Wednesday, December 31, 2008

2001 Taco bell and GUIs

I feel validated when someone doesn't ask what is UX because they already know.

Hard to believe it but yes, Taco Bell ran commercials analogizing technology & fast food. Describing their edibles as having a "gooey interface."

I remember thinking "wow, people know about UI design, finally." Really though, is UI design mainstream? No, but it was cool anyway.

Watch another commercial that calls food a "new handheld"

Tuesday, November 4, 2008


How can we roll out the welcome mat for new users? I'll tell you how I'm going to do it; with a story.

Today I got a great parking spot near a resale shop I really like. Before I left the car, I looked up to see the door was closed and it looked dark inside. Feeling disappointed, I started my car and pulled out, but as I was passing the store I saw people inside.

It was really open.

They lost my sale.

If you want people to come in, ALWAYS ALWAYS ALWAYS make your store welcoming. This is not negotiable.

Here's the best practice for web usability...
Even if just a few people pass on proceeding on your site because they didn't know how it works, fast enough you've lost money and they've lost an opportunity. How can you help them? Take one of these approaches all of which make it very easy for both the computer and person to succeed.

- Strip away complexity : People get too much information already and many don't have time to get involved with your site as it is!
-Walk them through it: offer intense help at sign up with a customer service agent on chat

As you go, listen to what is working and what isn't (aka: do user testing of any sort). This basic principle of user centered design iteration, allows you do remove the pieces of the design that cause customer hesitation.

Tuesday, June 3, 2008

How much do UX designers make?

The Usability Professional association's 2005 Survey {pdf} allows you to see in depth stats on what people are making broken down by title, region, gender, race, location, and more. You can also see what types of work people are doing as part of their jobs in usability.

For something more recent and more interactive, glassdoor, in exchange for your own salary information which can be provided anonymously, gives you see real salaries. This is especially helpful at a large organization. their search is so weak it can be very hard to get into the nooks and crannies of the data.

Neither of these options sufficiently addresses consulting but considering consultants/contractors earn more than employees (because they receive no benefits), add these on to your full-time rates.

An easy calculation for converting annual salary to hourly rates:

Given Hr is the hourly rate and An is the annual salary,

Hr x 2 x 1,000 = An

So, $25/hour is roughly 50K per year
$50/hour is about 100K a year, and so on.

Wednesday, March 19, 2008

Life hacks

When people say "I don't have time" to justify cutting out pleasurable activities, I feel an unpleasant shiver down my spine. If you are alive and fairly healthy, you are choosing how to spend your time. What you do and don't do, is in your hands.

I admire those who love what they do. I think some of them even manage to avoid doing things they detest. For some, it is taxes. For others, it is waiting in line. When you do more thinks you hate you tend to complain more. And you know where this is going...

When you are happier you are more fun to be around. When you are more fun to be around you have more friends. etc, etc.

OK duh. And this applies because....? Enter life hacks.

If you find yourself bored, stressed, or generally over dramatic, you need to be able to take the time to relax or distract yourself.

Some can do so with a book, an iPod, a pen and paper, talking with a stranger.

If your problem is longer term, can you be creative? can you hire a friend? can you barter? can you think of a way to make your life more of what you want and less of what you don't? If not can you at least cut some of the things that suck.

An acquaintance of mine and fellow UI designer, Chanpory Rith , has been regularly updating a cool site, LifeClever: tips for design and life. The site promotes "lifehacks". Here are some from LiveClever and another sites I liked:

Whatever you prefer...

I encountered a good example of just-in-time Customer Experience today on the phone with, my web hosting and domain name registration company. First off, I find the phone customer service at excellent. They offer live support at no extra cost and are often both competent and respectful.

I didn't even mind being on hold as much as I usually do because they offered two stand-out features:
  1. Wait time notifications - You are told how long the wait is both at the start of waiting and along the way. Psychologically, this information offers a light at the end of the tunnel allows by letting the user know the wait is not forever.
  2. Music opt out - Immediately, a recording tells you something to the effect of: "if you prefer, you may select "1" to and music will not play." This is great because sometimes I confuse high tension points in songs to someone arriving on the line. Without the music, the only things interrupting silence are a recorded message (#1) or the phone ringing to get to a live support operator. Nice.
PS: Their website is still one of the biggest ux fails of all time :)

Tuesday, March 18, 2008

Women in Computer Science

I hate to brag, but I'm pretty sure my computer science profs at Mills are some of the best out there.

Ellen Spertus was the first person I met at Mills College. She's a is a very creative and resourceful person. Watch her presentation at the first Bay Area Girl Geek Dinner. Her Beyond Satire blog is great too.

Susan Wang
, my primary thesis adviser at Mills college is also amazing. She's one of my role models and someone I really enjoy talking to. Never mind that she's a fantastic educator and researcher.

OK, I'm done bragging.