One of the main lessons taught to new UX professionals is the power of statistics to win over executives for a redesign effort. By using statistics, it is possible to look at usability or user research findings from a business and financial standpoint. However, it’s possible to paint a picture even more compelling than simple data tables by employing visualization techniques to create infographics to drive home your most telling points instantly. Appropriate infographics enhance the data by adding meaning to it by the use of metaphors, typography, symbols and colors.
Design for Use has successfully used these these techniques to create better project deliverables where singular representations are able to encompass multiple and varied data sets. Some of these techniques used in various deliverables have been illustrated below.
Card Sort Results
Tag clouds can serve as a supplemental visual representation for card sort results. A tag cloud counts the number of times a specific word is used in a group of words (like a list, email, or a card sort), and generates an image to show the most commonly occurring words with proportionally larger visual prominence, thereby providing a physical representation of the findings.
For example, after a recent card sorting exercise of content from a public sector benefits provider, there was clear evidence to suggest changing several navigation labels. The analysis indicated that users preferred the label “Medical” or “Benefits” when searching for content about healthcare coverage; unfortunately, the current label on the site was “Insurance.” Rather than simply explaining the users’ label preference statistically, a tag cloud was created to demonstrate the results. The project stakeholders immediately (and viscerally) grasped the importance of the content category labels and their impact on findability for their users. This example further reinforced the need for usability testing and in-depth analysis on things as simple as navigation and menu labels.
The tag cloud rendered from the card sort data represented the popularity of each label and provided a tangible deliverable for the client that was more compelling than a pie chart or a verbal explanation of the findings.
Tag clouds for this exercise were created in Tagul and Wordle. Both applications are free and easily accessible; they both allow the user to input content and select the color and format of the tag cloud. Wordle pioneered the online tag cloud application, and Tagul was created some time after as a means to make tag clouds more interactive. Specifically, Tagul clouds can be embedded on web pages and even used as navigation menus.
User Profiles and Scenarios Poster
A common problem while explaining user profiles and scenarios is the amount of information one needs to communicate through multiple deliverables; there are actors, their demographics, motivations, narratives, goals and then the perceived task flow. It is difficult to maintain a context and therefore a connection across different documents. Design For Use has tried to achieve a unified view of the profiles and their perceived task flow by creating a
one poster. The poster encapsulates all the essential features of the previous deliverables. The poster lends itself perfectly to be printed large format and then put on the project board, to help the teams stay in focus throughout the design process.
An example here illustrates one such scenario from a poster of multiple scenarios. Each step in the storyboard is accompanied by a small infographic. This info-graphic not only captures the essence of the written material but also sets a visual language to connect other stories below.
The poster was done using Adobe InDesign, as it easily imports from text documents for easy revisions. Photoshop and Illustrator from the Adobe Suite or Corel Draw could be used as well.
Mapping Existing Sites
Sitemap is an important deliverable to communicate content distribution, the depth of navigation and scope of the site. Usually a standard sitemap runs into multiple pages leading to a disconnect regarding the perceived hierarchy of various screens and pages. More so, if the project involves more than one website. The deliverable not only becomes unwieldy, it also becomes boring.
For one of its projects involving three interconnected broadcasting websites, Design For Use tried adopted a sitemap representation on a single legal page.
Here all site content has been composed around a screen capture of the home page using different color codes for each navigational areas like the top banner, global navigation, main page and the footer. The flow starts from arcs which are in close proximity to the origin of links, subsequently building in to a gradual progression in a circular configuration. This not only captures the entire site structure in one go, but clearly communicates the hierarchies and content chunks. Concerns like excessive depth of navigation and duplication of content can be quickly spotted on the page.
Without great discipline on the part of the user research team, most usability reports quickly turn into extended ramblings replete with an overwhelming number of tables to display numbers and statistics. In order to keep these reports clear and concise, Design For Use has been trying to leverage infographics to surface the more important information by making it readable at a glance. This makes a tedious usability report more engaging, even for the executives.
A couple of examples below prove the possibilities by taking few data points from a common usability report.
Design For Use has been striving to make project deliverables more effective and interesting by using visualization techniques discussed above and have received a good response to our approach so far.
For more examples from other deliverables, please contact Design For Use.