#uxcampch 2017 – Some notes

I attended last Saturday’s #uxcampch in Zürich.

First talk was on designing screens for HbbTV. 10 Foot UI. Samuel Raymann talked about his project at SRG and designing for TV sets. I liked this project report about design challenges.

Next, I joined a discussion on digital education. Difficult to summarize in a couple of words. Apparently, even in 2017, there are tonnes of teachers that don’t use digital resources and apps in their teaching plans. At the same time, many students are distracted by very elaborate, leading edge, commercial apps. Educational software publishers could benefit from UX methodology and agile processes. And one attendee suggested UX designers should consider enter the teaching profession.

Then, there was a session on virtual reality. One hololens and 120 attendees. And very shaky videos as we watched people try out the headset. Conclusion: User interaction is not quite there yet. The hand gestures are quite difficult to learn, it seems.

I felt this session shows what is happening. Enthusiasts, gamers, early adopters are embracing virtual reality, augmented reality faster than ever before. While at the same time the digital divide is increasing (c.f. educational system). Many of us, normal folks, will be consumers of elaborate marketing and manipulation machines that we don’t know how to program.

One thing to note is: voice control will become more widespread.

In many ways the VR session reminded me of shaky holiday videos from long ago. But it’s coming into our daily lives in a big way.

Other sessions of note:

Making privacy useable

Conversational Design

On design sprints

Big thank you to the organizers.

Barcamp Bodensee 2016

Last Saturday I attended Barcamp Bodensee in Konstanz.

barcamp bodensee

Here are some brief notes and thoughts on sessions that I attended:

Ask a digital teen
Barcamp attendees asked a 15 year old what apps and web services he uses. Youtube, Gaming, TeamSpeak, Discord app, some Whatsapp, Google Calendar. No TV. No Facebook. His school doesn’t allow the use of smartphones on the school grounds.

Digital strategy for non-profit organizations
Digital strategy means finding a way to connect CMS and CRM and accounting and payment apps and processes. CiviCRM was recommended; if offers connectors for WordPress and Drupal. There’s an association called “Software für Engagierte” (in German only). QuickBook, Collmex were mentioned for accounting purposes.

Getting Things Done
A certified GTD trainer offered an intro to David Allen’s method. Mind like water. Some very useful tips. For example, to do lists aren’t enough. Lists need to be sorted and categorized. Actionable items and next steps instead of just listing the project. Tasks that take less than 2 minutes should be taken care of immediately. Cos it takes more time to get back to these mini-tasks. Related links:

http://www.taskinator.de/

http://www.next-action.de/

Intro to Snapchat
Useful intro to a social network that is growing fast. The speaker encouraged us to sign up to learn how influencers are using Snapchat for storytelling.

 

Messaging
Messaging apps are probably going to change in 2016, c.f. Facebook’s recent announcement. E.g. possibility to order services and buy products via chat like in Asian chat apps, Line and WeChat. We went off on a tangent and collected a comprehensive list of messaging apps….

all the messaging apps that we could think of

I’ve learnt a lot at barcamps in the past and recommend attending one or two if you can. The same content will cost you $$$ at a commercial conference and lots more nerves. Barcamps are fun and way more relaxing.

Useful check list for your new WordPress site

I found this list of useful tips on launching a WordPress site:

Things to watch out for are:

  • fast hosting
  • search-engine optimized theme

WordPress is working on a new codebase:

The new WordPress.com codebase, codenamed “Calypso,” moves WordPress.com away from MySQL and PHP. It’s built entirely in JavaScript, and communicates with WordPress.com only using our REST API.

I don’t know how this will play out for self-hosted sites. You can use Calypso functionality via Jetpack. The benefit, that I read most frequently, is that the Calypso editor is well designed for writers.

See also:

What is WordPress Calypso and what does it mean for self hosted sites?

Reasons to blog

I saw this article today on the benefits of blogging:

  1. Blogs refine your thoughts
  2. Blogs reward the creator
  3. Blogs amplify your humanity
  4. Blogs connect us to our tribes
  5. Blogs give introverts a voice
  6. Blogs reward the “new age” publishers
  7. Blogs embrace the experimenters
  8. Blogs accelerate discovery
  9. Blogs open up a world without borders

I’ve written about the reflective power of writing. E.g. here.

I bet, there were similar articles about writing ever since writing was invented.

It’s quite difficult to carve out a space in our multimedia world to sit down and write and reflect and create. Many times I just feel like I am part of the echo chamber. Not adding any value. Not going deep enough.

One reason to keep your blog going is digital memories.

The weather was beautiful today. Sunny and warm. I tried to capture the day and hold onto the moment with these snapshots.

Walking down the stairs:

Photo

Crossing the river Rhein at the Kraftwerk:

hello basel

This bicycle colour is cool:

hell-blau

Looking down:

muster

Just like in San Francisco, the fog moved in at around 5 pm:

der nebel kommt

Autumn colours:

leaves

I am continuing my Vine experiment. Here’s the new water fountain in Riehen Dorf:

Video isn’t easy. At all. This Coschedule blog post mentions some tools to explore:

  • Video Hance (iPhone)
  • QuickCast (iPhone)
  • ScreenFlow (desktop tool)

Always a good resource, Hubspot lists video ideas to try out for your business.

What tools or apps can you recommend? I’m on Android.

By chance, I learnt that there is an edit function in Vine.

Referral traffic from social media has dropped

I saw this Bufferapp article on declining social media traffic.

We’ve lost nearly half our social referral traffic in the last year

I say. No wonder. Everybody is online, creating tonnes of content. Most people are too busy to read, let alone follow so many data streams.

Many web pages don’t get any traffic at all. A few sites get all the traffic.

Interesting read. I recommend reading it.

My tip: don’t share or comment on articles that you haven’t read. Even bots can do that. Be human.

And. If you do like an article? Comment, share and write a blog post on it.

If you’re on Facebook and want to see better content, I recommend following Robert Scoble’s advice. The filtering is improving. And this week’s announcement on Facebook Search means we may have a viable alternative to Google Search. At some point in the future.

Lucky chiperoni.ch. It doesn’t need to grow traffic.

Have a look at my photos on Flickr.

walk this way

WordPress-y clean-up

I just deleted over 20 WordPress themes that had accumulated in my wp-content folder. Feeling de-cluttered. I’ve kept Syntax and Underline.

I’ve also been unlinking tonnes of broken links.

Next, I need to figure out why comments are not getting thru.

BTW, there’s a WordPress conf in Zurigo on 19 September.

I’ve been using WordPress since 2004. 11 years. It’s served me well.

Is it slow? Is it bloated? Maybe, but you can always work on improving that.

What will an SEO audit be like in 10 years?

A couple of months ago, I went thru an SEO audit. I wanted to write a blog post to reflect on what I learned. This is my feeble attempt to collect my thoughts and jot down some notes. Where available, I’ve tried to list my source links.

bagger statt strasse

What is an SEO audit? In an audit, your website is analyzed and checked (often by an external SEO specialist) to be sure that it complies with SEO best practises.

football crazy

12 items to consider:

  1. GWT is your best friend.
    I spent a lot of time working my way thru Google Webmaster Tools, cleaning duplicate title and meta description tags. Duplicate title tags are a negative quality feature for Google. Sources of duplicate title tags are

    • non-translated title tags,
    • content management software settings, e.g. showing the same mono-lingual Drupal view in several website languages.

    GWT is the place to find these. Same for missing title tags. Or meta descriptions that are too short. Or the index status, which shows you how many pages are indexed.

  2. Follow a holistic approach. If you think you’re all set ‘cos you have had your new web design and navigation tested for usability by a user experience expert… Think again. You need to involve SEO early on in your design project. Ask for SEO guidance once you’ve gone thru the card sorting/information architecture steps. Check your designs from an SEO perspective. Write content in close collaboration with your SEO analyst.
  3. Question the SEO impact of new website features.
    Ask your web developers about the SEO side-effects of adding new features and changes. I learnt that website changes to make a website responsive and mobile-friendly may add unintended SEO problems, e.g. ‘cos the changes added a second hidden navigation which Google cannot identify yet.
  4. Ignore SEO noise.
    A lot of the SEO advice that you read on the web is blabla. Avoid link-bait. Hearsay. Look for reputable sources and SEO specialists that really know their field.
  5. Use the hreflang tag on multilingual websites.
    Add rel="alternate" hreflang=x on all web pages.
  6. Check the correct usage of heading tags.
    Use only one h1 per page. Keep the order h2, h3, or h4. Don’t jump to an h3 after using an h1.
    Check thru the design elements (e.g. navigation, footer, search button, contact form heading, teaser text blocks, or similar for hidden h1s or h2s).
  7. Improve h1 content.
    A heading 1 should provide a good summary of what to expect on the web page. Include keywords.
  8. Internal linking.
    Add relevant internal links. Add an on-page sitemap. Use footer links for important landing pages, not to repeat the navigation. Never use any hidden sub-page menus. Make sure you use dropdown menus that can be parsed by Google.
  9. Clean up any 302 redirects that may have been added by the content management system.
  10. Repair or replace all internal broken links. Tool tip: I used Integrity for Mac.
  11. Page speed matters.
    Check Google Page Speed Insight to improve the loading time of your site.
  12. Check the XML sitemap.
    The XML sitemap should only include pages with status code 200. Use the real, final URL in the XML sitemap, not the CMS page ID.

10 years plugin

What will an SEO audit look like in 10 years? That is an intriguing question. I have no idea which way SEO will go. My guess is as good as yours. I do know that SEO is getting quite complex. And may even be replaced by *something* entirely new. If you are a website manager, my advice is to dig in and ask lots of questions.

Look at all aspects. Take a holistic approach. Try to form a cross-functional team (designer, ux researcher, web developer, SEO expert, content writer).

ready mix for mandasi

If you do search on Google, remember the search engine result on page 1 is not necessarily the best content, but the best optimized content. Use Google search operators to get you off the beaten track. And there are alternatives like DuckDuckGo and Wolfram Alpha, which we should support more to avoid monopoly and manipulation.

Related links

GWT resources:
http://www.lunametrics.com/blog/2014/05/21/how-to-use-google-webmaster-tools-for-seo/

On-page factors:
https://moz.com/learn/seo/on-page-factors

Duplicate content:
http://www.hobo-web.co.uk/duplicate-content-problems/
https://support.google.com/webmasters/answer/66359?hl=en

How to carry out a content audit:
https://moz.com/blog/content-audit-tutorial

Technical Site Audit Checklist: 2015 Edition:
https://moz.com/blog/technical-site-audit-for-2015

Disclaimer:
All mistakes are my own. Please let me know if I got something really wrong. I’m here to learn. These notes help me to reflect and learn.

Notes and photos from #UXcampch

Some notes and photos from Saturday’s UX camp in Zürich:

Adrian Sameli took us thru the process of building infographics. His tip on tools to use: Excel and Adobe Illustrator. He tried one or two infographic tools but didn’t like them much. In the discussion we looked at d3js.org.

d3js.org data-driven documents

Next, I attended a session on atomic design. Design systems not pages.
Developers need to agree early on with designers on the semantics of the smallest, small and medium building blocks. These then are used in templates to build pages.

Brad. Frost. Who?

Background reading: Atomic design by Brad Frost.

The discussion after the presentation got straight to the daily challenges. Questions like

  • How do you get developers to use the existing pattern? Nobody reads documentation. In an ideal world, developer and designer sit in the same room and discuss the initial elements and define the markup. In real life the UX team may be much smaller than the developer team and might be geographically distributed, etc.
  • Is anybody using Pattern Lab in real-life projects? Very few projects get paid to build a pattern library. Pattern Lab is really more for larger projects due to the effort involved. How can this be improved?

Next, I listened to Simone Reichlin talk about the RITE method vs traditional user tests.

Main idea: Often you see some obvious problems in your UX design after your first or second test person. Instead of going thru the whole test with the remaining test participants, change the prototype with your improvement between tests. And then continue testing your changed prototype.
Main requirement: Designer needs to watch the user test. This shortens discussion time afterwards.
Tools used: Sketch and inVision.

Don’t change too much. Follow Medlock’s classification.

Want to try RITE? Start with the traditional method first. Only use RITE after you have gained some experience in carrying out user tests.

Next:
A very good session by Vincent van der Lubbe on creating space in conversations. And we even got a reference sheet to take home. The hard part is putting this into practise.

listening to Vincent at @uxcampch

Fidel Thomet presented his B.A. project, Flaneur.io. It’s a Chrome extension to capture digital findings in form of text fragments gathered while browsing the web.

Information Flaneur = Flanieren in grossen Datenmengen

We briefly looked at Marian Dörk’s PivotPaths. This podcast by datastori.es was recommended.

Unknown, useless fact about me:
Once upon a time, I had to write a uni term paper on Walter Benjamin and Paris in the 19th Century.

My snapshots are on Flickr.

Disclaimer:
All mistakes are my own. Please let me know if I got something really wrong. I’m here to learn. These notes help me to reflect and learn.

Secure Email

I’ve signed up for Protonmail.ch:

And I noticed another company called Tutanota:

I think this is a great development. Instead of trying to get people to use PGP… maybe this will catch on.

Try and get an account!

Update, 5 May 2015:
There’s another company in this space called Lavaboom.

UX and Scrum

For future reference:

UX Oxford: Roman Pichler on “UX and Scrum: How do UX and Scrum fit together?” from Oxford Computer Consultants on Vimeo.

Via UX and Scrum.

It’s good to see some discussion of this topic.

It’s a challenging topic. Especially if you have a distributed team with team members in different geographic areas and time zones.

If you prepare designs too far in advance, there’s a high probability that the feature will evolve and change. The designs you make are outdated by the time the developers get there. And all you’re doing is creating waste.

If you’re designing too close to a sprint (e.g. in the week before it will be implemented), there is a high risk that the designer and UX questions show what’s missing in the user story. This starts discussions with the product owner and other stakeholders. In my experience, it’s the wireframes and the screens that trigger more and deeper responses and discussions from product owners and project leaders, compared to their own written business requirements.

In general, the UX discussion gets very difficult if there is not enough information on the end-user and how they will use the app; no direct access to real clients for questions and surveys.

#POSSE: A clickable demo of my simple #indieweb blog

Here’s a simple example how you can publish your content on your own site and syndicate elsewhere (POSSE):

  1. I posted a boring flower snapshot into my self-hosted WordPress (WP) blog.
  2. WP posted the entry to Twitter using WP plugins Hum and Publicize
  3. One of my Twitter followers replied to my tweet.
  4. Using Webmention, the tweet showed up in my WP comment moderation loop.
  5. After I approved it, the tweet shows up as a comment in the corresponding WP entry.

As you can see, there are some formatting issues with the emoticons and the image link isn’t displaying correctly.

And to begin with I had some other WP plugins interfering with the Webmention plugin and no idea why it wasn’t working.

Content first

Last Saturday I attended UX camp Switzerland. A very good event to learn about user experience, human-centered design, usability testing, MVP and prototyping tools.

Talks I listened to:

Stefanie Klekamp presented lots of background info on the Think Aloud usability testing method. Which I found useful. She explained the theories behind the method and also pointed to the research and shortcomings of the test. Shortcomings such as confirmation bias and evaluator effect. She briefly touched on Hawthorne effect, Rosenthal effect, primacy recency effect, hindsight bias. Practical tips for your next Think Aloud user test:

  1. Carry out a SWOT analysis of the website or app that you are testing beforehand.
  2. Take simple notes immediately.

Overall conclusion: Think Aloud user tests are a good practical method to test websites and apps early and often.

Next, I attended a talk by Tobias Günter called “Texter sind die besseren Designer” (in English: “Copywriters are the better designers”). His message was: We spend lots of time and resources on design and programming our web apps, but the content itself is often an afterthought. It’s reflected in the words we use: “Texte abfüllen”. Often there’s no content plan to begin with. Concept work is often based on “Lorem ipsum” dummy texts. If you consider the slogan “mobile first”, it should really be “content first”. Content is the reason people visit a website, or install an app in the first place. Often, content is not developed for mobile devices. Some copywriting guidelines to consider:

  • Keep it simple – only 1 thought per sentence
  • Add sub-headings
  • Add structure
  • Add some redundancy and repetitions
  • Add a focal point for images

Some further tools mentioned to improve content development:

  1. Develop your content page as if there is no start page and no website hierarchy
  2. Develop your content as if there is no navigation, header, footer, sidebar
  3. Think of URLs as verbs
  4. Test your texts
  5. Develop your texts iteratively; continuously improve your content

A good discussion followed. Every content page should be considered as being a landing page on its own. New developments include dynamic navigation entries depending on the content page I arrive at as a reader

Some web agencies now carry out a content audit of existing and new content. I found a related presentation on Slideshare after the talk:

 

Next, Samuel Frischknecht talked about minimum viable product (MVP) and presented some real-life client examples. He referred to a book called Lean UX by Jeff Gothelf. The lean process is

  1. Declare an assumption
  2. Create a MVP
  3. Run an experiment
  4. Collect feedback and carry out research

The book looks interesting and maybe it will answer some of my open questions on Scrum and design.

 

I attended more talks in the afternoon, but my ability to take notes decreased rapidly. I was tired.

Conclusion:
UXcamp was good. Many thanks to the organisers and sponsors. A good way to catch up on new developments and learn about a topic in one day.

Disclaimer:
All mistakes are my own. Please let me know if I got something really wrong. I’m here to learn. These notes help me to reflect and learn.

Quote of the day #SEO

Social media isn’t reaching people like it used to.

via The New Emphasis On Link Building: What's Behind It And How To React.

Back to link building? Probably.

Read this advice:

The best way to have your website rank higher is to make it better for your users. Being better requires that your website is one or some of these types of things in comparison to your competitors…

  • more useful
  • more simple
  • more comprehensive
  • more funny
  • solve problems quicker or more effectively
  • more visually stunning

Responsive web design and low and expensive bandwidth

Some time ago, the Malawi daily newspaper, The Nation, released a new web design. More recently Nyasa Times updated their web design. In both cases, it’s an improvement. And from my current home base here in Switzerland, both sites load promptly.

From family in Malawi I hear that the loading times for both sites have increased. It would be interesting to hear from others if they noticed the same.

Many people in Malawi access the internet via mobile devices. Only few have access to flat rates and most Malawi internet users probably use prepaid data bundles, i.e. every MB of data costs $$$.

In addition, some parts of Malawi and even parts of Blantyre don’t have a good connectivity.

I think it’s important to find out how your target audience will access your site. And then optimize your site for low bandwidth. I’ve written about this topic before. (Click here and here).

I’m not a web developer. But I do think we need to step in and ask questions about page speed. Page speed is an important part of the overall user experience.

Responsive web designs are great. One content base serves web pages on different end devices from smartphone to large monitor screens.

But what about optimising responsive sites for lower bandwidth?

What kind of things should you adapt and change? Best practises for responsive sites?

I switched off a WordPress mobile plugin called Mobilepress ‘cos it was creating a lot of broken links which showed up in Google Webmaster Tools.

Should I reinstall a mobile plugin like Mobilepress on my WordPress site?

This got me thinking about responsive web design and bandwidth. I’ve started doing some preliminary reading and googling on this. Here are some links I’ve found:

Design your site for mobile devices first. The buzzword is mobile-first.

(…) more than 12 percent of the world’s Web traffic comes from mobile devices. This fraction is significantly higher in nations with higher smartphone penetration and is expected to increase notably in the next few years as adoption picks up in Asia, Latin America and Africa.

One important task is to optimise images. I found this Smashing Magazine article provided some helpful guidance on responsive image solutions. But minimizing the bandwidth impact of images isn’t easy.

Test your site to see what is affecting page speed. There’s Google’s Site Speed within Google Analytics, Web Page Test and Yslow to help you identify issues.

In my opinion, this list of web design guidelines for low bandwidth still holds true.

Good background article:
How and Why Responsive Design Can Go Wrong

Conclusion: Building websites isn’t getting easier. Ask your developers to search for ways to improve your site’s performance.

Tips? Ideas and suggestions? I appreciate your comments and suggestions to improve.

My wish list

Inspired by various gift lists that are showing up in my timeline, I thought I need to write my own wish list.

On my wish list:

New takkies.
new takkies
I’ve started running again on a regular basis. And I noticed I need to replace my Asics with a fresh pair. Bought my current pair in 2010.

“Es gibt kein schlechtes Wetter, nur schlechte Kleidung”
I need to buy some clothes for winter.

I’m very happy with my current line-up of gadgets. Favourite gadgets in use in 2013 are a good old 13″ MacBook, an iPad and a Lumix camera.

Android smartphone.
I don’t need a smartphone. But looking at current reviews, I’d probably get a Nexus 4 or an LG G2. I’d like to learn more about Android. My multi-operating system strategy is a good excuse, don’t you think?

Apple TV.
I remember a meeting with an online marketer who strongly recommended getting an Apple TV, when it first came out. Maybe he’s right. Or maybe Google Chromecast is a cheaper alternative?

But these are all material wishes. Not essential.

Happiness, health, peace, love, joy, wisdom, kindness, goodness, knowledge are worth much more. And much more difficult to gain.

kraft

One wish of mine is to improve my writing skills. There is more fun in creating.

riding a bicycle

Google Hummingbird links

The latest addition to the SEO zoo is a hummingbird.

The algorithm change was announced in September 2013 but went live a month earlier.

Searchengineland has some useful background information:

FAQ: All About The New Google “Hummingbird” Algorithm

Hummingbird’s Impact On B2B Sites

Apparently this release will improve Google’s ability to predict a user’s search intent.
Conversational search has been improved.

Looks like Google+ might be another factor to add to the 200 items Google looks at? Search Engine Journal says:

If you are joining Google Plus Communities and building an audience on Plus, answering questions, creating video content via Hangouts and Youtube, and using hashtags, you will be jumping on the Social Search bandwagon that Google is actively promoting.

SEJ infographic

Apparently the advice remains the same: develop original, high-quality content.

See Searchengineland’s SEO success factors.

Tracking conversion in single page web apps

Last week I asked for help on using Google Analytics to track conversion in single page web apps:

Tweet, tweet:

The challenge is to track user behaviour in a Javascript frontend that doesn’t have “pages”. My question: What’s better? Should I use events or model the wizard steps as page views?

Here’s what I found in a brief Google search:

***

Via this Search Engine Land article:

Are Virtual Pageviews Right For You?
Pros:

  • Supports goal configuration – cannot configure a goal with an event ( refuted by https://support.google.com/analytics/answer/1383265?hl=en https://www.blastam.com/blog/index.php/2011/03/how-to-use-events-goals-google-analytics/ )
  • Doesn’t artificially inflate bounce rate

Cons:

  • Artificially inflates pageviews for the site
  • Limited information available – events are much more robust or correlating conversions and user behavior

Source

***

The cross-reference above, points to this article on benefits of using events:

Top 4 Benefits of Using Events in Goals

  1. Track visitors who don’t convert with traditional transactional or lead generation goals
  2. More easily track Influencers/Advocates on your site
  3. Measure “interactions” that can lead to better understanding of site engagement
  4. My absolute favorite…Measure “interactions” in the early stages of the buying cycle that demonstrate the quality of the visits that increase the top of the funnel and ultimately lead to increased revenue producing goals.

***

This background article is useful, especially the section on Virtual Page Views.

***

And another reference:

“I’m a big fan of virtual pageviews for form tracking simply because GA still doesn’t allow the use of events in a multi-step funnel.”

***

Conclusion:
This means I’ll use virtual page views to track sequential, wizard steps so that I can track the funnel. And events to track individual goals.

Tips? Usage examples?
Any further hints and experience are appreciated.

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