This Door Design Is Perfect! (If Your Goal Is To Knock People Unconscious)


I attended a mega fab conference last week (UXPA 2015) and literally ran into some awful UX at the hotel.

The bathroom entrance on the conference level had a push plate at nearly eye level, and a door handle much lower. On a 2 separate occasions I tried to shove the door open with the push plate and slammed into the door. I cursed the designer each time.

After it happened the second time, I decided to do a little user research. (Only other UX pros and designers will understand why. lol) I sat down across from the door to drink my coffee during a 30 minute break, and watched to count the number of times people crashed into the door thinking it should be pushed. I figured at least one other person would do it.

7 people smashed into the door in half an hour! One of the 7 even muttered something about how stupid it was to lock a bathroom door in the middle of the afternoon and walked away.

Get it together door makers, and up your game when it comes to UX details!

UXPA 2015 Presentation: How To Accidentally Create A Viral UX Infographic

I presented my first ever Ignite session at the 2015 UXPA International Conference on Thursday!

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How To Accidentally Create A Viral UX Infographic

Poor UX: When The High Tech Buttonless Elevator Holds You Hostage


A few years ago I attended an entirely fabulous UX conference at a snazzy updated hotel. The place had about 30 floors, was gorgeous and had all the latest tech gadgets.

Sexy Elevators 

When I arrived at the hotel I was given my room card. The folks at the desk explained that it would also function as my elevator delivery card. The hotel was locked down so that you could only arrive on a specific floor if you were in the elevator with a person who had swiped their card and was staying on that floor.  It was odd, and not very secure since anyone who got in the elevator with you could just follow you out, but apparently it gave some people peace of mind. My room was on the 15th floor. I was hauling a 50 lb suitcase behind me, and couldn’t wait to get to the room to crash after my 10 hour flight.

When I got to the elevators I was impressed. They were sleek and sexy looking, and each had a small card slot on a pedestal in front of it, along with a button for the gym. There weren’t even any lighted floor indicators, it was a very minimalist setup. I slid my card in, and a few seconds later the elevator slipped to a halt in front of me. I got inside, and again there were no buttons, other than an emergency call.

Not So Sexy UX

The doors closed, and the elevator swooshed up. I watched the numbers tick by: 10th floor, 11th, 12th, and then started to panic when it shot past 15 and on to 16, 17 and eventually to 30. The panic came from the fact that  I’m a touch claustrophobic and felt like I was being held hostage. Malfunctioning elevators is the stuff nightmares are made from. The doors finally opened and I leapt out of the elevator and discovered that it had ushered me to the fitness floor, complete with a sauna and a huge gym. (If I hadn’t been coming down from a massive panic attack I probably would have been offended.)

There was absolutely no way that I was dragging my 50 pound suitcase down 15 flights of stairs, so I nervously inserted my card in the card slot pedestal, and again the doors opened. Once again it shot past the 15th floor and back to the lobby. At this point I was annoyed. I marched up to the front desk, stood in line and once it was my turn explained that the elevator was refusing to let me off at my floor, and they apologized and explained that the system was new and that they were experiencing quite a few glitches. They “reset” something, and assured me that this time it would work fine.

Long story short, it took no less than 3 attempts and conversations with the front desk to get from the lobby to the 15th floor where my room was located.

The ridiculous elevators had triggered what was quite possibly the worst hotel related user experience of my life.

Sometimes Small Details Make A Big Difference in UX

New and fancy does not always equate to better. I learned several months after my anger inducing experience that the elevator system had been replaced by a more traditional one, at a great expense to the hotel chain.

To this day every time I see a sign for a hotel from that particular chain I experience a flash of frustration. Negative user experiences with your product, even small ones, can have long lasting impressions on your users. Make sure that you’re not letting small, poorly executed details diminish your brand’s good name.

The Art Of Avoiding Dodgy Design Jobs


I get to chat with quite a few designers and UX pros in my digital and real life wanderings. One thing I find fascinating, is that job titles across teams are so bizarrely fluid.

Every once in a while I stumble across teams with matching titles, but upon further digging I discover that the titles mean completely different things in the 2 organizations.

So lets take a look at this.

Part 1: Why aren’t there set standards for job titles in the design & UX industries?

This is one of the most bizarre aspects of working as a UX pro or a designer. Pull up a job board, and search designer. You’ll get hundreds of hits. As a designer, this will fill you with glee… until you start reading the job descriptions and you realize that only about a quarter of them align with your skill set.

Some common descriptions?

  • Designer = Strictly A Graphic Designer.
  • Designer = Strictly An Interaction Designer.
  • Designer = Strictly A Front End Developer.
  • Designer = UX Pro with research, content strategy, IA or a variety of other specialty backgrounds
  • Designer = Generalist who can handle 3 or 4 of the above skills in various combinations

What the what is up with this giant rift of job title understanding? It’s a mess. Even designers argue about what the job titles “really mean.” And the worst part is that companies without previous design experience (Believe it or not, those companies still exist. Seriously) don’t even know how to explain what they want, even during interviews.

This moves me along to part 2.

Part 2: Why do design jobs sometimes turn into black hole, toxic, soul sucking work environments?

So lets say you go in to an interview, and the company rep tells you that they’re looking for a graphic designer. You’re pumped and you dive in.

After about 3 months you want to dive out… a 5 story window. Why? Because what the company described as graphic design is actually light graphic design mixed with tons of interaction design and front end development. And when you try to explain that you don’t have experience with front end dev or interaction design, they get frustrated and claim that you misrepresented yourself during the interview. They say you’re a designer, so you should be able to do all of the things. So you find yourself scrambling around nights and weekends trying to cram 10 years of front end dev & interaction design knowledge into 2 weeks so you can keep your job. (Feel free to apply for other jobs at this point if you discover that you aren’t at all passionate about the other surprise job expectations. As designers, passion drives us to creating extraordinary things. Being forced to do things you aren’t even remotely passionate about can be soul crushing.)

Part 3: How do you avoid landing in a situation like the one described above?

Knowing how to ask the right questions during your interview can help. When a company says they are looking for a designer, ask clarifying questions to make 100% sure that they know what they’re actually looking for.

1. Will this job require me to make graphics in a program like Photoshop or Sketch?
2. Will I need to create wireframes or workflow diagrams in a program like Azure?
3. Will I need to know how to develop front end code?
4. Will I be conducting any research with your clients?
5. Will I be in charge of creating product prototypes?
6. Will I be expected to build (develop) the products I design? (Seriously, this happens.)

You can ask about a million additional clarifying questions, but those are just a few to get you started.

I know this may sound obvious for some people, but folks who are just entering the design field sometimes assume that companies know what they are looking for when they interview for design positions, and unfortunately that isn’t always the case. If the person who is interviewing you says they aren’t 100% sure what the job will entail, you may want to dodge the bullet.

If you  have run in to this situation in the past, don’t feel like it’s your fault. Between the confusion around titles and companies not always having a firm grasp of what they’re looking for, even the most seasoned designers can end up in an interview/job that doesn’t apply to their skill set.

To sum things up, don’t be a afraid to ask in depth questions during your interview. It can save you AND the company months of frustration. And, if you ask all the right questions and still end up in a position where the company is flinging bizarre requests at you that are out of your range of skills (and you aren’t being given time to master them and/or you have exactly zero interest in adding the random skills to your professional skill set), don’t be afraid to exit stage left and apply for other jobs.

Designing with Analytics Insights: Because People Lie

Users Lie

Why integrate analytics in your software designs? Because sometimes, users lie.

It’s not always on purpose, in fact, most of the time it’s not on purpose.

For a majority of people on earth, our memory recall is just straight up flawed.

We have conducted studies in the past in which folks would tell us they use a feature on a daily basis, only to find when we pull analytics that they are using the feature MAYBE every 3-6 months.

Could it be a misunderstanding on the part of the participants around which feature we’re asking about? Yep. Could it be that they just feel like they use the feature way more than they actually do? Yep again.

Analytics It Up

Integrate analytics tracking everywhere you can. Google Analytics makes it extremely easy to record custom click events. Toss some of those click events on tasks you want more information about, and you’ll have a goldmine of data to draw from.

Don’t Limit Your Research Methods

Should analytics tracking be the only form of user research that your company relies on? Absolutely not. Analytics data can answer very specific questions and help you track trends.

It cannot tell you WHY the data is coming in the way it is. You need to perform user research with real, live people as well. Mixing and matching your methods will help develop a more complete picture of what your clients are doing and the problems you need to help them solve.

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What’s the difference between UX and UI? (Wearable Edition)

A little over a year ago, my daughter snuck up on me while I was working and asked me what the difference was between UX and UI. I wound up doodling a little cartoon of a little guy, and a bike, and the little guy having the best experience of his life riding the bike.

Lately there has been a large amount of discussion around wearables in our industry. Pebble, Android wear, and Apple Watch discussions are popping up all over the place.

I was chatting with a family member recently about how wearables  are a huge innovation destination opportunity for our industry.

I was showing some different types of wearables, and he turned around and said, “Well… the prices are pretty different. What’s the difference between them? They all seem to do similar things.”

Brand fan loyalty plays a part, but when there are 6 different Android watches with similar functionality, UX is the key differentiator. People are now willing to fork over extra cash for a positive user experience.

UX has become the core foundation of the design industry. Desktop products, e-commerce, websites, mobile apps, tablet apps: The deciding factor for purchase has begun to revolve around UX. Most of the products do the same things. How do folks decide which way to go? They look at peer reviews, and the peer reviews are completely experience based. If peers are having positive or negative experiences with a product, their public feedback greatly impacts the purchasing decisions of future buyers.

We have entered a time when having so-so UX is a product killer. Focus on the little big details. Test your products during design, development and a final sweep prior to release. Usability testing throughout the process has become key to product success.

Companies are becoming so agile that you can’t afford to kick out clunky functionality. Consumers are refusing to put up with it, and your competitors will zip past you and steal your business. Either fix your product UX, or get out of the way. (Actually, don’t bother trying to get out of the way, you’re going to get mowed down regardless.)

The Rush On Slack Domains

Back in the 90s when I built my first website, (HTML 1 with an incredibly shameful ticker and a sparkling gif backdrop… I cringe every time I think about it) there was a rush on .net domain names. 

Then came the rush on .coms. All of a sudden if you had a .net instead of a .com, your business looked old school. 

Then came the rush on social media handles and vanity URLs. Consistent branding across Facebook, Twitter, Google +, LinkedIn, etc became very important. If your branding was inconsistent, no one could find you and you were losing sales across various channels. 

Now there’s a new player in town: Slack. The only people on earth who aren’t head over heels in love with Slack, are the ones who have never used it. 

When you set up your Slack account you have to assign it a unique domain name. 

If your business, isn’t using Slack yet, trust me when I say you need to head over to Slack.com to reserve your business domain before someone else snaps it up. 

Slack is redefining internal communication and collaboration in companies all over the world right now, it’s only a matter of time until your company makes the switch from your antiquated communication tool to Slack. 

Feel free to send me gifts when you switch to Slack in a few months and already have your branded domain reserved. You’re welcome in advance. 

Chromecast: Awesome For Homework Help… Who Knew?!

 

So I finally bought a Chromecast.

I know, I’m about YEARS behind the times on this. I’d been planning to get one for ages, and then tonight I was meandering around BestBuy and decided to take the plunge.

It was the best 35 bucks I have ever spent. As soon as I got home, my kiddo hooked it up to her laptop. She asked me to proofread her art essay. Instead of me cowering over her shoulder, stressing her out, she cast it up on our TV. I proofread and she made changes as I went! No stress, no hovering, no elbow banging discomfort, just parental homework assistance without encroaching on personal space. Frustration levels went from a typical 90 to about a 10 on her part.

Next up was Spanish homework. She has to listen to these insanely fast dialogs and translate them. On the laptop they’re fuzzy and weird and garbled sounding, but in our living room surround sound through the Chromecast HDMI connection, you can hear EVERY syllable.

Next came Math. She had a question about an equation. Instead of me having to yank the laptop out of her hand to review the question and then scribble down an answer to get my thoughts together before handing the laptop back to her (which takes forever, and takes time away from her being able to continue trying to solve the question herself) she just cast it up on the TV. While she kept working, I jotted down the solution. By the time I was done, she had already figured out the answer, and we were able to compare notes. She totally nailed it.

From a parent usage perspective Chromecast is pretty sweet too. I’m currently rocking out to Spotify through my surround sound! (Yes, the bass is shaking my entire living room.) I had been dreaming of the day that my Blu-Ray player would integrate a Spotify app, but no dice. (Aside: Is it just me or is the SmartTV/Blu-Ray Player app market moving along at a slower than snail pace? They’re KILLING me right now. And the SmartTV apps that DO exist? The UI typically makes me want to stab out my eyes with hot pokers. Let’s not even go near talking about the UX, AKA Nightmare material.)

Now I don’t have to rely on brand dinosaurs to catch up with tech… I can just cast whatever I want through my home theater. SmartTV apps are officially dead to me. :P

As an added bonus, Chromecast UX is fab. You click the little icon to shoot things from your device to your TV, then control them with your phone/laptop/tablet. No more hunting around for the “right remote.” Also, you can plug it in to your HDMI Port, and then plug the charging cord into the Chromecast and the other end into a USB port on your TV! So no annoying cords/scrambling around to find another wall outlet to charge it! So easy!

To sum things up: Chromecast is freaking amazing and if you don’t own one, you should def run out and buy one right now. Unless you’re on the east coast… It’s 10pm here, so you may have to wait till tomorrow. But my west coasters? Gotta get on this, especially if you have kids. It’s definitely well worth the tiny investment!

Then: I don’t care how it looks, just ship it! Now: Ship quality, or your product is dead in the water.

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“I don’t care that it looks like trash, just ship it!”

Ok… let’s chat about this, like rational adults.

Back in days of old, when no one cared about UX at all, users just wanted a product that worked most of the time. This was the case because typically there was only one product on the market that did what they needed it to do, so this attitude was fine. Folks continued to buy relatively lame products, because they didn’t have a choice. In fact, it was an industry standard to just shove things out the door regardless of quality. It didn’t have to look good, it didn’t have to be very usable, it just had to kind of work.

Fast forward to the present. UX is the foundation of product design, and the industry is moving at break neck speed. You can no longer afford to ship a garbage release, because it gets easier every day for users to migrate to a new, better executed product.

Innovation doesn’t just mean creating something brand new, it can mean making something that already exists more extraordinary. Why did I mention this mid article? If your product releases are shipping half baked, a company that is more agile than you are is going to sweep in and clean out your customer base. By the time you catch up and fix your mistakes it will be too late. The other company will have moved on to adding even newer, more fabulous features, and you’ll be eating their dust. (If you can even afford their dust at that point.)

It’s 2015. You can no longer ship trash. If features in your upcoming release are a hot mess, YANK THEM FROM THE RELEASE. Give yourself time to clean them up, and pull them into the next release.

The general public is not going to put up with ancient product release attitudes anymore. If you want to stay in business, get on board with the quality comes first mentality.

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