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Companies /Products specalising in aspects of UX July 4, 2008

Posted by Coolguy in About Me.
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http://www.ergolabs.com/clients.htm

This is one of the brilliant software for usability studies. MORAE

Eye Tracking: http://www.tobii.com/archive/pages/17767/What_is_eye_tracking.aspx

Task Analysis:  http://www.taskarchitect.com/case_studies.html

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What is Human Factors Psychology ? July 4, 2008

Posted by Coolguy in About Me.
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The field of human factors/ ergonomics is the scientific discipline that attempts to find the best ways to design products, equipment, and systems so that people are maximally productive, satisfied, and safe. Source

Human factors psychology combines psychology and product design in ways that we don’t usually connect.

Psychologists bring to the design table their knowledge of how people perceive products and themselves, how they process those perceptions, and how people then behave. These psychologists use their knowledge to create the experience that you have when you interact with any product or man-made artifact that you use in daily life. They apply their knowledge of a person’s cognitive processes to the design of a product, from its shape, its function, how it is properly used, its colors, its look, even to its feel. The goal of applying this knowledge is to appeal to our sense of identity, to guide users in how to use particular products, to prevent foreseeable misuse, and to give consumers the best possible experience with the product.
What actually fills the day of a human factors psychologist?

First they research a product in depth, seeking all information about its use, manufacture, and potential users. They then create user profiles, detailing the most likely groups to use a product. They note the size and cognitive trends of that demographic group and what that information may mean for a product’s development. For example, women tend to have a shorter reach and smaller hands than men, and a product intended for a woman to use would need to account for these differences. Another important part of the process is task analysis, whereby the professional analyzes the task, breaking it into smaller pieces. This can help to notice important needs of the user.

After a product is designed in its preliminary stage, then human factors psychologists go out into the real world and do field observations and interviews. Field observations involve watching people use the product or a similar one, noting difficulties in design and environmental influences. Interviews come next, when the professional talks to the people about their experience of using the product. Did they find the camera easy to use? What confused them about its buttons? Other ways of polling potential users might be questionnaires and focus groups. A focus group would entail inviting to a laboratory some potential users of the product and having them use the product. Their opinions and experiences would then be noted and discussed. All through the above tasks, a human factors psychologist is keeping meticulous records of findings.

What does it have todo with IT ?

I worked with one of them to who helped us do Task Analysis, User Profiles and Focus Groups for design of a B2C website. Facinating !!

Paper prototyping June 4, 2008

Posted by Coolguy in Web Applications.
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What is it ?

Paper prototyping is low-fidelity method of usability testing that is useful for Web sites and Web applications. They are used clarify requirements and enable draft interaction designs to be very rapidly simulated and tested.

What are the benefits ?

  • With paper prototypes, potential usability problems can be detected at a very early stage in the design process before any code has been written.
  • Easy iterations. Because the prototype is all on paper, you can modify it very easily to fix the problems you find.
  • Eliminate technology variables from the usability testing equation
  • Cost. If you are on a shoestring budget, paper is a great low-cost alternative to many software packages

What do you measure ?

  • Efficiency — How long does it take people to complete basic tasks? (For example, find something to buy, create a new account, and order the item.)
  • Accuracy — How many mistakes did people make? (And were they fatal or recoverable with the right information?)
  • Recall — How much does the person remember afterwards or after periods of non-use?
  • Emotional response — How does the person feel about the tasks completed? Is the person confident, stressed? Would the user recommend this system to a friend?

How is it done ?

  • You first decide on the tasks that you’d like the user to accomplish.
  • Next, you make screen shots and/or hand-sketched drafts of the windows, menus, dialog boxes, pages, popup messages, etc. that are needed to perform those tasks.
  • Then you conduct a usability test by having one or two developers play the role of “computer,” manipulating the pieces of paper to simulate how the interface would behave.
  • Users are given realistic tasks to perform by interacting directly with the prototype — they “click” by touching the prototype buttons or links and “type” by writing their data in the prototype’s edit fields. (Using transparency or removable tape prevents the prototype from being written on directly.)
  • A facilitator (usually someone trained in usability) conducts the session while other members of the development team observe and take notes.
  • The “computer” does not explain how the interface is supposed to work, but merely simulates what the interface would do.
  • Debrief users afterward to measure interface recall

What do you don’t need for this exercise ?

  • Don’t spend time making the prototype look neat before you test it — if it’s legible, it’s good enough.
  • Straight lines or typed text. If the user can’t read something, it’s OK to tell them what it says. (But if the user doesn’t understand a term, don’t explain it — change it.)
  • Images or icons. Use words instead. For example, for the company logo, you can just draw a box around the words “company logo.” If images are part of the content (a product catalog, for example), you can paste them into your prototype using restickable glue, which allows you to rearrange the page later
  • Color.Color can’t save an inherently flawed design — do your initial testing with grayscale printouts of screen shots, or sketches using any dark-colored marker.
  • Consistent sizing of components. Unless you’ve got a small or densely-packed display, don’t worry about adhering exactly to a grid. It’s OK if components are of varying sizes.

What is it good for ?

  • Concepts and terminology. Do the target users understand the terms you’ve chosen? Are there key concepts they gloss over or misconstrue?
  • Navigation/workflow. If there’s a process or sequence of steps, does it match what users expect? Do they have to keep flipping back and forth between screens? Does the interface ask for inputs that users don’t have, or don’t want to enter?
  • Content. Does the interface provide the right information for users to make decisions? Does it have extra information that they don’t need, or that annoys them?
  • Page layout. Although your scribbled screens may not be pretty, you’ll still get a sense of whether users can find the information they need. Do you have the fields in the order that users expect? Is the amount of information overwhelming, not enough, or about right?
  • Functionality. You may discover missing functionality that users need, or functionality you’d planned but users don’t care about.

What is not good for ?

  • Technical feasibility. Paper prototypes don’t demonstrate technical capability. It’s possible to create a paper prototype that can’t actually be implemented. To avoid this, its recommend that there always be at least one person involved who understands the technical constraints.
  • Download time or other response time. Because a person simulates the behavior of the computer, the “response time” is artificial.
  • Scrolling. Subtle problems with Web page designs discourage the user from scrolling either down the page or back up to the top. These problems cant be found with a paper prototype.
  • Colors and fonts. If you really need to see how something looks on a computer screen, paper prototyping can’t show you that. It’s a good idea to involve the graphic designer in the paper prototype tests because he may find issues that influence the visual aspects of the final design.

Why not just use HTML to create a mockup ?

  • Three researchers at Verizon compared the type and number of problems found with a low-fidelity (i.e., paper) prototype as compared to a working prototype. They found that there was a significant degree of overlap between the problems found using the two different methods. Although the working prototypes did uncover a few more problems, they also took significantly longer to develop than the low-fidelity ones — weeks instead of days. These results indicate that there are diminishing returns from taking the additional time to develop a polished prototype.
  • Zero coding effort. While it’s possible to mock up a decent-looking interface pretty quickly in VB, Dreamweaver, etc., writing the code to make the interface respond properly to the user’s inputs can be time-consuming. With a paper prototype, the time spent coding is zero — even if you’re a real whiz, it’s hard to be faster than that!
  • Avoid nit-picky feedback. A polished-looking design can actually encourage the wrong kind of feedback. e:g Those fields don’t line up. Paper prototypes avoid that kind of feedback because it’s obvious to users that you haven’t specified the look yet. This encourages users to focus on the concepts and functionality.
  • Encourage creativity. Our brains respond more creatively to things that look somewhat unfinished. And users — especially non-technical ones — are often less intimidated by paper prototypes than by computers, so they’ll feel more comfortable exploring your design.

Tips for facilitators and observers

  • When participants arrive for a usability test, explain that you know the design has some rough edges.
  • Planning, preparing, and conducting a handful of usability tests typically take on the order of a week of hands-on time, spread out over 2-4 weeks
  • Stay for the Entire Test
  • Remain Silent While the Users Are Working
  • If users get stuck on a task, that means that there is a wealth of information youshould be fervently taking notes on
  • No Helping. During the test, it’s likely that users will have problems using the interface, and it is normal to feel a temptation to help. Please don’t. Instead, try to understand why it was that the user got stuck or went down the wrong path. It’s the facilitator’s role to get users back on track if they get really stuck.
  • Avoid “Design Questions”. You will have an opportunity to ask questions after each task. Questions that ask the user their opinions about how to design aspects of the application (such as, “Where would you like to see these navigation buttons?”) can take a lot of time to answer and produce only limited results. Instead, focus on trying to understand the problem—we’ll come up with solutions later, outside the test.
  • Here are more tips.

What are the steps?

  • Pick the target user to focus on for this series of tests. (6-12 users). If you decide to test existing customers, you may already have an in-house source of users. If not you can use market research firms.
  • Decide who will facilitate and observe the sessions.
  • Defining the tasks you will ask the users to attempt with the interface
  • Developing a paper prototype of the interface
  • Holding a “rehearsal” to prepare for the usability tests
  • Conducting the usability tests while members of the usability team observe and take notes
  • Responding to the issues we discover from the tests by making as many changes between tests as possible.

Here is a good book devoted to this subject, if you need more info.

Key Process Area (KPA)’s for CMM May 30, 2008

Posted by Coolguy in IT Standards.
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Four high level process area categories for CMM are below. There are 22 KPA’s in CMM.

  1. Process Management
  2. Project Management
  3. Engineering
  4. Support

Process Management

  • Organizational Innovation and Deployment
  • Organizational Process Definition +IPPD
  • Organizational Process Focus
  • Organizational Process Performance
  • Organizational Training

Project Management

  • Project Planning
  • Project Monitoring and Control
  • Supplier Agreement Management
  • Integrated Project Management
  • Risk Management
  • Quantitative Project Management

Engineering

  • Requirements Management
  • Requirements Development
  • Technical Solution
  • Product Integration
  • Verification
  • Validation

Support

  • Configuration Management
  • Process and Product Quality Assurance
  • Measurement and Analysis
  • Decision Analysis and Resolution
  • Causal Analysis and Resolution

CMM Maturity Levels May 30, 2008

Posted by Coolguy in IT Standards.
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The Five Maturity Levels described by the Capability Maturity Model:

Initial: The software process is characterized as ad hoc, and occasionally even chaotic. Few processes are defined, and success depends on individual effort and heroics.

Repeatable: Basic project management processes are established to track cost, schedule, and functionality. The necessary process discipline is in place to repeat earlier successes on projects with similar applications. KPA’s to meet this meet this level goals are:

  • Requirements Management
  • Software Project planning
  • Software Project tracking and oversight
  • Software Subcontract management
  • Software Quality assurance
  • Software Configuration management

Defined: The software process for both management and engineering activities is documented, standardized, and integrated into a standard software process for the organization. All projects use an approved, tailored version of the organization’s standard software process for developing and maintaining software. KPA‘s for this level are:

  • Organization Process Focus
  • Organization Process Definition
  • Training Program
  • Integrated Software Management
  • Software Product Engineering
  • Intergroup Coordination
  • Peer Review

Managed: Detailed measures of the software process and product quality are collected. Both the software process and products are quantitatively understood and controlled. KPA‘s are:

  • Quantitative Process Management
  • Software Quality Management

Optimizing: Continuous process improvement is enabled by quantitative feedback from the process and from piloting innovative ideas and technologies.KPA‘s are:

  • Defect Prevention
  • Technology Change Management
  • Process Change Management

Private Equity Companies May 28, 2008

Posted by Coolguy in Finance.
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With US economy in recession and credit crunch hitting the market LBO (Leveraged Buyout) frenzy of 07 may be muted. In the first half of 2008, LBO’s fell by 40% of the dollar value of deals through July.

Nevertheless, there will be value hunters in the market buying assets at fire sale prices. Here are some of the biggest private equity firms from Fortune magazine.

Name Recent Deals Noteworthy
The Carlyle Group
The Blackstone Group Hilton Hotels
KKR

(Kohlberg Kravis Roberts)

Boots UK, TXU, Dollar General
Bain Capital Toys “R” Us, Outback Steakhouse
Warburg Pincus Bausch & Lomb, MBIA Assets in China, India and Korea
TPG

(Texas Pacific Group)

Washington Mutual
Advent International Hudson Group,

Lululemon

Euro based.
Apollo Harrah’s, Linens ‘n Things Share price tanked 40% since IPO.
Providence Bell Canada Focus on media and communication sectors
First Reserve A number of oil service companies Oil sector
Silver Lake Partners SunGuard Focus on technology
Thomas H.Lee Clear Channel
Madison Dearborn Seven niche sectors including paper products
Hellman & Freidman Getty Images
Cerberus Chrysler
Alinda Partners Infrastructure Investments
Colony Capital Real estate. Stake in Carrefour
J.C. Flowers Financial-Services companies
Apax partners Phillips Semiconductors London based
Permira Advisors Hugo Boss, Valentino Europe based
CVC Capital Partners Formula 1 Europe based
Cinven Odeon Cinemas, McVite’s brand Europe based
Terra Firma EMI Europe based

Co-creation May 27, 2008

Posted by Coolguy in Management.
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This could be one of this buzzwords you may be hearing more often, because, when Prahlad C.K, just named most influential management thinker in the world by Times of London, speaks, world pays attention.

While there is certainly no dearth of material on the internet exploring this topic, this post is my take on this not-so-new phenomenen.

The idea is that successful companies no longer invent new products and services entirely on their own. They create them along with their customers to produce an unique experience for every customer. Since no company own or can own enough resources to create these unique experiences, the management guru advocates that companies should organize a global networkers of suppliers and partners todo so.

In his latest book, The New Age of Innovation, Prahlad cites several examples of this phenomenon. So pretty powerful applications he cites are facebook opening its platform to allows users/companies to create applications based on the platform and how iPod allows users to to create their own experience by loading it with the content they like.

The company at the center of co-creation still has control on which choices it wants to offer its customers and how it wants to deliver them.

One of the challenges traditional companies may find adopting to this model is that they are built to creating and managing their own products.

One possible way to include customers needs in the product creation process is through the use of Quality Function Diagrams.

Weight loss plateau May 27, 2008

Posted by Coolguy in Health.
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Off late I have been very conscious about my weight (although my BMI levels are normal). I am making it a point to get alteast 30 minutesof exercise every day either by walking on a treadmill or by playing Wii.

I had good results so far. Looks like I lost about 7lbs in 5-6 weeks. Going forward, I don’t quite expect quite loss for the next 5-6 weeks, based on my previous experience.

I expect the progress to slow down although exercise and food intake is consistent. This phenomen is called weight loss plateau.

This plateau often occurs because the difference between energy intake and energy spent gradually balances.As the body becomes lighter after initial weight loss, its burns less calories during excercise. Hence overall gain from excercise is reduced.

Here are some tips I found and intend to use to stop this from happening. Note that my weight loss program is entirely based on exercise and not dieting. I do have a balanced diet.

  • Changing exercise routine : Switch to jogging if you are walking.
  • Add strength Training: This will increase metabolic rate
  • Increase water intake
  • Increase / change duration of exercise

Hopefully this will help me fight off the dreaded weight loss plateau. I will post the results and updates here.

The 10 stages of innovation May 25, 2008

Posted by Coolguy in Management.
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Here is a ten stages of innovation, that I can very much relate to (based on)

* Scepticism
* Enthusiasm
* Brass band and fireworks
* Results aren’t visible
* Existing business suffering
* Is it worth it?
* Start to see pay offs
* This is taking time
* Maybe not a bad idea
* It works!

Phases of innovation May 25, 2008

Posted by Coolguy in Management.
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Off late I have been working on a development of a new product and reading about product development process and innovation. Here are some interesting things I gleaned.

Phases of innovations are typically mystery, model, method and madness:

  • Mystery: This is where innovator explores and develops the idea. This is a resource intensive process.
  • Model: In this phase the idea moves mainstream, into market, and its feasibility(technical, customer needs, cost effectiveness, market) are determined.
  • Method: This is all about making the idea ready for mass production. It focuses on producing as many of the products with as possible with as inputs as possible.