How GitHub Uses "Deprivation Testing" To Hone Product Design

Fastco interviewed Chrissie Brodigan, design and UX researcher at GitHub to talk about how they're using deprivation to study people's reaction to removing elements from a product.

The gist of the technique is to work with a set of participants who develop a pattern of use around a feature or design characteristic and journal their experience. After some time, at a point when they've had time to be accustomed to that thing, they take away or alter it, and observe through the journal what the users' reactions are to its removal.

It seems like A/B testing with a greater focus on qualitative measurement. Deprivation could be a powerful factor and tool for assessing value of features on both new and existing products. Designers and developers get to measure the features by removing them, and seeing how upset their users get within a controlled group. Removing features from an existing product is difficult, but the upside in measurement could be that features that have a cost to the user or vendor might turn out to be unnecessary, or the research could lead to improvement.

This is technique is new to me, but I'm not unfamiliar with the pain of having features removed for me, or the backlash you can experience when you change something as a designer.

How to give constructive design feedback over email

I can't imagine email ever being the right way to critique design, or give feedback as a client, but nevertheless it happens, and Julius Tarng, who works on the Branch app, came up with some good advice for those about to give email, and those about to receive it. I think the advice applies for any feedback that's not face to face to face including chat and in comments.

  1. Get on the the same page

  2. Talk about what you felt, not what you think the user will feel

  3. Use past tense, not present

  4. Question constructively by asking for opinions, not challenging them to convince you

  5. Try to be specific, and avoid subjective words

  6. Don’t be dramatic

  7. Give the design some time, and ask yourself if that email needs to be sent now

Don't just read this list. Read the article at Medium.

Presentation Skills Considered Harmful

I don't like public speaking. I love talking to people one to one and in very small groups. But public speaking and me don't mix, and if you've ever seen me speak, you probably agree. In the handful of times that I have spoken publicly, I think only two were really worth coming to see and hear.

I believe the only reason the worthwhile talks were not utter failures was because I had something to share that I think people wanted to hear, and could get something out of. They really had little to do with me. I think those talks had more to do with what the audience could do with what I shared. My passion about the topic let me forget about myself until I was just basically just giving people something they wanted instead.

Kathy Sierra is one of the people whose articles I like to read and presentations I like to watch, because I come away with ideas that I feel I can do something with. There's something almost pragmatic to me about what she shares. Don't get me wrong though, she is a charismatic, funny, and super smart speaker. But her post about public speaking and presentation skills is useful to me as someone who hates public speaking, and always feels bad turning down the invitation.

Here's the message: If you imagine that your role in speaking is to be the delivery mechanism for the message/story/whatever, you become the UI for the User Experience of that exchange between you and the audience.

Ultimately, I think this thought sums up what the role is about:

It's not really about the user experience they have during your presentation. Like your presentation, their experience of it is also just the enabler for something bigger. Because what matters most is NOT the UX but the POST-UX UX. What happens after and as a result of the user experience? ... What happens after what happens happens?

When they walk away from the user experience, then what? Are they different? Are they a little smarter? Are they a little more energized? Are they a little more capable? Are they a little more likely to talk to others about it?

Maybe there's hope for me after all? I like this idea of the post-UX-UX, when it comes to products or presentations. At the end of the day, while the delivery and execution are very important, your presentation skill holds much less weight than how you've impacted the user.

And this brings me back to why I got into working in this field to begin with. I started professional life working on libraries, and wanting to help people find information that helps them do things that fulfill needs in the real world, outside of the experience of using the library. What I do still comes down to that, and I guess public speaking should be no different.

I'm still afraid of being the awkward kid at the head of the class, even if I know the material. But maybe next time, I'll just imagine myself as the UI, and the rest will fall away.

Alfred/Hazel Workflow for Screen Capture

If you take a lot of screenshots on a Mac like me, you probably have a good workflow for doing it using something like LittleSnapper/Ember, Awesome Screenshot or Skitch. The biggest problem I've had is that after I take a screenshot, I often want to do something with it. I can do this by just getting Cloud to watch and upload files passively, but I've always wanted to save to my own server after just issuing one command to capture the page.

I love Alfred. Launchers like Quicksilver and Alfred are what I think of as the best minimal UI apps that I use on the Mac. I finally got around to searching for a way to capture a full scrolling screen from it and do something with the output.

I found an excellent Alfred workflow by user moom on the Alfred Forum that uses a shell script to run Webkit2Png in the background. It's awesome. I just copy the URL of the page I'm on, summon Alfred with a few keystrokes, and then it gets captured, optimized, and uploaded to my server in the background. I made a video of the workflow showing Alfred, Hazel, ImageOptim, and Transmit working together with lots of spit and chewing gum in case anyone else has this need.

It's a lot of steps to set up, but if you have this need, you'll appreciate it. ;) You can modify the steps for your workflow to move it to note in Evernote, to Cloud, or wherever your heart desires. Download the workflow here.

If you're interested to know how I modified the workflow, these are the options I used:

python webkit2png -F -W 980 --delay=5 "$(pbpaste)"
ls *.png | grep -v icon.png |
xargs -I {} mv {} ${HOME}/Sites/

-F -W 980 outputs a full scrolling screen at 980px wide. You can see what the options are by running this command in the terminal: webkit2png --help.

Making Infield Form Labels Suck Less

Jackson Fox and Jeremy Fields did an excellent 2-part write on the use of "infield" labels at Viget. There are several techniques for placing labels inside the input box. For varying reasons we may want to avoid the label on top or side positioning, but as Jackson points out, the infield placement can be problematic.

Part 1 talks about the problems using infield labels. Part 2 shows how they deal with the problem by using a visible tooltip that doesn't obscure the input, with a jsFiddle snippet to play with the code. You can download the jquery plugin from Git.

Link Drop, June 2013

Not a lot of bookmarking this month.

Link Drop, May 2013

Link Drop, Apr 2013