User Testing vs. A/B Testing

So you have a page, or a system, or a form or an app or anything, and you know you want to make it ‘better’. And the question is… Should we use User Testing or A/B Testing? TL;DR: Both can be valuable, and you can do both. So long as you have an underlying indicator of the ‘better’ that you can track over the long-term. A/B Testing A/B testing is good because: It shows you ‘for real’, at scale, what actually prompts your users to do the things you most want them to do It can further polish processes that have been through thorough user testing; to a degree that’s just not possible with a small group of people It can self-optimize content in real-time to maximize the impact of short spikes of campaign activity A/B testing is bad because: … Continue reading »

Specific thoughts on the @Coursera experience

First, I’d like to say a massive thank you. I really value the chance to study this excellent material at zero financial cost, and more importantly I love the opportunity you provide to people all around the world who don’t have the finances or the circumstances to otherwise consider such an education. I also know what it’s like to maintain and develop a complex online system while supporting active users, so this feedback is by no means an accusation of negligence. You will have thought about much of this already I’m sure, and if it’s already on a project roadmap somewhere then please excuse me. In short, this is not a letter from a grumpy customer; I just thought it may be useful to hear some specific feedback and ideas that could help with the online experience: When viewing and submitting … Continue reading »

On my next pet project and @Coursera

My most recent ‘pet project’, Done by When, grew up today. It’s 3 months to the day since I announced a vague plan to test out an idea that had been floating around my head, and now it’s out of beta, taking payments and I’ve just notice our Mandrill email reputation has crept up to ‘Excellent’. Woohoo. I’m delighted with where it’s going and all the helpful (positive and negative) feedback I’ve had from the first brave group of testers. I’ve added some screenshots to my portfolio on Behance, but the interface has progressed even further since then. Now that Done by When has a “business model” and all that, it will be given a serious amount of time and attention going forwards. But importantly, as it has an active user base I won’t be using it as a playground … Continue reading »

Done by When (beta) is live

So, I just about scraped in inside my (second) deadline. Done by When is live. Though very much in beta. Never go live on a Friday: Fail Ship early: Succeed Ship often: To be seen In building this to-do list app I’ve learnt a few new things: Google App Engine Python LESS Jinja2 Twitter Bootstrap All of which I can highly recommend. There’s loads more to do. It’s still un-branded for a start and the responsive stylesheets need tidying up, but the basic service offered if fully functional and I think it brings something new to the to-do list marketplace. Please let me know what you think.

Announcing ‘Done by When’

I promised to ship a new piece of software today but I haven’t quite made it. Ironically it’s a tool for managing expectations, and visualizing likely delivery times for a given piece of work. It would have been useful! I hate making excuses, but it’s been a crazy month with lots of good interruptions (lovely clients with interesting projects) and bad interruptions (family emergencies and so on). So while it’s not ready for you to use today, I’ll have to settle with announcing the project title today, ‘Done by When‘. A version of the tool, whether it’s ‘finished’ or not will ship by this time next week. Thought I didn’t make the deadline this time, it’s been very helpful for focussing the mind.

On appropriate design for an appropriate budget

I’ve just launched a simple website for a friend, and in part it was a pleasure to work on because we weren’t trying to re-invent the wheel. All it needed was clean and clear communication and the functionality for her to maintain the site herself. Only a few years ago, this would have been a messy and much more expensive process, but with open source software as the foundation (WordPress in this case) a small budget can deliver a decent product if you trust your web developer. This is particularly true of location based businesses; Claire is an Osteopath working in Bristol, so doesn’t need the most amazing osteopathy website in the whole world – just a slightly better website than the other osteopaths working in the same area. In this scenario, good communication is the avoidance of bad communication. … Continue reading »

Web design in a few years time

Link: Web design in a few years time The more I learn about CSS3, the less I think that photoshop and the ‘design stage’ of current web design practices will be at all relevant in just a few years time. I think that within a year I’ll have stopped using photoshop on any project I was developing for myself. And for work that other people need to review, new practices will to evolve to cope with that. But it’s enough of a change for me to think that it’s not worth upgrading my own copy of photoshop any more. Design will happen in the browser, and for basic photo adjustments, it’s amazing how much you can achieve with something as simple as picassa. This change is a challenge to everyone who works in web design and I suspect it will leave a … Continue reading »