Top 11 UX & Design Tools of 2014

SolidifyApp – Mega simple prototyping/click tracking tool for desktop and mobile usability testing.
UXRecorder – Mobile usability testing app (Create a native prototype in SolidifyApp and run it through UXRecorder = Fabulous).

Silverback App – Mac usability testing.

Slack – Completely streamline all of your team communications. It’s kind of magical.

Skitch – Fab for UX reviews.

Balsamiq – Best collaborative wire framing tool on the market.

TargetProcess – Track Design/Development/QA progress and burndown.

GoToMeeting – Design collaboration via video chat/recording sessions & screen sharing with Audio.

Google Analytics – Analyze how your clients are using your product, look for pain points, adjust UX accordingly.

InVisionApp – Hi res desktop and mobile prototyping.

NotableApp – Great tool for detailed collaborative UX reviews.

Bonus Tool:

Spotify – Great music gets the creative juices flowing!


When Your MacBook Won’t Boot First Thing In The Morning


I just had one of those extreme panic moments. I grabbed my morning cup of coffee, hit the power button on my Mac… and it spun and spun and spun and spun… and didn’t boot. Thank goodness for Dropbox or I probably would have had a coronary on the spot. I legit felt like someone had sawed off my right arm.

I wound up having to steal my daughter’s Windows 8 machine for about an hour… and I after using it for about 10 minutes I wanted to die. I didn’t really realize how deeply immersed in Apple land I am, until I tried to actually get work done in a Windows 8 environment.

I am happy to report that after some doctoring my beloved MacBook Pro has returned to its fully functioning happy self, but holy adrenaline rush first thing in the morning.

Top 15 UX and Design Tools of 2013

This is a list of my top 15 UX and design tools for 2013, listed in random order. These tools fit together to make my life simpler and better organized on a daily basis. They also, when used in combination, allow clear interdepartmental communication to take place which helps keep us agile!

  1. Solidify
  2. UXRecorder
  3. Silverback
  4. GoToMeeting
  5. Balsamiq
  6. Invision
  7. Notable
  8. Asana
  9. TargetProcess
  10. Skitch
  11. MailChimp
  12. SurveyMonkey
  13. Trello
  14. AppAnnie
  15. ReflectorApp

InVision vs. Notable: Why We Love Both

A UX pro recently asked me which I prefer most for design collaboration, InVision or Notable by Zurb. The truth is I love them both, for very different reasons and we use both regularly in our Design and Innovation department.

InVision is a tool that allows design collaboration and feedback on individual high res screens within a prototype.

The Graphic Designer on your team can make the changes you request using the Fireworks plugin and Dropbox, and they’ll display immediately in your project. It’s a pretty slick setup and is a fabulous tool to use for more detailed prototypes that you need to gather feedback on and edit before you present them or pass them to development with your wireframes.

Notable is the tool we use primarily for ux and maintenance reviews of both our mobile native apps and our web products.

Notable has a mega handy mobile native app that let’s you screenshot things straight to your account. We have a team account that can be broken up into projects.

I’m a big fan of their clean UI and ease of use. Instead of spending our time trying to figure out the tool, we’re in there cranking out review notations. We then pass these UX and maintenance Notable reviews on to our development team for coding. It’s a pretty solid setup.

In short, these are two fabulous tools and I really can’t pick a favorite because they’re both powerful in their own ways.

For even more collaborative tools I love, check out my favorite tools page!

New to Usability Testing? You’re not alone!

You Are Not Alone!

I recently presented a user research method that I found particularly helpful at a tech conference, and at the start of the session I asked how many of the 60+ attendees had performed usability testing. A majority of the hands in the room went up. I then asked, “How many of you had usability testing listed as part of your original job description when you started your job?”

All but 2 hands went down.

2 out of 60+ people had expected to dive into usability testing. And that was when it hit me. I was not alone in my baptism by fire introduction to usability testing. I was standing in front of a room full of people who had been in the same boat I’d been in when I started!

How I Landed In Usability Testing Land

I was hired as a UX Editor and Content Strategist, with a primary focus on defining our product voice and tone through consistent screen copy & error messages, as well as editing wireframes to make sure that interactions flowed smoothly and in a way that would make sense to our user base. A fellow UX Editor specialized in usability testing, so I didn’t really dabble in it much in the beginning.

You’re Doing What Now?!

We had a pretty great system going until a few years ago, when she announced that she was leaving to fulfill her lifelong dream of starting a restaurant.

You Want Me To Test Who, With What?!

I had literally zero experience with usability testing, other than observing what she had done during a round of moderated testing in our office, which was both recorded and live broadcasted to our design and development teams in a conference room. (She rocked it and we got killer feedback.)

I would not be exaggerating if I said that I had a giant panic attack the moment that I realized that all of the companies usability testing needs were going to fall on me when she left, but I found it exciting at the same time! I’ve ALWAYS been a people watcher, and have a background in Psychology, so figuring out why people do the things they do and how to make their lives easier went from a hobby, to part of my job description!

My coworker gave me a great crash course in tools she had been using, pointed out the websites she’d found helpful, gave me a manilla folder full of test results and a zip file that contained her research results. And with that, I dove in. I’m lucky to have an incredibly supportive innovative VP and an equally amazing manager who helped me get my sea legs and introduced me to some awesome tools and tricks they’d come across as well, and then I was hooked.

Love It!!

I started scouring the web for the latest and greatest in testing tools and research methods, and haven’t stopped since, I can’t get enough! It’s almost an illness. I love testing all the things!

Don’t Get Overwhelmed!

For all of you out there who are just getting started, and you’re feeling overwhelmed and don’t know where to begin, don’t despair! There are some great tools out there that make usability testing a breeze! I have a list of some of my favorites out at I hope you find them helpful!

A Few Articles To Get You Started

To get you started, I’ve written a couple posts about some of my favorite testing methods, recruiting methods, and tools. I hope you find these helpful as you begin your journey into the wonderful world of usability testing!

MailChimp and Survey Monkey: 2 Tools That Make Recruiting Remote Usability Testers Easy and Fun

SolidifyApp: Prototyping in Minutes

Card Sorting: How do I analyze all of this crazy data?!

UX and Design Tools That Will Improve Your Productivity

Mobile Usability Testing Tools

A Complete Moderated Mobile Usability Testing Solution

Pareto Principle Based User Research Methodology

In Closing: We Heart You And Welcome To Our Awesome UX Community!

You are NOT alone! You’re surrounded by an amazing, supportive UX community! Get on Twitter and search for UX, and start following the folks that pop up in your search results! Some of the coolest tips and tricks I’ve learned over the years have come from articles I’ve seen posted by other UX pros on Twitter!

With that I’ll leave you with the wise words of Steve Krug: “Testing one user is 100% better than testing none.

Now get out there and start making the world a better more usable place! 🙂

Google Reader is going away, but don’t despair, has come to the rescue!

So I was mega bummed when I found out that Google was killing off Reader. It was like an old friend, I’m very sad to see it go. Given the fast approaching (July 1!) end of life date, I realized today that I really needed to move my gazillion feeds to a new service, and I needed to do it quickly. And I was REALLY dreading it.

Enter stage left

I went to their site at the suggestion of a friend, and there, right on the main page was a giant colorful “Import Your Google Reader” button. The call to action was so strong and well placed, that even though I had originally just stopped there to preview the service offerings I decided to give it a whirl. I figured that worst case scenerio I could always delete the account afterward.

I clicked the button, it sent me to an authentication screen, and since I’d already logged into Google during my browser session, I didn’t even have to enter my credentials! I clicked authorize and that was it! It went out to my account and sucked in all of my zillion feeds in a matter of about 3 seconds.

My account was created, my feeds were imported, I was finished! It was by far the least painful product transition/migration I have ever experienced.

I just wanted to give a shout out to the awesome folks at Feedly for creating such a frictionless import process! Amazing UX at it’s finest!

And to any of you who have been procrastinating on finding a replacement for our dearly beloved Google Reader like I have been, give a glance!

Pareto Principle Based User Research Methodology

Recently I had the opportunity to present at the 2013 Web Conference at Penn State. My session focused on some Pareto Principle Based User Research that I’d had the opportunity to conduct for Schoolwires. We are always interested in new user research methods and usability testing tools. We’ve found some great ones over the past few years, but this particular research method was probably one of the most powerful.

It’s Quick and Cheap

To be honest, we have an extremely supportive senior management team, so we have the resources available to spend whatever is necessary to to ensure that our testing is getting done thoroughly and the right way. It just so happens though, that this method is incredibly cheap!

If you’re working for a company that keeps telling you that you don’t have the time, money or resources available to conduct user research, then this is the study for you. It’s amazingly quick & cheap, and it yields powerful results!

This PowerPoint Reads Like a Blog

You’re going to notice that these presentation slides are really plain, and bulleted and detailed. I wanted folks who attended my session to be able to download the presentation and recreate the entire study with ease when they left the conference and went back to their organizations, so I wrote the presentation more like a blog post.

Check It Out

You can check it out here: User Research Power Tool: Pareto Principle Based Usability Research

I hope you all find this research method as beneficial as our organization did!