Word: Skeleton Screens
Definition: A blank version of the page currently loading. Users generally see gray boxes where images will soon appear alongside gray lines denoting areas where text will load.
Thoughts: This is a common user experience technique is used as a page load distraction device. It is a common alternative to the loading spinners, beachballs of death, and agonizing progress bars.
By displaying skeleton content, it gives the user the illusion that things are happening immediately. When the user sees something, anything, appear on screen, she tends to be less impatient knowing that her command has been heard and action is taking place.
Reference: I first came upon this term reading Luke Wroblewski‘s blog in reference to his mobile app Polar, which utilizes the technique.
Skeleton screens can be seen all over the web and on mobile. Pay attention next time you’re waiting for a Medium article to load or you’re opening up your LinkedIn app.
Word: Roach motel
Definition: A wide-ranging group of “dark ux patterns” that describe user experience techniques in which users can easily get into a certain situation but then, intentionally, have a hard time getting out of the given situation once they realize it is undesirable.
Reference: I first came upon this term on DarkPatterns.org and it seemed like the absolute perfect way to describe the occasionally nefarious practices taken by certain designers when they are not transparent with their users.
Example: I’m sure you’d like an example so you know what all that grumbling above is about. Have you ever had an extremely difficult time unsubscribing from a subscription service? There always seems to be too many screens and checkboxes that need vigorous attention before you can truly unsubscribe. I bet it only took one click for you to subscribed to the service! So why does opting out takes you down a rabbit hole of despair?
Just yesterday my boyfriend went to cancel his 14 day trial of the subscription book service, Scribd. Not only was the unsubscribe hard to find, but he had to sit through at least 5 screens asking if he was sure he wanted to leave. (For the record, he was 100% sure at the first screen). Even the Scribd help section lists the final step of this process as “‘Select “Deactivate your account’ on the bottom of the page and follow the onscreen prompts.” Why are there even prompts at all?! This should not be a hard nor time consuming process.
There is something to be said for a company that practices dark UX patterns and assumptions can be made about how they value their users.
Word: Predictive Persona
Definition: A research tool that allows you to validate whether you can accurately identify somebody who will become a customer. These types of personas go beyond merely describing what a user is like, but also offer specific characteristics that will make a person become a new or a returning customer.
Reference: I first learned of this term from designer Laura Klein in her blog post for Invision. Klein wants to turn the traditional “describe your current user” persona model on its head by changing the way designers think about this portrait. She writes:
“But the question they should be asking themselves isn’t, ‘If I interviewed a user, would this describe her?’ The question should be, ‘If I found a person like this, would she become a user?'”
Thoughts: The key to predictive personas is to identify traits and feature that will make a person want to become a customer. Once the persona is created, then designers can recruit research participants that fit this description. If you have a hard time doing this, something is wrong with your persona! Eureka!
It is always refreshing to try out a new take on an old research technique, so let’s get predicting!
Word: Stakeholder Interview
Definition: A structured conversation between designers and important clients used to gather insights into a project and better understand the business goals and expectations.
Thoughts: Stakeholders can take the form of senior leadership with financial stake and they can also be end users. Essentially, stakeholders are anyone who can affect the end product.
Clients or product owners do not always provide all the information a designer needs to fully understand a project. Enter, stakeholder interviews. These interviews provide a deeper understanding of your client’s needs and they also give design teams early clues into where there might be conflict between business goals and user requirements.
Tips: It is best to go into a stakeholder meeting prepared. Have questions written down and remember to take notes! Keep it conversation but have a carefully planned agenda.
Word: Power User
Definition: Someone who operates a computer or device at an advanced skill level with knowledge and/or experience that is not typical of an average user. Sometimes referred to as a super user.
Thoughts: UX designers need to consider all user types when designing and that includes both the power user and the beginner. This can lead to a tricky situation because a dumbed-down interface will frustrate the power user, while a complex interface will scare off the beginner. There is no secret formula, unfortunately, but I can still offer a few helpful keep-in-the-back-of-your-mind thoughts!
Games are great examples of interfaces that progress as a user essentially levels-up and gains knowledge. This way it teaches a novice the basics while providing and unlocking features for the power user. As gamification continues to penetrate UX thinking, games can offer quite a bit of insight and inspiration.
However, another school of thought says that all products should be accessible and usable by everyone at all times and that the seamlessness integration of all types of users is the beauty of great design. I can dig this too!
Question: In what situations do you consider yourself a power user? As a power user do you look for VIP treatment?