As UX professionals, we have a great many analytical and descriptive tools available to us. In fact, there are so many that it can sometimes be difficult to decide which tool is most appropriate for a given task! Hierarchical task analysis (HTA) is an underused approach in user experience, but one you can easily apply when either modifying an existing design or creating a new design.
This technique has applications across a range of different problem domains, including time-and-motion studies, personnel selection, or training, and provides a broad and deep understanding of task performance. While there are core principles that guide a hierarchical task analysis, it’s possible to adapt the basic approach in a huge number of ways to support the needs of any domain under consideration. In this column, I’ll examine one approach to hierarchical task analysis that enables UX designers to quickly understand both what a system does and how its capabilities translate into the system’s user experience. You can also use this approach to support the UX development process. Read More
Has your boss or a client ever asked you to review a user interface for a Web or desktop application? Perhaps the request went something like this: Can you just look over these new screens for us? Oh, and can you check the error messages, too? It won’t take long! And, by the way, we ship next month. Whether you are an interaction designer, usability professional, technical communicator, quality assurance engineer, or developer, reviewing a user interface typically means identifying
usability problems related to the layout, logical flow, and structure of the interface and inconsistencies in the design
non-compliance with standards
ambiguous wording in labels, dialog boxes, error messages, and onscreen user assistance
Recently, Office Depot redesigned their search user interface, adding attribute-based filtering and creating a more dynamic, interactive user experience. Unfortunately, Office Depot’s interaction design misses some key points, making their new search user interface less usable and, therefore, less effective. That’s the bad news. The good news is that the Office Depot site presents us with an excellent case study for demonstrating some of the important best practices for designing filters for faceted search results, as follows:
Decide on your filter value-selection paradigm—either drill-down or parallel selection.
Provide an obvious and consistent way to undo filter selection.
Always make all filters easily available.
At every step in the search workflow, display only filter values that correspond to the available items, or inventory.
Provide filter values that encompass all items, or the complete inventory.
By following the attribute-based filtering design best practices this article describes, you can ensure your customers can take care of business without having to spend time struggling with your search user interface. Read More