Thursday, December 19, 2013

The best talk I've seen on Agile user research

Our working style has changed rapidly over the past several years. The research that was the cornerstone and used to work, breaks once you are working Agile. Bethany Fong and Miki Konno provide excellent modifications and their deep thinking on the subject and their endorsement of rapid feedback loops adjust perfectly to the faster pace of agile and just in time research.

Saturday, December 14, 2013

A Boss or Bossy?

See these two search results and search terms? What the fuck, society. Seriously. What the actual fuck.


 Proctor & Gamble's Pantene is shedding light on this idea that women are called shitty things and they don't deserve it. It's kind of weird having a shampoo brand jumping on the equalist bandwagon, but hey, we should take it from wherever the source, as long as it's genuine.

Wednesday, December 11, 2013

Thanks popup!

I wanted you to interrupt my presentation with your useful and timely message, VMWare. So, thank you.

Wednesday, October 16, 2013

Being a great leader

The tough part about leadership is that those with power are highly prone to the kind of behavior that alienates them from others:

Robert Sutton talks about his new book, Good Boss, Bad Boss, and does an amazing job combining research and storytelling to hammer home the problems and responsibility of leaders.

Saturday, August 31, 2013

I can hear the theme song now

Travel down the road and back again
Your heart is true
You're a pal and a confidant
And if you threw a party
Invited everyone you knew
You would see
the biggest gift would be
from me
and the card attached would say ...

Favorite picture from a quickie competitor review:

Wednesday, August 28, 2013

Flat icons for the UX designer

I can't believe, given how often I've had to reinstall Omnigraffle, I haven't yet talked about the icon stencil I always use. OK without further ado, here it is; my favorite UX Omnigraffle stencils.

Webalys Icons - Using placeholders for icons is annoying when you have a good idea about what you want, but don't want to spend the time creating it to get your point across. Especially given the fact that crisp, flat, and modern icons have evolved to become symbols.

Webalys offers a generous icon pack for free as .ai, .eps, .pdf, and through, Omnigraffle .graffle. Hope it's useful. Download 'em here.
Some examples of icons up close

Wednesday, August 14, 2013

Tuesday, August 13, 2013

Engaged at work by being happy

Positive psychology is very captivating, why? Um, if you don't know I'm not going to tell you. 

But! If you haven't heard of positive psychology, check out wikipedia's definition 

a scientific understanding and effective interventions to build thriving individuals, families, and communities."[1] Positive psychologists seek "to find and nurture genius and talent" and "to make normal life more fulfilling",[2] rather than merely treating mental illness.

Tuesday, August 6, 2013

Have you met Vi Hart?

I can't imagine jamming as much coolness in 30 minutes. Even describing this video is a mouth full but, but, big breath in: Drawing, storytelling, music, math, copyright, meaning, context, emotion, structure, innovation, ideas, singing, colors, creativity, shapes, talent, wow, Fuck Yeah!

Monday, August 5, 2013

More information, more personal, more engaged

I love employee of the month awards.

It's personal and makes me feel like these monolithic companies aren't run by penny counting machines.

Look, Kenita, Randy, & Arceli have done some great work for the San Francisco Airport. Great enough to get cartoon versions of themselves on a placard. Awesome!

Cue dramatic music.

The user experience designer in me sees potential for even more!

Music swells....what if you told me even more? Like a story of what she/he did that was so awesome or a customer quote on why they're so awesome?

Tuesday, July 30, 2013

Music from the Heavens

It's such a small easy thing but seeing this made my day:

Sadly it's been so long since I started this entry that I cannot tell you the source. Here's why this is awesome: it breaks a very well established trend always masking passwords no matter the context. this approach considers the context.

It's proof that requirements must change to allow UX to be done very well.

Guest Post: Being a Designer for a Startup - Some things to expect

Startups are everywhere and when opportunity knocks for a UX designer to join in, should you answer? If you've found the right startup for you, what's next? In this guest post, Danielle Arad, Director of Marketing and User Experience Specialist at, talks about what to look for and what to know before negotiating. Danielle is also chief writer and editor of WalkMe's  UXMotel.

Getting into the startup arena can be fun and exciting, but it’s something that needs to be handled properly. There are literally hundreds of different developers and entrepreneurs with whom you can work and there needs to be some special guidelines when working with one. If you are not careful, you could essentially lose out on a special opportunity that may boost your professional career. Another real possibility working in startups is not getting paid, so contracts are critical. Getting some money upfront can alleviate this problem in the short scheme of things, so remain persistent on building a contract.  Take the time to ask questions so that you understand understand what is expected of you and the entrepreneur so that there are no headaches later on.

Young talents won’t ask for a lot of money, but many are visual designers who aren’t familiar with the finer points of user experience, such the business impact of a user interface layout. As a designer, you are already familiar with how a layout of the user interface can impact ROI and what needs to be done to have the best impact for the business. You are also already familiar with what deliverables the founder may request, whether they are wireframes and whiteboarding, and factors such as time on the site. Many entrepreneurs are not taking the risk of seeking an amateur designer; rather, they are going straight to a well-seasoned UX designer, one who has experience with interface design and experience design Cut: how to design interface based on what the user needs and wants, and knows how to utilize it in a positive manner. This designer is the startup’s secret weapon.

Now, let’s say that you have the skills and experience, a great portfolio and you can prove your value to the startup. How much equity or salary should you expect? If you accept a low rate that could anger you or make tensions high when they press for revisions or upgrades to the site.

Before you jump the gun, there are a few key components that you want to critically think about. Firstly, are they already funded or do they need to be funded? If they haven’t been funded yet, they won’t be able to pay you off the bat. If they want to give you a portion of their revenue, make sure you are aware that they must compensate you a few months down the road. Some of you might be okay with working for free, seeing the potential benefits down the line, while others of you might not be too fond of this.

If the startup is pre-funded, but they can’t pay you regardless, consider requesting to be a co-founder. This is a fair request because you will be putting a lot of time and effort into the work and need some compensation for it. Remember that the site or app would not be possible without your help and becoming a co-founder is not a bad business move. Take note of the fact that many corporate laws don’t allow issuance of equity for future services, so the startup may need to invest equity after a certain period of time. This may be a tough sell, but if you believe in the business idea and the co-founder’s ability to make things happen, this could put you in a great professional position.

Proof humans have evolved

Thanks to

Friday, July 26, 2013

Geek out on non-verbal communication!

Facial expressions and body language are fascinating. Recently I stumbled upon Patti Wood's YouTube channel. Wow, how fun. Here, Patti talks about Harry Reid, Nancy Pelosi and John Boehner on Neil Cavuto Fox News today.

 If this was not nearly enough, this playlist will let you obsess away!

Thursday, July 11, 2013

Most amazing thing ever

I've already talked about game designer Jane McGonigal's TED talk, "Gaming Can Make a Better World, but her more recent talk, is incredible. Just amazing. I've placed my gushing about her below the video.  : )

Why Jane is my hero:

  • She's smart, inspiring, brave, & fun, the three most important things anyone can be.
  • She makes me want to download her game right now!! (I did right after her talk)
  • She dresses like herself & I love it!
  • She cares about other people enough to make games that change the world for the better
  • She dares to dream big & makes things happen
Did I mention she's my hero?

Wednesday, July 10, 2013

The not-so-obvious aspect of User Experience

If you watch BBC's Sherlock, you know he never says "Elementary, my dear Watson". Which is good, because if you've read Sherlock, you know Doyle's Sherlock never used that phrase either.

Instead, BBC Sherlock is forever saying incredulously, "Obvious!"

An question I keep running into in UX is that of "why doesn't every company employ user experience techniques when they create a site or a service?" or "it seems obvious, every company should build this way".  They don't. Or they do, and they choose not to pay heed to their user's emotions.

It's like any other business philosophy.

I like the restaurant analogy, so let's use that:
  • They should use a font that makes the menu easy to read
  • They should make it obvious if they are a cafe style or a classical restaurant style so you know what to do after you walk in
  • They should give you a smile when you walk in and put you at ease
  • They should drop personal conversations when they are near customers and treat the customer-facing area like a stage
  • They should check on you after your food has arrived.
  • They should appreciate all feedback as an opportunity to learn
  • They should embolden even the lowest level of employee with the power to wow the customer (not, "sorry our manager has to do that & she's not here today" Southwest is famous for this.)
  • If you're a regular customer, they should remember you and your preferences.
  • They should use fresh ingredients, ideally sourced locally
How many times have you seen one of these obvious "shoulds" not happen? Probably a lot. If one or more of these items isn't happening is not one waitstaff's fault, it's a systemic problem that is typically neglected by management. 

There are various 'interventions' to be taken (and if you watch Gordon Rhamsay's Kitchen Nightmares you know the interventions very well). Those interventions alone, aren't enough. If certain things do not change, months later the restaurant will falter and fold.

It's true for software development too. While the list above is obvious, it's not enough that the staff believes all of the above "shoulds" to be true. Management does too. Staff cannot effect change alone. 

Management has to be fully engaged in the user experience all the way through not just pay attention to it for a week out of the year. Yes, it's a great idea to focus on one aspect (according to the Power of Habit, when companies do focus on a "keystone habit" it tends to radiate elsewhere, prompting good habits).  

Why does management need to care? Because customers are the reason they are in business. Since they care about business they must care about customers. Customer experience and business are stubbornly linked. No, they aren't the same, but they cannot be unglued.

PS: Who else is interested in a Kitchen Nightmares-like User Experience reality TV show? Me, me me!!!! If you don't know the show, may I suggest watching one of the outlier episodes.

Lynda class excerpt: An explanation of Fitts law

Fitt's created an equation for location (proximity, really) and size of UI elements and their relationship to how easy they are to select. Sometimes buttons should not be easy to select (a great example is provided in this video for industrial equipment).

I't's a  classic example of science in user experience and one that is dear to my heart.

Is it obvious? It's certainly logical....but test your skills by attempting to answer the instructors question correctly at 1:50. If you got it right, awesome!

Thursday, June 20, 2013

User momentum

The first time I played Crazy Taxi I was shocked at how great it was.

When you crash your car, you just kept on going! You knock over a shopping cart? No big whoop.


Previously, car games would go through a huge, punishing rigamarole if you so much as tapped another vehicle, never mind flipped over on a cactus. You'd have to wait for the whole thing to reset (Mario Kart I'm looking at you).

But Crazy taxi just let you keep driving. It was really cool to keep your momentum and simply be told "by the way you hit something, I'm taking some points off FYI".

Too many restrictions and errors in an interface feel like you're making a big deal out of something you care about but the customer doesn't.

For the love of Peet, only show errors when you absolutely must. As often as possible opt for warnings or informational messages when things might be wonky.

Monday, June 3, 2013

Sunday, June 2, 2013

Remotes are out of control

I keep seeing images like this all over the web. Usually with the caption "How I got my mom/dad/grandma grandpa to stop asking me how to use the remote."

Society is crying out "there are too many buttons on the remote.  Let's face it, there are way too many buttons that aren't relevant. Not just for Grandma, but for nearly everyone.

Thursday, January 24, 2013

"Ew, Get an office!"

As a contractor/small business owner/entrepreneur/consultant/studio owner/principle or whatever title the situation demands, I work from home 95% of the time.

This means:
  • Every time I get up to use the restroom/eat my cat is on my keyboard smooshing every key she can and while I'm working, she's jumping up trying to walk on it. "KITYY!!!" I yell and gently toss her to the side at least five times per day.
  • Once when I yelled "Kitty" my mute button was not on and I was in a phone conference.
  • Every time my husband blends his breakfast smoothie, vacuums, or plays his music and I'm in a meeting I want to plug my ears.
  • I wear pajama bottoms and socks.
  • My hygiene could be...better.
I've been running TUX Studio for nearly three years (more on that in a later post), well beyond the one year it takes to end up like this guy (see bottom panel below).

So, I've broken down & got a space at Tech Liminal. Oakland's solution to pajamas-all-day, keyboard stomping cats, blenders, and poor grooming. I'm here now, with jeans and shoes. I should brush my teeth next time.  ; )

Tuesday, January 15, 2013

Scene from an airport

Guess what this yellow sign is for.

I'll give you a minute.

Take your time.

OK, For those of you stumped, the yellow sign is to prevent someone from walking into the janitor's closet. The women's restroom is actually strait ahead and to the right. 

This makes me want to repeatedly hit my head (ideally, on the wall with the lying placard). 

Instead of the airport changing the placards so they don't lead a stream of women to the wrong place, the folks responsible for cleaning the bathroom have fixed it themselves, quite cleverly. 

A workaround. 

Monday, January 14, 2013

Where the fuck are the Olives?

We naturally thirst for deeper and alternate ways to solve problems. I found these two images on separate Reddit posts recently. The caption on both was something like "Why isn't this on every shopping cart?"

Index of items by aisle.
Map of store.

All I could think was "Yup."

All this information is already in the store, technically, since the isles contain the categories, yet a map and index are useful because they'd be right in front of you, deepening the solution set and anticipating a common and frustrating grocery store problem. For example: "Where the fuck are the olives?"

Consider some of the ways we might approach searching for olives in a store:
  1. walk the edge of the store reading each aisle description
  2. walk the edge of the store looking at the stuff on the edge of the asiles and go down aisles which seem to have things which are similar to olives
  3. walk the entire store (brute force)
  4. ask an employee (or a person dressed as an employee)
And how each person might approach this problem and how one person would vary their approach based on many factors. I, for example, sometimes jump right to #4 unless I don't feel like talking to anyone then #4 is my last resort). We all know someone who would never do #4, don't we?

I *might* be overdoing the UX memes.

Also, a bigger question, what about searching problems that are more difficult than olives (search by gluten-free, kosher, good for kids, etc)*?

What's interesting about the shopping map posts on reddit (it appeared once then was reposted 9 months later) is the incredible response from the reddit community. Over 1,600 people had something to say about having maps on shopping carts, and over 10,000 people agreed with this.


Digging into the comments reveals something even more interesting. While an on-cart map is generally considered awesome and overdue, people felt grocery stores don't want you to have it. The top comments (reddit uses an upvoting system) are about how on cart maps are against store goals for earning. Check them out:

See full comments from original post


See comments from repost

Huh, so the customer experience is seen by customers to be at odds with business goals and the reason why the can't expect excellent experiences.

We know as UX practitioners, this isn't true. Excellent customer experiences are tied tightly with return on investment (if you do not know this, . In other words, companies with great customer experiences do better financially.

*Category search is vastly underrated. Speaking of category search, IMHO, the best category movie index is VideoHound; sure they cross-list actors, directors, etc (IMDB does this) but they list movies by really cool categories, such as Chicago, NYC, Soccer, Friendship etc. Vastly important when you remember  only that it had to do with Gymnastics and you saw it as a kid in the 80's. Answer: Nadia.