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Wednesday, July 05, 2006

UI design to reduce support

An old (6-Jul-2004) article from SoftwareCEO titled "Clean, cutting-edge UI design cuts McAfee's support calls by 90%" provides the following 23 tips from the McAfee and thier external UI design team, mile7:

  1. UI tip #1: Start the UI design before you build the product.
    1. "you need to get that user feedback before you build anything real."
  2. UI tip #2: Understand your software from a user's standpoint.
    1. "You have to have a very clear understanding of what the product is supposed to do, from a task perspective rather than features,"
  3. UI tip #3: Get feedback through task-oriented use.
    1. "we asked them to answer some questions—not about functionality of the product, but strictly about the tasks they had to perform."
  4. UI tip #4: Segment the process into logical chunks.
    1. "the goal was to map UI feedback from users very specifically to the product's development maturity."
    2. For Example:
      1. Phase 1 - Overview - does it look like it will work?
      2. Phase 2 - Operational - can you install and run it?
      3. Phase 3 - Task-oriented - does it do what you need to do?
      4. Phase 4 - Wrap-up & Reality Check - is it complete? is it consistent
  5. UI tip #5: Never shut the product down.
    1. "demo'd it to everybody who walked by"
  6. UI tip #6: Let user demand defend against code creep.
    1. "Our team strove to understand what is necessary versus what's desirable,"
  7. UI tip #7: More is nearly always less.
    1. "We try to reduce the set of nouns to the lowest common denominator."
  8. UI tip #8: Use your UI to give the user a sense of context.
    1. "A common failure of most software UIs is that the user is unable to derive any sense of context"
  9. UI tip #9: Don't offer direction, and never assume.
    1. "To keep UI design valid, it's important that users' experience is as close to reality as possible."
  10. UI tip #10: Resist the urge to make a quick fix.
    1. "Sometimes they'll be having a problem with a particular piece of the application, and rather than issue a quick fix, you need to step back and think about whether that's the right way to display the information or have the product function."
  11. UI tip #11: Treat UI as an ongoing program, not a one-off.
  12. UI tip #12: Get a manageable but representative group.
    1. "careful about whom you're getting and you really know your audience profile, I think you can get a really good representative sampling with 12 to 20."
  13. UI tip #13: Choose active, willing, and unbiased users.
  14. UI tip #14: Reward your early adopters by acknowledging their role.
  15. UI tip #15: Get your developers (and yourself) into the right mindset.
    1. You have to break the typical mindset of features and technology," he says. "If you take those things out of your vocabulary, and focus on the user's ability to complete tasks, it makes it a little easier."
  16. UI tip #16: Do-it-yourself design is nearly always a bad idea.
    1. There's a huge difference between a professional graphic artist and a programmer who happens to know how to draw.
  17. UI tip #17: Make the designers a part of the development team.
  18. UI tip #18: Don't let technology overpower usability.
    1. "A common mistake in the PC world is allowing technology to take the lead,"
  19. UI tip #19: Bring the engineers into the UI calls.
    1. You want to get the users excited about the functionality, while at the same time letting the engineers understand where the users have problems.
  20. UI tip #20: Find an internal UI champion.
  21. UI tip #21: Contain costs by including the designers early.
  22. UI tip #22: For the best UI examples, look to consumer software.
  23. UI tip #23: How to tell if your UI might need work.
    1. Check your tech support call logs. Are there common themes and complaints? In general, are you getting too many calls?
    2. Talk with your users. Talk with prospects. What do they say? Can they accomplish the tasks you put to them?
    3. Consider usability testing—the real stuff, with outside experts in a controlled and objective environment.


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