Recap: The Secret World of Usability with Todd Moy

This month’s Home Grown session featured Todd Moy, User Experience Designer at Viget, who introduced us to “The Secret World of Usability.” Todd began by showing a video clip of a ballet piece—and I apologize but I forget what piece and from what period—that was not well-received by the audience. Why? Because it was unconventional and went against their expectations. What does this have to do with usability or user experience? When designing a product, application, or experience we need to think about the end-user’s perceptions, expectations, and most importantly, their emotional state when they interact with the design. Todd explains that usability is about perception, and there is no set model for it.

Perception is based on an emotional response, so we must design for emotion. It was previously thought that reason and emotion were in conflict with each other when making descions. But that is not the case, reason and emotion work together to help us make decisions. Knowing this, we can lead users through the decision-making process by designing for emotion and reason.

Todd says there are three places in the design process where we can predict and shape for emotion:

Onboarding:  a user’s first experience with the design. They will come with a certain amount of knowledge about the product itself, but there is often a large gap between current knowledge and mastery. It is during onboarding that we have the opportunity to shape how to span that gap. There are four ways to approach this.

  • Describe:  use bite-sized information in a consistent manner to aide the user, tool tips, for example.
  • Instruct:  a walk-through of procedures, such as “wizard” tools.
  • Sandbox:  give the user sample content to work with during the learning process, such as the exercise files for tutorials on
  • Introduce:  help the user make connections so they can participate, for example, how twitter suggests people to follow.

Messaging:  the content, design, and tone all work together to create an experience and deliver the message. There are three aspects to messaging:

  • Structure:  the layout and information architecture
  • Timing:  space out introducing information related to the users needs over time. Don’t give them more than they need to know at any given stage in a process.
  • Tone:  the overall attitude of the application and how the message is articulated.

 Feedback:  how your product or application responds to the users actions. There are four common approaches to giving effective feedback to the user:

  • Affording:  make items feel clickable so users know that is what they are supposed to do
  • Changing: give users a way to tell that their actions are being responded to, such as a progress bar to indicate where they are in the process.
  • Cueing:  directing the user to new information visually, use of arrows or diagrams are ways to do this.
  • Reward:  demonstrate gratitude towards users by giving them tokens of recognition, for instance, points given to posts on reddit.


Todd was kind enough to share his slides from today’s presentation, you can find them here.



By Amy Lyons
Published May 9, 2012