Sharpie Addiction: The Struggle Is Real

Sharpies

I was just sitting in my office and picked up my purse and wondered why it was getting so heavy. I reached inside and pulled out a rainbow assortment of 11 (Yes, 11!) Sharpies.

It was like a clown car situation, they just kept coming and coming.

You know you’re a designer when…

#SharpieAddiction #TheStruggleIsReal

Epic Usability Fail

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So this is an actual thing that exists.

Not only did they put push bars on a door you have to pull, they also put a pull sign on the door that doesn’t open, with a sign that says open in all caps, but actually tells you to open the OTHER door.

Haha It’s so severely bad that I almost hope they did it on purpose to mess with people.

You’re killing me Rite-Aid.

Poor UX: Creator of Pain & Instant Rage

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Insert thumb and lift to open? It’s a dirty lie!

You know what happens when I need to open one of these bad boys? I poke it with my thumb and the cardboard collapses into an infuriating tent.

Then I poke it with a few other fingers, thinking one of them must be the “right” finger, until ultimately I jam one & curse (poor UX can be literally painful).

By this point I’m legitimately angry, so I grab the nearest knife and stab the box an unhealthy number of times.

Afterward I feel some remorse for taking out my unbridled rage on a box of noodles & chemically enhanced cheese sauce, but by then the damage is already done.

A detail as small as poor packaging can legit destroy an otherwise positive user experience. Every time I see a box of mac and cheese in the store, I feel annoyed. Negative user experiences leak into the subconscious and color the way people view entire brands.

Don’t let your product become the mac and cheese box of user experience, keep an eye on the little big details!

Poorly Executed Mobile Web Apps: Destroyers Of UX

IMG_0333.JPG You know what fills me with instant rage and just about gives me a nervous twitch? When I’m Googling the daylights out of something, and then, like a ray of light shining down from heaven, a link to exactly what I need from a reliable source appears on the screen.

I do an internal happy dance, click the link and am redirected to some mega lame, poorly executed mobile web app that hardly contains ANY content, let alone the content that I really need! And then, in tiny letters at the bottom of the garbage mobile web app screen, there is a link to the desktop site.

“No! I do not want to go to your freaking desktop site to re-search for something that I already found! And now I hate you and your brand!”

This phenomenon is especially frustrating when I’m trying to buy something online. The result? I go back to the search results page and click the next link. I do NOT click through to the desktop site and search again.

One person not buying due to garbage mobile UX? No big deal. For a major retailer, thousands of online shoppers getting frustrated and going to a competitor site with a better mobile experience? It’s a huge deal, and the lost revenue dollar signs escalate exceptionally quickly.

If your company moves to a mobile web app experience, keep a CLOSE eye on your conversion rates. I’m far from alone in my intense hatred for search redirects to lame mobile web experiences.

Can we all just agree that it’s absolutely horrible UX and that it really needs to stop? Right now? Today? /end rant

UX Pros: Offending New Car Buyers Everywhere

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So this definitely happened last week. A good friend bought a brand new car.

I went for a ride in it for the first time: smooth ride, sexy interior, and the entire time I was analyzing ways they could have improved the layout of the digital controls, the cup holders and the seat adjustment apparatus.

Does anyone else ever occasionally wish that there was an off switch for the UX pro portion of your brain? But at the end of the day, that part makes us great at our jobs. Some days I just feel like it’s just a blessing/curse!

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How to Build An Amazing In-House Product Design Team

 Schoolwires Product Design Team

While conversing with some of my UX pro peers recently, I discovered that in-house design teams at software companies are extremely varied in make up. Some places have great team dynamics and others really don’t. At my company Schoolwires, we have a completely awesome Design & Innovation team with members that work incredibly well together, not only from a personality stance, but from a combined powerhouse of skills stance. So today, I’m going to focus on answering  the question:

What does it take to create a killer in-house Design and Innovation team?

1.      An Incredibly Innovative Vice President

At my company we have a VP of Product Design and Innovation who is one of the most contagiously creative, innovative people I have ever met. You go into what should be a mundane meeting with him, and come out feeling inspired every single time. He also has a vision of the future of technology that reaches out decades. He’s always thinking about the next next, with his finger on the pulse of the latest and greatest apps and software and technology trends.

2.      A UX Manager Who Thinks in Wireframes and Dreams Code

Our Manager of User Experience literally thinks in wireframes and dreams code. She hears a concept and immediately starts brainstorming the wireframes in her mind. She is incredibly talented, and has a background in code, so she not only pictures design in her mind, she knows how to MAKE the things she envisions. She’s also a mobile developing/designing genius. Cap that off with being a phenomenal, supportive manager and you’ve got Sara.

3.     Three Creative UX Architects Who Love to Design

We have three fantastic architects on our team who really enjoy designing. Our architects do the data layer/api/business layer work for all of our projects, but they also lead designs and create wireframes at times.They are able to tell us at a glance if what we hope can happen is actually feasible. If we had to wait until our designs were passed off to development to find that information out, we’d end up with hours and hours of additional rework time. Don, Heather and Craig are the key to keeping us agile.

4.     Two Extremely Talented UX Designers 

Our UX designers are fantastic.

Danelle makes our CMS interface and our mobile apps look like works of art, and can kick out gorgeous high res mockups on a dime! She is constantly looking for the latest and greatest design tricks and tips, and brings fresh ideas and concepts to our products on a regular basis to ensure positive user experiences.

Kelly is an epic interaction designer. She comes up with new innovative ways to make our products even more interesting and user friendly! She focuses on a user centered design approach to ensure that our latest features and product enhancements will positively impact the lives of our clients.

5.      A Content Strategist With A Background in Psychology

Our Content Strategist & UX Editor Jennifer loves conducting user research & usability testing regularly, writing user friendly microcopy to ensure consistent voice and tone,  reviewing and collaborating on designs to ensure usability, analyzing product statistics to identify trends, and discovering all the ways we can make our clients lives easier through design.

The 8 of us work together exceptionally well because we work in an environment that supports open sharing of ideas. We all have the utmost respect for one another, and our leadership team has made it clear that every member of the team is valued, as are their opinions.

It’s also accepted team wide that no one is perfect, nor are they expected to be. Sometimes we’re right, and sometimes we’re wrong but the safe environment for sharing both good and bad ideas leads to incredible collaboration and ultimately stronger, more innovative, user friendly products.

You don’t have to go freelance to love your job! Our department is living proof that in-house design team utopia does exist.

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Google Analytics Free: Your Data Is Fake (But It’s OK)

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I recently discovered that users of Google Analytics Free don’t always fully understand what they’re seeing when they log into their dashboards. They think they’re looking at their actual, honest to goodness data. So let’s clear some things up:

1. Your data is fake.
“What are you talking about! It’s not fake, there are graphs!” Your data is sampled. In some situations it’s still statistically significant. In fact, in most cases it is, so don’t panic yet.

2. Want access to your real unsampled data? Fork over $150,000.
For major corporations it’s pocket change. For the average person with a small site, your sampled data is still statistically significant, so it’s no big deal. If you’re a start up company who is still poor but is experiencing rapid growth, you’re out of luck. Break out your wallet.

3. If your company is expecting/experiencing rapid growth & has set up a bunch of custom events, of the four leading analytics companies, Google Analytics Premium is by FAR the cheapest.
If you hit 5 billion events per month, Google Analytics Premium bumps up to a flat rate of $220k. Adobe Analytics jumps up around $7.4 MILLION dollars per year. That is not a typo, it’s a legit quote. If you’re scaling crazy fast and need quality data, Google Analytics Premium is your friend from a financial perspective.

4. Unsampled, pure data is freaking expensive.
It just is. If you really need it, surrounded by a UI that isn’t terrible, be prepared to shell out some serious cash.

5. I previously mentioned that sampled data is statistically significant for most companies, so who cares about whether data is sampled or not?
CMS companies in particular need to care. Let’s say a company has global analytics tracking. They may have 4 huge clients (3 million events, 2.5, 2, and 1 million events per month) a handful of 100k – 250k events-per-month clients and so on into tiny client land.

Google samples the daylights out of your data. The higher the number of monthly events, the worse your sampling rate becomes.

From a global tracking perspective looking at high level metrics, sampling is no big deal. However, if a 100k events-per-month client calls and requests a report about mobile device traffic to their primary domain, you’re statistically SOL. You can pull the report, but the drill down data will be garbage due to the crazy sampling rate.

The worst sampling rate I’ve come across in Google Analytics Free was .02%, but you get what you pay for.

The moral of this story:
For small sites and small businesses Google Analytics Free is a viable option. Your data is “fake”, but still statistically significant.

If you’re a rapidly growing business with a pile of domains being tracked under one account, eat the cost and upgrade to Google Analytics Premium. From a scalability perspective it’s the cheapest option, and you can pull unsampled reports to obtain accurate data all day long if you want to.

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Don’t Throw an Error When You Can Just Remove The Problem Instead

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This morning I had a great discussion with a couple of peers around an issue that came up with a new feature we’re developing. The issue was that clients could attempt to delete something that was in process, midstream. 

The initial idea to negate the problem was to throw up an error message telling the user that it was too late to delete the job. From a UX perspective, we decided this could cause our users frustration, and a feeling of lack of control. 

After tossing around some other ideas we settled on just removing the delete button from the screen entirely during processing, rather than throwing an error message. 

When you have the opportunity, rather than throwing error messages, think outside the box and look for solutions that will keep users from being able to trigger the errors in the first place. Small UI tweaks can make a huge difference in UX. 

Even small negative interactions with your product can have a big impact on customer satisfaction. By negating errors your UX will rock, and your users won’t associate using your product with feelings of frustration. It’s a win/win situation. 

 

How much money is your life actually worth?

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Yesterday I had the opportunity to video chat with a friend who I haven’t seen in years, we just recently reconnected. 

When I met him he loved his line of work and the company he worked for. He worked as a designer at a startup with an awesome culture and amazing management. He was healthy mentally and physically and his eyes sparkled when he talked about his job, which he found very fulfilling.  He had a great work/life balance. His love for his job and the work he was doing directly affected every aspect of his life in a positive way.

When I video chatted with him yesterday I hardly recognized him. His company had experienced rapid growth, which you’d expect to be a good thing. He was making much more money than he had been 5 years ago when we met, but during the course of the rapid expansion, new management had been put into place. The new management had removed the flexibility & work life balance and had sucked all of the joy out of the workplace culture. As an added bonus the new management was verbally and emotionally abusive to employees. 

The company was doing great financially, and paid extremely well, but nearly every employee in my friend’s department had grown to hate their jobs and going into the office. The employees had started to leave the department in a steady stream. Rather than identifying the source of the problem (management), even when people leaving directly pointed it out, the HR department took the stance that the people leaving just “couldn’t adapt to rapid growth.”

My friend’s eyes have lost their sparkle, they’re dull and empty now. His health is failing due to high blood pressure induced by extreme stress. His doctor basically told him that if he can’t get his levels of stress under control that he’s at great risk for a heart attack. 

I was stunned. I asked him why in the world he still works at the company. He said that he’s looked for other jobs but can’t find anywhere that he can make as much money as he’s making now in his area, and that he hates to leave a place he’s invested so much time in. 

My next question was, “How much money is your life worth?”

I then followed with, “This job is literally killing you. Could you take a pay cut and do a less stressful job at a company with a better work life balance and still live comfortably? If not, could you downsize your home and trade your car in for a cheaper model and live comfortably making less money? If so, then what is the point of staying where you are in that horribly toxic work environment that is destroying your life? Is cutting your life shorter by 10, 20 or 30 years worth an extra 5-10k a year while you’re still alive? Is dying in your early 50’s really worth staying at this place?”

He emailed me this morning to let me know that he had started applying for other jobs when we ended our chat session. 

Are you feeling trapped in a toxic work environment? Get out of it. You’re never actually as trapped as you feel. Evaluate your priorities. Bump health and quality of life above money. If you’re having trouble moving money lower on your list of priorities, look in the mirror and ask yourself: “How much money is my life actually worth?” 

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