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Usability vs. User Experience

As per my old article here about UX Design, I believe that there’s something missing, especially for the Perceptual Control part ..
How come defending the users’ rights and in the same time controlling their perceptions ?!
I believe that the other way around makes more sense, by measuring the User Experience in order to improve Usability, and by getting efficient Usability we create superior User Experience ..
In other words, Usability is the actual key, always has been !
Neither Usability nor User Experience needs to be designed ..
Usability needs engineering, and User Experience needs measuring ..
But both applies to an interactive product, and that is the only part which needs to be designed, as in Interaction Design ..

Usability defines the extent of use (satisfying context) ..
User Experience defines the perception of use (responsive feelings) ..

Usability creates User Experience ..
User Experience emphasizes Usability acceptance ..

Usability Engineering researches the ease of use ..
User Experience Design .. hold on

I was wrong, User Experience cannot be designed (why?), but we can Design for the User Experience, in which case, we should refer to Interaction Design instead ..

Interaction Design harnesses Usability to exceed desirable expectations from User Experience ..

UE-IxD-UXA

It all starts with Usability Engineering then, interesting !

According to Wikipedia, common usability evaluation methods include:

  • Usability testing (Gold standard of Usability Engineering, but the most involved and expensive method)
  • Interviews
  • Focus groups
  • Questionnaires/Surveys
  • Cognitive walkthroughs
  • Heuristic evaluations
  • Rapid Iterative Testing and Evaluation (RITE) method
  • Cognitive task analysis
  • Contextual inquiry
  • Think aloud protocol

Online Resources:

Crucial M4 SSD For Macbook Pro

If you have a Macbook Pro and you decided to upgrade to Crucial memory and solid-state drive (like mine), then I believe you should read my experience through-out this journey to avoid being upset !

Macbook Pro:
Model Identifier: MacbookPro5,5
Processor: 2.53 GHz Intel Core 2 Due
Memory: 4 GB 1066 MHz DDR3
Storage: 250GB Hitachi 5400 rpm HDD
Graphics: NVIDIA GeForce 9400M 256 MB
Boot ROM Version: MBP55.00AC.B03 (EFI 1.7)
Software: Mac OS X Lion 10.7 (11A511)

Crucial Parts:
Memory: 8GB 1066 MHz DDR3
Storage: 256GB M4 SSD

Hardware Upgrade:

If you like to have a bootable version of OS X Lion follow this tutorial.

OS X Symptoms:

  • System freeze after wake-up from sleep state (open/close LED) or else with Beach Ball rotating forever.
  • Start-up flashing Question Mark with Folder, or Circle/Slash.
  • Apple Logo with Spinning Gear rotating forever.
  • Apple Logo with progress bar followed by sudden power-down.
  • Kernel Panic with the message “You need to restart your computer.”.
  • Fresh installation failed due to write errors (SystemCache or Recovery HD creation error)

Research Synopsis:

  • Enabled TRIM support is NOT the issue, however, if you did enable TRIM support using this tool, then you should know that it’s just a software command, a new OS X installation will get that back to default state anyway.
  • Zero Out erase will NOT do any harm to your SSD, it’s not necessary due to the new write technology, instead you might need to perform an ATA Secure Erase, it’s an internal procedure literally write nothing to the entire drive, best way to do so is using Parted Magic Boot CD by following this tutorial.
  • Crucial DDR3 ?memory kit are NOT the issue, they are working just fine with original HDD.
  • Resetting PRAM and SMC are not going to help in our case.

Solution:

  1. Downgrade Macbook Pro EFI to version 1.6 (only if you have version 1.7 installed via Software Update).
  2. Upgrade Crucial M4 SSD firmware to version 0002.

Step-by-Step:

  1. Make sure that you have a higher EFI firmware version 1.7, you can find out from System Information, where “Boot ROM Version: MBP55.00AC.B03”.
  2. Download this DMG.
  3. Open DiskUtility and drag the above image to the left.
  4. Plug-in any USB flash drive (no need for large capacity).
  5. Click the USB from the left and erase with “Mac OS Extended (Journaled)”??.
  6. Click the image and choose restore.
  7. In the destination drag the USB drive.
  8. Click restore.
  9. Reboot while holding the option key to select the USB drive from boot menu.
  10. Apple logo will come up and a dark gray bar will start to move right under it.
  11. Sit relax and wait for the process to be done.?
  12. Macbook Pro will reboot automatically.
  13. Open System Information and make sure that Boot ROM Version is MBP55.00AC.B00?.
  14. Now perform Crucial firmware update following their official guide.

Tips on Note:

  • If you’re going to use iStat Pro widget, disable the polling of S.M.A.R.T status, it may cause SSD freeze according to other users experiences.?
  • If your Keyboard Backlight went dead after replacing new hardware, you might accidentally slipped the ZIF Ribbon Connector next to memory banks, shutdown your Macbook Pro and use a plastic tiny tool to manually fix that ribbon, do it carefully, it’s a bit hard to put back in place.

Conclusion:

  • EFI 1.7 is a disaster for Macbook Pro with third-party SSD !
  • EFI 1.6 limits data transfers to 1.5 GB/s.
  • An OptiBay can increase data transfer to 3 Gb/s with EFI 1.7.
  • Apple is pushing hard to prevent third-party hardware upgrades, in other words, they probably won’t release any future EFI firmware updates to resolve any of these issues !
    If the impossible happened and Apple did release EFI 1.8 for MacbookPro5,5 I will make that update and perform all necessary testing to post back here, meanwhile I think it’s better to live with 1.5 GB/s (EFI 1.6).
  • Crucial seems to care more about us, hopefully the next M4 SSD firmware update resolves my issues without the need to downgrade Apple’s EFI firmware !

Beware Of Facebook Security Question

Have you created your security question yet for your Facebook account?
In case you did, then beware .. someone else can still hijack your account claiming to be you just by guessing the answer of your security question !!

What on earth? oh yeah, to understand this, first you need to be aware of a few facts:

  1. Security Question can be created only once on Facebook, you’ll never be able to change it or even update your answer later !
  2. Facebook gives you the opportunity to recover your account if you believe your account has been compromised by another person or a virus, just report your compromised account.
  3. If you used that reporting procedure and you already lost your password (changed by the hijacker), then Facebook will show your previously chosen security question, and if you did answer correctly, then you will be able to enter “new” e-mail address and “new” password and your account will be locked for 24 hours.
  4. Facebook will send an e-mail with password change notification to all e-mail addresses associated with your account (including the new one you just entered), that notification will have a safety link to rollback the whole recovery process in case it was in fact a phishing scam.

Seems fine, is it not ?

Well .. what if you chose an easy security question with an easier answer, something could be guessed by one of your acquaintances, who else is likely to know who your first grade teacher was, or what street did you live on when you were 8 years old, or any of the other choices provided by Facebook?
They do not even give you the option to enter your own security question !

Combine that fact with bad luck .. like someone have successfully guessed your security answer while you were doing camping in the desert for 3 whole days with no phone signal or internet connection available !
Or you were sick at the hospital !
Or you just ignored your e-mail inbox for a while !!
Most likely, that person will successfully have your account pretending to be you, and Facebook can do nothing about it !
They gave you your 24 hours to catch the hijacker, remember ?!

How ironic .. those who did not create their security question, they won’t fall for this, because Facebook will ask them to either have access to one of the e-mail addresses associated with their compromised account (which is silly, sure the hijacker would change those), or they have to request some sort of verification from 3 of their friends (in case the hijacker did not “unfriend” them all), yet still this procedure is much harder for the hijacker from the first place, he had to have access to your e-mail too in order to use this procedure to steal you account !

If the hijacker holds deep feelings against you, your account could be lost forever just by blocking all your friends, changing all your e-mail addresses, starting to post shit in your name to your friends, or even delete your account !

No need to exaggerate, the point is: you still can recover your account from the hijacker because he also can not change your security answer !
All what you need to do is to keep an eye on your e-mail inbox at least once every 24 hours, so you won’t miss such an important password change notification, it holds your key to survive the hijacker ..
For that matter, I recommend you getting a Blackberry phone with internet access !
It’s the best way to get e-mail notifications while you walk around, and of course try to avoid desert camping !

If you did not yet create your security question, then it’s your lucky day ..
You need to create that indeed, just remember to type an answer off topic, something doesn’t related to the selected question !

Finally, some extra security might help in addition to your security question, have another look at your account security status ..

UX Strategy Simplified

Today I had an interesting question, what is my UX Strategy?

My answer was something about parallel work streams and synchronizing UX with development, sounds like a good idea at the moment ..
After doing my homework, I think I have more accurate answer to that ..
In fact, it wasn’t quite correct trying to think of a strategy in a single statement, if there is no identified actions it would be more like a discipline then a strategy ..

“A strategy is a set of coordinated, orchestrated, planned actions, or tactics, which will take you along a journey to reach a desired future state, over an established period of time. Design objectives are conditions or outcomes that a project must meet, often of tactical nature. User experience (UX) strategy shouldn’t therefore be confused with design objectives.” Renato Feijó – Johnny Holland Magazine

There’re many UX strategies, I had to read tons of words just to figure that out!
After all, I find the following more straightforward and compelling UX Strategy:

  1. User Stories: frame the problem space without identifying the solution.
  2. Key Scenarios: combining user stories to expose enough detail about the nature of the project.
  3. User Pathways: walkthrough process represented by post-its.
  4. Interactive Prototypes: visualizing pathways into paper prototypes and mock-ups.
  5. Wireframes: modeling user interfaces in preparation for the actual designs.

For more Agile UX Strategy, here is an article by Austin Govella

References:

User Stories: a strategic design tool
Emerging a User Experience Strategy

What is UX Design?

I have noticed recently that most people (at least in my country) do not understand the abbreviation UX (User Experience), others just refer that to UI (User Interface)!

Well, I must say that they are obviously mistaken!
The only relation between both is that UX might be a result of UI but not necessarily, we can achieve UX even when there’s no UI at all!

UX is about user feelings and perceptions.
UI is about interaction controls for the user.

Who is the UI Designer?
He is the person who has the talent to create elegant interface elements to appeal the user.
Practically, his role is about shape and color, and it is a unique criteria, requires long experience and large amount of time to satisfy various tastes.
His tools should be freehand sketching and digital design software like Photoshop and Illustrator.

Unlike the UX Designer, who has the knowledge of human psychology in terms of reactions and responses to designs, his role is about defending the user rights and controlling user perceptions for designs (specifications, user scenarios, wireframes, ..,etc).
His tools are the same as UI Designer in addition to OmniGraffle, Axure, .., etc.

Unfortunately, some employers not just treating UX Designer as UI Designer, they also require a full set of skills in scripting and mark-up languages in order to develop the actual UI interfaces, much like they combine UX Designer, UI Designer, and UI Developer in one role! sometimes they even require much more technical skills like advanced server scripting languages like PHP, Perl, .NET, ..,etc!

I am in fact one person who do believe that each UX Designer should have background about technologies and development, it helps to fully understand how to implement certain designs according to the latest available technologies ..
But not to do the whole task starting from conceptualization going through design and ending with final interactive product! it’s simply a huge waste of time and much higher expectations from a single talented person ..

It would be more efficient if the UX Designer works closely with Marketing Directors, Information Architects, and Creative Directors ..
It’s about time to emphasize the business needs by satisfying the actual users, the global competition went too high due to the wide production for different designs, the users are increasingly get lost and that affects business needs for sure ..

Related articles about wider perceptions that covers this subject:

Interaction vs. Interactive Design
Reactive / Responsive / Interactive