Category Archives: UX

Resources Every Performance Tester Should Know About

Performance is a widely overlooked feature in the development world. In enterprise development, better performance can correlate directly to company profit. More efficient programs utilize fewer resources; fewer resources cost less money.

On the consumer end, performance can make or break a product. One reason Google has such great market share is the speed at which they deliver their applications and data. The philosophy is pretty simple really: when users have to wait for something, they either get distracted (in which case they forget about you) or frustrated (in which case they’re mad at you).

The bottom line is performance matters. That’s why performance testing is vital to any product and company. I’ve outlined a few resources that I’ve found to be the most useful for performance testing below:

1. Steve Souders’ Blog

Steve Souders is the head performance engineer at Google and has literally written THE book on web performance. I’ve been on Steve’s RSS feed Continue reading Resources Every Performance Tester Should Know About

Windows 8, iPad Minis, & Nintendo, Oh My: What to Buy This Holiday Season

I took last Friday off to watch my son and hit the local Best Buy since we had some time to kill before picking up my daughter from school.

With the latest Windows 8 release I was hoping to check out a couple of the new touch screen devices. I don’t recall the exact models, but I looked at an Acer RT tablet, Lenovo Ultrabook/Tablet Convertible, and a Dell All-In-One desktop. I have to say after using Windows 8 on my Lenovo x220 for a month, I’m really missing not having a touch screen interface. After playing around with each of the devices, I found the Windows 8 UI to be fluid and responsive irrespective of device. Windows 8 gestures all worked as advertised. Application launched and closed in several seconds. I launched Excel on the Acer RT tablet and sure enough it dropped me to the desktop interface, where I saw the common matrix of empty cells. I even typed in a few numbers and ran the simple SUM function. The on-screen keyboard worked well enough for this task. Office on the desktop ruins the RT experience, they will probably eventually port it or a subset of it to a Windows 8 app, but the fact that it can run on an RT tablet should satisfy business users who depend on Office. Overall, I’m impressed with the few pieces of Windows 8 hardware I used.

I was also hoping to see the newer iPad Mini and thinner iMac for comparison, Continue reading Windows 8, iPad Minis, & Nintendo, Oh My: What to Buy This Holiday Season

Windows 8 in Review: The Good, the Bad, and What You Need to Know

Windows 8 TabletI’ve been using the RTM enterprise version Windows 8 on my work laptop and workstation for about a week now and these are some of my initial impressions of it.

The Good

Some of my better experiences…

It’s fast. It’s as fast, if not faster, than Windows 7. On a Dell Precision T3400 and ThinkPad x220, the experience is snappy.

It’s beautiful. Minimalist metro style, live titles, square edges in metro and desktop mode, and sleek background artwork will really catch your eye.

Keyboard shortcuts. There is basically a Winkey shortcut for almost everything. The Windows 8 secrets book has a full list in the appendix or you can visit Paul Thurrott’s Super Site for Windows for a quick guide on Windows key shortcuts.

Search. Press the Winkey and start typing. Find stuff. Enough said.

My kids could use it. I spent about 30 minutes last night reviewing metro interface with my 9-year-old. After explaining the screen gestures, she was able to download and play a couple of free metro games.


The Bad

These may be nit-picky, but I demand perfection…

No search with the Windows store.  You have to use Start Search and filter on the store to see results. This is kind of annoying.

No Hyper-V client support for my workstation. You need SLAT or second level address translation support on your processor for client side Hyper-V. This is an optional requirement for server so why not on the client. I will gladly forgo VM memory optimizations to ditch VMware workstation.  You can check if your processor is SLAT compatible by following this helpful blog post on How-to Geek.

Metro is designed for a touch experience. Not an earth shattering realization, but Continue reading Windows 8 in Review: The Good, the Bad, and What You Need to Know

Beneath the Surface: Why Windows 8 Isn’t Completely Doomed
Photo Credit:

Now that you’ve all groaned over my “punny” choice of title for this post, let’s get down to it!

In my post on why I think Windows 8 is like the Water Bear, I voiced some concerns over adopting Windows 8 for desktop PCs and how that would impact my ability to perform my current job.  Here’s a quick rebuttal to why I think Windows 8 isn’t completely doomed, especially when paired with the Surface tablet:

Sharing and Consuming is easy on Windows 8

After I finally relented and got a tablet (a Nook – before I was running out of shelf space for my books), I realized that I spent most of my content consumption time on my tablet. It was easy enough to watch a video, look out for e-mail notifications, or Facebook updates while reading a book. The Windows 8 Metro mode is better for sharing content or getting quick glance updates. This is perfect for when I don’t want to go to my laptop or use my tiny phone screen.

The Surface has a keyboard, for those of us who survive on haptic feedback.

The most prominent complaint I had with modern tablets was the lack of a keyboard.  As a touch-typist, it is literally impossible for me to type with a touch-screen. If I can’t generate written content, this takes away half of the usefulness of a tablet.

Luckily, the Surface has a keyboard that easily stores away when you’re not using it.  It’s also not a detached accessory, so it (hopefully) has the same stability that a laptop has, with all the bonuses of a touch-tablet.

Continue reading Beneath the Surface: Why Windows 8 Isn’t Completely Doomed

Why Windows 8 is like the Water Bear: Criticisms of Windows 8

Behold, the mighty Water Bear!

If you don’t know what a Water Bear (or Tardigrade) is, you should. These water-dwelling creatures are 0.3-0.5mm long and can survive up to 10 years without water. It was also shown in 2007 that they could survive after being exposed to the vacuum of space for a number of days.

Now, what does the Water Bear have in common with Microsoft’s latest operating system? Let’s see…

  • It’s kind of fun to see them in action in a short YouTube video, but after 90 seconds you’ve already moved on to other things.
  • Water bears can survive in the most extreme environments…so can Windows 8 (?).
  • Water bears have 8 legs…Windows 8…well, you get the gist.

As you might have noticed, I am not ecstatic over the emergence of Windows 8. Granted, I’m going off of a collection of online reviews and the 60-second release preview video, but there were still some red flags that popped up on my radar and are worth mentioning.

You can’t minimize applications

John C. Dvorak from points this out in his post, Metro: That’s Not My Name. Minimizing applications is a very common need, especially in the enterprise arena. This spells trouble for me in Windows 8 because at my job I am constantly switching contexts depending on which hat I am wearing. Each of my roles demands an exclusive set of applications to accomplish what needs to be done, and I need to be ready at a moment’s notice to switch contexts.

Continue reading Why Windows 8 is like the Water Bear: Criticisms of Windows 8

New SoftArtisans Website Design

So fresh and so clean. The SoftArtisans website got a makeover – nay, an overhaul. The hard work of our designers Christiana and Jon produced a site worthy of praise. No longer hosted on Yahoo!, the site features new and improved navigation, a slick layout and custom graphics in order to create a more user-friendly environment. Gone are the days of the unattractive panel menus and outdated feel. The new layout incorporates a custom slider, more ways to follow and connect with us through social media and a new theme for the blog to match. Before the site’s demise, designer Christiana caught a screenshot so you could view the dramatic change. See below for the before and after shots and let us know your thoughts in the comments section.
Continue reading New SoftArtisans Website Design

Notes from the User Testing Files: Content Grouping

[Photo Credit: Jocko B]

Useability testing, be your testers sheep or goats, is a fascinating, frustrating and (hopefully) enlightening process. Once you’ve chosen your tasks and assembled your testers, you sit back and watch them use your site. Grapple with it, actually. You wonder: Why are you looking there? Don’t you see that tab? Can’t you tell this is a local search? Whyyyyareyoudoingthatstopitanddoitright!

This sort of thinking is counter-productive.

Your poor, beleagured tester is doing this instead of that because that is not obvious. Or, alternatively, this seems to be a more likely goldmine than that. If the latter is the case(something you’ll need to ask the tester during the debriefing bit) then it’s time to rethink your categories.

Let’s say you run an online boutique that sells clothing for dogs, Um, yes, these exist! And no, I don’t dress my dog in argyle. Yet. Continue reading Notes from the User Testing Files: Content Grouping

Notes from the User Testing Files: The Sheep-Goat Effect

Recently, I referenced  something quite obscure – the “sheep-goat effect”. The reason I say  “quite obscure”  is that no one had any idea what it was. And I spoke to literally scores of people. The “sheep-goat effect” was coined in ESP experiments whereby people who believed in ESP did significantly better than those who did not believe in ESP on ESP-type tests. The believers were called “sheep” and the non-believers, “goats”. The “sheep-goat effect” is therefore used (apparently by only a very small handful of people aside from me, if at all), to illustrate that the belief in something can have a causal effect on that event happening.

So why was I making this reference in the first place? Because the sheep-goat effect goes beyond ESP tests–it can be a very powerful concept in marketing.  This is especially true if your product or service is not widely accepted, is novel or is subject to public skepticism (like ESP).

Marketers love to gather feedback – by way of surveys.  Just Google how to create a good marketing survey and you’ll run across suggestions regarding target groups and sampling. Here are a few you’ll find regarding target group: Continue reading Notes from the User Testing Files: The Sheep-Goat Effect