(Hat tip to Kristin Moore)
Square Cash is a great service – it allows you to send money via an email with no service charge if you’re using your debit card. You can receive money without entering a PIN. I use it all the time to divide up restaurant bills among my friends. That said, I found a usability issue yesterday that I wanted to share.
I needed to link my debit card to the app, so I followed their very simple instructions for entry.
The first screen asks for the card number. The number pad is telephone-order rather than number pad-order. This is on a phone, so that makes sense even if I’m much more used to entering these numbers using a keyboard.
Next, the expiration date. On my card, the expiration date is 09/16/2016*, so I start to enter it.
I then proceeded to enter 09/16 as I looked at my card, then the CCV, and got an error message about an incorrect card number. Tried again. Same. Did this four times before I realized that the expiration date was month/year. It isn’t as though I’d never seen this, or been asked to enter just the month and year from a card, so I thought hard about what tricked me.
I concluded it was the difference between the second and third screens – the guidance is there before you start typing, but as soon as you put in any number for the date, the guidance disappears. Since I was looking down at my card, I just entered what I saw and didn’t think enough to check – especially since it called for ##/##, which matched the month and day on my card, not ##/####, which could only be a month and year.
You are welcome to blame the user for this one, but it would be a small fix to keep the background guide visible during entry.
*No, I’m not dumb enough to put my real card number or expiration date in the pictures for this post.
Here is something fun to play with today: a tool that visualizes the occurance of words in RateMyProfessor reviews according to the gender of the professor and the department he or she teaches in. Data comes from over a million reviews at RateMyProfessors.com.
NPR just ran an extremely detailed article on the importance and study of anthropometry. The topic is the undue stress nursing places on the spine, even when “proper” lifting procedures are followed. Highlighed is the work of Bill Marras (recent Editor of the journal Human Factors), who developed a sensor rig for the forces experienced by the spine. Read for yourself, but if you want the high points:
“Moving and lifting patients manually is dangerous even for veteran nursing staff, Marras says, for several reasons:
The laws of physics dictate that it’s easiest to lift something when it’s close to your body. But nursing employees have to stand at the side of the bed, relatively far from the patient.
Nursing employees also often bend over the patient. That’s important, because there’s a chain of bones along the spine, called facet joints, hidden under the little bumps protruding under the skin. Those bones interconnect and help absorb loads when standing straight. Marras says that when nurses lift as they’re bending, those bones disengage and their disks take most of the force. Those forces are “much, much higher than what you’d expect in an assembly line worker,” he says.
When nurses keep working under these loads, it causes microscopic tears in the “end plates,” which are films as thin as credit cards above and below each disc. Those tears lead to scar tissue, which can block the flow of nutrients into the disks — until, eventually, the disks start to collapse. “You could be doing this damage [to your back] for weeks or months or years, and never realize it,” says Marras. “The event that caused you to feel the problem is just the straw that broke the camel’s back.”
The final conclusion was that people cannot lift other people safely. Assistive machines are needed, and as the article points out, hospitals do not have them.
I get pretty excited when I see my favorite infovis being used: The Treemap
Just released today – the proposed U.S. budget as a treemap!
So, how well did this visualization work for its intended purpose:
- Points awarded for using a treemap – it makes it so easy to see how massive social security and healthcare are.
- Points deducted for the cluttered overlay text in the Transportation section.
- Points deducted for making the areas clickable, but not actually providing more information beyond a platitude (“Military Personnel: When it comes to our service members and their families, America stands united in support. The budget helps ensure that those who serve our country receive all the support and opportunities they’ve earned and deserve.”)
- Points deducted for making me click a link to “learn more” from a YouTube video of the entire State of the Union address when I could be learning more with a deeper treemap.
I’d like to see more of the blocks broken down into the components they fund, making it as informative and transparent as my go-to example of a treemap: the stock market. My second favorite treemap is a program that will treemap your harddrive, making it easy to see where those giant spacehogging files are hiding, deep in directories you forgot were there. I treemapped my lab server with it as we ran out of space and found giant video files about 10 directories down in an unlikely spot that were eating up our GBs.
Perhaps we could have a treemap that lets us change things in the budget to see how we would make it look, like the American Public Media interactive “Budget Hero” game from a few years ago (now defunct or I would link it)? I learned a LOT about what could budge and what couldn’t budge in the budget from that game.
*All the points deducted are far outweighed by my support of the treemap being used in the first place! Brilliant!
NPR published a great story on Barbara Beskind, a product and interface designer in her early nineties.
My favorite excerpt:
Gretchen Addi, an associate partner at IDEO, hired Beskind. Addi says when Beskind is in a room, young designers do think differently. For example, Addi says IDEO is working with a Japanese company on glasses to replace bifocals. With a simple hand gesture, the glasses will turn from the farsighted prescription to the nearsighted one.
Initially, the designers wanted to put small changeable batteries in the new glasses. Beskind pointed out to them that old fingers are not that nimble.
“It really caused the design team to reflect,” Addi says. They realized they could design the glasses in a way that avoided the battery problem. “Maybe it’s just a USB connection. Are there ways that we can think about this differently?”
There are several wonderful take-home messages:
- Creative and fulfilling work can extend late into the lifetime
- Aging does not just bring limitations, it also extends perspective and wisdom
- Designing for aging is doesn’t detract from a product but can enhance it for people of all ages
- Having a person with such perspective on a design team changes the perspective and thoughts of the rest of the team, the core tenant of participatory design
The big news in tech last week was the unveiling of the Apple Watch. I think it is a nice moment to discuss a range of human factors topics. (This topic may elicit strong feelings for or against Apple or the idea of a smartwatch but let’s keep it about the science.)
The first is technology adoption/acceptance. Lots of people were probably scratching their heads asking, “who wears a watch, nowadays?” But you do see lots of people wearing fitness bands. Superficially, that contrast seems to demonstrate the Technology Acceptance Model (TAM) in action. TAM is a way to try to understand when people will adopt new technology. It boils down the essential factors to usability (does it seem easy to use?) and usefulness (does it seem like it will help my work or life?).
Fitness bands check both of the above boxes: since they are essentially single-function devices they are relatively easy to use and tracking fitness is perceived as useful for many people.
Back to the Watch, it may also check off both of the above boxes: it certainly appears easy to use (but we do not know yet), and because it has fitness tracking functions plus many others via apps it certainly may be perceived as useful to the same crowd that buys fitness bands.
The next topic that got me excited was the discussion of the so-called digital crown (shown below). Anne and I have previously studied the contrasts between touch screens and rotary knobs for a variety of computing tasks. Having both choices allows the user select the best input device for the task: touch for pushing big on-screen buttons and large-scale movement and knob for precise, linear movement without obscuring the screen. Using a knob is certainly easier than a touch screen if you have shaky hands or are riding a bumpy cab.
Two small items of note that were included in the Watch was the use of the two-finger gesture on the watch face to send a heart beat to another user–the same gesture many people intuitively think of when they want to feel their own heart beat.
Finally, the Watch has the ability to send animated emoij to other users. What was noteworthy is the ability to manipulate both eyes and mouth in emoji characters. I couldn’t find any literature but I recall somewhere that there is some cross-cultural differences in how people use and interpret emoji: Western users tend to focus on the mouth while Eastern users tend to focus on the eyes (if you know what reference I’m talking about or if I’m mis-remembering, feel free to comment).
There’s so much I haven’t brought up (haptic and multi-modal feedback, user interface design, automation, voice input and of course privacy)!
Yumm! This photo was sent in by John Sprufera. As he said, “Can you spot the human factors problem?”
Sometimes it’s good to take a step back from the seriousness of our work and find new focus. H(aiku)man factors is the brainchild of my colleague Douglas Gillan. Each summarizes a concept in the field while following the haiku form of 5-7-5 and an emphasis on juxtoposition and inclusion of nature. Enjoy and contribute your own in the comments!
All of the above are by Doug Gillan.
Inattentional blindness by Allaire Welk
Challenging primary task
Did you notice it?
Affordances by Lawton Pybus
round, smooth ball is thrown
rolls, stops at the flat, wing-back
chair on which I sit
Escalation by Olga Zielinska
headache, blurred vision
do not explore Web MD
it’s not a tumor
Automatic Processing by Anne McLaughlin
end of the workday
finally get to go home
arugh, forgot groceries
Automation by Richard Pak
No wait, I’ll get it myself
Drat, I forgot how
Prospective Memory by Natalee Baldwin
I forgot the milk!
Prospective memory failed
Use a reminder
Working Memory by Will Leidheiser
how much can I remember?
many things at once.