10 November 2015
Eva Vriezekolk
Eva Vriezekolk
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Complex applications and websites (NN Group)

A trip report

I attended this two day training course about complex applications and websites of the Nielsen Norman Group in London (UK). I wanted to learn more about the various methods and techniques when you must deal with complex data visualization and user interface navigation for expert users.

Sunday (Day 1)

On the first day, the nature of typical complex applications and websites was explained, like enterprise software (e.g. calculating and paying salaries to 15,000 employees); domain-specific apps (e.g. engineers using satellite data) and rich internet applications (managing and sharing 5,000 digital images).

The teachers mentioned a lot of UX deliverables with the remark that these tools haven’t matured a lot in recent years. They provided tips to use them in an time where new development techniques and methods do develop a lot. Two tips: Make sure your deliverables contain enough details to test with experts and make sure usefulness (the added value of the application feature set) gets much more attention than usability (ease-of-use and efficiency of the application).

The teachers also mentioned some challenges and guiding principles designing for domain experts, like the fact that experts are way ahead in their domain and that they must look at the application at a detailed level to assess whether the features are meaningful or not.

They also talked about the positive and negative aspects of certain patterns en mentioned some focal points for installing a pattern library.

Monday (Day 2)

In the morning session, the teachers provided tips on how to organize data with patterns-of-use: mapping behavior, tasks and activities of users, independent of technology. With mental modeling, the way users think about certain tasks or activities is mapped out. Domain experts often use multiple mental models. For this, they use the Sky Scraper Method, which is structured, simple and scalable.

In the afternoon session, they provided examples of navigation within large data sets, in-context help, entering and modifying data en data visualization. In fact, I was a little disappointed with the afternoon session, because not a lot of new things were presented. Some considerations for usability testing were discussed and a few visual design tips based upon the principles of Gestalt were shown.

What I thought of the conference?

The conference was well-organized in a professional way. But in general, I expected to learn much more on new ways to design complex applications with expert users. The most important conclusion is however, that the UX methods which are so familiar to most of us work very well for simple and complex applications.

Events (25), User experience (50)

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