UX Blog: UX Marks the Spot

This blog is temporarily going out of hiatus to share a friendly reminder to the loyal subscribers and readers of Standard Web Standards.

I’ve created a blog called UX Marks the Spot (http://ux.raquedan.com) and it’s a spin-off from Standard Web Standards. All the usability, user experience, information architecture, interaction design, and book reviews posts in this blog has been moved over there. Moreover, my future posts on the aforementioned topics will be placed there.

Why the new blog? I decided to de-couple the UX side of the posts since this blog will be revived once the web standards scene gets a lot interesting again. 😛

I really find it easy to write and blog about things I’m currently in to, and since I’ve been doing tons of UX work as of late, I decided to spin the blog off and maintain Standard Web Standards’ “in hiatus” status.

I invite you to check the blog out and hopefully you will subscribe to the RSS feed.  🙂

Friendster Revamps: Now What?

Friendster just launched a new look and feel that makes it look more like a site that belongs to the new decade. But is it enough?

Friendster’s steady decline decline and getting leapfrogged by competitors MySpace and Facebook are well-documented and this latest move can be seen as a way to increase its value since there are talks that Friendster is about to be acquired by an Asian firm.

Now, what about the redesign?

The new design sports a 3-column template, changed from a 2-column design. From my perspective, this decision was sparked by better advertisement placement. The new design is able to place a large rectangle ad in a more prominent position in the right-side column. This change seems to be a nod to Facebook’s 3-column layout.

Another thing worth noting is the addition of the “Activity Stream,” or the list of updates presented in reverse chronological order. This feature is quite common in major social networking sites (Facebook, LinkedIn, etc.) but it feels more like the one in Multiply.

Visiting the other sections of the site, there’s little departure from the original design as the photos, friends, and profile areas looks very much alike the old design. The addition  of an expanded games section may be hint to where Friendster is going.

As the grand-daddy of social networking sites, Friendster is trying to play catch up with Facebook in terms of the look & feel and features. But given Friendster’s prominence is South East Asia, it remains to be seen how the folks from the Philippines, Indonesia, Singapore, and Malaysia would react to the redesign.

Review: UserTesting.com

The folks at UserTesting.com let me used their service and had this blog tested for its usability. I plan on redesigning soon and I figured this is a good time to get feedback from various sources on how I plan to move forward.

The sign-up form goes directly to the usability test set-up where I’m supposed to put in the URL of the site I want to get evaluated, as well as the information for the evaluators. At this point, you should already have an idea what you want the users to accomplish and I think it takes a great deal of time to come up with a relevant list.

For my test, I chose this blog and I used this scenario:

Look at the site for five seconds. Then look away and answer these two questions (without peeking!): (1) What do you remember? (2) What do you think the site is about?

– Try to find a blog post that’s right for you.

– After you’ve found it, read the content.

– Did you find what you were looking for?

– If this wasn’t a test, would you share the blog to your friends via your blog or facebook account?

– If this wasn’t a test, would you click on the ads?

– Try read the 10 most recent posts. What do you think of the writing style and content?

– Evaluate the design of the blog. Is it appropriate? What would you like to see more of?

Moreover, you also have to define your site’s target audience. In my case, I targeted a young demographic that specified that the testers must have Facebook and owns a blog. For this review, I was allowed to have two people to test my blog.

After a few hours, I got my test results. They came in two formats: the narrative that contains the summary of the findings of the usability evaluator and a video of the evaluation session.

As for the the results, I’m wasn’t too happy with the narratives as one was very curt and only the other one was helpful. The “thinking aloud” videos had more insight and I appreciated them more. Here’s one of the videos of the usability tests:

As you can see,  it was pretty helpful and I now some idea on how to go about in redesigning my blog.

For a price of $58, the usability test and the results from UserTesting.com were pretty OK, and I think the value is in the feedback, the video and the insights from people you don’t know. And remember, simple usability testing beats zero usability testing all the time. 🙂

Aza Raskin Talks About the Future of Browsing

Aza Raskin, head of User Experience (UX) of Mozilla Labs, gave this talk during the Future of Web Apps London event earlier this month. He shared what the next three years could be like in the browser space. From more user-centric features to payments using the browser, what could be is very intriguing:

You-Centric: The Future of Browsing from Carsonified on Vimeo.

Write an Essay on Usability, Win a Kindle!

Human Factors International is sponsoring an essay writing contest for the upcoming World Usability Day 2009. The top two essays will be taking home a spiffy new Kindle reading device from Amazon.com.

Since the theme of this year’s World Usability Day is “Designing for Sustainability,” the essay should answer the question:

How can the User Experience Community support the future of sustainability?

Each essay submission should be between 100-300 words and it will be judged on the merits on Practicality,  Strategic View,  Human Centricity, and Magnitude of Impact. All usability essays should be written in English.

The deadline for submission is on November 6, 2009 and the winners will be announced on World Usability Day, November 12, 2009. Once you’re done writing, you can submit you essay at the contest website.

World Usability Day Logo

Speaking of World Usability Day 2009, the Manila leg of the global event is slowly taking shape. I’ll keep everyone posted on World Usability Day Manila. 😀

My Y4IT 2009 Talk: Web Usability & User Experience Design

As I said in my previous post, I was invited to speak at the 2009 Y4IT Conference held at the University of the Philippines – Diliman in Quezon City and my talk was held yesterday.

Although it was my third year in a row to speak, it was my first time at the big stage. My talk, “Web Usability & User Experience Design,” was held at the University of the Philippines Theater and that capacity of that venue, by my estimate, is 3,000. Last year, I was at the UP Film Institute’s Cine Adarna, a place with at least 1,000 seating capacity. But regardless of the venue, both places were crowded and extra seats had to be provided to accommodate all the attendees.

As far as my talk went, it was pretty OK. I didn’t get nervous since there as an intermission my Pinoy Dream Academy finalist Liezel Garcia before I went on stage. The energy of the crown was pretty positive as I started. And this was helpful as I wasn’t feeling 100% at that time.

One thing I learned in presenting to large audiences is that the start has to be great. And with a crowd that was at least 3,000, I knew my start had to be better than great.

So I started to loosen up on stage and addressed the audience very casually (the attendees were primarily college students in their junior and senior years). Interestingly, I started off by telling the crowd that my talk was about, gasp, love.  Anyways, I got their attention and proceeded to transition to the meat of my talk: web usability and user experience design.

The most frustrating part about my talk was that when I asked the audience who did web projects in school, a very small, and I mean small, amount raised their hands. I could only see the negative in this. Either a) the audience wasn’t listening to me, or b) Information Technology students in the Philippines today are NOT into doing any web design or development. If the reason was the first, it meant I failed to do the necessary research about the audience and if it was the second, it meant that the future of web design in the Philippines doesn’t look good.

I also got feedback from a blogger who was part of the audience that the slide deck in Powerpoint that I used was great. (Although he was not convinced the audience was ready for my talk). But in anycase, any type of feedback is welcome. 🙂

Over-all, the experience of speaking before 3,000 people about usability was a blast. I hope the audience learned a thing or two about web usability and user experience design and I get to do this again next year. 😀

Speaking at the 2009 Y4IT Conference

I’ll be speaking again at the Philippine Youth Congress in Information Technology (aka the Y4IT Conference). I’ve had talks in Y4IT 2007 and Y4IT 2008, and for the 2009 edition, I’m going back to basics.

The themes of my last two talks were about Web 2.0 (Social media, user generated content) and I figured either I take the notch up or blaze a new trail and I chose the latter. Tomorrow, I’ll be talking about Web Usability and User Experience Design– two topics that I know pretty well and topics that are closer to my heart.

To be honest, I avoided talking about usability in the last two years because I felt I wanted to stretch my wings a bit, but now I feel that I need to remind the young IT college students again about the value of web usability.

So, for everyone who’ll be attending the Y4IT Conference tomorrow, expect the same nice talk from me on a very interesting topic. 🙂

This year’s Y4IT conference is full of very interesting topics and catchy titles and here are some that caught my eye:

  • Developing Web Toys - Mr. Luis Buenaventura II
  • Marketing Through Social Networks - Mr. J. Angelo Racoma
  • IT in the Early Grades- Ms. Sabrina Par
  • The 7 Habits of an Effective Developer - Mr. Chuk Munn Lee
  • The Next 5 in 5: Predicting Innovations  - Mr. Lope Doromal, Jr.
  • Love in Cyberspace - Prof. Cherrie Joy Billedo
  • Creating Dynamic Web Application Using ASP.NET 3.5 - Ms. Alezandra Nicolas
  • Democratizing Innovation Using the Web - Mr. Mark Ruiz
  • Empathic Computing: Innovations and Challenges – Dr. Merlin Teodosia Suarez
  • Innovation on the Web -Mr. Jay Trinidad
  • Internet Romance - Mr. Jayvee Fernandez
  • To Tumble, to Twitt; to Twitt: Perchance to Plurk: Ay, There’s the Rub - Mr. Juned Sonido