Archive for July, 2009

Juggling with Excel, Omnigraffle, Numbers, Keynote, and Powerpoint

July 31, 2009

You want to compile a presentation using graphics from across different applications like Excel, OmniGraffle, and Numbers? Apple Keynote turns out to be the most flexible tool in order to bring everything together.

  1. Write and structure your presentation in an outliner tool (e.g OmniOutliner).
  2. Create Keynote document. Choose or create appropriate master sheets. Avoid decorative bullets for lists – they might cause problems to export as Powerpoint.
  3. Copy and paste text (“match style”) from outliner into Keynote – section by section in order to avoid formatting confusion in Keynote.
  4. After having completed one or two pages, export a test .ppt document to review in Powerpoint. If there are export-problems, delete master sheet(s) that cause the rouble (most likely tose with fancy bullet points). The same applies, if the exported .ppt version does not look exactly the same as in Keynote.
  5. You can easily copy and paste charts from Excel and (individual or multi-selcted) graphics from Omnigraffle into Keynote. Both charts and graphics are vector-based and fully scalable in Keynote.
  6. I found Keynote to be the only application that allows placing formated data-tables from Apple Numbers (when it comes to presenting tables, I prefer Numbers to Excel, it is so much quicker to produce presentable data!). Copying and pasting a data-table into Keynote will transfer the object into a fully editable Keynote table.
  7. Export final presentation to Powerpoint. Why? In order to make it editable for proof-readers, project-managers or other non-Mac users (e.g. clients)! If all-too fancy styles and features have been avoided (see 2.), the presentation will look exactly the same and re-touching is not necessary. Tables placed from Numbers into Keynote will appear as formated table in Powerpoint and can be edited.
  8. Before printing out from Powerpoint, check ‘Page Set Up’ to reflect correct settings for the printer

Interestingly, graphics imported from OmniGraffle into Powerpoint will remain scalable (unless it is already a bitmap graphic), whereas if you directly import them into Powerpoint, they are transformed into a non-scalable (and somewhat blurry) bitmap image.

Note: If you have copied and pasted a complex table from Omnigraffle into Keynote, you might find it pixelated in the final Powerpoint document. In that case, export the Omnigraffle document as a Visio file,. open Visio on the PC, copy the table and paste it into Powerpoint.

Web copy

July 30, 2009
    Some rules about how to write for the Web:

  • Use a tone of voice that reflects each brand’s personality.
  • Always use plain English and avoid technical or marketing jargon.
  • Use active and direct verbs to make the copy dynamic and lively.
  • Use short words, sentences and paragraphs to keep the copy punchy and easy to scan.
  • Use “we” and “you” to make the copy welcoming and personable in tone.
  • Keep the copy short (ideally 250 words per page, up to a maximum of 500) and break it down into bite-sized chunks and paragraphs.
  • Highlight key points and break up pages using bullet points.
  • Use headings to introduce short paragraphs so users can decide whether they want to read these.

Content audit

July 28, 2009

A content audit is a boiled-down version of a content inventory and captures all pages in a site with their relevant titles and URLs. Content audits can be generated automatically or manually.

    Benefits in a nutshell

  • Cost-efficient and quick way to determine the scope of a web-site
  • Informs requirements definition

Content inventory

July 28, 2009

A content inventory is a comprehensive document that lists every piece of content in a website along with information describing the content, such as its holding page and category, an abstract, the type of media (text, graphic, widget etc.), target audience, and the URL. Although there are some tools at hand to facilitate compiling a content inventory, its quality relies on human editing.
A content-inventory is indispensable when restructuring a website. It serves as content reference throughout the development process and it will be used to ensure that all relevant content is going to move into the new site.

    Benefits in a nutshell

  • Provides complete picture of the website content (status quo)
  • Serves as content reference throughout the design process
  • Ensures that all relevant content migrates into the new site

Task analysis

July 28, 2009

Task analysis is used to develop a thorough understanding of a process and its underlying tasks. Task analysis employs a wide range of methods such as interviews, on-site observation, or diary studies. It looks into what people are doing, what they are trying to achieve, and in what way they are going about it. Observed processes are broken down in tasks and subtasks, compiled in a task report. The information gleaned from task analysis establishes a foundation of existing practices and is used to define the requirements and the technical architecture of a new system.

    Benefits in a nutshell

  1. Provides good understanding of a complex process and its actors
  2. Informs definition of system requirements
  3. Informs acceptance- and user-testing

Benchmarking

July 28, 2009

Benchmarking is an exercise to determine the performance of a website in comparison with competitor sites. Performance is measured against a set of user experience requirements (disciplines). The score that a website achieves in a discipline is either based on the outcome of specific tasks carried out by users, or on expert opinion, or on a combination of both. The final benchmark report presents the results in a matrix view and graphic charts along with the rationale for the ratings and relevant examples across all disciplines.

    Benefits in a nutshell:

  • Allows to assess performance in relation to other sites
  • Supports evaluating and prioritising requirements
  • Informs user experience design solutions

Heuristic Review

July 28, 2009

A heuristic review is a systematic inspection of a web-site or application. Usability experts check it against a number of usability standards (‘heuristics’) and determine challenges for successful user-interaction and a rich user experience. A heuristic review can discover up to 70% of user experience problems and is an efficient way of establishing the status quo at the beginning of a project.

    Benefits in a nutshell:

  • Cost effective, quick, and very flexible way to establish user experience challenges
  • Informs evaluation of requirements
  • Informs design of user testing

Workshop: Card Sort

July 9, 2009

The aim of a card sort is to establish consensus among people about how content should be grouped and categorised. A pile of cards with topic items represents the content of a website. People sort these cards into groups and provide a label for each newly formed category. The group-discussion reveals difficulties in establishing consensus as people’s views on topic items tend to differ considerably.

An online card-sort allows to involve a larger number of people and provides statistical confidence in the result. People do the exercise individually on the Web. The aggregated results of the card sort reveal patterns (clusters) of related items, which form the basis for a content model and the site-map.

    To consider when doing the card sort exercise:

  1. Categories should be mutually exclusive (e.g. Red, Green, Blue – Better not: Red – Soft – Blue)
  2. Categories can have subcategories (will be formed at a later stage in the process)
  3. Put easy cards first; add the difficult cards later.
  4. Avoid ‘Miscellaneous’ as a category.
  5. If you can’t find consensus for one item, the majority vote decides.

Workshop: Rapid Prototyping

July 9, 2009

A prototype is a visual outline of the interface and an efficient way of experimenting with ideas. It is built to be tested with users in order to get better ideas. A rapidly built prototype helps designers to fail faster and to succeed quicker.

    The three mantras of rapid prototyping:

  1. Think user! Put yourself into the shoes of the user and consider needs, expectations, and constraints.
  2. Start broad – go narrow! Don’t get lost in details.
  3. Be pragmatic! Don’t get emotional with your ideas. There is always more than one solution to a problem.

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What to consider when doing a prototype:

1. Page lay-out – How can I organise content on the page effectively and appropriately?

    Think about:

  • The layout-grid for this page
  • Meaningful sections and different levels of headlines
  • Other content items: Images, Featured items, Comments, Ratings …

2. Signposts and Navigation – How can I facilitate site- and page-navigation that is consistent, easy to understand and helps users finding stuff.

    Think about:

  • Menus and subsidiary menus
  • Contextual links (from within the recipe)
  • Buttons where necessary
  • (Meaningful labels for the menus, if not produced in the card-sort workshop)

2. Functionality – What do I need to offer in order to give the user maximum value for visiting the page.

    Consider:

  • Comments and ratings
  • Sharing content with others
  • Printing a recipe
  • Finding similar items
  • Anything else?

Social software elements

July 8, 2009
  1. Identity – a way of uniquely identifying people in the system
  2. Presence – a way of knowing who is online, available or otherwise nearby
  3. Relationships – a way of describing how two users in the system are related (e.g. in Flickr, people can be contacts, friends of family)
  4. Conversations – a way of talking to other people through the system
  5. Groups – a way of forming communities of interest
  6. Reputation – a way of knowing the status of other people in the system (who’s a good citizen? who can be trusted?)
  7. Sharing – a way of sharing things that are meaningful to participants (like photos or videos)

Gene Smith referring to work produced by Matt Webb and Stewart Butterfield