Winning the Internet: Vitamin D Edition

Someone just told me they were Vitamin D deficient. I immediately Googled “How to get vitamin D”. (This is what I do, don’t ask.) What is shocking to me was the first link.  It’s the Vitamin D Council. There is a whole non-profit, a council dedicated to Vitamin D. You get Vitamin D from sunlight or supplements.  Here is their history blurb:

The Vitamin D Council was formed in 2003 by current Executive Director John J Cannell, MD. He believed that there were likely bad consequences in getting so little sun exposure (cough, vitamin D deficiency) and wanted to do something about it. So, he founded the Vitamin D Council to educate the public on the importance of sun exposure and vitamin D.

So already, I was like, “Wow, they have everything on the web!”. But then I dug a step deeper.  They have a Twitter account.


Now I have, in this one picture I have several major questions…

  1. Four thousand tweets about Vitamin D?? How the hell do you sustain that?!
  2. Fourteen thousand followers?! Who the hell follows them?!
  3. There is a Vitamin D Day?!? Who is celebrating this holiday? Are there really people who celebrate Vitamin D day? How do you meet these people?

Then I saw this article from Quora asking of the Vitamin Council is legit. It seems like they aren’t trying to sell anything more than membership, so I think it’s legit. On the other hand, I have no idea why you would pay $1000 to be a lifetime member of the Vitamin D council. Right now, my head is spinning.

This is freaking me out. So I asked, “Are there other councils for other vitamins? Is there a Vitamin C site? DUH! Yes there is a Vitamin C site!

Holy crap, that is such an ugly site. Vitamin D is kicking Vitamin C’s ass! They are claiming that Vitamin C deficiency is the #1 cause of death! WHAT?!?  Now this site looks like a scam. You can purchase supplements there. Vitamin D is much more educational. Vitamin C sucks!

Do a Google search for any vitamin and you get Vitamin D. They are winning the internet right now. For all the work they do on the internet, it’s a miracle they get enough sunlight.

The internet has everything. I need to go outside.


About Face 4

About Face 4 by Alan Cooper has just been released. I first read the initial version and it was a revelation to me. Although Cooper’s ego saturates much of the text, the technique and craft of interaction was undeniably accurate. My own design style is heavily influenced by this book, as well as his other book The Inmates are Running the Asylum.

Most of the technique has become internalized, but with this latest version I think I am going to re-read it. I have been doing more individual design work lately and a re-read would help sharpen my technique.

We are currently in a major shift in interaction design. In 2007, I believe I did a good job with Marketo in creating a hybrid desktop-website SaaS application. (Webtop?) The paradigms in that style are modeled after systems like Microsoft Outlook with trees, buttons and menus.

The next wave is a hybrid of mobile and webtop. It leverages more animation, touch interaction, movement and space to achieve the goals. Although skeuomorphism has taken a temporary backseat, it is making an interesting reincarnation with physical effects like those demonstrated on Tympanus Codrops. Material Design by Google is leading the way on this new design front.

For new designers, you have to understand how powerful a book like About Face can be for your career. It gives you the vocabulary, technique and process to work with other experienced designers. It’s not a “fun” book to read. It’s a textbook. However, if you are serious about the craft then you should be willing to read a textbook on your choice of career.

I am not being paid by Cooper. This is a public service announcement in the spirit of having better designers and better products in our lives.


It’s a great word, rolls off the tongue.

noun: serendipity; plural noun: serendipities

the occurrence and development of events by chance in a happy or beneficial way.

If it happens to you, you might call it Karma, Good Luck or even Life Favors the Prepared. When it happens to someone else you might call it a Fluke, Dumb Luck, Miracle or Winning the Lottery.

Certainly, preparation and hard work put you in the position to be lucky. Showing up is half of the battle. No one ever won the lottery by declining to play. Also, having a great attitude is an ingredient in serendipity, not an outcome of it.

The thing is, we don’t really know any alternative to our lives. Maybe the thing you think is good actually will turn out bad. The reality is that life is full of good and bad choices all mixed together. It all depends on how you look at it. Opportunities to succeed might be disguised as opportunities to fail and vice-versa.

We are faced each day with choices and hopefully those choices lead towards outcomes filled more with interest, passion and happiness and less with danger, fear and frustration. Look for the good parts of your day and you might find you have more serendipity than you thought.

Words are all we have. Serendipity is a good one.

Science Joke

There is a joke I tell sometimes. An engineer that I know turned it into a t-shirt. It reads alot better in English, but he added standard scientific notation anyway. Now it requires a bunch of work to understand it.

I won’t give it away. Try to get the joke.

mommaYour momma is so μ that she has no σ.

Get it? Google it.

Great Copy Writing Example

I get alot of spam, but this one really caught my attention. It has great copy writing and is funny. I don’t want the product, but I figured I should share it anyway just for good technique. The tip here is avoid being too “professional”. Be creative and unique.

Here is the email copy:


It pains us greatly to find out that you must have been eaten by alligators.

We’ve been offering to buy you lunch for a while, an offer that you haven’t taken us up on. It’s a well known fact that the only people to turn down free lunch must have been recently and viciously eaten by alligators.

We’ll miss you dearly but if somehow you have survived, feel free to use the code ALLIGATORS at to get your free lunch.


All our love,
Mark & the Farm Hill Family

PS. Here’s what you could be eating today if, you know, an alligator hadn’t eaten you first. :-(


Mark Wittman, co-founder | Farm Hill | Wholesome, honest, delivered. | | @farmhillfoods | 203.645.9866

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UX Trendiness

Should your designs be trendy? It’s kind of a loaded question. If you follow the trends then you are being a design leader. However, if you don’t follow the trends, you are at risk of being left behind as irrelevant. Not everyone can make the new, cool thing.  So the question remains, how much should your designs follow the trends.

Right now, Google is the trend-maker with their Material Design. The whole world is obsessed at the moment with it. Every new design is trying their best to be exactly like Google Material. It’s the new black.

The trend is not just about the graphics. Material has very specific guidelines about animations and 3D effects. Recently, released their new Lightning UI, which obviously is influenced by Google. It’s even more impressive in some ways because it deals with a much broader and complex system. Enterprise software has alot more details to deal with.

The new Workday UX tried their best to be Material, but ended up in a strange place where the animations seem overdone and take forever before your content loads.

Just look around at new software and you are bound to see the influence of Material, including the stuff coming out of Apple.  However, following the leader will only get you so far. You need to get out in front of trends. For example, I am looking heavily at SVG animations to give my designs a little extra sparkle.

Following trends isn’t the goal. However, understanding the trends and playing nice with them is important. It’s like a playground of elementary school kids. One of them has a new haircut, “oooh ahhh”. Do you copy his haircut or maybe focus on a cool new hat?  Change the game.

There is no magic formula. You just have to keep your eyes open and try to make things that are awesome in their own right. Make it awesome and it will always be trendy.

Ideas are Fragile

This morning, a designer and I had an idea. It wasn’t a big idea. In fact it was fairly unimportant and related to graphic design. However, the size of the idea has nothing to do with the feeling you have for it. People love their ideas regardless of whether they have merit or are complete thoughts.

Another designer entered the room and immediately was negative about the idea. Idea was destroyed on the spot.

Now, there is an obvious question of whether the idea was good or bad. Most people defend the practice of squelching ideas by saying that the idea has no merit.

The problem is that ideas that eventually turn awesome always start off as something wrong.

Ideas are like babies. Abraham Lincoln was not much of a public speaker when he was just an infant. It took time and energy to craft him into the man he became. Ideas are the same way.

They are fragile and need nurturing. Being negative towards them will blow them out like a birthday candle. Poof! However, the idea is clearly not in final (good) form either. The question is: How can you move an idea from this early stage to maturity?

One key technique is to use improv techniques. You go along with the idea and assume its a good start and ask probing questions and iterating on possibilities. You use the energy of the original idea and put some more kindling on it. You add your energy to the idea, but not in blind support, but rather in iterative exploration.

Another technique is to put things side-by-side and talk about the pros and cons. Specifically, you have to find ways to eliminate cons through problem solving. Again, it is assuming the idea has merit and you are trying to see if will pan out.

Sometimes you need to mildly encourage the person to flesh out the idea more, show it in more contexts.

The key is to not puff the flame out before it even has a chance.

It feels bad for the idea maker. It makes them want to squelch their own ideas before they even say them. It makes for poor communication and hurt feelings. We humans are fragile, just like our ideas.  How we nurture ideas and how we nurture people will make the difference in your group or society at large.


UX Design Career Levels

I don’t ever remember seeing something like this for UX. It’s a map of levels and what you would expect from a UX Designer. I don’t think it’s perfect and if someone has something better, I’d love to see it. This is geared towards people in the UX department of a software company.

Use this to know if you are in the right title and what a promotion entails. Also use this in recruiting to put someone at the right level when they join.

I hope this is helpful to someone. If it is, please like/comment/tweet/hoot/whatever.

Level Levels and Expectations
4 Associate UX Designer – Personally contributes towards design goals and deliverables. Has virtually no experience as a professional designer. Has basic skills in general design. Can follow instructions and collaborate with engineers and product managers. Has a good work ethic and attitude. Gets along well with others.
5 UX Designer – Everything in Associate Designer AND has 2-3 years of professional design experience. Has intermediate skills in several facets of UX design including information architecture and interaction design. Can lead small projects and is reliable.
6 UX Designer II – Everything in UX Designer AND demonstrates team leadership and an interest in learning management skills. Has 3-4 years of professional design experience. Solid design skills in most facets of UX. Influences others outside his/her own project. Can lead medium-sized projects.
7 Sr. UX Designer – Everything in UX Designer II AND actively seeks to be a resource outside of immediate project/team/local scope. People will come and ask them for input. Demonstrates team leadership. Above average design skillz. Has 4-8 years of professional design experience. Can lead large projects and mentor 1-2 junior designers.
8 UX Director – Everything in Sr. UX Designer AND can do detailed design critiques as well as mentor/manage designers on a daily basis. Executes on longer range plans. Able to identify, plan, and execute career development for employees. Able to teach team on his/her own initiative. Influences architecture beyond his/her own project. Looks across the organization. Mastery of design craft. Has 6+ years of professional design experience. Is part of the recruiting process on an active basis.
9 Sr. UX Director – Everything in UX Director AND Can fill in for the VP of UX or even the VP of PM if needed. Can do conceptual design and has strong knowledge of the complete ecosystem. Recognized as an influential leader. Manages budget performance on a daily basis. Executes on long range plans. Works effectively to hire and retain talent. Effectively manages employee performance. Influences architecture beyond his/her own project. Looks across the organization.
10 VP, UX – Everything in Sr. UX Director AND is recognized as the leader of the user experience of the product. Works consistently with other leaders in the organization. Builds effective process and standards for the UX organization. Regularly influences/designs the conceptual basis for the products. Is one of the key visionaries of the product direction. Pays for lunch.
11 Chief Design Officer – I’ll have to think about that one. 😉

Notice, I didn’t include UX Research or Testing. I believe that is a different department that probably should be a part of the QA (Quality Assurance) team. But that is a topic for another day.

The Muppets Review (2015)

I watched the show. Although it was funny in parts and well executed, it just wasn’t the right show for me. It was derivative, basically mocking The Office or 30 Rock. I don’t think my kids thought much of it. It was just a regular show.

To fix it, I would change one core element. Instead of the show revolving around a fictional Ms. Piggy talk show, they should instead have the show be modeled around Saturday Night Live with skit comedy like the original Muppets with musical guests in between. This would make a huge difference. It’s a modern take on the original premise.

The current show just was too depressing and mundane. Kermit and Piggy had no chemistry, it was just sad. Fozzie and his blond girl friend were funny, but not lovable.

Overall, the show depressed me, not because it was terrible, but because it was ordinary. I expect more from the legacy of Jim Henson.

Question Rich, Answer Poor

How can you make a decision when you don’t have the facts?

In truth, it happens every day. The answer is that you just make a guess. Often, the HiPPO (Highest Paid Person’s Opinion) is the one people adopt. Here is a noteworthy quote:

If we have data, let’s look at data. If all we have are opinions, let’s go with mine.  

– Jim Barksdale, former Netscape CEO

Data in this case is based on research. Questions like

  • How many people will use this?
  • How much will they stress the system?
  • How much money will it cost?
  • How much money will we make?
  • What does barely successful look like? (Not wildly successful, where is the line?)
  • Why would this make a difference in people’s lives?
  • Who else does this? How will we be 10x better than them?
  • And many more…

How do you make decisions when the answer to most of your questions are sketchy or guesswork.

Interviewing customers only get you so far. A few anecdotal stories about customers doesn’t prove a thing. People often mistake a random anecdote for statistical confidence and validation.

The reality is that we make decisions based on faulty data because we aren’t very good communicators and we meet about the decisions in large groups. A committee is especially bad at decision making and communication.

There is no easy answer because we are slaves to our own communication limits. However, you could move the needle a little by demanding answers to questions. The only problem there is that people will resent you for asking.

Some blog posts don’t have a happy ending. Sorry.