Category Archives: research

Google AdWords: How to tell a story about interface changes

Users don’t tend to ask for large-scale site overhauls; massive changes mean having to learn a new UI, and that’s rarely something that folks get excited about. Massive changes also tend to feel unnecessary (it worked before, why fix it?) and arbitrary (why did this thing change and that other thing didn’t?) How, then, to explain to users why changes were necessary, why you made the changes you did, and how to effectively use the new UI?

(Twitter didn’t do a great job of explaining why it made a small but significant change last week, and users staged a minor revolt.)

The Google AdWords team made a smart decision to make a video about changes to the AdWords administrative interface. Team members describe how they collected user feedback to inform changes to the interface, and how these changes make the user experience better. The video makes the interface changes feel necessary (they significantly improve site performance) and human (real people put lots of thought into how to make this better, and the new features represent their best efforts).

If I had a spaceship I would land in Colorado

In February I’ll be traveling to Denver for the next Web Directions conference. Web Directions is officiallly described as “a highly focused conference and workshops for web designers, developers, UX and ID designers, and other web professionals whose day to day job is building web sites and web applications. It features two dozen world class experts, with a razor sharp focus on practical techniques and technologies you can use right away to build even better sites.”

I’ll be giving a talk on building empathetic corporate cultures and co-leading a workshop with Mark Trammell on setting up a user research program.

Beyond usability: How to build a culture of customer empathy

When everyone at your organization cares deeply about the customer experience you will build better, more inventive, and more delightful products. So how do get everyone to really care about and understand not just the usability but the overall experience of your products? Though it takes time, an empathetic corporate culture is not impossible to create and nurture.
In this session Juliette Melton will share several case studies in how to build a culture of empathy at your organization, including best practices for running usability tests, sharing web usage statistics, and developing user personas.

Know Your Users: How to start tomorrow with guerrilla user testing

Right now, someone, somewhere, is using something you’ve built. Who are they? Are they having a good time? It’s not that hard to find out.
User testing doesn’t have to be difficult or expensive, and shouldn’t only happen at the end of the product development cycle. The best and most useful research is distributed throughout the product lifecycle and can be done within a stone’s throw of your office using inexpensive tools. At this workshop, Juliette Melton and Mark Trammell will show you how to build an effective user testing program from scratch and how to keep it going over time.

Who is this workshop for?

This workshop is for those who want to understand how to learn about user experiences, including project/product managers, designers, and usability professionals.

What will you learn?

  • A structured approach to building a user testing program
  • Web analytics basics
  • Surveying tips
  • How to include coworkers in your research
  • How to perform task analysis
  • Recruiting testing participants tips
  • Best practices when sharing research findings

(Wondering about the spaceship I would land in Colorado? Full lyrics here. Anyone who lived in Colorado as a kid will probably know it by heart.)

Shameless plug for our SxSW panel: Vote! Attend!

Want to learn more about how to set up and manage a user research program within your organization? If so, you are humbly encouraged to vote for our panel for inclusion in next year’s SxSW: Developing Super Senses: Tools to Know Your Users. My partners in crime are Mark Trammell (Digg), Carla Borsoi (, Andy Budd (Clearleft), and Nate Bolt (Bolt | Peters).

Vote early! Vote often! And if we make it, come prepared with good questions!

10 second statement on what user testing is and isn’t

I’ve been writing up research summaries and proposals and just penned this inelegant but hopefully useful statement on what I perceive as the value of user testing.

We’re working with a very small sample size and are not claiming that these are statistically significant results. Rather, the usability sessions are thoughtful, detailed conversations about our product with people who are looking at new features with fresh eyes; and if they’ve used the product before, they’re sharing real-life perspectives on how they experience it.