Texting Technology That Needs To Exist (Right Now!)

One dark day, I sent a text message. But it wasn’t just any text message, it was a text message that said, “Hey handsome! What are you doing for dinner?”

The message was intended for for my gentleman friend. I didn’t send it to him. I SENT IT TO MY MALE BOSS!

Oh the horror!

About 2 nanoseconds after I sent the text, I realized my mistake and started to panic. I was pacing around the room, broken out in a cold sweat, wondering if I’d have a job the next day. I kept thinking, “WHY IS THERE NO CONTROL Z FOR REAL LIFE!”

I knew that I was going to have to call him immediately to do damage control. I picked up the phone, and my text alert sound went off. The sinking feeling had reached my toes at this point.  I unlocked the home screen and cringed when I saw his name.

I opened his text and it said, “Umm… Jen… I don’t think this was meant for me.”

My heart was thumping. I was expecting a, “Get your stuff and get out!” message next. Instead he just said, “Oh, and I’m not sure what I’m doing for dinner.”

A feeling that was a combination of being mortified and relieved simultaneously flashed through my system.

I called him immediately and when he answered he was still laughing hysterically. I apologized about 473 times, and eventually we hung up.

I slumped into my chair, and took a deep breath in an attempt to lower my blood pressure and return my face to a normal color.

There is a REALLY simple UX change that if made, would have let me avoid this whole situation. Phone manufacturers across the world, I beg of you: PLEASE create a customizable option to display an “Are you sure you want to send this text to *insert recipient name here* alert.

I don’t want it to be mandatory for every single contact (that would be insanely annoying) but if I could opt to apply this alert to texts I send to my boss, my VP and my mother, the feature would be insanely epic.

So yeah. Please, please, PLEASE make this a thing. The a majority of the people on earth with cell phones will thank you.

What Is Success?

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Recently I had a conversation with a good friend. He is the CEO of a company that began as a startup, and then leapt into a multimillion dollar a year business. He has 250+ employees, in the US and internationally. The company is doing extremely well. He lives… (Read More…)

Beautifully Designed? I Think Not!

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You know what drives me completely insane? When a person glances at a new product and says, “Wow, it’s beautifully designed!”

It basically makes me want to launch across the desk and scream, “Shut-your-mouth-you-dirty-LIAR!”

You can’t comment on a product’s design until you’ve actually used it.

Don’t get me wrong, you can call graphics beautifully designed all day long. You can even glance at a product and say that it’s beautiful.

But when you move past a graphic to a full blown product, you need to evaluate the design holistically.

If a product is gorgeous but impossible to use, it’s not beautifully designed.

If a client who is actively, heavily using your product tells you it’s beautifully designed, consider it the highest form of compliment.

HotJar’s Viral Marketing Campaign Is Brilliant

As a designer, sometimes I see a product and a ray of light shines down on it from heaven. I just had one of those moments this morning when Tom Kerwin (@uxdesigntom) introduced me to the epic-ness that is HotJar. Curious? You can check it out and sign up here: https://www.hotjar.com/57508

After I got insanely excited about it, I went to their website and signed up to join the waiting list.

They immediately displayed the following message:

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I was pumped! I was only 482nd in line. Then I read the rest of the message and realized that if I could get 5 friends to sign up, I’d get INSTANT ACCESS! I immediately posted the link to Twitter. (The level of excitement I experienced reminded me of how I felt when Mailbox first launched.)

Then this happened:

check your spot

So guess what I did I did immediately? I clicked the red button, obviously. I couldn’t wait to see if I had any registrants to bump up my spot in line.

Then I saw this:

Campaign lower number

Now I’m only 44th in line! Extreme joy followed. My phone beeped and I found 2 really nice emails from the company. The first one explained that they’re a start up and they can’t afford a major marketing campaign, and expressed how thankful they are for our support. The second one was a congratulatory email telling me that I had my first signup using my personal link. The anticipation of not knowing when the next referral would occur was exciting. I kept refreshing the screen over and over throughout the day. Want to know why?

I took a step back and realized that this system was ABSOLUTELY BRILLIANT! Kudos to the HotJar Team for completely hacking my brain! They had activated the daylights out of my nucleus accumbens. (It’s the part of your brain that gives you motivation and mega pleasure from anticipating an awesome reward happening. It also plays into addiction, which contributes to folks clicking the refresh button 98345 times to see if they’ve moved up in line yet. Psychology background FTW.)

I was already excited about the product, as most people who sign up to be on a waiting list are, so giving the option to move up in line simply by posting a referral link was genius.

You know how sometimes you sign up for services, and at the end they say, “Do you have any friends who may want to use this service?” Every single time I ignore those, because I think they’re cheesy. I’m obviously not going to give my friends’ email addresses away, it’s a rude thing to do. But this? Giving the ultimate reward (early access) for sharing info about a tool that I already think is amazing?

Epic, epic marketing. HotJar, give your marketing team a raise.

How To Survive Your Next Design By Committee Situation

Cartoon: Stick figure clients fighting and a designer running away versus stick figures explaining what they want to the designer one on one happily.

Last week a good friend of mine called to vent. He was in the midst of every designers worst nightmare: working on a client project in which there were 8 major stakeholders. It was a classic design by committee scenario.

The day he went in for the first consultation, the stakeholders were lined up on either side of a rectangular table staring each other down. He whipped out his notebook and asked what the goals of the redesign were.

And so it begins…

3 of the 8 people started talking over each other, then glared at each other. The other 5 looked uncomfortable and didn’t speak. Finally one voice surfaced.

Person 1: “The goal is to increase conversions. We need to make all of the buttons green.”

Person 2: “Um, no it’s not. The GOAL is to create a more usable website. We need bigger text boxes on the landing page, and the registration area needs to be bright yellow to draw more attention to it.”

Person 3: “We JUST had a 2 hour meeting about this yesterday! Were you two sleeping through it? The goal is to update our branding! The whole site needs to be aqua!”

War is waged!

Then the meeting turned into the equivalent of an episode of Big Brother. Factions formed and the volume levels got higher and higher. The quiet team members looked like they wanted to disappear.

Then things got personal:

“You always try to steamroll my ideas!”

“You think your opinion is the only one that matters!”

“I’m higher up the food chain than you are, what I say goes!”

My friend said that he did his best to redirect and refocus the group, but within 10 minutes the meeting had gone from an introductory consultation to a war zone.

Alcohol: Mandatory

He said that by the end of the meeting he wanted to curl up in the fetal position under the desk, and that he picked up a bottle of vodka on his way home.

So how do you avoid this nightmare?

Step 1: Instead of meeting with all of the committee members at once, interview them one or 2 at a time in short sessions. 

Sounds a little crazy right? And time consuming? It’s not. It’s surprisingly effective, and SAVES time.

Instead of folks getting into fiery debates because they’re bitter about unrelated office politics situations, the focus becomes the current design project.

Also, the people who have great ideas, but are too intimidated to speak up in front of their peers, are free to share their thoughts openly and honestly.

The best part? All of the responses are direct and to the point.

If you meet any resistance when you express that you want to conduct interviews in groups of one or two, just explain that you want to make sure that you don’t miss any important details.

Step 2: Focus on a concrete concept: The problems that need to be solved.

When you conduct your interviews, instead of asking for goals, ask for specific problems that need to be solved.

By approaching the interviews this way, you are given the information that you need to complete the design, rather than a grocery list of overly specific requests.

Step 3: Unveil the redesign to one or two stakeholders at a time before the group reveal, highlighting the features that align with the specific problems they wanted to solve.

A majority of the time, the problems the stakeholders are trying to solve are directly related to one another. They don’t realize it because they aren’t professional designers, so they get fired up for no reason at all.

In my friend’s example, increasing conversions and making the site more usable were going to be addressed simultaneously. Simplifying the registration process (making it easier to use) was most likely going to lead to increased conversions. Unifying the branding across the website and social media channels was likely going to contribute to an increase in brand trust, and increased conversions as a result.

By pointing out the specific ways the redesign has been crafted to solve the problems folks identified PRIOR to the group reveal, you wind up with a group of happy stakeholders who feel that their needs have been addressed and their voices have been heard.

If you give this method a shot, I’d love to hear about your experience! My friend gave it a test run after we talked, and called me with a glowing review afterward. He said the change in attitudes was incredible, and that he’d be using this approach every time he ran into a design by committee situation going forward.

The Key To Business Success: Who Is The Heart Of Your Company?

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I’ve worked at Schoolwires for the last 7.5 years, and I adore the place. I love the people, I love the culture, I love my job.

We were recently acquired, and someone asked me what made me love working for the company so much. After giving it a bunch of thought, I realized that I love working there because our company has a heart. And the heart lives in one of the senior staff members. And that senior staff member is our VP of Product Design and Innovation, Jason Coudriet.

They say that positive energy filters down from the top, it’s true. I started at Schoolwires 7.5 years ago, and even then all of the employees in our little start up could feel that Jay was the central driving force of the entire company. His vision, innovation and talent guided our company into the future, into the incredible success that we’re experiencing today.

Some people have an eye for selecting team members who will be self driven to succeed. Jay embodies that skill set. He makes sure that every member of his department knows with 100% certainty that they were selected to join his team because they are experts in their fields. And when that comes from the top, a feeling of mutual peer respect filters down throughout all of the team members. Even when there are personality conflicts, they don’t escalate, because the level of peer respect trumps it all.

His values, and passion for his craft are contagious. His empathy makes him an amazing leader, and his ability to push people past their comfort zones to help them succeed, in a supportive way rather than a perform or you’re fired way, causes his employees to give 1000% every single day.  We give 1000%, and simultaneously we all LOVE our jobs.

You could have the best product idea in the world, but if your company is missing its heart, you’ll have constant turnover and a group of remaining employees who only put forth a mediocre effort, and turn out mediocre products.

If you want to be successful long term… you need to find a heart that will beat life and inspiration and creativity into every corner of your company. Find that person, and you’re guaranteed long term success.

User Experience Rocks Is Officially 2 Years Old!

User Experience Rocks Turns 2. Stick figure holding balloons and a birthday cake.

User Experience Rocks is officially 2 years old, and I just wanted to take a moment to express my deepest thanks to each and every person who has taken the time to read my articles over the course of the past 2 years! I can’t even begin to express how much it has meant to me. You folks are the absolute best! <3 Cheers to a fabulous 2015 to come!

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Windows 10 Is Looking Considerably Less Horrifying Than Windows 8

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The title says it all.

Windows 10 is looking considerably less horrifying than its Windows 8 predecessor.

There’s a great overview of the new OS here: http://www.cnet.com/products/microsoft-windows-10/.

The live tiles have been integrated in a less obtrusive way, through the Start Menu. The interaction flows are a lot more fluid, as opposed to the “2 completely different systems smashed together awkwardly” feeling that came from Windows 8.

Overall, I think it’s a definite UX improvement on many levels.

Also, the upgrade will be free to anyone running Windows 7 or higher.

The Pre-Windows 8 fans will feel like they’re back in their comfortable Windows OS wheelhouses.

I’m a definite Apple fan girl, and while Windows 10 doesn’t come close to being as fabulous as my beloved Mac OS, it’s definitely a step in the right direction for Microsoft.

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I Did My Taxes On My Phone This Year! TurboTax Mobile Site FTW!

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So I kind of wish I could kiss every member of the TurboTax mobile design team.

I did my 2015 taxes ON MY PHONE! And it was, *gasp*, FUN!

When I say, “did my taxes,” I’m not talking 1040EZ… I’m talking mortgage, student loan interest, kiddo deductions, stock, IRA etc. style taxes.

It was unreal. Every time I got a new tax form in the mail I’d whip out my phone, enter the deduction, save it, and think, “Dude… I’m doing my taxes on my freaking cell phone, and the UI is amazing!” Then I’d grin like a raging weirdo.

A task that is normally boring and stressful and frustrating was full of unexpected delight.

This experience was exceptionally better than my usual system, which is spending a week of being stressed to the max, rifling through piles of paper trying to find copies of lost tax docs all over my house.

The hamburger could use a menu label, but otherwise the UI was flawless. Perfect touch target sizing, clean inputs, clear fonts, simple nav, easy editing/deleting, etc. It’s beautiful and easy to use and I love it.

Huge kudos to the entire design team at TurboTax. Your clean, seamless mobile UI and absolutely fab UX have me looking forward to doing my taxes in 2016! Thank you for taking the agony out of tax submission time! Bravo!

And seriously people, if they can make an app used to do taxes this fabulous, apps for every other industry have a chance. They took the most boring, borderline excruciating task on earth and flipped in into a mobile masterpiece. There are no excuses left now, the bar has been set!

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Innovation: Let Go Of The Ball And Chain, And Jump!

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Have you ever been in a meeting and heard, “But how will this fit in with our legacy system?”

Legacy systems can be great. They may be the meat and potatoes of your business. They may pay your bills. They need to be up to date and work like champs.

But in order to let your company enter the wonderful world of creative, innovative design, you have to be willing to jump. And when I say jump, I mean jump away from your legacy product into the unknown. You may jump and land in a pile of cash. You may jump and land in a black hole of product death. (I recommend avoiding that one.)

Regardless of the end result, you need to have that urge to try, and test, and fail, and succeed in order to innovate and create amazing things.

If you keep yourself tethered to your legacy ball and chain, when you jump, you’re going to swing over the edge and crash into the wall with no chance of reaching the next level of success.

Treat your legacy products with the respect they deserve, but don’t forget to occasionally jump. Because if you don’t jump, your competition will… and they’ll leapfrog right over you on their way down to that pile of cash that could have been yours.

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