Steve Martin

Designer, Thinker, Student of Human Behavior

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Filtering by Tag: ux design

The iTunes 10 Travesty

Come on, Apple. I was just lauding your "consistent UI" and "great grasp of UX" to some folks a couple of days ago, and you go and release iTunes 10. As my daughter would say, "That's icky!" Here are my few complaints, along with a few from folks around the interwebs:

  1. The "close / minimize / maximize" buttons are now VERTICAL!? WHAT? Every, and I mean EVERY app in OSX has them horizontal. Why would you do this? A central theme of good UI design is that you keep things consistent and strive to meet the user's expectations. This just confuses people. ESPECIALLY if they're COLOR-BLIND. Big fail here. Not to mention that putting the buttons here makes the top bar of the app super skinny, thus making it hard to grab and move around (same problem Google Chrome has). Luckily, there's a fix for this one - and it works great!

  2. The color has been completely sucked out of the UI. So many people navigate using those colored icons. People don't look at whether it's a little "gear" or "music notes" - people look for "green" or "blue". Plus, from an aesthetic standpoint, it's all boring and monochrome. I have a COLOR monitor for a reason. Looks like there's a fix for that as well.

  3. In the podcast section, the checkboxes have been moved into their own column, thus putting them outside the hierarchy of the dropdown. This is a BIG no-no in UI design. Things that relate to each other need to be NEXT TO each other (see Gestalt Law of Proximity). I see what they're trying to do (put the checks in their own column so they're moveable), but I can't figure out why that's needed. There's no reason to move the checks away from the actual item they refer to - it only confuses and makes me think. DON'T MAKE ME THINK!

  4. This isn't so much a UX complaint, but they sure missed an opportunity with the new iTunes app icon. They removed the CD, and I get that (I haven't bought a CD in YEARS), but it's still just music notes. There's so much MORE in iTunes than music. But, then again, maybe they would have needed to change the name of the app. Here's an iTunes icon that at least matches the iTunes icon on the iOS devices.

Here's a SMALL sampling of quotes from around the Twitterverse:

"whichever vampire drained the color from iTunes 10 should be taken out back behind 5IL and staked to the basket ball court." @rudyrichter

"the only thing worse than iTunes 10 is Ping. #justsayin" @timschraeder

"What do we hate! ITUNES 10! Why do we hate it! BECAUSE IT IS UGLY! <chant>" @sh

"my computer is asking me to dl iTunes 10.0 but I don't think I want to cuz I don't want the new ugly logo." @jb140

"Is it just me, or is the new iTunes 10 73% more ugly, cluttered and unnecessary? More ugly" @sirhcllenrad

"Every version of iTunes has had it's own 'unique' UX. And it's horribly inconsistent with their OS." @studuncan

Needless to say, people aren't happy. I have to wonder how much testing is actually done on some of Apple's internal stuff, or if they just let designers have their way with things. Either way, I sure hope they'll do something about it eventually. For now, I'm going to go see how much SPAM is on Ping...

Conversions 'R' Us

I was recently asked to give a webinar (although I hate that word, just for the record) about how to increase conversions on your website. The organizers wanted to call it "Website Optimization: How to increase conversions & boost revenue", but that sounded kinda boring and dry. So I called it "Conversions 'R' Us" - much better, I think. Then I asked myself, "Steve, what's the most effective way to increase conversions on a website?" to which I responded, "A killer user experience!" to which I agreed.  I checked with Whitney Hess for permission to use the 4 steps she outlines in her "DIY UX" talk, to which she kindly agreed, and the presentation turned out pretty good (if I do say so myself). I also borrowed a couple slides from my DIY Usability talk, to which I also kindly agreed. (Oh, and I stole the "Zune vs. iPod" idea from Jared Spool)

If you'd like to see me give this presentation in person, stay tuned for an announcement of where and when (hint: Art Lab, Fort Collins, Colorado - sometime in the future).


SEO Rankings does NOT = Sales

Last year a local tree service, Fort Collins Tree Care, came to me with a problem:

  • Their website was #1 in Google for EVERY keyword they wanted
  • They were getting almost ZERO leads from this #1-ranked site

Shouldn't a #1 Google-ranked site be getting them some serious sales? Isn't SEO rankings what it's ALL about? Well, NO!

It was obvious from looking at the site that it needed an updated design (at the least), but that wasn't going to be enough. FC Tree Care's main goal was to get people to submit their information for an estimate which they could follow up on. Period.  So along with a redesign of their site, I developed the information architecture and conducted user testing to figure out in which direction we should go.

So using what we'd I'd learned through user research and developing an intuitive site flow, the site was redesigned.

The day the site launched, they started getting 2-3 requests for estimate per DAY, and now, 4 months later, they're STILL getting that many. It's become a vital part of their sales process, and their job estimator works almost exclusively on web requests.

The effectiveness of this site - or any site for that matter - isn't due to fancy graphic design (the design is nice, but nothing super special) - it's due to taking the business objectives, finding out what users wanted, and crafting the site around that desired experience.

How much of your content do people read?

Brian Cray has a great blog post on "Estimated reading time in web design". In it he references Jakob Nielsen's article last year on how much people actually read on the web, and I was blown away. Visitors to your site (on average) read only 20% of your content!! Wow!! This is a really important metric that we all - especially bloggers and copywriters - need to keep in mind at all times! (hint: bullet points!)

In the light of this (somewhat) depressing statistic, Brian came up with a great idea: give your users an idea of how long it will take to read your content. Simple yet brilliant. If users see "Reading time: about 1 min 14 sec", they're much more likely to go ahead and read it all because, hey - what's ONE minute, right? It's also a great way for you long-winded writers out  there to reign yourselves in (please, please reign yourselves in!). Unfortunately, there's no research on exactly what the tipping point is at which people WON'T read - is it 5 min? 3 min? Who knows (although for me it's probably around 3 minutes). It also varies based upon too many factors to count, but it's still a great way to nudge users on to read your brilliant insights. Why is this important? Simple: the more eyeballs, the more influence.

(Oh, and I've implemented his great php code snippet to calculate the reading time on all blog posts - the code is included in his post on the subject)

Great UX Design = Surprise Them!

Providing your website visitors with a wonderful experience is way more than great usability, proper information architecture, or just beautiful design. The best thing you can do on a website is to make users smile. That's good UX design. One great way to do that is to surprise users from time to time. NO - not the "Oh, what a surprise, the navigation's moved to the other side of the screen" type of surprise, I mean little things thrown in there that not even everyone will notice, but everyone who does will love. Case in point: - go there and slowly resize your browser window & see what happens to the vines hanging down. Go ahead - I'll wait…


Good - you're back. Admit it - you smiled, didn't you! That's what I'm talking about. It doesn't change or add to the functionality of the site at all, but it DEFINITELY adds loads to the users' experience, and a happy user is MUCH more willing to pull out their wallet, no?  The man who designed that site, Paul Annett, has been playing around with other fun CSS trickery - check out his cool "channel 4" logo. It's another great example of how something small can be big in UX. (by the way, he's now available for freelance work)