Using The Paradox of Choice to Improve User Experience by Cory

When designing a UI or landing page that has a desired action, I like to revisit the principals learned in an excellent book by Barry Schwartz called "The Paradox of Choice". There are three main principals I've taken away from The Paradox of Choice:

  1. The more options people consider, the more buyer's regret they have.
  2. The more options people consider, the less fulfilling the ultimate outcome.
  3. Most important: The more options people have, the less likely they are to make a choice.

These three principles can be tough to use when designing a UI or a web page because our instincts tell us that more = more when in reality it is quite the opposite.

Here's a few tips for improving your user experience using these principals:

Strip out the bells and whistles. Unless they directly aid in getting your users from Point A -> B, loose em.

Get rid of fluffy copy. Face it, when trying to accomplish something, people don't read, they skim. Fluffy copy just slows them down and waists precious time. Chances are that if you need lots of text to describe something, that something is too complicated. If you must have a block of copy, re-write it down to the point where is says the same thing in as few words as possible.

Dont give users a bunch of different ways to view the same information. Determine the best way and present it that way. Any time I've ever built a UI with lots of views types, usability testing forces me to choose the best and strip out the rest.

Present one task or call to action per screen. Every screen should have one clear call to action or end goal. It's better to have many screens that lead the user down a path than one page that does it all.

25 User Experience Videos Worth Watching by Cory

Smashing Magizine published a great list of thought provoking user experience presentations by the industry's top experts. A few of my favorite are Jesse James Garett's (Adaptive Path) "The State of User Experience", Nick Fink's (Blue Flavor) "UX Best Practaces", and Leah Buley's (Adaptive Path) "A UX team of one", which I had the pleasure of attending in person at SXSW in 2009. It's an exciting time to be in the user experience business!

Welcome to the new User Kind by Cory

I've been working for some time on revamping the user kind site and my portfolio with a fresh look and some fancy jQuery. Today I'm happy to launch User Kind 2.0. This was a design idea I had many years ago for a flash site that never came to fruition. After working with jQuery over the past year, I wanted to see how far i could push it to behave like a flash site. As it turns out I was able to acomplish everything I wanted (and more). The biggest hurdle was ie7 (surprise, surprise), but was eventually able to bend the code to work for most browsers.

The best thing that came out of this effort was what I learned in the process. jQuery is a truly powerful tool and is shaping the future of the web...I'm really looking forward to using it every chance I get.

Ditch that pagination! - AJAX "Load More..." = Awesome by Cory

We've reached a point on the internet where page loads are unnecessary and instant gratification is expected. AJAX has become the new standard for how we retrieve and post information. Pagination has always been one of those tedious and annoying necessities for breaking up information, and the time has come to put an end to it! If there's anything that iPhone email or Google Reader has taught us, it's that pagination sucks. Once you use either of these products, going back to the "old way" of pagination will make you want to go do some yoga breathing exercises (or am I the only one?).

Why pagination sucks:

  • when you're on page 3, all the content you've loaded from pages 1 and 2 are now inaccessible without clicking your browser's back button a few times...then scrolling back to the information you wanted.
  • Target areas of pagination links are normally tiny and hard to quickly find.
  • Pagination causes unnecessary server load when people request previously loaded information via pagination links.

A better way : AJAX "Load more":

  • Use AJAX to load additional content below existing content without refreshing the page
  • Have two HUGE buttons: "Load next 20..." and "Load All..."
  • For textual content, add a visual indicator to separate every 20 or so items to aid in knowing where you currently are in the list


I know you might be saying to yourself..."Dude, your blog still has this crappy pagination!". Yes, I am fully aware that my wordpress site you're viewing does not utilize this. My current endeavor of changing how we organize and share our photos takes up most of my time these days. That is why I would encourage you to go and write a wordpress plugin for me and the rest of the blogosphere to solve this problem :)

4 ways to better communicate design concepts by Cory

present.jpgCommunicating design ideas is one of the most important skills that a designer or information architect can have. Lets face it, to be a good designer, you also have to be a good seller. You could have the best concept in the world, but unless you can clearly articulate why its the best concept in the world to your stakeholders, it will never see the light of day. For most of us, these skills don't come naturally...they are developed from experience and discipline. Here are a few tips that can help you develop these skills (with a few excerpts taken from the Cooper newsletter) Have a good story to tell

Human beings think in stories, and contextualizing the proposed design solution with a story helps your collaborators imagine what the eventual user experience will be like.

Only put as much detail into the design as the idea or concept allows.

It is harder for people to evaluate high-level concepts when their eyes and attention are drawn to the multitude of details. It helps to use Lorem Ipsum for your text, a low fidelity sketch via Visio or PowerPoint, and fake data. This helps people only focus on what's important to you. Make sure to constantly stress that its a "high-level concept" to keep people thinking the same way about it as you did when you created it.

Get all the decision-makers together in the same room

I cant stress how important this one is. Walking a design around to different stakeholders individually will get you completely different results than if everyone is in the same room together...normally causing endless tweaks to your design. Unless everyone can be there, I would highly recommend you re-schedule for a time that works for everyone. Though it may delay approval a bit, it will save you time and decrease iterations.

Carve out time in the schedule for design communication

Communicating design does take time, no doubt about it. But it will save a lot more time by reducing the thrash that occurs when developers don't have a clear understanding about what it is they are supposed to build. Get developers involved early in the design process...their input is invaluable.