Posted by: Rowan | February 12, 2008

Kelly Goto at Webstock ’08

I spent today at Kelly Goto’s workshop on Interaction Design at Webstock. Kelly is a consummate presenter and came with as much material and hands-on exercise as anybody could possibly cram into one day.

I can never be reminded enough that getting outside your own head is soooo important when you develop for the web.

Much of the afternoon was devoted to an exercise in which we split into groups to design and user-test a new ‘product’ in development.

Our group’s product was an online banking app for mobiles. The functionality itself was simple; check balances, transfer between accounts, etc – not much different from an ATM. But a serious amount of thought went into developing a clear and consistent navigation system. There aren’t many programmable keys available on a cellphone.

We took Kelly’s advice and built an awesome testing environment, too. It was a big paper cellphone with a cutout area for the screen, so one of the team could swap different screens in and out of the cutout in response to our testers’ actions.

So off we went for user testing with our big paper cellphone, to discover what we knew all along. No matter how much thought you put into design, it’s not enough until you’ve talked to your users.

One of our testers messed up entering his password and went looking for the (non-existent, unfortunately) Clear button. Being the good sorts that we are, we hastily scribbled one onto our big paper cellphone to help him out.

The second tester was completely unappreciative of all the work we’d put into the navigation system. He just used the joystick thing on his phone to scroll through all the options till he got to the right one. So we assured him that yes, our app was designed to handle that behaviour too. We’d already fudged on one issue, so another one couldn’t possibly hurt.

It’s a bit of a downer for the self-esteem when the holes in your own careful thinking are pointed out. But I’m glad we picked up on those issues before our concept left the paper it was drawn up on. Better now than looking like a dork later, I guess.

Now, armed to the teeth with user feedback, I’m off to storm the market for online banking apps designed to work flawlessly with big paper cellphones. I’ll be back soon.


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