The Art of User Engagement

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Slides from my presentation on how to create websites that encourage user participation.

The Art Of User Engagement
View more presentations or upload your own. (tags: ux user)

The presentation covers examples of various well known websites that utilize various tactics to facilitate user engagement.

If I had to sum it up, it would be:

  • Make it quick and easy to participate. Think 1 click AJAX star ratings, 1 click thumbs up, thumbs down, 1 click favorite etc.
  • Make it about the user. Appeal to their ego. This includes user reputation/rating/recognition/ranking
  • Take advantage of social norms such as reciprocity, public commitments, social pressure, and herd mentality
  • Give a reason for the user to return to the site

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Amazing DataViz and UI – Skyrails

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Skyrails is a research project by a PhD student. He’s made his source code available for non commercial uses. The video below is a great resume. Basically he’s got his pick of jobs based on this video alone. Long live the internet. Here’s a brief description of the project from the site:

Skyrails is a social network (or any graph really) visualization system. It has a built in programming language for processing (as far as visualisation attributes goes) the graph and its attributes. The system is not only aimed at expert users though, because through the scripting languages menus can be built and the system can be used by any users.

Kudos to theawesomer for this great find.

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Conversations with Steve Krug, Author of “Don’t Make Me Think”

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Tonight, I had the great pleasure of meeting Steve Krug, one of today’s leading experts on web usability design and author of the famous book “Don’t Make Me Think.” I’ve actually read this book about 3 years ago on a plane ride. It was a very quick read of about 100 pages, but very very easy to digest, practical and applicable. My background is development and being a typical developer at the time, I was very much an engineer who built software for other engineers. Of course this always leads to software and applications that ordinary people hate because it’s hard to use and not intuitive. Anyways, his book opened my eyes to the world of user-centric design methodology. This wasn’t design mumbo jumbo in the creative sense. This was design in the sense of “make something easy to use, easy to learn, and hard to screw up.” His book made it easy for developers to understand how *good* designers applied basic understanding of users to create user interfaces (UI) that made sense.

Anywho, I was able to meet Steve Krug because RoundArch hosted a happy hour for Steve Krug and Lou Rosenfeld *who I did not get to meet :( * because they were in town for some usability workshops. Steve was always swamped it seemed and I finally got a chance to go up to him and introduce myself towards the end of the night. I told him I loved his book, and he mentioned he had another one coming out at the end of this year about doing user testing.

I asked him if there was one thing that he could tell people to educate them on usability what would it be? He said “watch users.” He said you’d be amazed at what you can learn and garner from the simple act of watching how your users interact with your software without you intervening. He’s made CEOs sit down and watch users fumble through bad websites to show them how little they know about their users. Often times too, a simple change such as placement or color can have a huge impact on the usability of a website.

Ever since I’ve read his book, I often test my web applications with non technical people. I just let them drive. Lately, my guinea pig has been my wife. She’s super smart but she’s not technical, although that’s slowly changing. Anyways, I put the computer in front of her and let her figure it out. She’ll say, “but I’m not technical, I won’t get it.” to which I reply, “if you had to be technical then I’ve failed.” So she’s a quick and easy litmus test for me when I make stuff. It’s the same principle as designing a car. It should be easy enough for the average person to learn how to drive. If I had to know the inner workings of the car in order to drive it, that’s a bad car design.

Anyways, I highly recommend his book, especially to developers because you’ll see things differently. You’ll be able to empathize not only with designers more but also your users. And when you create software that users love, that’s a very rewarding feeling.

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