customers demand sucky products
Ok so no offense to customers, but we all do it as customers without even realizing it. We want products to align exactly with our needs, but do those needs actually span across all the customers of the product? One strive we are taking towards remedying this situation is to make our web-based products more adaptive and anticipative to what the customer needs at the given moment. I certainly agree with the following statement made by Barrett: "…not all complaints are equal: complaints that you don't support feature X are far better than complaints about how feature Y sucks."

Read Barrett's full article at: http://techcrunch.com/2010/11/06/why-products-suck-and-how-to-make-them-suck-less/
28 November 2010

Posted by Frank Garofalo | Topic: Cooking with a UX Architect

Lemon Pepper Chicken & Cranberry Orange Relish

The entire title of this meal wouldn't fit in the blog post title:
Lemon-Pepper Marinated Chicken with Cranberry Orange Relish and Artichokes, plus a glass of Kokomo 2006 Zinfandel



Approx. Preparation & Cooking Time: 10 minutes

I marinated a boneless chicken breast in a lemon-pepper marinade then cooked the chicken on my George Foreman Grill for 9 minutes (as recommended by the grill manufacturer for a boneless chicken breast). Then I poured the store-bought cranberry orange relish on top.
22 November 2010

Posted by Frank Garofalo | Topic: Cooking with a UX Architect

Mozzerella & Tomatoes


Fresh red tomatoes, basil, mozzerella with balsamic vinaigrette drizzled on top with a small amount of Italian seasoning. This makes a great appetizer.
22 November 2010

Posted by Frank Garofalo | Topic: Cooking with a UX Architect

Italian Sausage & Peppers Recipe

Here is a step-by-step guide to cooking Italian sausage and peppers.

Ingredients
  • 2 Green Bell Peppers
  • 1 Yellow Onion
  • 1 package of Italian Sausage (either sweet, mild or spicy)
  • Olive Oil
1. In a frying pan, pour enough Olive Oil into the pan to coat and place on the stove top on a temperature less than medium.

2. Place the sausages into the pan and cover with aluminum foil for 8 minutes - shown below:


3. While the sausage is cooking, start to prepare the green pepper and onion. Cut the onion in halves, then into thin slices. Cut the onion into approx. 8ths (length wise).


4. After 8 minutes flip the sausage and cook the other side for another 8 minutes (covering the fan again with aluminum foil).


5. Once both sides have been browned, take the sausage out of the pan and cut length-wise, as shown below:


6. Place all the sausage back into the pan. Throw the green peppers and onion on top, and cover with aluminum foil again for approx 8 minutes.


7. Once done, allow to cool. Cut the sausage in to halves. Then serve with your favorite sandwich rolls.


I didn't have Italian rolls so I had to improvise.
21 November 2010

Posted by Frank Garofalo | Topic: Cooking with a UX Architect

Lemon-Pepper Marinated Scallops


While living in the mid-west, fresh sea food is hard to come by - so while I would have liked to have had fresh scallops these were frozen and purchased at the grocery.

I allowed them to defrost, then let them sit in a lemon-pepper marinade for a few hours before cooking them on my George Foreman Grill.
20 November 2010

Posted by Frank Garofalo | Topic: Cooking with a UX Architect

Prosciutto Sloppy Joes


I decided to do a little experiment. I added to the ground beef as it was cooking:
  • a little balsamic vinaigrette
  • a little red wine vinaigrette
  • Italian seasoning, plus salt & ground black pepper
Once the ground beef was cooked I added 1 can of Manwich sloppy joe mix. When I plated the open face sandwiches I added some prosciutto on top. This was delicious. However, the sloppy joe with the hamburger bun is easy to cut into, whereas the prosciutto wasn't. Conclusion - still needs some refining, but the taste was excellent.
16 November 2010

Posted by Frank Garofalo | Topic: Cooking with a UX Architect

Grilled Teriyaki Chicken w/ Sweet Potato Fries & Salad


Since I'm usually just cooking for myself, when I purchase a large package of meat at the grocery, such as chicken, pork, beef, etc. I will repackage the meat into smaller containers, for example: I will place each chicken breast into a plastic baggie and pour in a marinade (such as Sesame Ginger, Teriyaki, Lemon Pepper, etc.). Then I will place all the baggies into a freezer-plastic bag before placing them into the freezer. Then I will remove one of the individually packaged chicken breasts from the freezer either the night before or the morning of (before I go to work) to allow it to defrost.

The sweet potato fries were from the freezer section at the grocery store. The trick with these is to find the right balance to make them crispy but to not over cook them.
9 November 2010

Posted by Frank Garofalo | Topic: Cooking with a UX Architect

The Salad Breakdown


So the salad that I have prepared for several meals, here is the ingredients list:
  • Baby Spinach
  • Mushrooms
  • Black Olives
  • Feta Cheese
  • Bacon Bits
  • Dried Cranberries
  • Croutons
  • Balsamic Vinaigrette
Then I usually cover the bowl with Glad Cling-wrap and shake the bowl - for a real "tossed" salad.
9 November 2010

Posted by Frank Garofalo | Topic: Cooking with a UX Architect

Prosciutto Grilled Chicken with Corn


I decided to do some experimenting. I marinated chicken in a Sesame Ginger sauce and wrapped it with prosciutto then grilled. I also cooked some corn as a side item.
30 October 2010

Posted by Frank Garofalo | Topic: Cooking with a UX Architect

BBQ Steak with Salad


Thinly-sliced BBQ steak with a side salad. I cooked the steak on my George Foreman Grill.
21 September 2010

Posted by Frank Garofalo | Topic: Cooking with a UX Architect

P.F. Chang's Sweet & Sour Chicken


This is the first dish that I'm blogging about but didn't really prepare. This is a Sweet and Sour Chicken from P.F. Chang's Home Menu (www.pfchangshomemenu.com) with Rice Pilaf. The rice I cooked separately and didn't come with the P.F. Chang's entree.

The P.F. Chang's Home Menu entree can be found at most grocery stores in the freezer section. Usually I've found them for approx. $9 and are intended to feed 2 people. Also Sam's Club usually has a limited selection of the some of the entrees.

I like to keep a few of these entrees in my freezer for the days when I get home from work and I'm too tired to spend too much time cooking a dinner. I take out one of the packages and pour the contents into a Pyrex dish. Pop it into the microwave for 9 minutes and dinner is ready (this wouldn't include cooking rice, which would have to be done separately).
12 September 2010

Posted by Frank Garofalo | Topic: Cooking with a UX Architect

Sloppy Joes with Salad


Sloppy Joes are also an easy and relatively fast dish to make. Cook some ground beef in a frying pan on the stove top. I usually put in some olive oil into the pan before adding the ground beef. The side salad adds a vegetarian balance to the meal.
12 September 2010

Posted by Frank Garofalo | Topic: Cooking with a UX Architect

Alfredo Rotini Pasta


Pasta is one of the easiest dishes to make (in my opinion). The Alfredo sauce used was from a store bought jar, but never the less it was still delicious. Plus, a glass of Zin also adds a nice touch.
6 September 2010

Posted by Frank Garofalo | Topic: Cooking with a UX Architect

Italian Sausage & Peppers


This dish is an Italian tradition - Italian Sausage (you can use either spicy or sweet, I used sweet) with Green Peppers and Onion served on slices of bakery-fresh Italian bread.
5 September 2010

Posted by Frank Garofalo | Topic: Cooking with a UX Architect

Teriyaki Pork



This was one of the first dishes I cooked when I started living on my own, after completing grad school. This dish includes Teriyaki Porl with Rice Pilaf.

For any of the dishes posted on here if you would like to know the recipe I used, just let me know.
4 November 2010

Posted by Frank Garofalo | Topic: Miscellaneous

Garmin Commercial for nuvi 3700 series


For more details, visit: http://www8.garmin.com/buzz/nuvi3700/
30 October 2010

Posted by Frank Garofalo | Topic: Miscellaneous

Google TV

Google has announced a new product they have been working on - Google TV.

I had a chance at Adobe MAX to try out Google TV. The concept is good and it also seems like the revival of webTV from the late 1990s. Google TV's search (obviously it includes a search, it's built by Google) displays results of tv listings, movie listings, and web results. One of the benefits of this search is that you can search for an actor or actress and the search results will display upcoming tv listings with performances by that individual. Google TV can also display the FULL web (including Adobe Flash content) with it's integrated Google Chrome browser.

There are already several products on the market with the Google TV software, among them are Sony and Logitech.

29 October 2010

Posted by Frank Garofalo | Topic: User Experience

"Design of Future Things" Part 2

Donald Norman included in his book, "The Design of Future Things," six design rules (pg 152):
  1. Provide rich, complex and natural signals
  2. Be predictable
  3. Provide a good conceptual model
  4. Make the output understandable
  5. Provide continual awareness, without annoyance
  6. Explicit natural mappings to make interaction understandable and effective

27 October 2010

Posted by Frank Garofalo | Topic: RIAs

Save the User - by Adobe


Adobe MAX 2010 - Day 2 keynote video
23 October 2010

Posted by Frank Garofalo | Topic: User Experience

"Design of Future Things"

NOTE: I originally posted this on the Cyber View Blog: http://www.cyberviewsites.com/blog/posts/?pid=49


Recently I've been reading a book by Donald Norman called "The Design of Future Things." I'm not one to do much pleasure reading often, however I have found this book to be: insightful, entertaining, and informative.

On page 93 he discusses the interaction between humans and machines. Through the various interactions that occur between humans and machines, there are all sorts of indicators that machines have been designed to use to attempt to inform their user with some type of information. Now that last sentence may sound very vague - but think about it from beeps to buzzers, LED lights to digital displays - there are a variety of indicators. Norman refers to this in the book as the "human-machine social ecosystem." For example, on my Android phone the same LED light will illuminate green for a text message, voicemail message, and Gmail message. However that single LED light doesn't provide me with information to distinguish specifically what it is trying to bring to my attention - and honestly at times this is frustration. Norman expresses the point that with the design of devices today - some devices try to adapt to the user and on the flip side, the user usually has to adapt to the device. This can be a strong positive and a strong negative at times. To quote Norman, "Combining implicit communication with affordances is a powerful, very natural concept" (pg. 71). Norman goes on to suggest that a "symbiosis of machine and person" is a form of "human-machine interaction at it's best" (pg. 90).

So from a user experience perspective, how can devices and interfaces be designed to benefit the user? Norman shares details regarding how devices today are trying to adapt to a user's behavior pattern to predict what the user will want. The primary goal to achieve is to not cause an annoyance or dangerous situation for the user, but rather to support the user. Predict and give the user suggestions. The device can then adapt and become better at predicting the suggestions to give the user without completely automating the process by making a selection for the user. To support the user information provided, according to Norman, must be "voluntary, friendly, and cooperative" (pg. 130). I certainly agree with Norman especially when he describes the concept of "informate," which he defines as "impact of increased access to information afforded by automation" (pg. 133).

There is a challenge between making a device completely automated and making a device completely manually controlled. The middle ground, as Norman suggests, can be a very complex and potentially dangerous combination. However overall, devices and interfaces need to "provide a user with tools to work and live smarter" (pg. 128).

Tweet with me @fgarofalo and let me know what you think.
17 October 2010

Posted by Frank Garofalo | Topic: Miscellaneous

Makers, All

Purdue University launched a new marketing campaign at Homecoming 2010 called "Makers, All." The term "boiler makers" was originally intended as a insult to the Purdue football team in the late 1800s. Now it is being used as a source of inspiration by highlighting a common bond between all Purdue students and alumni - that we are all creators.

For more about the marketing campaign, read the Purdue Exponent Article (http://www.purdueexponent.org/?module=article&story_id=23001).

My take on the campaign is:
idea maker, innovation maker, solution maker... but at the core, I'm a Boilermaker!

10 October 2010

Posted by Frank Garofalo | Topic: Miscellaneous

10/10/10

Some thoughts...

10/10/10 - turning a quarter of a century today... the one thing I've come to learn is, despite the cliche, to expect the unexpected especially when life throws curve balls. I'm a believer that things do happen for a reason, even though in the moment the reason may be very unclear. A recent quote I heard is "we are the opportunities we pursue" and I truly believe that. Over these past 25 years, I usually have not been one to sit around and to wait for something to happen. Bill Gates stated this well, "don't let yourself be lulled into inaction."

You never know what opportunities the future might bring, but in the present moment "you roll with the punches" and try to make the best of what you have (and be grateful for what you have).
1 October 2010

Posted by Frank Garofalo | Topic: User Experience

Pixar & Brainstorming

I read an article be in late August about a brainstorming concept at Pixar Studios (owned by the Walt Disney Company). Although, now I can't seem to find that article.

Anyways, the article discussed how at Pixar to promote creativity from all levels of the company, the truly utilize dry-erase boards. They do this by hanging dry-erase boards in the hallways. I believe the article mentioned that employees could still reserve the boards to hold meetings. just as if it was a conference. The benefit this offers, is that Pixar has established a culture were if anyone passing in the hallways hears or sees something on a dry-erase board there is an open invitation for them to contribute and offer suggestions/ideas.

I found this concept to be very interesting. I can see how this promotes contribution and brainstorming from a community perspective. Along with the notion, that any idea can be considered. I guess taking this to another level, you could almost parallel this to the movie Good Will Hunting (1997) where Matt Damon's character, a janitor, helps to solve a Professor's math equation.
28 August 2010

Posted by Frank Garofalo | Topic: Miscellaneous

New Chapter - "Navigating"

GarminI'm heading out to Kansas after Labor Day weekend, to start a new chapter - my employment with Garmin International where I will be a Software User Interface Designer.

Most of you are probably familiar with Garmin because of their GPS devices - for cars, fitness, golf, marine, cycling, and aircraft. I will be working within their Mobile/Hand-held Device group.
12 August 2010

Posted by Frank Garofalo | Topic: Miscellaneous

CreativeHeads.net Profile

CreativeHeads.netI now have a link to my public profile on CreativeHeads.net, a job forum provided by ACM SIGGRAPH.

Here is a link: http://www.creativeheads.net/jsprofile.aspx?j=308821432f&spi=0
6 August 2010

Posted by Frank Garofalo | Topic: Miscellaneous

A Farewell Salute

"And now it's time to say good-bye to all our company."

As I finish up packing and prepare for the commencement ceremony tomorrow morning to cap off my graduate studies at Purdue University, a whole flurry of memories came back to me as I drove around campus this evening. The past six years at Purdue have been full of excitement, surprises, frustrations, joy and challenges. I can still remember being the in-coming freshman arriving at Cary Quadrangle for Boiler Gold Rush ready to tackle college and my major of Computer Graphics Technology.

As part of this post I've decided to put together a list of all the things I've been apart of on campus as well as internships during my time here:
  • Undergrad
    • Cary Club (too many great memories to all call out, but definitely being apart of the first Rock the Quad was awesome - especially seeing it continue as an outstandingoustanding tradition with WEtheKings this past spring).
    • Emily Mauzy Emerging Leaders Program (Bridget Golden - thank you for all the support my freshman year, you've been missed ever since your family moved to Vanderbilt)
    • WCCR (oh, "Frankie G and the Mafia" was an awesome show, thanks Christian Hall and Billy Castrodale)
    • Purdue Student Government (thanks Will Delozier)
    • Purdue Admissions Office Tour Guides (I'm still can walk backwards)
    • ACM SIGGRAPH at Purdue
    • Purdue Athletic Promotions and Advertising (hey - being a freshman and getting to be on the football field and basketball court during games was awesome)
    • Disney College Program (definitely the best summer of my life and a vast amount of great memories)
    • ITaP Student Advisory Council (funny how back in 2005 we wanted to get rid of the Purdue Webmail and still in 2010 they are talking about getting rid of it... oh Purdue)
    • Disney College Program Campus Representative (Alana Partridge - you were awesome to have worked with!)
    • Belle of Louisville Marketing Internship
    • Resident Assistant at Cary Quadrangle (I've enjoyed seeing my former residents go on and be successful at Purdue)
    • Bank of America (my first look at the cubical life in corporate-America)
    • Staff Resident at Cary Quadrangle (definitely my favorite of all my memories - lots of valuable lessons learned - don't play card games with staff during trainings, ha ha; Thanks to my all my former staff members and to Bob Brophy; funny how you can be accused of being a "ring leader of a coup" when you try to bring an issue to the attention of administrators)
    • F9IB (ha ha, good times & long story)
    • Mortar Board (a fun group of student leaders to have had the honor to work with)
    • Iron Key (definitely my second favorite of all my memories - go team PTC!)
    • College of Technology Undergraduate Student Grade-Appeal Committee (it's amazing how an appeal system can be corrupt - very long story)
    • Adobe Lighthouse Program & attending Adobe MAX conferences (cold calls can certainly pay off)
    • myPurdue Portal Advisory Committee (they ask for a CGT student who has studied user-interface design to serve on the committee but they were too afraid to make changes to the out-of-the-box system to improve the UI, oh well)
  • Graduate School
    • Adobe Dev Connection Content Contributor (I greatly appreciate the support from the Adobe Higher Ed team and allowing me to be a contributor on the Dev Connection site)
    • IT Summit 2008 at Purdue University Poster Competition
    • U.S. Provisional Patent (who would have thought a web/graphic user-interface guy would get a patent for designing a piece of hardware, it still makes me laugh inside)
    • An overall summary, being a grad student doesn't necessarily also mean being a teaching assistant or a research assistant... but being a "black sheep" can be fun too, ha ha
On a side note, I figured it was appropriate to start this post with a Disney quote since it has had such a large impact on my Purdue experience.

Also, I find it funny to look back at what I learned my freshman year in some of my technology classes and laugh since that is out-dated and even deprecated terminology and processes now - got to love the technology industry and how constantly things are changing/evolving.

To all my friends, thanks for everything - hanging out, football & basketball games, movies, Knight Spot Grill, Harrison Grill "Thirsty Thursday" Nights, Cary SE Staff Nights, Nine Irish Brothers get-togethers, Unfinished Block P, ...and anything else I haven't been able to recall.

So now it's time to start a new chapter in my life, while I will miss Purdue, I'm also ready to move on. I'm anxious to see what lies ahead...

"Of all the days we've spent with you, All Hail our own Purdue!"
4 August 2010

Posted by Frank Garofalo | Topic: Research (General)

Symbiosis: a cooperative human & interface relationship

I recently read an excerpt from J. Licklider in a book, The Design of Future Things by Donald A. Norman. The discussion in the excerpt discusses "Man-Computer Symbiosis" (a similar article can be found at here). Licklider describes the concept of symbiosis, in terms of user-interface design and human-computer interaction, as "a merger of two components, one human, one machine, where the mix is smooth and fruitful, the resulting collaboration exceeding what either is capable of alone." I found this to be a very interesting description of what the optimum goal for a user-interface should entail. The Merriam-Webster Online Dictionary definition for symbiosis is "the living together in more or less intimate association or close union of two dissimilar organisms (as in parasitism or commensalism); a cooperative relationship." The main concept here is that a user-interface should provide a "cooperative relationship" between the hardware/software interface and the human using such interface.
20 July 2010

Posted by Frank Garofalo | Topic: Multi-touch

Adobe AIR and Multi-touch for Multi-user Collaboration

Below is an article I wrote for the Adobe Developer Connection (Education Category). The full article, published July 2010, can be found at: http://www.adobe.com/devnet/edu/articles/frank_garofalo.html

- - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - -

"Multi-touch" technology has generated a large amount of buzz in the past several months. Some of the buzz is about mobile/handheld devices, and some has come from broadcast media's adoption of touch devices for their programs (such as CNN's "Magic Wall," NBC's Saturday Night Live, and ESPN). This has resulted in the term "multi-touch" being used to describe a broad range of interaction types, interfaces, and devices. Most of the uses for touch interfaces that I've seen have involved a single user interface allowing only one or two touch points at a time through tapping the screen or through gestures. However, the true capabilities of a "multi-touch" interface can accommodate multiple users interacting through any number of taps or gestures on the screen at the same time.

Multi-user Multi-touch

For the purpose of this article I do not refer to "multi-touch" to describe a smart-phone or hand-held device that can recognize only one or two points of touch simultaneously, such as a Motorola DROID; I refer to larger devices like the Microsoft Surface product that can accommodate multiple users and recognize points of touch from several users simultaneously (at least three simultaneous points of touch).

The research conducted as part of my graduate studies in the Department of Computer Graphics Technology at Purdue University (www.tech.purdue.edu/cgt/) has been a qualitative examination of multi-user collaboration with multi-touch devices. The study explored the experience of users performing a common task in a shared environment (in this case the shared environment is the single display screen of the multi-touch device). For more details about this research study visit www.multiusermultitouch.com.

Digitally Replicating a Six Sigma Brainstorming Exercise

For my research, I designed and built my own multi-touch table (which is currently pending a U.S. Patent) that could showcase the interface I developed with the Adobe Flash Platform.

For the hardware, I used an open-source software package called Community Core Vision (CCV), created by the NUI Group, to serve as a liaison between the hardware components and the Adobe Flash Player. I developed an Adobe AIR application to recreate a brainstorming exercise used within Six Sigma, known as both "Affinity Diagrams" and "KJ Analysis." Typically in Affinity Diagram exercises, participants anonymously record and submit individual ideas or concepts on separate sticky notes. Then the participants sort through the sticky notes, grouping and categorizing them by moving them physically. Through this process, unforeseen relationships between the ideas can emerge. Since this activity requires participants to interact in a shared work environment in the physical world, I chose to replicate it in a multi-touch environment to explore the implications for a multi-user interface.

Exploring the Multi-user Interface

A moderator with Six Sigma Green-Belt certification and experience working with both corporations and universities served as a facilitator for the exercises performed during user testing. I selected Adobe AIR as the client since the application could run natively on a laptop computer connected to the multi-touch table, and chose the Adobe Flash Platform to capture the experience of multiple users simultaneously interacting with multi-touch interface and hardware. In the AIR application, users were able to move virtual sticky notes on the multi-touch table, and perform the same grouping and categorizing exercises that people do with physical sticky notes in an Affinity Diagram exercise.

While both the hardware and software of the multi-touch device created a few challenges for the participants on various levels, including occasional software failures, they were able to complete the exercises. That benefited not only this study, aimed at collecting qualitative data from the participants, but also the participants themselves, who were able to take the results of the Affinity Diagram exercises back to their respective organizations on the Purdue campus.

Affirming Research Assumptions

My goal was to determine whether a multi-touch interface and device can be a practical shared environment for a team of individuals to complete a common task. The participants indicated that for completing an Affinity Diagram exercise, the multi-touch device proved to be a useful tool and believe that it improved collaboration. The moderator for the Affinity Diagram exercise was surprised at the speed with which the participants in both rounds completed the tasks, despite a learning curve for them to become familiar with the multi-touch device. She remarked that she has "not done one on paper that quickly." Furthermore, participants in the study expressed appreciation for the usefulness the multi-touch device provided. It allowed them to see all the data in front of them at once, and to see most of the actions of their fellow participants.

About the author

Frank Garofalo is a creative developer/technical designer for online media. His professional experience includes operating his own web & interactive multimedia firm named Cyber View (www.cyberviewsites.com) since 1999. In 2002 he began designing and developing with Adobe Flash. He graduated from Purdue University with a degree in Computer Graphics Technology in 2008. Additional professional experience includes employment with the Walt Disney Company and Bank of America. To date his graduate studies at Purdue University have focused on multi-touch device interfaces built on the Adobe Flash Platform and he has examined multi-user collaboration facilitated by multi-touch devices. His blog and portfolio can be found at www.frankgarofalo.com.


14 July 2010

Posted by Frank Garofalo | Topic: Miscellaneous

Emergency Test Simulation at Purdue Univ.

I had a unique opportunity to participate in a test exercise for Purdue Police, Fire and EMS emergency services on campus today. The simulation was designed to replicate several scenarios, including an "active shooter" (to replicate the unfortunate incidents at Virgina Tech a few years ago).

I played as a professor who had class outside between two buildings in which the "active shooter" and moved between. For the scenarios, members of my fake class were gunned down and deceased, while others were severally wounded.

For more details about the event, take a look at:
13 July 2010

Posted by Frank Garofalo | Topic: Multi-touch

Semi-Finalist in Adobe Design Achievement Awards

2010 Adobe Design Achievement AwardsThe submission of the Adobe AIR application I developed as the user-interface for my graduate research project has been selected as a semi-finalist in the Adobe Design Achievement Awards. Below are my submission details:

  • Submission Category: Non-Browser-Based Design
  • Submission #: 484
  • Entry title: Multi-user Collaboration
  • Number of Pieces: 1

For more details about the Adobe Design Achievement Awards, visit: https://adaa.adobe.com/us/content/adaaLive

12 July 2010

Posted by Frank Garofalo | Topic: Multi-touch

Success! Grad Research Complete

Today I gave my defense presentation to my graduate research committee and the professors signed-off on my research report and passed me! I get to graduate in August with a Master of Science in Computer Graphics Technology.
11 July 2010

Posted by Frank Garofalo | Topic: Multi-touch

Defense Presentation

My Defense Presentation is tomorrow and I'm ready! The Defense will take place at 1pm EST in room Knoy 373. The presentation slides are done and I've reviewed them several times already.

Grad school has been an interesting and challenging journey. I'll openly admit that there were some points along the way I wasn't sure if I was going to see the end. I'm glad it's finally coming to a conclusion. I have learned a significant amount not only about my research topic and methods for conducting qualitative research studies, but also I've learned more about myself... the cliche of "when the going gets tough, the tough get going" comes to mind.

I have several "thank yous" to give out for my sincere appreciation:
  • My parents and brother
  • Robert Brophy
  • Dr. James Mohler
  • Prof. Rodney Vandeveer
  • Prof. Terry Burton
  • Prof. Gail Farnsley
  • Dr. Mary Sadowski
  • Julie Talz
  • My Resident Assistant Staff Members at Cary Quad from the past few years
  • ... and all my friends who have stood by me (and let me vent/rant at times!), you know who you are
Thanks!
2 July 2010

Posted by Frank Garofalo | Topic: Research (General)

The Research Paper - Update

Today I received edits back from the chair of my graduate studies, Dr. James Mohler. His feedback, along with the edits, was:
I have gone through your document and I think it is in pretty good shape. I have edited and you can pick up the changes I am suggesting. Most edits are grammatical errors/small things to tighten up the document. You have done a good job analyzing and summarizing the qualitative data.
So... good news! I've completed making all of his recommended changes and submitted it back to all my committee members: Dr. James Mohler, Prof. Terry Burton and Prof. Rodney Vandeveer.
27 June 2010

Posted by Frank Garofalo | Topic: Research (General)

The Research Paper

The main draft of my research paper is now complete. Here is an overview:
  • Content Pages: 127 (including the Bibliography)
  • Content Page Word Count: 41,894 words (including section titles, not including the table of content and list of figures)
  • Total Pages: 154
25 June 2010

Posted by Frank Garofalo | Topic: Research - Undergrad

Adobe Museum of Digital Media

Adobe Systems has announced the creation of the first ever "digital museum," which just happens to be dedicated to showcasing digital media. The official name is "Adobe Museum of Digital Media" or "AMDM" for short.

For more details visit: www.adobemuseum.com

16 June 2010

Posted by Frank Garofalo | Topic: Multi-touch

Data Analysis

I've completed transcribing the audio recordings of the 8 1-on-1 interviews and 1 of the 2 focus group sessions. Now it's time to start the data analysis...

From all 8 interviews there were 5,846 words transcribed, but to get a visual of the most frequent spoken words from my testing participants (plus filtering out 'common English words') below is the result - thanks to Wordle:

31 May 2010

Posted by Frank Garofalo | Topic: RIAs

Adobe: We Heart Choice

We heart freedom of choiceAdobe has launched a web page outlining their dedication to providing users of their software and platforms choices.

To quote the site "At Adobe, we believe that the open flow of creativity, ideas, and information should be limited only by the imagination. Innovation thrives when people are free to choose the technologies that enable them to openly express themselves and access information where and when they want. Everyone loses when technological barriers impede the exchange of ideas."

What this all comes down to is Adobe highlighting their commitment to allowing designers and developers the ability to choose which tools they would like to use when creating content for their target audience. In other words, another jab at Apple for making the iPhone platform a closed, proprietary system.

For more details, visit: http://www.adobe.com/choice/

24 May 2010

Posted by Frank Garofalo | Topic: Multi-touch

User Testing - Round 2 Part 1

Today marked the beginning of Round 2 of user testing with Part 1 - the Affinity Diagram exercise. From Round 1 (User Testing - Part 1) the voluntary participant number wasn't high enough so a second round of user testing was required. The testing today went very well overall. I'm glad to say that the system didn't crash, as it did during Round 1 - Part 1 (so the modification I made to the open source code seemed to resolve the issue that was occurring).

The largest challenge with the user testing today seemed to be when the digital sticky notes would either move to the default top left corner (the 0,0 coordinate) or it would move to the location of the last touch point (which was usually another testing participants touch point). This seems to be an issue with Community Core Vision (CCV), the open source code, and the ActionScript 3.0 class which communication with CCV.
6 May 2010

Posted by Frank Garofalo | Topic: Miscellaneous

Reflecting on my SR experience

Below is a reflection of my experience as a Staff Resident at Cary Quadrangle from 2007 until 2010. For those who don't know, a Staff Resident is a live-in supervisor position for University Residences at Purdue University, whom directly oversees a staff of resident assistants. Take these thoughts for what they are worth - they're just purely based upon my experiences (successes and failures).

Motivation

  • Staff Dinners - regardless of having a breakfast, lunch or dinner, get your staff together on a regular basis besides staff meetings. Make it optional, but highly encouraged. I have witnessed how this social aspect helps to build a strong connection among staff members. A large part of supervising a staff is the human resources side - the soft skills.
  • Personality Sheets & individual specific rewards - having a brief survey to ask your direct reports about their favorite candy, ice cream, movie, song, holiday etc helps to provide you with information to reveal who they are and what makes them "tick." Also asking how they are motivated as well as how they prefer to be recognized is beneficial information to know. By collecting a list of their favorite candy, cookie, soda, etc this can help when rewarding your staff by giving them specific rewards that you know are their favorites - such as regarding everyone who turns something in on-time and rewarding them each their favorite candy bar.
  • Sometimes there is a fine line between being a friend and a supervisor, especially when both of you are still students in college; in addition to living and working in the same building.

Administration

  • Don't be afraid to ask questions - ask "why?" I thoroughly believe a good manager should not be afraid to have their direct reports question why things are being done / implemented. On a side note, I thank Bob Brophy for having an open communication channel going both up and down the chain of command.
  • Come to the table with possible suggestions/solutions, when you disagree with something. This shows that you have at least started to think about what might work better, rather than just showing up and complaining.

Progressive Discipline

  • Acknowledge the issue that had occurred, and then focus on preventative / corrective action to keep the issue from occurring again.
  • Look for a pattern of behavior - which then definitely needs to be addressed.
  • Document everything - even if it means keeping a separate notebook or an Excel spreadsheet.

Confrontation with residents

  • Ask questions - to some degree, just like the Socratic method.
  • Don't make assumptions, again: ask questions.
  • My personal favorite: If there is a large group of residents doing something they shouldn't - say "Gentlemen" (I worked at Cary Quad will all male residents) in a loud tone to get their attention, then ask them "what are you doing?"
  • If confronting intoxicated residents, especially those who are uncooperative, tell them that you are concerned about their well being since they are unable to cooperative with you. Call the paramedics and tell the Purdue dispatcher that you have reasons to believe the individuals are intoxicated. Then 90% of the time a PUPD officer will show up with the paramedics.
  • From my observations, most people today lack the skill of confrontation. They prefer to avoid confronting someone else about an issue they have. The skills that you can develop as a RA and feeling comfortable confronting others, I personally believe will be a valued asset to have in your profession as well as personal life.

Building a community for Resident Assistants (originally written August 2009)

  • Building a community is your #1 goal. But how do you do that? Through offering programs to residents, it gives them opportunities to get to know one another as well as establish a rapport with each other and with you. From Day 1 through at least Week 3, you need to focus a large amount of attention on your floor and be accessible to your residents. Get them together for floor dinners each night. Take a group to the fitness center to play basketball or Wally-ball. Initiate a video game tournament. There are several things you can do to determine the interests of your residents, such as passing out a survey to them. Once you know what interests them - you can plan programs around their interests. When you plan programs around their interests, hopefully you will have a larger attendance at the program.
  • Since community development isn't necessarily a tangible item that can be easily accounted for, the Programming Model exists to help us determine if you have created a community on your floor. The model quantifies the effort you have made to build a community for the sake of performance evaluations. Granted there can be the best RA ever with a floor of residents that don't want to have anything to do with their RA, which is why the model allows you to plan programs for your residents but also invite residents from all across your hall and even other residence halls. Be in communication with your Staff Resident to keep them informed on how the community is evolving on your floor - they can provide suggestions and tips to develop it further, thus making you more successful.
  • These first few weeks are crucial to establish the community now while most of your residents are adjusting or re-adjusting to campus. If you are able to establish the community now, it should make the rest of your school-year easier.
  • Looking long-term, obviously being a RA isn't a life-time career however by building a community on your floor the skill sets you develop can provide you with an added value once you are out in the workplace.

Additional Overall thoughts

  • Residents are the customer, not the parents (even though they may be paying the bill).
  • Keep your staff informed and updated as often as possible - this will keep everyone content. Time and time again I've seen too many problems occur because people weren't aware of the most accurate information available.
  • Give credit where credit is do - if a direct report of yours makes a large accomplishment that catches the attention of others, don't take credit for it just because the staff member works for you. I've seen some managers take credit for what their staff has done, just because they supervise them.
  • "Experience is something you gain after you needed it" ~unknown, and to expand upon that: every situation you encounter will be slightly different from the last (again, don't make assumptions) but hopefully you can call upon your past experiences as a rough set of guidelines to determine the best course of action with the current situation you may find yourself in.
  • Have fun - and stay positive. Laugh at yourself when you make mistakes.

I'll add more to this if I think of more thoughts to share.

3 May 2010

Posted by Frank Garofalo | Topic: User Experience

Rollovers - a thing of the past?

In a letter Steve Jobs released discussing Apple's "Flash distaste" (http://news.cnet.com/8301-30685_3-20003742-264.html), he states the following:
Flash was designed for PCs using mice, not for touch screens using fingers. For example, many Flash websites rely on "rollovers", which pop up menus or other elements when the mouse arrow hovers over a specific spot. Apple's revolutionary multi-touch interface doesn't use a mouse, and there is no concept of a rollover. Most Flash websites will need to be rewritten to support touch-based devices. If developers need to rewrite their Flash websites, why not use modern technologies like HTML5, CSS and JavaScript?

Now as a designer / developer for multi-touch interfaces with the Adobe Flash Platform, I may be a bit biased here, but I disagree with his statement on several points. Most technologies were designed during the PC age, including Flash, the Web, HTML, and even several products from Apple. The mouse at the time was the most cost effective input device to replicate actually clicking and selecting items on a computer screen/display. Now with the continuing evolution of multi-touch devices, there are several new interface advantages and disadvantages emerging.

"Rollovers" can still occur in a multi-touch interface to help indicate to the user what element of the UI the user has selected. While I do admit, with multi-touch there is a blurred line between a "rollover" and a "single-tag/touch," so depending on the interface these may need to be coded differently to acknowledge a touch vs a mouse click.

As for the "modern technologies like HTML5" - we've seen time and time again with various Internet browsers slightly different implementations of web standards created by the W3C and I doubt HTML5 (http://dev.w3.org/html5/spec/Overview.html) will be any different. The challenge with this to web designers / developers is creating a consistent user-experience across all Internet browsers and computer operating systems. At least with Flash, a consistent, engaging experience can be achieved.
1 May 2010

Posted by Frank Garofalo | Topic: Multi-touch

A Multi-user Collaboration Multi-touch Device

The digital post-it notes being sorted included various popular social networking sites, such as Facebook, YouTube, Flickr, Twitter, etc. Special thanks for volunteering to be video taped - Sean S., Brian E., Ben T., and Mike M.

29 April 2010

Posted by Frank Garofalo | Topic: User Experience

We are Living in Exponential Times

I saw this a few years ago, but a friend of mine - Matthew Broadfoot - brought it up today and shared the link with me to the YouTube Video... it kind of puts things in an interesting perspective.

29 April 2010

Posted by Frank Garofalo | Topic: Multi-touch

Provisional Patent

On April 23rd 2010 a provisional patent application was filed with the United States Patent and Trademark Office (USPTO). The provisional number is 61/327,354 with Frank J. Garofalo and James L. Mohler listed as the inventors, and the Purdue Research Foundation (http://www.prf.org/otc/) as the assignee.
21 April 2010

Posted by Frank Garofalo | Topic: Miscellaneous

DROID vs iPhone

A friend of mine, Ben Doll, sent this to me the other day... I found it to be quite funny and very true.

But, I'm still waiting for the release of the Adobe Flash Player for my Android phone. I've signed up to be notified when the beta release is available (http://www.adobe.com/go/fpbetaandroid).
20 April 2010

Posted by Frank Garofalo | Topic: Multi-touch

User Testing - Part 1

Yesterday (April 19th 2010), I started part 1 of the user testing for my research project regarding the multi-touch device and software application I've been developing. The software application is based on the Six Sigma Affinity Diagram (aka KJ Analysis) exercise. This is typically used to sort through qualitative data (such as ideas from a brainstorming session) to find unforeseen relationships between the the data items / ideas by grouping them into categories.

I was granted permission by Dr. Mary Sadowski, Associate Dean for the College of Technology at Purdue University, to ask faculty members from a committee within the College of Technology to use my multi-touch device and software application to aide them in sorting through some ideas/outcomes regarding a project they are working on.


Image 1 - Doing a run-through prior to user testing during set-up.


Image 2 - User Testing.

During the user testing the software application unfortunately crashed twice. Each time the users had to restart the Affinity Diagram from the beginning. After the second crash, I went into the code and quickly made some alterations. The problem was occurring with an open-source class written in ActionScript 3.0 which processes data received from Community Core Vision (the open-source software which interprets the images received from the camera component of the device's hardware). I added some "try / catch" statements. This seemed to resolve the issue since the software application didn't crash after the modifications.

Overall, the user testing proved to be successful. Excellent data was collected both regarding the interaction of user-to-user and user-to-interface. Also, notes for improvements to the software application.
15 April 2010

Posted by Frank Garofalo | Topic: Miscellaneous

Waking Sleeping Beauty

I attended a film screening and presentation today at Fowler Hall (on Purdue's campus) by Purdue Alum and former Disney Studios Executive, Peter Schneider. The documentary, Waking Sleeping Beauty, showcased life inside the Walt Disney Company Feature Animation division in the late 1980s and early 1990s. The film talked about teamwork, triumphs, failures, egos, anger, movies and magic. It was inspiring and motivating.

Some of the quotes that I jotted down from the film are:
  • "Can't play the game unless everyone is firing off on all cylinders." ~Unknown
  • "Humility is the ultimate virtue." ~Frank Wells, Former Walt Disney Company COO
  • "Got to any institution and you'll see, it's not about the bricks and mortar, it's about the people." ~ Michael Eisner, Former Walt Disney Company CEO & Chairman
The documentary gave me thoughts of needing to cherish what you have, work hard to achieve what you desire, build strong friendships along the way, and to always remember what matters most in life.
12 April 2010

Posted by Frank Garofalo | Topic: Research - Undergrad

Adobe Creative Suite 5

Adobe has announced their global online launch event for Adobe Creative Suite 5 to be on today (April 12th). Be among the first to see more than 250 new "game-changing" features coming with CS5. The even will last approximately 30 minutes.

Adobe CS5 Global Online 
Launch Event - Register Now

Register now at: http://cs5launch.adobe.com
9 April 2010

Posted by Frank Garofalo | Topic: Research (General)

Microsoft Touch & Pen

One of my friends shared this video/article link with me. The pen looks easy to make - basically a stylus with an infrared light on the end. As for the software - it's very impressive. I look forward to experimenting with the other multi-touch apps I can come up with once I'm done with the app I'm creating for my grad research.


Source: http://www.istartedsomething.com/20100409/microsoft-research-manual-deskterity-synergy-pen-touch/
8 April 2010

Posted by Frank Garofalo | Topic: Miscellaneous

PIXELS

This is awesome...

PIXELS by PATRICK JEAN.

I originally saw this on Michael Lebowitz's Blog at http://lebowitz.net/amazing-pixels