Google Search. You’re Being Unpredictable.

posted by: Joanne Wong

About two weeks ago, I had a freak out.

I’m not sure if this was rolled out a while ago, or just recently, but Google’s search toolbar on the top changes depending on what you search for (or I’ve never run into this problem before). I noticed this two Fridays ago when I was attempting to find UX examples in Google Images. For some reason, I kept on ending up on Google Shopping instead (which I’ve never touched before). I thought it was just because I didn’t have enough sleep the evening before, but then I realized — Google had changed something in their system.

Based on whatever your search string is, the links move around, displaying what Google thinks would be the most useful for you. It’s seemingly intelligent, but it’s annoying me like hell considering the fact that my muscle memory hits the second link all the time for Google Images. Note above that the Google Images links are in different locations in the header. I can see why they’re attempting to do this: they’re making the second link the most “useful” or “relevant” – but it seems like their algorithm is off too. With the search string of “reddit” – the most “useful link” is Google Shopping. There’s something definitely off here.

Isn’t one of Nielsen’s heuristics “Consistency and Standards?” Why do the locations of the elements in this header change so often? It’s great to see Google experimenting; however, it’s definitely introducing unpredictability and having a huge negative impact on the website’s usability.

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February 4th, 2014 at 11:44 am

Looks like you experienced a ‘prediction error signal’ ;)

Carol Chen

February 3rd, 2014 at 3:45 pm

Hi Joanne! Great post and a good find. To be honest, I never even thought about this anytime I did a google search. I would just scan the line to see the of words to see what I needed e.g. maps or images. But I totally agree with you on it being pretty annoying if would be if you’re doing a tonne of searches in a new window. Btw we don’t have the Shopping tab in Canada (yet) : )

Muddasir Bangash


Testing from ‘Behind the Glass’ – Functional or Freaky?

posted by: Vel Prakhantree

Ah the one-way mirror. Also, confusingly, called a two-way mirror.

Iconic in traditional usability testing practice and imagery. But do we really need two rooms to conduct valid product testing anymore? Not just as a convenient room for observers, but to actually moderate from ‘behind the glass’, separated from the participant, communicating via mics and speakers?

A fancy usability lab

Was this merely a quaint effort to legitimize usability testing as a ‘scientific’ practice and is now laughably passé? Or are there logical and enduring reasons why moderating from the ‘control room’ is best practice for summative / benchmark types of tests?

Let’s listen in on a prototypical conversation between two UX Testing pros –  often, but not always, representing different generations (such as X vs Y/Z) or different program backgrounds (such as Cog Psy vs. Design Thinking)….

Behind the Glass
by: Prakhantree

SCENE: A chance meeting at a Palo Alto coffee shop

… with Kevin! The highly-skilled, well-respected UX veteran
Katya! The sharp, young UX researcher

Link in case the above embed doesn’t work: http://www.xtranormal.com/watch/14382433/behind-the-glass

Morale of the skit?

I firmly believe either physical setup is suitable, and will yield completely valid and useful results, assuming the moderator has appropriately established rapport and set expectations to offset the potential negatives of each approach.

So what matters then?

Beyond the most obvious factors of type of test and actual availability of a fancy lab, it comes down mostly to preference. I’ve summarized my learnings below. You’re welcome ;-)

Vel’s guide to choosing your side of the glass

Ask yourself these simple questions to gauge if moderating from ‘behind the glass’ could be right for you!

Practical Factors

Might I want or need to have discreet communication with other observers, such as a notetaker, client, or product experts during testing?

- to clarify a path or feature

- to acknowledge an issue together

- to ensure an error, comment, etc. is captured (if a notetaker is assisting)

- to troubleshoot a system issue

- to gather and plan for any follow-up questions in real time

Is the lab setup adjustable enough /  ergonomic to sit with the participant?

- sitting right next to the user can strain the neck (especially with multiple tests in a day)

- might have to balance your laptop on your lap

- have to ensure participant doesn’t view your note-taking screen

- sitting behind the user might feel creepy

- can be hard to get an unobstructed view of the screen without getting ‘too close’

- hard to change positions mid-test if you’re uncomfortable

- small rooms can become uncomfortably warm with two people and the heat of equipment

Personal Factors

Do I like to have more privacy while I test (especially if there are no other observers with you) ?

- to munch that Cliff bar

- scratch your nose

- take off your shoes

- yawn and stretch

- freely face-palm and head-desk

- stress less about bodily noises

Am I sensitive to hygiene variability?

- the user that just ‘came from a run!’

- came from the bar

- came from the burrito bar

- came from the cigar bar

- isn’t quite over that phlegmatic cough (!)

- all of the above at once in a perfect storm

If few or none of the above are super-important to you, or you have work-arounds/solutions for them, then you will probably not perceive any benefit to moderating in a separate control room. Or perhaps you discovered a few benefits that you hadn’t thought about. Either way, happy testing!

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September 24th, 2013 at 1:46 pm

[...] I was on the professional side of the user experience “glass,” I offered my expertise to the field in a different way: as a participant in a fairly large number [...]

July 11th, 2013 at 3:50 am

Great little skit and info…my team is currently thinking of pulling down the big creepy one/two way mirror to create more testing space! I wasn’t initially convinced, but with technology how it is today, we’re now streaming into the tea room and directly to stakeholder desktops…so it’s very true…that sterile control room is not really that needed is it! :)


May 3rd, 2013 at 12:02 pm

*Moral not Morale, but hey, hope your Morale improved watching our skit. Cheers! Vel

Vel Prakhantree


Delight and Excite

posted by: Mick McGee

This post originally appeared on Oracle’s Usable Apps blog. Mick is a member of the Oracle Usability Advisory Board. Thanks to Oracle for allowing EchoUser to repost it here.

Being part of a user experience design firm, we have the luxury of working with a lot of great people across many great companies. We get to help people solve their problems. At least we used to. The basic design challenge is still the same; however, the goal is not necessarily to solve “problems” anymore; it is, “I want our products to delight and excite!” The question for us as UX professionals is how to design to those goals, and then how to assess them from a usability perspective.

I’m not sure where I first heard “delight and excite” (A book? blog post? Facebook status? Steve Jobs quote?), but now I hear these listed as user experience goals all the time. In particular, somewhat paradoxically, I routinely hear them in enterprise software conversations. And when asking these same enterprise companies what will make the project successful, we very often hear, “Make it like Apple.” In past days, it was, “Make it like Yahoo (or Amazon or Google),” but now Apple is the common benchmark.

Steve Jobs and Apple were not secrets, but with Jobs’ passing and Apple becoming the world’s most valuable company in the last year, the impact of great design and experience is suddenly very widespread. In particular, users’ expectations have gone way up. Being an enterprise company is no shield to the general expectations that users now have, for all products.

Designing a “Minimum Viable Product”

The user experience challenge has historically been, to echo the words of Eric Ries (author of Lean Startup), to create a “minimum viable product”: the proverbial “make it good enough.” But, in our profession, the “minimum viable” part of that phrase has oftentimes, unfortunately, referred to the design and user experience. Technology typically dominated the focus of the biggest, most successful companies. Few have had the laser focus of Apple to also create and sell design and user experience alongside great technology.

But now that Apple is the most valuable company in the world, copying their success is a common undertaking. Great design is now a premium offering that everyone wants, from the one-person startup to the largest companies, consumer and enterprise. This emerging business paradigm will have significant impact across the user experience design process and profession. One area that particularly interests me is, how are we going to evaluate these new emerging “delight and excite” experiences, which are further customized to each particular domain?

How to Measure “Delight and Excite”

Traditional usability measures of task completion rate, assists, time, and errors are still extremely useful in many situations; however, they are too blunt to offer much insight into emerging experiences “Satisfaction” is usually assessed in user testing, in roughly equivalent importance to the above objective metrics. Various surveys and scales have provided ways to measure satisfying UX, with whatever questions they include. However, to meet the demands of new business goals and keep users at the center of design and development processes, we have to explore new methods to better capture custom-experience goals and emotion-driven user responses.

We have had success assessing custom experiences, including “delight and excite,” by employing a variety of user testing methods that tend to combine formative and summative techniques (formative being focused more on identifying usability issues and ways to improve design, and summative focused more on metrics). Our most successful tool has been one we’ve been using for a long time, Magnitude Estimation Technique (MET). But it’s not necessarily about MET as a measure, rather how it is created.

For one client, EchoUser did two rounds of testing. Each test was a mix of performing representative tasks and gathering qualitative impressions. Each user participated in an in-person moderated 1-on-1 session for 1 hour, using a testing set-up where they held the phone. The primary goal was to identify usability issues and recommend design improvements.

MET is based on a definition of the desired experience, which users will then use to rate items of interest (usually tasks in a usability test). In other words, a custom experience definition needs to be created. This can then be used to measure satisfaction in accomplishing tasks; “delight and excite”; or anything else from strategic goals, user demands, or elsewhere. For reference, our standard MET definition in usability testing is:

“User experience is your perception of how easy to use, well designed and productive an interface is to complete tasks.”

Articulating the User Experience

We’ve helped construct experience definitions for several clients to better match their business goals. One example is a modification of the above that was needed for a company that makes medical-related products:

“User experience is your perception of how easy to use, well-designed, productive and safe an interface is for conducting tasks. ‘Safe’ is how free an environment (including devices, software, facilities, people, etc.) is from danger, risk, and injury.”

Another example is from a company that is pushing hard to incorporate “delight” into their enterprise business line:

“User experience is your perception of a product’s ease of use and learning, satisfaction and delight in design, and ability to accomplish objectives.”

I find the last one particularly compelling in that there is little that identifies the experience as being for a highly technical enterprise application. That definition could easily be applied to any number of consumer products.

We have gone further than the above, including “sexy” and “cool” where decision-makers insisted they were part of the desired experience. We also applied it to completely different experiences where the “interface” was, for example, riding public transit, the “tasks” were train rides, and we followed the participants through the train-riding journey and rated various aspects accordingly:

“A good public transportation experience is a cost-effective way of reliably, conveniently, and safely getting me to my intended destination on time.”

To construct these definitions, we’ve employed both bottom-up and top-down approaches, depending on circumstances. For bottom-up, user inputs help dictate the terms that best fit the desired experience (usually by way of cluster and factor analysis). Top-down depends on strategic, visionary goals expressed by upper management that we then attempt to integrate into product development (e.g., “delight and excite”). We like a combination of both approaches to push the innovation envelope but still be mindful of current user concerns.

Hopefully the idea of crafting your own custom experience, and a way to measure it, can provide you with some ideas how you can adapt your user experience needs to whatever company you are in. Whether product-development or service-oriented, nearly every company is ultimately providing a user experience.

The Bottom Line

Creating great experiences may have been popularized by Steve Jobs and Apple, but I’ll be honest, it’s a good feeling to be moving from “good enough” to “delight and excite,” despite the challenge that entails. In fact, it’s because of that challenge that we will expand what we do as UX professionals to help deliver and assess those experiences. I’m excited to see how we, Oracle, and the rest of the industry will live up to that challenge.

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