Social Media As A Research Tool for UX Designers

by T’keya Davy 

User experience (UX) is an essential step in the design process, and this begins with user research. The goal is to gain insight into potential user needs through methods such as focus groups, interviews, and lab studies. These methods fall into one of two approaches: attitudinal or behavioral research. The former is insight from listening and talking to the user, while the in the latter, researchers observe user behaviors. There are traditional methods, but one unique strategy is studying social media. 

Social media is more than networking – it is also a data-collection and observation tool. And data is research. Analyzing social media means meeting your audience where they already are and where they are likely expressing themselves authentically. This is done through social listening, which is monitoring keywords and analyzing conversations about your brand and your industry in order to understand how they feel, which researchers call their sentiments. 

Studying user sentiments illuminates wants and desires, which can inform design decisions for future products. Social listening lets researchers to access a less filtered version of their target audience, with conversations on real experiences.

Social media insights can be a more cost-effective way of gathering customer feedback data by A/B testing ideas and in other ways. Best of all, n social media platforms, users communicate their experiences with a brand, particularly their dislikes, for free. 

Utilizing focus groups, interviews and traditional UX research methods is still important. Social media will not likely provide enough insight by itself. But those social media insights can be an effective addition to the research gathering process.

Twine tools to take your interactive fiction to the next level

by Jeffrey Cullen-Dean

Twine’s tools for easy text-game development

Twine is a valuable tool for anyone who wants to develop interactive fiction or text-based games. 

The software is more than a simple word processor. It allows users to seamlessly connect the various pages they’ve written. Text on the screen becomes links to bring players to the next portion of the game.

Twine is open-source software, so it’s freely available to anyone who wants to use it. Game design is accessible to anyone with easy-to-use programs like this.

It’s also powerful. Twine has some components that allow its users much stronger manipulation and control of their games.

Built-in macros

Twine has built-in code known as macros to aid users to creating their games. For example, if you wanted to design your game to have a page that relies on players visiting a different page first, you can use the history macro to have the game remember which pages players visited. Designers can use this macro like a key to a locked door. The players must find the key to unlock the next portion of the game.

Other macros can be used to create timers, inventory systems, and alternate endings based on choices players make in the game. They’re a powerful part of the software and easy to use without having to learn coding.

Code Manipulation

The text you put into Twine is basically all HTML, which means users can edit their game’s CSS and JavaScript for further customization.

The default form of a Twine game is white text on a black background. However, this isn’t the best form for every game, so users can open their game’s stylesheet to adjust settings such as font size, font color, background color, and can even add-in animation with code.

Some Twine games are modeled after websites, such as wikis, while others take a more literary approach. Whatever form you want, your text-game in can be created with some code.

Resources

Macros and CSS/JavaScript editing can be daunting for someone who just wants to use Twine as a method to write a story. Luckily for them, Twine has several different resources for learning how to use the software to fullest capabilities.

Considerations in interactive media development: Accessible design

by Matthew Harrell

Accessible design is more important for websites than ever. There have been laws and guidelines around for quite some time, but now Search Engine Optimization (SEO) scores are include accessibility into their evaluation methods. Accessibility is still a moral and legal imperative. It can also affect business’s revenue. 

 Accessibility: It is more than just visual 

Accessibility is more than just making sites easier to read or compatible with screen readers. Users may have hearing, mobility or cognitive impairments as well. Plus, users with slow internet connections and mobile users also matter when designing for accessibility. 

Accessibility for Hearing Impairments 

460 million people worldwide have a hearing impairment according to the World Health Organization. Mozilla’s Developer guide for accessible development suggests providing text alternatives to any sort of audio component according to This would include text transcripts or captions to any video or auditory elements to your website. This also helps in search as those text transcripts are easier for the search engine to interpret, which may help in indexing,

Accessibility for Mobility Impairments 

Someone with a mobility impairment may not be able to use the mouse to its fullest extent or may need alternatives for pointer interaction.  The Web Accessibility Initiative emphasizes making your website navigable by keyboard interactions and touch and compatible with voice interactions. Having multiple ways to interact with your website would help solve this problem. Also, designers should avoid elements hidden by a hover effect. These changes also help make your website friendly for mobile users, which tends to improve ranking for search. 

Accessibility for Cognitive Impairments 

The great thing about making your website more accessible for people with cognitive impairments is that it can also cover other impairments as well. Mozilla’s guide suggests that making your website easily processable by text-to-speech can help people with this impairment. This feature also helps people with visual impairments. Another consideration is language, which should be clear and concise. This isn’t always possible. Mozilla’s guide suggests that for complex topics, incorporate subtitles and provide external links for the fuller explanations. 

Accessibility for Visual Impairments

The web is a visual medium, so developers are more experienced in providing visual accommodations. Here are some suggestions. Use contrast to make text clearly distinct from the background, suggests Jess Hausler. Hausler also warns that color should not be the only way of conveying information. For example, if red on a form shows the user made an error, that won’t work for people with red-green color blindness. A warning symbol can accompany a red outline. Third,, make sure to include alt text on all images so that screen readers can interpret purely visual content. 

Think Accessibility From the Start

According to Mozilla’s guide, making a site accessible can cost more if it’s not planned from the start. So think accessibility from the first prototypes – this may not only improve your SEO scores, but also your user experience for all users.