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Jumping Right In -Two Workshops Highlighting Eye Tracking and User Experience

featured / eye tracking / ux / usability

After joining Fors Marsh Group a few weeks ago, I’ve had the privilege of attending a few events in the DC-area. The first two workshops I attended were fantastic and both shed light on the benefits of eye tracking and mobile usability.

DC-AAPOR’s Eye-Tracking Workshop at Gallup Institute on Friday, Sept. 19, 2014

Dr. Jennifer Romano Bergstrom led a day-long workshop that introduced eye tracking, why we should/want to do it, the pros and cons, protocols for conducting, what we learn from eye tracking, and the best way to position it to clients. The participants came from very different backgrounds, and to my surprise, not many were UX practitioners. What we all had in common was that we were interested in learning more about eye tracking and its position in UX research. Jen did a great job of breaking the workshop into two parts: 1) theory and interactive presentation and 2) practice. In the first half, she built up a basic knowledge on the subject matter and then grouped us into teams of 6-7 to practice. The exercise involved designing a UX study and included eye tracking (hypothetically). Each team worked on a different topic and discussed the details of the study, and then we all played the role of both moderator for our study and participant for other teams’ studies. It was pretty informative to talk with people about it and see how everyone approaches it differently. Jen’s presentation was very engaging. She used visually attractive slides and had a great interactive story-telling method. Participants had lots of great questions that facilitated the learning process. One of the biggest takeaways I had was that eye tracking by itself might not be useful in many occasions. It needs to be complemented by more interpretive methods, such as behavior observation, interviews, or surveys. Practitioners should always make sure the benefits outweigh the costs.

The workshop was wrapped up by a Q&A session and then a happy hour to allow attendees the chance to continue networking.

Mobile UX Camp at Goethe Institute on Sat Sept 20, 2014

On Saturday, September 20, the Fors Marsh Group UX team attended Mobile UX Camp, which was very different from other conferences I’ve attended; it was more of an ‘unconference.’ There was no predefined schedule outside of session times, lunch time, and a final discussion. Anyone who had anything interesting to share could sign up for one of the four available rooms, one of which was sponsored by FMG. Our UX team presented on eye tracking, which was led by Jen and followed by a Q&A session. Our entire UX team took part in answering questions. Takeaways from my favorite Mobile UX Camp sessions were:


  • Design patterns for complex/deep navigation scheme: This talk discussed how e-commerce apps use a multi-layered navigation scheme versus other apps. The speaker also talked about “hamburger” menus, where it is best to use them, and Apple’s horizontal navigation bars, which are non-conventional. The bottom line was that to increase the user experience, we should avoid deep layers of navigation in mobile apps, but as usual, there is no one way or best way, and the designer needs to consider multiple factors when thinking about designing navigation bars.
  • People, Pain, Process, Projects:This presentation started with brainstorming on the obstacles UX people have during the process, many which occur when dealing with partners and clients. After a series of discussions, we agreed that if there is a problem, it’s everyone’s problem, and in order to save resources, we need to start on educating ourselves and partners early on in the project. Educating the entire team – including clients – is essential on all the components of the project, including: communication, expectations, motivators, priorities, limitations, overseeing potential issues, and lessons learned from past experiences.
  • Body Storming (this came up as a side discussion during the break): Body Storming is "live-action role playing for businesses." Body Storming is based on the principles of embodied cognition and kinesthetic learning principles. More simply, we understand and learn by doing - just like in preschool and kindergarten. This technique has been used in digital interaction design for 10-15 years now but traces its roots back further in traditional service contexts such as hospitality. When should Body Storming be used? Early in the design process because this is more formative/generative than evaluative. This exercise best answers the "what could be" or "what should be" questions related to how different actors (providers, supporters, consumers) interact with a system. It could be really powerful when used with contextual inquiry. If Body storming helps teams come to "what could be," contextual inquiry/other ethno can reveal "what ended up being." Exposing the gaps between the "could" and "reality" can help teams innovate around real-world needs and use patterns.

Hard to believe I’ve been at FMG almost a month now! I guess what they say – time flies when you are having fun (and learning) – is really true. Look for another post in late October recapping the next UX conferences on our agenda.

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