After an enlightening five days training with Nielsen Norman Group, it is time to relax and digest all that I have learned.
I found the courses were all strong on they why's – neither one that I took, from 'Analytics and User Experience' through to 'The Human Mind and Usability' skipped this important factor.
The five courses I chose were broad-ranging, with a couple of them what I would consider areas I need to work on 'Analytics and User Experience' , and 'Information Architecture: Navigation', a couple that related to my interest in why we do what we do, 'The Human Mind and Usability', and 'User Interface Principles Every Designer Must Know', and one to reinforce that I do know what I'm talking about 'Top Web UX Design Guidelines'!
USB sticks and badge from the event
I won't break down each course individually, but it was as broad as I had hoped, going from Gestalt psychology, Hick's law, Asch's Conformity Experiments, through to Digital Marketing Measurement Models, eye-tracking studies, A/B testing, and so much more.
Some courses had a lot of participation, with fun exercises, and some were more lecture based with lots of video material, including this funny example about change blindness.
As my personality dictates, I won't focus on the many positive reinforcing things that happened this week, or my ever-growing belief that I do actually know what I'm talking about! I will mention one example of where things didn't quite go as well as expected, and what I learned from that.
Perhaps one thing I really need to work on is the over-reliance of looking at favoured examples, as I discovered in the 'Information Architecture' class, it is good to follow patterns, but if the pattern doesn't match the problem, then it needs further exploration.
As a group, we had the task to look at the Stanford Law School website and to see how we could improve this fairly complex five-tier navigation.
Stanford Law School website
Our first hypothesis was to switch School, Program, and Experience to the top level, and then discuss the secondary navigation. We spoke about mega menus, as being one solution, we spoke about left-hand navigation as being another, and we spoke about a secondary horizontal bar.
In the end, we felt there were issues with all of them:
Poking fun at Amazon's horizontal tabs
After much debate, we decided to look at how other sites had solved their navigational woes for deep hierarchy, and as people who will know me will know, one of my 'go to' sites when looking at the organisation is Gov.uk.
We followed this pattern, as you will see below, introducing breadcrumbs, making search more prominent, and having related content/contact information on the right-hand page of the final tier.
A sketched solution
Despite recognising the fact that a deeper hierarchy would make search more necessary, we felt that this was not too much of a problem, as long as we had a good search, and we rewrote some of the headings to make them more self-explanatory…
Peer critique didn't go down too well though!
I think the major concern of the group was that the primary goal of the user is to get to a list of 'Joint Degrees' quickly and easily and find their tuition fees. By introducing extra paths to go down, you could send the user down the wrong pathway - and even with clear signposting, this is something that of course is a risk.
Personally, I still think it could work (with refinement, and lots of content editing), but it was still a very good reminder that sketching, presenting, and refining are things you must do when working on a web project, and to reiterate, it's good to have favourite sites, but they will not always be the best to draw inspiration from.
Nielsen Norman Group
Analytics and User Experience
The Human Mind and Usability
Information Architecture: Navigation
User Interface Principles Every Designer Must Know
Top Web UX Design Guidelines
Gestalt psychology Wikipedia article
Hick's law Wikipedia article
Asch's Conformity Experiments Wikipedia article
Digital Marketing Measurement Models
Change blindness Wikipedia article
NN/g article about mega menus