Wii have a problem (but it’s your fault)

Nintendo Safety Manual for Wii

Who knew a games controller could wreak such havok. Head over to WiiHaveAProblem and be astounded by the number of TV sets that people have taken out when they’ve been playing with their new Wii and the controller has been thrown out of their hands with such force as to break the strap. Carnage ensues.
What does Nintendo have to say about this situation?

Vispi Bhopti, of Nintendo Australia, said the problem was less to do with quality issues and more related to the way the console was being used.

“Nintendo has done various tests before we launched, but it turns out people are playing with a lot more gusto than we would’ve anticipated,” he said

“At this point, I do want to clarify that Nintendo is introducing a brand new form of entertainment and a brand new form of interacting … it’s not like conventional video games, and … we need to let people be aware of how they should approach it. This will take a little time for some people.”

Bhopti added that over-the-top movements and letting go of the controller places unnecessary strain on the wrist strap, causing it to snap.

via Sydney Morning Herald

Oh. So it’s not Nintendo’s fault, it’s your fault. You’re not playing the right way. You’re playing too hard.

Am I the only one who thinks this is a tremendous cop out and would much rather lay the blame at the feet of whoever designed the testing for this ‘brand new’ product? Isn’t one of the most exciting things about a product like this the fact that people will use it in new and unexpected ways?

I would love to know more about these ‘various tests’ that Nintendo carried out and the context in which they took place.

You see, if they did all their testing in a lab, then there is no way that they would have seen this coming, because users, generally, behave themselves pretty well in a lab. Particularly if you’re videoing them.

Users in their own environments are different animals, so imagine if Nintendo did some contextual research… well, it just seems so obvious in retrospect, doesn’t it.

A Wii, a couple of boisterous guys on a Friday night, and a weak wrist strap.

Wii have a problem

It was never going to end well, was it?

Contextual research. It’s fun to do, and sometimes there’s a really good reason to get out of the lab.

Image credit: WiiHaveAProblem

Smart email: If I stop buying, ask me why!

Ocardo Box

Two clever companies noticed I was doing something that was not making them money recently and emailed me to let me know they’d noticed. And then they tried selling me more stuff. As though I must have just got bored or forgot what I was doing when I was supposed to be spending money. As though it couldn’t have been a problem with their product or their processes.

Neither of them ever asked me why I stopped buying. Although I was eager to tell them both.

The first example was Three which I discussed in an earlier post and just this morning Ocardo emailed me saying they’d noticed I’ve not been buying their organic boxes lately. You can tell from their email (above) that they assume that I’ve just forgotten about this great service they’re offering and that a reminder and maybe a special offer will trigger my buying behaviour again.

They’re totally wrong of course. I stopped buying their product deliberately because I think it’s a rip off. They send me boring fruit and vegetables, ones that I don’t really use, and they charge a whole lot of money for it. I don’t buy their product because I can get better organic boxes elsewhere.

If I was running Ocardo (or, at least, in charge of sending out this email), I’d definitely be finding a way not just to remind people about my product, but also to initiate a conversation, a dialogue. Don’t assume I’m just a dumb user who forgot or got distracted… ask me.

If you’re smart enough to look for customer intelligence (who’s stopped buying what), then be smart enough to respect a customer’s intelligence. You’ll end up with a much more more clever company… and maybe even an organic box that I’d want to buy from you again.

ethnography is everywhere

Man on Tube with Time Out

Customer research too expensive? Unless you’re working for an university with stringent ethical requirements to meet – you’re making your job too hard. Ethnography* is everywhere.

Last night, after Girly Geeks, I was on the tube on the way home and beside me sat a man performing a task that I *wish* I could have designed for user testing… except I would never have thought of it. Oh, and I don’t have budget.

I watched him a while. Then I asked him if I could take a photo of what he was doing, and explained why I was interested.

Unfortunately we got to Oxford Circus and I had to get off the tube, otherwise I would probably still be in conversation with this guy about why he sits on the tube at 10.30pm on Tuesday evening circling TV listings in TimeOut.

Once he started talking, he had a big story to tell and a rationale for why he was doing this. Of course, it was all premised on the idea that he was ‘killing time’, but then he got into detailed explanations about the way that his personal video recorder worked and how many programs he could record or watch at the same time, and how he treated programs that he knew he like, to those he was still testing out, to those that were ‘experimental’ (his words).

Research is brilliant at helping us work out what the design problems are and how we might try to solve them. But not all projects have the budget or resources for a formal user research phase. Don’t let that put you off.

Ask the people you work with. Ask the people you live with. Ask people you know to ask people they know. Try to get some of their time and ask them some questions. You’ll be amazed how many are willing to help out for free.

People care about design – even if they don’t know it. And they love to be involved and to make a difference. And they have lots of stories to tell and they love that you’re interested in hearing them, and that you think those stories are important.

And, of course, they are important. And they’re everywhere.

Ethnography is everywhere. If you’re looking for it.

Image: man marking Time Out TV schedule on the Central Line tube last night. Larger image here.

*note: I use the term ‘ethnography’ in that kind of loose way that lots of us in HCI use it. Apologies to *real* ethnographers :)

when to use drag & drop (some informal research results)

One of the great challenges of Interaction Design these days is that we now have a plethora of new ways to design interaction on the web than we did just a few short years ago. Drag and drop is probably one of the best – creating a sense of empowerment over the interface that can sometimes result in an almost joyful user experience.

Despite the fact that we’ve been designing with drag and drop for a while now, it’s taken this long for me to have the opportunity to do some good solid user testing with users comparing drag and drop with more traditional interaction styles. That is … clicking :)

In the test that were we performing we were (amongst other things) examining the use of drag and drop and clicking to perform two types of tasks: to select objects and place them onto a stage, and to manipulate objects on a stage.

One interface used drag and drop for both tasks. One interface used click to select and drag and drop to manipulate.

When users were interacting with the prototype that used drag and drop for both functions it was common for them to make unsolicited comments about the interface – generally expressions of delight at the responsiveness of the interface and the novelty of the interaction method. Of course, drag and drop is not really so novel – many users are accustomed to this method, and we found that no users (of the 15 we tested) were unfamiliar with the drag and drop method or had any difficulties understanding how they were expected to achieve their task using drag and drop. (The interface did include a small instruction to drag and drop onto the stage).

Some of the tasks, such as removing objects from the stage and understanding how many objects could be dragged onto the stage were not immediately obvious, but through brief experimentation the users were rapidly able to achieve these tasks and exhibited no difficulty. In fact, in many cases they were saying ‘I wonder if I drag this back here will it delete the object’, as they performed the task and were pleased to discover that it worked exactly as they had expected it might.

When users were interacting with the ‘click to select’ interface, there were no such expressions of delight with the interaction, however they also had no difficulty achieving all of the tasks involved in the test.

Later, we asked the users to compare the two interaction experiences and talk about which they preferred and why. Without exception, we found that our test participants preferred the click to select interface over the drag and drop interface – despite the feedback they had given at the time of testing.

They agreed that drag and drop felt ‘fun’, and ‘creative’, but overwhelmingly stated that it was unnecessarily complicated, and that it was just as easy, or easier, to click. ‘Dragging was a drag’ was one of my favourite quotes. :)

On the other hand, users unanimously agreed that drag and drop was an ideal way to manipulate objects in relation to each other (particularly, to change the position of objects in relation to one another).

Based on the results of this testing, the logical findings seem to be that drag and drop is ideal for manipulating the position of objects on a stage, but that when ‘selecting’ objects, simply using click to select is preferable. Even considering that we may be wishing to create an interface that is fun and creative (which was why the full drag and drop approach was originally considered), the inefficiency of this method detracts from the user performing their task. Selecting the objects was considered a preliminary task, and the ‘fun’ part started when users got to manipulating the content.

When thinking of the best examples of drag and drop interfaces (and I think that moving around maps is a great example of this), it is once again the manipulation of objects on a stage and not object selection, that seems to be common.

Of course, it is also important to note that choosing a drag and drop interface also significantly compromises your ability to deliver an accessible interface. This should always be an important consideration when selecting an interaction method.

Designing a drag and drop interface? You could do much worse than refer to the Yahoo! Design Pattern Library where they’ve spent a lot of time thinking about all of the components of the interaction and what you’ll need to consider.

Have you done any testing with drag and drop interfaces? I’d be really interested to hear what you’ve found.