People Adapt: Talking UX Design with Steven Hoober (3/3)

Steven Hoober is the author of Designing Mobile Interfaces: Patterns for Interaction Design. He is also President of Design at 4ourth, a design studio focused on mobile design.

We interviewed him about mobile devices, interaction design and … thumbs.

In case you missed, here’s part one of our conversation.

Do You Think the New Generation of Mobile Natives Will Come Up with Different Ways to Interact with Mobile Devices?

I have a different take on this. And that’s another one where I have an article, if you want to go read it.

The typical article about this is by somebody talking about their kid, raised in Silicon Valley and makes conclusions about all teenagers. Or they take a study made in San Jose about five years ago about something and decide is true for everything.

A couple years ago the BBC did a review where they asked kids about a WalkMan and they were, like, “what is this thing?”

I asked a bunch of kids who were about the same age, 14 to 16 years old, and they went, “I own a tape player. Of course I know what that is.”

Then, just the other day somebody else said, “I asked my kids and they don’t know what a clipboard is.” So I asked the teenager sitting next to me and she said, “Any kid who says they don’t know what a clipboard is, is lying.”

Some people have all this great technology but the rest of the world is running on basic stuff.

We aren’t born into it. We are born adjacent to technology.

UIs are not “natural.” We have to learn them. And that’s not a bad thing as long as we admit it.

People had to learn how to use a mouse. In the old days, you’d show someone a mouse, show them a computer and they would pick it up and shake it and not know what to do with it. It takes like 10 minutes for them to figure it out on their own. And much the same thing happens with mobile devices.

People can learn it but it is a learning curve.

They are “natives,” but only in the sense of the culture they grow up with. By tradition. By stories and fables.

They don’t necessarily know why. They don’t understand the science. And I see this a lot when I interview end users, especially teenagers.
They might know how to do something, but they don’t understand the underlying technology. And even if you were to forget the technology layer, they don’t understand how something is generally applicable.

The digital native thing isn’t all that is cracked up to be.

How Can a Product Team Gain Better Understanding of How Their Users Interact with Their Mobile Product?

The ideal is definitely to go out and see actual people.

Kelly Goto has a thing which she calls Presumptive Personas which I’ve been doing forever, but I didn’t know what they were called. Great term. I wish she had an article that we could reference.
You get your product team together, including the folks who build the actual HVAC systems or the photocopiers.

You get them all in the room and you talk about what they want to do? And they start sharing stories about what people complain about, how people do stuff in the real world. How they sell things to people to get around this problem. What competitor products they see.

Now you can go off and do very focused research. Whether it’s spending a day looking through newsgroups for these people and finding what they talk about about. Or, if you can afford it, you can spend a few days going to a client site to watch them work or even visit them in their house. And you can start to ask them very directed questions like, “show me how you do this task.”

You can build quick prototypes and show them to people out there and quickly see how they work with these screens. “Hey, we are thinking of adding this feature to our thing. Yes or no?” But in the middle of it you see things like they can’t remember their password so they stick a Post-It note on the side of the computer.

You start seeing how they behave in their environment.

And in a few weeks you have a much more focused idea on what your product is doing based on the way people want it to work instead of guessing or building.

The Minimal Viable Product is almost a bad term to me if it encourages you to build whatever you think is a good idea.

You can take months and spend hundreds of thousands of dollars building that product. But what’s the point if nobody wants it?

You build products people want by building products people want. Not by building products that meet a deadline.

Don’t agonize over bits parts of the system. You make them good enough. I know it’s weird for me to say good enough, but we have more important things to do. So unless you want to spend two years building your product. Good enough is fine.

Once it launches, what does this do? Everything else flows from that and it’s based on what you did to get there.

About Steven


Steven Hoober is President of Design at 4ourth, a design studio focused on mobile design and co-author of Designing Mobile Interfaces: Patterns for Interaction Design. He is widely known for his ongoing research into how people really use touchscreen phones and tables.

Interactive Transcript

To listen to the actual interview, check out the Interactive Transcript.

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Contact Misael Leon at [email protected].

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