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i3lance http://www.i3lance.co.uk Musings of a Scuba diving User Experience Design hybrid organ grinder Mon, 05 Aug 2019 08:51:52 +0000 en-GB hourly 1 https://wordpress.org/?v=5.2.4 http://www.i3lance.co.uk/wp-content/uploads/2017/04/cropped-logo_favicon-1-32x32.png i3lance http://www.i3lance.co.uk 32 32 SEO – One of the biggests mistakes http://www.i3lance.co.uk/index.php/2019/04/12/seo-one-of-the-biggests-mistakes/ http://www.i3lance.co.uk/index.php/2019/04/12/seo-one-of-the-biggests-mistakes/#respond Fri, 12 Apr 2019 07:25:36 +0000 http://www.i3lance.co.uk/?p=826 […]]]> It was only recently whilst looking at a friends website did I notice that


believing Google doesn’t know what they’re doing.

The biggest mistake SEO’s make is just focusing on ranking on page 1 of SERPs. sure, ranking high in keyword search is important, but not “everything”.

In the year of 2014 to be successful, it requires a strategic mix of SEO. Finding a SEO and a digital marketing agency Bangkok. Be found across multiple channels. Be a “thought leader” in your industry and utilize Google Authorship/Publisher to drive more traffic to your site and position yourself/your company as the industry expert. There are many ways, but be strategic about it and you will see a ROI, that’s why I used Legiit to find the best SEO Gigs on any marketplace.

1. Actually believing that all they need is great content and they will rank high in Google. This is ridiculous, and completely false. You DO need great content, but you need much more than that to rank in Google, make money, and do SEO correctly. Anyone who thinks differently is living in a fairy tale world of unicorns 🙂

Sholem Berkowitz from SocialWeber

Google currently has more then 200 points on which they build their algorithm, and they are changing it by the hour! So each and every Felix Hesse Media – SEO Dubai has his own guess on what the most important, and has his own very special ingredient. Some place emphasis on site structure, some press the importance of quality guest blogs, some keep repeating smart data markup tags and so on.

@David said it right. You shouldn’t spend so much time trying to figure out Google just to be hit with a new update when you think you got it. Take care of your brand, your product, your service, quality real helping content, and if you are really good and consistent your audience will find you one way or another.

After all, all Google tries to achieve is to weed out the tricksters and find those who do just the right things, so they will help you to the top for free, not penalize you.

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UX – Good User Research and UX doesn’t always win http://www.i3lance.co.uk/index.php/2017/12/27/ux-good-user-research-and-ux-doesnt-always-win/ http://www.i3lance.co.uk/index.php/2017/12/27/ux-good-user-research-and-ux-doesnt-always-win/#respond Wed, 27 Dec 2017 23:56:50 +0000 http://www.i3lance.co.uk/?p=1589 […]]]>

The takeaway: Even the best and most convincing User research doesn’t always get a project moving in the right direction. There is a point where you have to realise that those companies, groups or people have to go through the process of failing before being ready to be helped.

Is a bad experience the best teacher vs Good User research?

To be clear, we are not talking about life lessons – even though that would be a great subject in it’s own right!  We are talking about User Experience, also known as UX.

To answer the above question, it depends. Good User research will always trump bad experience when it comes to products, finance and companies.  There are only so many blind mistakes that can be made before a product is rejected by its target users, taken off the market or a company that is formed around that product folds.

Sometimes blind decisions or mistakes do lead to very successful outcomes (think of the Post-it Note, Crisps aka Potato Chips, the Microwave Oven) but it’s not a very efficient way to create a successful product.

However, experience can be a good teacher, but not the best one when it comes to UX.

I say that in this context because if an organisation’s leadership has their feet planted on the ground, they can learn from whatever mistake that led them to the conclusion of ignoring the good User research that they had that was designed to help whatever product or project to be successful.

Some have asked, “what about ‘Lean UX’? Isn’t that about learning from experience…being iterative? So it’s okay to ignore User research for a faster delivery…isn’t it?”.

No, that would be short-sighted and not advisable.  The person who would raise a question of this type doesn’t understand Lean UX properly and may have a different agenda.

Lean UX is a way to create a great foundation that is focused around the people that use the product you are designing or improving.  It involves people at a very early stage, before and whilst design decisions or direction is being formed or established, not after. That forms one of three main components in the iterative Lean UX process.

For the sake of discussion, that question some have asked does parallel life lessons.  However, the real truth, joy or success of any life lesson is not to have experienced the negative effects of a life lesson at all (if possible), but to have learned how to dodge those proverbial mines in that minefield because of previous travellers one has observed.

A simple parallel from the world of UX. Back to the subject at hand…

The reality is that even the best and most convincing User research doesn’t always get a project moving in the right direction. There is a point where you have to realise that those companies, groups or people have to go through the process of failing before being ready to be helped.

There are several reasons why this could be.  The most common reason boils down to the UX maturity of the company, groups or people you are working with.  The worst would be “having hostility toward UX”, whereas the best would be an organisation that is User driven as the Nielsen Norman Group refer to UX Maturity.

The real truth, joy or success of any life lesson is not to have experienced the negative effects of a life lesson at all, but to have learned how to dodge those proverbial mines in that minefield because of previous travellers.

Just because situations like this may occur in some organisations, that does not and should not negate the efforts put into creating good User research.

Good User research can be a better teacher

The results of good User research means that you can start to make solid, factual decisions that positively improve the product being worked on and increase the satisfaction level of the people using it.  There is less “hard knocks life lessons” to deal with.  Plus when starting with a good product focused around good User research, it will always elicit people that are more willing to provide the feedback needed to continue to improve a product.

Whatever types of User research is chosen, ensure that it is applicable to the objectives of your project – this is what creates the foundations of good User research.  Once you’ve gone through that process and completed the research with unbiased users, you are ready to start making sense of all the research you’ve collated and make it actionable. What does that mean?

Making User research actionable

Making User research actionable means that the document you’ve put together has created sufficient reason for the relevant people to take action, to do something that has clear practical value. Such as to use the User research to help shape the creative direction or improve the product.  You would have combined varied research methods (qualitative and quantitative) to create a useful actionable document.

The reality though is that many organisations are still generally doing one or the other – qualitative or quantitative types of research.  The challenge as a UX professional is presenting a User research document that has a balance of both and getting the organisation to believe in it.  On a basic level, the User research spectrum that you need to consider is below:

  • Quantitative = How many, how much
  • Qualitative = Why it happened how to resolve it

via nngroup.com

Quantitative methods are effective if you are trying to ascertain prioritisation on what to resolve first to last. Qualitative methods are particularly effective when trying to understand how best to resolve the obstacle or barrier people encounter when using the product in question.

You didn’t win.  Now what?

If the User research you’ve conducted is good – great even – and it still isn’t utilised or even recognised by your organisation, don’t go off into a corner and sulk.

Look that the positive and ask; what points (if any) resonated with the organisation or group I presented the User research to? What about the people in the room I presented to; what did I do to help them to empathise with the users? What about my manager, have I enabled his or her understanding of the User research conducted? Are there any improvements I can make in my own presentation skills? How much effort am I putting into fighting for the users? Do I have a UX strategy?

There are many more questions you could ask yourself. Whatever questions you do decide to ask yourself, be honest, you’ll find much more room for self-improvement that way.

Depending on the UX maturity of the people you are working with you may need to find ways to take smaller steps with your colleagues to help them understand the value of UX and User research in order to gain more support. If you don’t have a UX strategy, create one.

All the research we do around users should have an actionable outcome, therefore to make the positive change that you are hoping for in the product, group or organisation you need a solid strategy to drive that.

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The power of routine – which is best for your creativity? http://www.i3lance.co.uk/index.php/2017/09/26/the-power-of-routine-which-is-best-for-your-creativity/ http://www.i3lance.co.uk/index.php/2017/09/26/the-power-of-routine-which-is-best-for-your-creativity/#respond Tue, 26 Sep 2017 14:41:17 +0000 http://www.i3lance.co.uk/?p=1856 […]]]> I recently had a fellow professional on LinkedIn ask me this question “what would you say is the best preparation/routine in the morning in order to have a creative day?“.

By the time I finished typing the response I realised that I really should be sharing the wealth.

Routine works wonders in numerous areas of our lives. In some instances a certain “kind and type” of exact routine can work for more than one person. For example;

Overall physical fitness – without routine those cross-training individuals who pursued the title of “The Fittest Man/Woman on Earth” clearly wouldn’t be the fittest people on earth.

Professional sports – there are too many classifications and types of sports to mention here, but it’s a no-brainer. Ali, Ayrton Senna, Jim Brown, Michael Jordan, Usain Bolt were not regarded as the greatest in their respective sports for not having a routine (some arguably – but that is not the point).

The mind – the exercise of the mind is just as, no, actually it is more important than the exercise of the body.

Routine for the creative mind

Having structure is very important, this is go without saying. Consider the quote:

“Be regular and ordinary in your life, so that you may be violent and original in your work” – Gustave Flaubert

The word’s of the above literarian rang true for many famous musicians such as Mozart, Hugo, Strauss and more. They all had a routine, and understood that routine and creativity had a symbiotic relationship.

There is a inter-dependance between the two.

The above is a telling statement. However, I don’t believe that there is any “one best routine” when it comes to creativity.  After all, people are different, therefore think differently and are motivated by different things. I not a believer in carbon copying step for step another persons early morning routine, because then I am attempting to simply be that individual when I know I am not…I am me.

Routines that I have seen generally bring the most consistent success are ones where some exertion of energy is involved, contemplation/meditation and visualisation. And it’s really has to be unique to what you would consider a mundane task in your day.

These to me are the most important components of a routine in my experience. It’s important to know where you have been/what you have done to understand and visualise where you want to go and want to next achieve.

I work in the speciality of UX Design. My routine – which has helped to create success in the world of UX- helped to create an opportunity to give back to charities that I am extremely passionate about.

So I decided to commit to spending several months doing just that in Central America. Go where I was helped to understand there was a greater need. I still maintain a routine that works for me, even whilst volunteering.

So I personally admire and am inspired in part by many of the successful people I’ve met, or read about that have routines and work hard to maintain my own which helps to keep me focused. Sometimes to get creative i smoke a bit of weed in a vape pen. Take a look at the list of pen vapes that can be bought online in the United Kingdom.

In short, my answer to that fellow LinkedIn professional and advice to anyone reading this was and is; There is “no one best routine” for creativity. Find our own routine, don’t simply copy another persons from some blog, incorporate, adopt but don’t carbon copy.

When you find a routine that works for you, stick to it for at least 90 days before you start to make adjustments. It has been said that 30 days are what most people need to create a habit, but 90 days of that habit provides enough time to see results.

Carbon copying is short changing yourself on recognising the amazing individual you potentially “can be”.

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UX – The State of User Experience http://www.i3lance.co.uk/index.php/2017/02/17/ux-the-state-of-user-experience/ http://www.i3lance.co.uk/index.php/2017/02/17/ux-the-state-of-user-experience/#respond Fri, 17 Feb 2017 13:19:08 +0000 http://www.i3lance.co.uk/?p=1682 […]]]> I had a brief but nice conversation with a fellow User Experience (UX) professional whom I recently connected with on LinkedIn and he posed a common, but interesting question that I’m often asked.

First of all, I really liked the fact that he chose to be honest in his replies, which sparked a small conversational tangent of why it’s important – and I believe it is – to create genuine connections when networking in general, let alone on LinkedIn.

The best experience you can have is a genuine one – @i3lance

There are people out there who want to add connections for connections sake, power to them I say but I’m just not one of them. I guess as an individual working in UX my personal focus has been to create or be part of as many unique experiences as possible and have a good chunk of those experiences live and in person, not through technology.

That did mean that my own network on LinkedIn took a bit longer and then some to build, but ‘my’ user experience of interacting with those fellow professionals has been unique and awesome.

Tangent over. So onto the point of the post and my response to the fellow UX’er…

My experiences in UX has been pretty vast if I’m honest, I’ve been fortunate to work alongside some great people, lived to tell the tale on learned experiences, refine my professional principles as I’ve learned from others along the way.

I’ve had to work in organisations where UX wasn’t really an official role, but a ‘thing‘ (UX was not mature at all in those companies), I’ve also had to work in organisations where UX was none-existent in parts or in all the organisation, but apparent in other parts and to be honest, it was just as hard as if UX didn’t exist at all.

Today that landscape paints a slightly different picture. We are seeing UX design being applied in a whole host of different ways (such as to time for instance), software companies fighting to create the newest prototyping tools and more. There is a lot of movement right now in the sphere of UX.

Being part of that journey has been a very interesting and exciting one. In order to be successful in those environments I had to assume a very different approach. In fact, Jakob Nielsen describes a similar approach I personally used earlier in my career.

Watch this video on YouTube.

Before and during my own personal journey, UX has grown in popularity. People who were doing UX orientated tasks were not called User Experience Professionals, today that has changed. There are segmented roles ‘within‘ the User Experience specialty that companies are recruiting for.

Whilst that may be the case, some companies who are recruiting don’t really know ‘what‘ they want yet from their newfound UX employee and that has generally because UX isn’t mature enough in those companies, they don’t know the full effectiveness or extent of how UX can work ‘for‘ them and they customers.

On the other hand, there are other organisations, are starting to wake up to the fact that User Experience is a core part of creating a refined end product whatever that end product may be.

That doesn’t mean that ‘every‘ company is waking up to UX, there is still some ways to go in my opinion, but the future is certainly brighter than it was twelve months ago.

Twelve months? You’re only going to reference back twelve months?” You may say? Absolutely yes. That’s how much the popularity of UX has changed. I really would not be surprised if this article becomes outdated during that period either.

Yes, I am an optimist.

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UX – Web Form Design mistakes not to make http://www.i3lance.co.uk/index.php/2016/08/02/ux-web-form-design-mistakes-not-to-make/ http://www.i3lance.co.uk/index.php/2016/08/02/ux-web-form-design-mistakes-not-to-make/#respond Tue, 02 Aug 2016 14:10:27 +0000 http://www.i3lance.co.uk/?p=1448 The usability and design of web forms is not a new topic but it remains a relevant one. Why? Because there are still many sites out there that make the user experience that much more difficult for a web visitor. To strike a balance between a good and bad user experience when it comes to web forms is not that difficult.

Some web forms may be restricted because of technical limitations, for example some sites today use none customised WordPress Themes.  Other developers, novice or otherwise sometimes decide to take the power into their own hands and lean toward implementing a particular design trend and customise their WordPress, Joomla or other CMS website application.

If a web form is the primary way you want your web visitors to contact you, then this is an area always worth revisiting.

Whatever the case, if the web form design creates a bad user experience, this can create several a cognitive barriers for the user. Which makes the following question – and answer very relevant: “What UX advice or suggestions would you give the help a designer or developer to avoid mistakes on web form?”

I find that I end up gravitating to this subject a lot in UX workshops, so in an attempt to share the wealth keep reading!

Form Validation

…Or lack thereof! Without adequate input validation, users would simply lose the will to live and exit a user journey early when receiving an error they cannot understand.  There are some particularly bad examples out there.  Below is one such example:

Bad Form Validation

Bad Form Validation

To avoid a bad User Experience in this area consider the following:

  • Humanise your hints.  “Invalid entry” isn’t going to help.
  • Visually obvious. The colour of the text should be visually different to the copy of the form itself. However, this is only one of several ways error messages should be cues.
  • Autoformat entries. Some users misuse CAPSLOCK.  A reformat of an entry makes it easier for the user and you.
  • Live feedback. It’s always better to give the user feedback for each input entry instead of waiting until the very end of the form

Misleading / Confusing tickboxes

This is has been referred to as Dark Patterns.  Yes there is also a website advocating against this practice and rightly so!  This a is technique where users are deceived into signing up to newsletters, unknowingly giving over their personal details, having their details sold or shared with others, buying services they do not want or need, the list goes on.

A perfect example would be Comet, who were an electrical retail chain in the UK.  If a user buys a product like iPad, when the user gets to the checkout screen, an iPad case would be automatically added! The user did not deliberately shop or it. Unethical? Of course it is, but feel free to chime in with a comment below.  This company was acquired a few years ago, but had loads of consumer complaints filed against them.  Below is the example in question:

Dark Patterns

Dark Patterns

To avoid a bad User Experience in this area consider the following:

  • Preserving user input. Use technology to your advantage and don’t blank the form if the user makes a mistake or goes back a step to correct an earlier entry.
  • Defaulting the Opt-in. This is a decision you don’t need to make for your users.  If you suffer from lack of sign-ups to your newsletters or other services, perhaps a review of the content and it’s value is in order.  It’s a quick way to get named and shamed on sites like Dark Patterns. Opting in should be a deliberate choice, not an automatic one.

Distinguish optional / required fields

This is another error that can cause a user to get frustrated and exit the user journey early.  Clearly marking input fields that may be optional or required will make it clearer to the user which fields need attention.

To avoid a bad User Experience in this area consider the following:

  • De-clutter input fields. Remove any fields that apply to a smaller subset of users.
  • Form input clarity. Clearly mark “optional” and “required” fields. If you are able to limit the amount of these fields to less than 3, great.

Grouping labels / input fields

You want to ensure that a form label is close to it’s respective field. Using the principle of Gestalt’s Laws of Grouping, when objects are placed close to each other, users automatically perceive them as relating to each other.  This principle has to do with how humans perceive patterns in objects and proximity falls within that principle. An example of grouping in a typical form can be found below:

Walgreens registration forms comparison

The form on the right looks easier to complete because of the way it is grouped. The fields are exactly the same though.

To avoid a bad User Experience in this area consider the following:

  • Long forms. Group fields into more digestible chunks of information.  Users will find it easier to process.
  • Subject separation.  This relates once the image example able.  If your web form covers different subjects use grouping to create form clarity.
  • Label alignment.  Ensure that the field label is aligned and is within closer proximity to its respective field and any other field in the form.


It’s easy to talk UX theory and provide bad examples, but this is by no means an exhaustive list.  These are issues I regularly encounter when working with clients of all organisational sizes.  On the other hand, there are a lot of good examples out there as well.  If you are new to web design or development, use this as a starting point for your checklist. The one takeaway I hope you dear readers get from this article is that users in general do not give over their information easily if they can help it when it comes to web forms.

However, the more useable you create your web forms, the more successful submissions you are going to receive.

Further reading:

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UX – 5 Good User Experience Techniques for User Interface Design http://www.i3lance.co.uk/index.php/2016/03/09/ux-5-good-user-experience-techniques-for-user-interface-design/ http://www.i3lance.co.uk/index.php/2016/03/09/ux-5-good-user-experience-techniques-for-user-interface-design/#respond Wed, 09 Mar 2016 18:01:03 +0000 http://www.i3lance.co.uk/?p=1429 […]]]> Everyone has their own approach to User Interface Design (UID) and it can be very subjective. Technology, current trends, a targeted audience and more can have a strong influence on what the eventual design ends up being.

Many designers (let’s flippantly put everyone all in the same hat for a brief moment – in advance I ask for forgiveness!) however do follow a base set of User Experience (UX) principles that help to improve the experience for a user as they interact with a given designed User Interface.  The good one’s anyway. So in this post, I’ll be sharing a few of the principles that I have picked up over time and apply in my own work.

Simple Language – Appeal to the User

It’s easy to allow a programming framework to spit out it’s default values or to write a system notification that a developer would understand, however a user will not.

What this should encourage is that you speak the users language. If the design targets doctors or nurses (such as an emergency ward), they will have their own language so it is okay to speak that language to them, just not your own.  “Your own language” here is defined as either designer or developer jargon.

Using Computer Memory

Janne Jul Jensen had previously made this point perfectly in presentation she did several year ago. A computer is built to remember things, make use of it. As humans we are typically not great at remembering things.  However many a user journey on a website will force the user to remember things that the computer can conveniently and unobtrusively remember for them.

I’m sure we wish we were as good as the proverbial elephant, but sadly that is a rare thing these days. Enough said here for now.

“The computer is built to remember things, make use of it.” – Janne Jul Jensen

Humanise your Error Messages

This is a bug bearer that I have and relates to the first point in this post. Too often I’ve seen vague text being returned to the user on the screen, or the text field change colour without any clear messaging as to what the user did wrong or what needs to be changed to make it right. Don’t Leave a user hanging by thinking they will love the experience of receiving a robot’s or the programming framework’s default messaging of “error“, “unauthorised“, “null value“, “unknown error” or something else.

Users quickly get frustrated and tend to exit the user journey completely, resulting in them never using your site again as they wander off surfing the big bad world of the internet looking for a better alternative.

Here are a few pointers which, should be obvious, but sadly are not:

  • Be explicit
  • Be humanly readable
  • Be polite
  • Be humble
  • Be constructive

The goal is the reduce the amount of effort that a user has to exert when errors do occur in their journey, not to make life harder for them.

“If you can’t make something self-evident, you at least need to make it self-explanatory” – Steve Krug

There will be a future post on humanisation, so keep a lookout.

Optimise your user journey

This is where over simplification can really mess up the users experience and journey on a website or application. Where there are bad experiences, the user typically ends up using the web browsers default back functionality, primarily because there is no obvious way out or back a step in their user journey.

There are still many companies out there that have more of a focus on outbound marketing instead of customer retention by creating a better user journey and experience.

Amazon have gone some ways to create a good user journey – tweaking their user journey over the years and mildly adjusting the Visual Design of their User Interface (UI).

Regardless of people’s opinions of their UI, Amazon have shown that you don’t have to have a truly outstanding UI to have a good user journey – albeit not perfect. (in all honesty the UI is okay, it’s clearly not aaawards.com from a visual standpoint, but it effectively keeps the focus on the products, one of many reasons why they are winning so to speak).

Their brand recognition has been a good contributor to overcoming any flaws in their journey but most importantly it doesn’t mean that their model will work for you. Hence why using the UX process to optimise your user journey with your own users is a necessity.

Quick links or Shortcuts can be Good

If designed properly the beginner to intermediate user will not notice that these exist until they reach an intermediate to advanced level, so their User Experience (UX) is not affected negatively.

An advanced user can take advantage of this feature and get whatever it is they need out of the website or application with minimised clicks. This helps to create a quicker more efficient user journey and experience for the user.

This also relates somewhat to Flexibility vs Usability tradeoff, which I’ve spoken about before on a previous post.

It’s certainly one way – but not the only way – to cater to a wider spectrum of users.

This list is by no means exhaustive, far from it in fact, so…

What is your approach to User Interface Design? What UX principles do you keep in mind?

It would be great to hear your thoughts.

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UX – Techniques or Definitions User Experience Professionals should know and use http://www.i3lance.co.uk/index.php/2016/02/22/ux-techniques-or-definitions-user-experience-professionals-should-know-and-use/ http://www.i3lance.co.uk/index.php/2016/02/22/ux-techniques-or-definitions-user-experience-professionals-should-know-and-use/#comments Mon, 22 Feb 2016 17:34:49 +0000 http://www.i3lance.co.uk/?p=1357 When it comes to composing consistent, reliable and creative deliverables, it’s important to understand the need for flexibility in how that User Experience (UX) piece can be delivered.

What I mean by that is the techniques used to gather the research and data that the deliverable is based upon. For example, individual interview techniques are not well suited for medium to larger groups of people.  It’s not an effective use of thought process energy or time and it would take too long to gather the necessary data. So an approach better suited for groups such as a workshop would be more effective.

Granted, as mentioned in an earlier post, the UX process does take time and the correct expectations must be set with those who are going to receive the UX deliverable if something of high quality is to be handed over.  However, I’ve used many different techniques to help speed up my UX process and utilised methods that help retain flexibility without sacrificing quality. Listed below are a few of the many techniques and definitions that I personally believe a User Experience Professional should know and use to support their UX client deliverables.


This is a very popular way to get some ideas on the proverbial table. It’s linked strongly with being used with medium sized groups to just a few people. In this setting you generally focus on idea quantity and allow tangent ideas to be pursued especially if there is good traction around a given idea.

When used with a collective group of users, another term used for this is a workshop. I’ve facilitated various types of workshops to get a lot of data very quickly.  As long as the participants understand what’s happening and have a level of trust and confidence in you (that your not going to sell on their collected data as an extreme example), they pretty much end up giving you everything you need and more.

Gestalt Laws of Grouping

Proximity – The Law of Proximity indicates that elements that are near to each other tend to be perceived as a single unit. The simpliest example I can mention here is a form label.  If it’s location on the page is nowhere close to the form field, radio button or dropdown, the user will not be able to easily identify its relation.  Therefore it has lost it’s proximity.

Similarity -This is where elements, perhaps icons such as the “reverse/flip” and “back” icon may have been designed to look too similar.  The user in this instance thinks that they are related when in fact they are not whatsoever.

Seeing how users respond to an A/B test to clarify a UI design that may conflict with the above may help you to understand where you may be going wrong, who it is your building the application for and identify how they think or behave in certain scenarios.

There, are more practical techniques that can be of benefit when talking about grouping but the ones listed above are what I end up knowledge sharing most often – especially when working on BI projects that involved UX/UI design .

Understanding Cognitive Barriers vs Cognitive Load

This primarily refers to the amount of mental effort a user has to exert to process information they encounter versus the obstacles that prevent them from processing information they encounter. A digital example of this can be illustrated by the digital device you are using to read this post. When you first bought it, it no doubt ran fairly quickly.  Over time it began to slow down.

A main contributor to this problem is because it has way too many applications installed on it, may have performed several OS upgrades and the like.  If you’ve owned your device for some time, you may already make an effort to close down applications that you are not using so you can get the best out of your device whilst using it.  It’s because you realise that the more things you have open on your device, the slower the device processes data or information. Of course there are other things that also can slow down a device, but simplification in some form is always a top tip regardless of the type of device.

Humans are far more complex than any digital device, however the same basic law applies in a cognitive sense to us as users regarding how we process the information we see in a User Interface.  As users, we can come across cognitive barriers or load that impact time and mental effort.

Cognitive Barrier vs Cognitive Load

Cognitive Barrier vs Cognitive Load


When it comes to BI related projects that focus on data visualisation, this is a common pitfall.  Project owners, sponsors or champion users generally send a lot of requests to the given developer or team.  Most clients I’ve met have not set up a suitable process that can handle change requests effectively, so the given developer or team end up trying to factor in all requests, resulting in the user experiencing Cognitive Load and Barriers in various forms, meaning  they have a poor user experience.

Cognitive Load example

Cognitive Load: The list of what is wrong with the UX of this example Business Intelligence UI is fairly extensive, but the point being made here is that there are too many visualisation objects on the canvas, creating confusion for the user.


Without going into too much details on the different types of Cognitive load to take into consideration, below are some suggestions to help combat a bad Cognitive experience:

De-clutter – Where appropriate, remove pointless images, links and what I like to call “visual garnish” from the User Interface.  If it is not “useful” or “does not help the user”, then simply remove it. Exceptions may need to be made if you are required to stick closely to client brand guidelines.

Re-invention – The key here is NOT to feel the need to re-invent the wheel every time.  Users are more likely to gravitate to using a User Interface that has universal icon or object placement because little to no mental/visual re-training is required.

Users are 89% more likely to remember logos shown in the traditional top-left position than logos placed on the right. – Source, NNg

Minimising mental tasks – A good example is contextual content.  If it can be displayed in another way, such as an image then great.  Simply put, a picture can tell a thousand words.  You can also apply this to website navigation, but what has to taken into consideration is the type of navigational hierarchy being used.

The above can be applied regardless of whether your UX client deliverable is advisory or hands-on based.

Flexibility-Usability Tradeoff

This is where the requirements you may receive scream for total flexibility of the product being developed.  This would mean that the end product would have to be very complex if it were to accommodate every single request.  It’s would also quite likely make the product not that useful.

So a tradeoff has to be made.  Meaning, creating a balance between a product that is flexible and one that is useful.

There is no badly designed car, it depends on the user

The quote doesn’t mean that all UX principles are thrown out the window so a flexible product can be delivered.  What it means is that the clearer the users needs ands wants are defined, the easier and more successful it will be to create a solution that fits those needs.  Those needs are unique to the client.  A clients tastes are also unique, making whatever the final design choice is great – from their perspective.  It is when there are no clear requirements, is when a flexible approach is needed, not the other way round.

Remember, the requirements are unique for each user or group so what may be great product to them may seem nonsensical to you or a different group of users.  There is no badly designed car,  it all depends on the user.

So what about you? What techniques or foundations of UX learning do you think UX professionals should know and already be using?  I’d be eager to hear from you.


Thanks for Sav Raakar for providing the example Qlik Sense Dashboard.

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UX – 4 Tough Challenges in User Experience you can overcome http://www.i3lance.co.uk/index.php/2015/10/16/ux-4-tough-challenges-in-user-experience-you-can-overcome/ http://www.i3lance.co.uk/index.php/2015/10/16/ux-4-tough-challenges-in-user-experience-you-can-overcome/#comments Fri, 16 Oct 2015 22:21:46 +0000 http://www.i3lance.co.uk/?p=1329 Ask anyone proficient in User Experience what they think the biggest challenge they face in their role is and you’ll get a myriad of different replies.  User Experience of course focuses entirely on the user.  Without the user, User Experience (UX) effectively becomes irrelevant.  However with the insurmountable amount of products that are on sale today, they all have users that buy them.

Amazon Logo.

Amazon had over 200 millions different products available online (circa Jan 2014)

For example, as of January 2014 Amazon reportedly had over 200 million ‘different‘ products available online.  All of those products were created because its respective inventor believed there was a user need.  Some have sold more than others but the more successful products have taken the world by storm.  That cannot be based on mere chance.  There had to be some degree of UX applied to the process of those great product’s being conceptualised to being delivered to a customer’s doorstep.

Applying UX to any product albeit physical or digital does have its challenges.  I’ve met and overcome many challenges in UX and below are a few that you may have come up against.


Whilst there are many tools out there to help hasten parts of the UX process, the fact will always remain that it can take time to produce a good, useable deliverable. If the proper amount of time is allocated to the process, the output is always going to be that the quality and accuracy of the deliverable will be high. This means the ROI will very likely increase and very quickly in some instances. If you are working with colleagues across different teams helping them to understand this can be a challenge – especially groups such as “sales” or “pre-sales“.  People within those groups in general are used to things being done at a fast pace, after all this is what their day-to-day lives consist of, quick actions, juggling multiple opportunities, customers and so on.  So an internal education process to the relevant departments, teams or people is important to help them understand that the process will take time.

Here are a few suggestions to help overcome the challenge around time:

  • Use downtime to evangelise User Experience within the organisation, formally and informally.
  • Use the tools and templates designed to make your day-to-day role more efficient to your advantage.
  • Don’t be afraid to push back on tight time constraints from the beginning.
  • Understand and get to know your UX processes thoroughly, this enables you to set the correct expectations.


A big misconception here is that many stakeholders believe that they are like their users.  Many believe they know what their current and future customers needs and wants are.  Stakeholders may indeed know a lot about their business and may even attempt to give you all the data ‘they‘ think you need to make the correct UX recommendations.  This is where the challenge lies.  Users have different attitudes, needs and goals.  By definition that stakeholder or project owner is ‘atypical‘ and this can be one of the hardest lessons they may have to learn.  A simple suggestion help to overcome this challenge is to:

  • Help them to understand the users viewpoint and not to focus on their own. User testing (various methods) can help to make such a task easier.

A good example of this was Google Buzz.  They ran tests on 10’s of thousands of their own employees but when the product was released, a tonne of complaints highlighted one simple truth.  You are not your users – it doesn’t matter how informed or proficient you are.  This is what is called biased user testing.  Internally those people may have found nothing wrong with a given feature and of course they wouldn’t because they are advocates of the company they work for.  However the company’s ‘users‘ of course had different goals, needs and ergo created the misalignment of  research that Google had already gathered.  Where did they go wrong?  They thought that they were their users.

You are not your users – it doesn’t matter how informed or proficient you are.


Getting buy-in into the process, it’s outcomes and hopeful project success is another challenge.  Mainly because some pockets of users and more importantly stakeholders do not always see the initial value in UX.  When it comes to stakeholders, if they are not involved in someway in the process they will naturally feel alienated.  Excluding stakeholders from the process itself or knowledge thereof can create a layer or ignorance and lack of understanding which can lead to a misinterpretation of how UX can positively affect the project. So here are a few suggestions to help overcome that:

  • Empathy is key, understand the stakeholders point and perspective.  We do this already with the user in UX.
  • Understand what our stakeholders needs are and align our deliverables or ‘to-do’s’ with those needs – not just the users themselves.
  • Don’t push for your UX recommendations too hard. Help them through the thought process, you’ll gain more supporters and less fault finders that way.
  • Implementing different workshop and process activities is key if you want to involve every participant, albeit stakeholder or user.  People are different and have different triggers.
  • Use ROI to help put your point across. This goes a long way in getting buy-in especially if the people you’re addressing are money focused.
  • Lastly, work out who are your advocates.  Who is onside and supports the cause? They are the ones who will help champion the buy-in you need.

Consistency vs Innovation

I originally came across this thought on Quora. UX Designer Jesse Bilstsen states, “Start with consistency and build up to innovation.  Consistency means that the human experience is predictable and recognizable”.

“We too often get caught up trying to reinvent-the-wheel in many cases”.

This makes perfect sense.  Because re-inventing the wheel isn’t a good use of thought process energy.  Innovation on the other hand is great but not for the sacrifice of good user experience.  That may vary per project based on the requirements you receive but however radical a concept, the user experience has to have some human logic. How do you address the balance?  It can vary depending on what you are working on but in general I personally start with what is expected, then build upon that with innovation.

These are just a few challenges of the many I’ve faced and ways I’ve used to overcome them.

If you could sum up in ONE word what your biggest challenge in UX is, what would it be?

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UX – User Testing, do you need it for your project? http://www.i3lance.co.uk/index.php/2015/09/07/ux-user-testing-do-you-need-it-for-your-project/ http://www.i3lance.co.uk/index.php/2015/09/07/ux-user-testing-do-you-need-it-for-your-project/#comments Mon, 07 Sep 2015 20:23:44 +0000 http://www.i3lance.co.uk/?p=1268 First of all let’s explain what it is.

It’s the best and most optimised way of understanding how real people will likely interact with your website, product or application. This set group of people are asked to complete a certain amount of tasks that directly relate to interacting with – your product, website or application.  That’s a long phrase so let’s call it – your “design“!  The kinds of problems more of those people encounter whilst completing those tasks, will give you a good indication of what needs to be improved or changed for the benefit of your design.

A quick word of warning: If a designer is working on a sizable project and tells you that this is a process their designs do not need to go through and you believe them, then dear reader you have been hoodwinked.

testing-realityUser Testing can take several guises and I’ll name a few, but not all.

Focus Groups

In this setting you are able to interact with and watch a group of people use your design. You can listen to them discuss your design in depth as well as get a sneak peek into how they think and process what they see and hear.  It’s a good method to use if you want to generate potentially new ideas. This is a qualitative method of testing.

Beta Testing

This is where you can release the design to a group of people who are happy to trial it.  Call them your “fans”.  These are people who support your movement, your designs and so on.  Everyone is a winner in this situation because you can use this as a way to market your design and get constructive feedback to help improve it – add those final tweaks that take can transform your design from good to potentially great. This also is a quantitive method of testing.

Card Sorting

This is a great way to see how your users understands the information architecture of your design. For the best results you probably want to test around 20 or so from my own experience (Jakob Nielsen recommends around 15 – budget dependant). However I’ve worked on midsize to large projects so that’s about the right number. The best way of presenting the information is always as a blank canvas for “them” to manipulate as they see fit, not for you to present how you see it structured.  Doing that would potentially skew your own results. With this type of quantitive study, like the other above (even though I haven’t mentioned any) there are a few weaknesses as Mr Nielsen attests to, but if done the right way can produce very good results.

A/B Testing

Here you have the opportunity to study the behaviour of your users.  How they act in different scenarios.  Adding multiple cameras if possible and other types of recording techniques such as heat mapping (how users navigate around) and eyetracking (what users look at) can really enhance your results.

Include User Testing in your project

This should be defaulted to “yes” in all design projects.  It’s not a question in my opinion, the gains are huge if done properly and you allow the users and not your preference to influence your design. Take these select statistics as an example as to why it is necessary:

  • Bank of America had a 45% ROI increase because of including UX in their onboarding process
  • 68% of users give up in online processes because they believe that you do not care about them
  • 89% of users purchased from a competitor because of a poor customer experience


Whilst testing has tonnes of value, you don’t want to endlessly keep testing.  “When do I start testing in my project then I hear you say?”  As early as possible.  Once you have enough of your design worth testing on, then get the process started.  This way you have the opportunity to change anything that needs to be changed at a much lower cost to yourself. You will also do one very important thing: ensure all user requirements have been met.

The real test as always is getting the design out into market.  So be prepared to iterate.  The best products out the ones and evolve to the needs of their users.

Think of it this way, if you realise your loaf of bread needs more salt at the mixing stage you can simply add it.  You haven’t really lost much time or investment at this point. However, if you’ve baked your loaf, sliced and served it up and THEN you realise it needs more salt, you’ll likely need to start again if you want the design to be the success you originally planned it to be, therefore multiplying time, resources, costs and then some.

Understand that when you don’t include the User Experience process of User Testing in your design project, you literally are throwing potentially masses of ROI out of the window.

With that said, what has been your experience when including User Experience processes in your project?

Statistical sourcehttps://www.usertesting.com/blog/2015/08/04/ux-investment-infographic/

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UX – Quantifying Big Data with User Experience http://www.i3lance.co.uk/index.php/2015/08/13/ux-quantifying-big-data-with-user-experience/ http://www.i3lance.co.uk/index.php/2015/08/13/ux-quantifying-big-data-with-user-experience/#comments Thu, 13 Aug 2015 00:27:38 +0000 http://www.i3lance.co.uk/?p=1207 This has long been a subject of mystery in the Big Data and Business Intelligence (BI) industry.  How can you apply User Experience Design to Big Data?  How can it be quantified? Would you need help from https://www.salesforce.com/blog/2013/08/customer-service-stats.html

Almost all applications are created for a specific purpose.  Openoffice, Microsoft Office and other similar programs are for creating different kinds of documents or working with numbers.  Applications today allow you partial integration with other applications.  Even so, they are simply software applications with fairly obvious demarkation lines.

What happens is that organisations use applications like Microsoft Excel to attempt to expose the needed information to make the right BI decision.  Excel is fit for purpose you may say – years ago it was I agree.  The problem today however is that the landscape of Big Data has changed.  Users want to discover nuances within and interact with their datasets.  They want business questions answered and others to be revealed because of the answers they get.  To do this requires more than an Office productivity tool.  It requires a heightened User Experience.

Today’s BI landscape screams for data visualisation, discovery and exploration. Yes we are talking Matthew Henson or the Christopher Columbus type of exploration.  Today few organisations have caught on but not all realise that the process of visualising your data doesn’t have to be a complex one.  Companies such as Qlik have made sure that statement is confirmed.

Quantifying Big Data with User Experience

How this is achieved is by simply improving the Users Experience of dabbling with their data.  Looking at their data from different angles to reveal information they never were able to match up with some of the most elusive business questions that went unsolved within their organisations.

The key is using the K.I.S.S approach – Keep it Simple Stupid.  Answer the key questions the user (or user groups) are asking.  You have to be strict in employing a UCD (User Centred Design) approach.  The user is always the most important.  It doesn’t matter what you think is “nice” or “good” or what “cool” things you can do with their data or the User Interface (UI) that the data lives within.  As long as the design best benefits the main users who will use the application then you’ve won in short.

Sure there are key stakeholders who must be catered for to their satisfaction as well.  If you’re a good User Experience professional ensuring everyone wins (subplot) is achievable, whilst still making sure the main groups of users get first “dibs” as it were on being satisfied users.

There is no bad car – it depends on the user

Using the K.I.S.S approach also means when designing the User Interface, this has to help enable the users to quickly access they data, understand their data and help them to make the correct decisions based on their data.  If the design of the UI is too complex then it only detracts from the data itself.  So an easy in and easy out approach in short is best.

The data has to tell right story.  OVOTT (One Version of the Truth).  The true version.  This is where aligning the presentation of data to create the best story regardless of what conclusions the user draws is key to the success of Quantifying User Experience with Big Data.

If you’re in the process of considering a modern BI discovery tool, one that is Interactive, flexes around your data and helps you to answer your questions around your data so far from my in-depth usage, only Qlik provides a true responsive solution that can do all the above and embraces User Experience in ways not seen before on the BI landscape.

Don’t take my word for it, do your own research.

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