Meaning in Work

I’m reading a biography on Jim Henson. He loved his work and described how work is a crucial part of our lives. Accomplishing something is a more fulfilling feeling than the money you earn for doing it.  Of course, most of us wouldn’t work at our jobs without being paid. However, if you look at the reasons most people leave their jobs, money typically isn’t it. Poor relationship with your boss and coworkers is usually at the top of the list. I believe that finding meaning (or lackthereof) in your work is crucial to productivity and happiness in the workplace.

One person recently said to me, “It’s enterprise software. It’s supposed to be boring and have no meaning.” I threw up in my mouth a little bit.

My profession is designing business software. I find tremendous meaning in this work. Here is a little taste of why.

Business users are human beings
Shocking, I know. The users are human beings with families and personal stories. They enjoy fun things and hate boring things. They have fears and aspirations. Now here is the kicker: they spend more time at work than at home. (Not including sleeping)

They spend alot of time in your software. Why are you contributing to their boredom and depression? You have a chance to lighten up their lives. They are desperate for it. Computers suck. They fail to work properly most of the time. They are slow and lack any real memory of the person who uses them. They are far, far away from the science fiction assistant computers should be.

When you design software with lightness and enjoyment baked into the productivity, you are lightening these people’s lives. You are making people happier. I find tremendous meaning in that.

Productivity software helps the economy and careers
Automation doesn’t eliminate jobs. It’s rare that I hear someone is fired because fewer people can do the job of more. Usually, the result of automation is that the people are expected to accomplish more ambitious initiatives because the tool helps them. This in turn helps the company succeed. When companies succeed, they purchase more stuff and fund other companies growth. Also, when someone uses an automation tool, the expertise in the tool becomes a hard skill.

Example: Yahoo used to require that you call them for every ad placement. Call them on the telephone. Can you believe it? Google made it a self-service system (AdWords) which drastically increased the amount of people advertising. Net result was many more jobs at many more companies. Expertise in Google Adwords is a valued skill and helps many people’s careers.

There are other reasons, but these two are very important to me. You may have more meaning in your work than you realize. Find that meaning for yourself and your employees and all of your dreams will come true. Well, maybe not, but you and your people will be happier.





Who I Follow and Connect

Twitter and LinkedIn have very different algorithms for me.

Who I follow on Twitter
Hardly anyone. The stream gets to be too much for me. I can’t follow it. So I end up following just the accounts I really care about. It’s just 5.


  1. Codrops – I am in love with the effects on this site and want to see any new ones right away.
  2. Panda – This is basically a Design article aggregator. I could use their browser plugins, but I find Twitter to be the perfect vehicle for looking at them.
  3. Icons8 – This is my new Icons source. They are very responsive to requests. So far, their stream has not been annoying.
  4. God – The Tweet of God is generally funny and has similar political leanings as I do.
  5. My son Ethan – He never tweets. I would feel bad if I un-followed though.

That’s it. Some people follow me. Mostly my tweets are auto-posts from my blog. Nothing about my food. I think of followers as “audience”. I don’t auto-follow as thank you.

Who I Connect with on LinkedIn
I’ve got 1,012 connections on LinkedIn. At first, I only connected with people I knew personally. Then I started speaking at conferences and people wanted to connect afterwards. Then many Marketo employees wanted to connect. Then many designers around the world. Now, I think about it differently.

I think of LinkedIn Connections now the way I think about Twitter followers. I truly don’t read the LinkedIn stream. I just don’t think you should limit your potential audience. I get a ton of views on this blog via LinkedIn. So I end up connecting to any designer and people in related areas, like startup entrepreneurs. In other words, I accept connections the way I would accept followers, the more the merrier.

It’s amazing to me how different social networks fit into my life (or don’t). Google+ keeps trying to get in. Maybe one day.

Information Architecture FTW

I crushed it today. Yes, I’m not humble about this. No apologies.

Let me rewind. I’ve been working on the information architecture for the Engagio application over the past couple of weeks. This means that I am wrapping my head around the various objects you need to do Account Based Marketing. Think about a random big company, like General Motors. How are the different departments and people organized? It can be very complicated.

The goal of information architecture is to create a structure that make sense to users. A structure that allows you to accomplish your goals and remember where things live. It’s alot like designing a city.

Doing it can be frustrating. There are many different challenges. I imagine it like making a clay bowl. The key question is “Does it hold water?” Or logically, “Does this make sense?” Im glossing over the details of information architecture, sorry. Metaphors only.

Its a true puzzle, but like all other puzzles, solving it feels great. This is why I feel I crushed it today. The bowl held water. I am not even close to finished, but I made a major stride today. It makes me very happy.

I may be geeking out here, but doing my job well makes me joyous even if my job is fairly geeky. Sometimes, I imagine I have an audience and they all start cheering when I figure it out. Am I the one who does this?

When you nail a rubiks cube or figure out a game of solitaire, there should be a cheer. We all deserve it.

Yayyyyy. Ok, back to work.

My Designer Software Kit

It’s fun to set up a new computer. I have the new Dell XPS 13 running Windows 10 (insider fast track). The resolution is a ridiculous 3200×1800. If a program doesn’t have proper scaling it looks itty bitty. So anyway, I set up my new machine. Here is a list of my desktop software: (doesn’t include any web software like WordPress, Trello, etc)

  1. Google Drive Desktop App – Great service
  2. Slack Desktop App – No more email!
  3. Photoshop
  4. Microsoft Office 2016
  5. Icons8 – my new favorite icon system
  6. Firefox – Chrome is great, but I am trying Firefox these days
  7. MalwareBytes
  8. Adobe Acrobat Reader
  9. Pixeur – color picker
  10. Snagit – screen capture
  11. Skyfonts – for installing lots of fonts
  12. Trillian – instant messenger

I don’t use any other Adobe products, but I am interested in this new Comet thing. I don’t use Sketch because I don’t use a Mac.

That’s it. I do half my design on pencil/paper and never bring it into meetings. The laptop doesn’t make great design. Designers make do great thing stuff.  (I’m tired apparently – goodnight!)

Slack: Life without Email

I often told people that Eloqua had more functionality than Marketo. I also said it didn’t matter. Marketo beat Eloqua for a different reason. It wasn’t what you could do, but HOW you could do it.

UX Rule #12: It’s not how many things you can do, it’s HOW you can get them done. It’s the experience.

A couple of years ago Salesforce released Chatter as a company-wide messaging and collaboration tool. I hated it. The experience sucked. The technology sucked. It ended up that very few people outside of sales used it. It didn’t replace email or even instant messaging. It turned into lameware. (Software that only lame people used.)

Enter Slack. Slack is a wonderful experience from head-to-toe. It has personality, functionality and polish. It has desktop, mobile and web versions. It has plenty of plugins. Slack is taking off like a rocket.

What is Slack? For old people, it’s IRC with a nice graphical experience. For young people, it’s like a private Twitter for groups. The group could be your friends or your company. It will store photos and other files as well as text. It has channels and direct messages. You kinda have to use it to get the love.

Here is the kicker. For decades, my go-to program at work has been Outlook. In short, I use email to communicate. With Slack, for the first time, I have stopped emailing. I literally have nothing to say on email and have moved all of my comments directly to Slack, either to the whole group or just an individual. It has truly replaced my use of email.

It may not seem like it, but this is a BFD. Email has been my primary way to communicate for over 20 years. Instant messenger is good, but for work, I always came back to email. Now, I have gone cold turkey. No more email. Just slack.

Boggle. Why aren’t you as excited as me??  Maybe you just haven’t used it yet.

NOTE: For those who have been using Slack for a while and want to be Smug saying, “I was cool before you!”, please comment the word SMUG and I will know. Thank you.

New Adventure: Engagio

I had alot of choices of what to do next. I could have managed a large team of designers in New York, Boston, Washington DC or San Francisco. I could have pursued possibilities at large (yet exciting) companies like Google. I could have joined a new startup again. The Bay Area is just so awesome, I couldn’t imagine leaving.

A guy at Google was actually very helpful in this process. In talking with him, I realized that what I missed the most was making something awesome with a small group of great engineers. I had grown tired of the 900 person company communication overhead. There were just too many people involved. Plus recruiting and mentoring a team is rewarding, but just not as much as personally designing products.

I spoke with multiple venture capital leaders, but one particular startup seemed very appealing to me. Jon Miller, one of the three founders of Marketo recently started a new company called Engagio. The focus of the company is Account Based Marketing. More on this later, but the short version is that it is software for helping marketing and sales departments create and close complex enterprise deals.

Long story short, I am now the head of product management and UX at Engagio. I shortened the title to Head of Magic. Ok, to be fair, I stole the idea for the title. Anna Zeman had the idea first. However, possession is nine-tenths of the law, so the title belongs to me. The ironic thing is that Anna gave me a book called Steal Like an Artist. So I guess it serves her right. My previous title, Mayor of AwesomeTown is retired. It served me very well.

Anyway, I am employee 7, I think. The team is exceptional with energy and talent. There is alot to design. My experience at Marketo is helpful, but the details are completely different. I am excited and hopeful. My goal is to empower and delight the customers as much as I did at Marketo. It’s a tall order, but I am up to the challenge.

One last note…I am 43. Old, if you ask my kids. Yet, I feel comfortable and happy in the startup environment. Just because you have a few extra miles on the odometer, doesn’t mean you should retire to corporate comfyland. Startups are for the young at heart.

New adventures don’t come along every day. I am savoring the moment.

Farewell Marketo

This is the second time that I am blogging that I am leaving Marketo. I joined the company, as the first non-founding employee, in 2007. Then, in 2009 I left to try a different company and progress my career. After nine months, I realized that I missed Marketo and they missed me. So I rejoined in May of 2010.

During my time at Marketo, I have invented and designed wonderful products and features, made hundreds of long-lasting relationships with excellent professionals, and led people towards an exciting and prosperous vision. I have been in charge (at various times) of product management, UX, product marketing, documentation and other random initiatives. I contributed towards culture, education, support and numerous other parts of the company. Marketo went public a few years ago and made many people in the company a good deal of money. Not enough to stop working but enough to be very proud.

Marketo’s customers are amazing. They are so focused on improving their companies and the marketing departments position in the company. They love great experiences and products. I am honored to have helped them on their career defining journey.

Some awesome moments and things I remember:

  • Watching Hillary Clinton, front row center, with my son, while 6,000 employees behind me filled Moscone West
  • The first Marketo summit in San Mateo
  • Training Jodi Florence and Jen Erale, the first two customers
  • Figuring out Emily Salus’ use cases on the whiteboard with David Morandi
  • Inventing SmartLists with Paul Abrams
  • Watching the infamous Crash demo
  • The login with the flowers animating down the screen
  • Talking to Maria Pergolino and Jason Miller late at night and trying to get their features built
  • My Lincoln on a Bear speech
  • Helping Patricia with the support system decision
  • Convincing Carina Boo to take a year off school to work for me
  • My year with Srini, best manager I ever had
  • Spending Fourth of July in Portland with Shaun Klopfenstein
  • Teaching Atanasio Segovia everything I could and watching him create Marketo Moments without my help
  • Mentoring designers like Jenny Chang and Kai Haas on projects
  • Collaborating with Anna Zeman on my last design
  • And countless more moments…

There are so many more people like Cheryl Chavez, MJ Jeswani, Justin Cooperman, Erik Rehn, TJ Kim, AJ Nair, Kelly Abner, Wei Liu, Ian Taylor, Scott Edmonds, Nick Valldeperas, Pavel Kramer, Jon Miller and of course, Phil Fernandez; all of whom I treasure the memories and experiences. I am forgetting so many people, It’s a blur.

Sometimes, I imagine my last 9 years as a parade. You are exciting in the beginning and watch all of these people pass you by. They come and smile and then leave. Its heart wrenching to watch your second family go. Eventually, you realize the parade will go on and on and that it is you who must depart.

The last nine years have been rewarding in many ways. Although, I might have changed a few things, I still profited in every way imaginable. I am a better designer and leader having had my Marketo journey. I will miss it terribly.

I’m sorry if I have forgotten your name here. Just comment and I will fix it.  You all will be in my heart for the rest of my life. I love you all.

Farewell and good luck.

Halloween 2015

It’s been getting harder and harder to get dressed up for Halloween. It used to be so easy, I looked forward to dressing up each year. I think it’s because the kids are getting older and don’t want to trick or treat with me anymore. Maybe it’s just because I am getting old and my inner child has been neglected.

This year, I have been working on a project called Mercury, so I decided to be Freddie Mercury. Mustache and all. It’s not a great look for me. (Today is the “dress up day” at work – why wasn’t it tomorrow you ask? No idea. Boggle.)

Me as Freddie Mercury

Well, no guts, no glory, right?

Anyway, I’ve got the white pants and everything. I need to keep the stache until Saturday for official Halloween trick or treating. I think my youngest will want me to go with him for some of the time. This seems to be the last year though. The older ones are more interested in going with their friends.

They grow up so fast. I got old so fast. It’s all happening so fast. Blink your eyes and a decade is gone. Savor the moment.

On a side note, I usually am one of the few people in product development who gets dressed up. Makes me sad.


Bat Face

Anna Zeman, designer extraordinaire, came up with this idea. I hated it at first, but it is somehow growing on me.

Bat Face
This is the face you make when you are talking to someone and they say something that is either stupid, offensive or ridiculous. You don’t want to fight with them, so you smile. Sort of smile.


She even printed it out and framed it for me. She is weird. You know what face I gave her when she showed me the printed out version?

You guessed it. I gave her the bat face. #batFace – feel free to share.

Goldilocks Scope

Everything has an amount that is “just right”. It’s often called the Goldilocks principle.

Example: These planets either have too much greenhouse effect or too little to be able to sustain life as we know it. The differences between the three planets have been termed the “Goldilocks Principle” (Venus is too hot, Mars is too cold, but Earth is just right).

See illustration.


So what happens when the scope of your project is too big or too small?

Too Small
When the scope is too small, the team feels uninspired. They don’t try too hard. It feels easy. What I notice is that they don’t add in extra goodies to fill the space. They add in meetings instead. They argue of stuff that doesn’t matter. They make the project seem bigger, but not by adding love. They add time wasting. I’ve seen it over and over. Too little to do is just as bad as too much.

Too Big
This is a problem I am all too familiar with. When you are overloaded with so much work that you can’t even wrap your head around it, you end up disengaging. You work LESS hard. You start to procrastinate. Groups stop communicating and get frustrated with each other. Everyone’s patience wears thin and confrontation and finger pointing is rampant.

When the scope is too big, people start to cut corners. They cut quality and testing and UX. They cut user love. Trying to do too much is a disease that affects many organizations. It creates problems at all levels.

Goldilocks – Just Right
The right amount of scope is not easy to accomplish, but you can see a way. Here is a metaphor…

I’m sitting under a benchpress. I lift the bar and it weighs nothing. I am not going to bother with any reps. Then someone puts on 500 lbs. I can’t budge the bar. I won’t even try, I will hurt myself.  However, if you put an amount on that is hard to push, but I can do it. I will try for as many reps as I can muster. It’s the right amount.

The right amount of scope in a technology project is hard to conceive. It will take cunning and hard work, but it looks possible. This inspires people to lean in. This inspires people to communicate and work like a team.

When a project gets too big, the solution is simple. Break it in half and look at it again. It’s not complicated. The worst scenario is when you have a project that should be broken in half, but the powers that be refuse to shorten the scope. Then you end up with the “too much” scenario.

How big are your project/missions? Too small? Too big? Just right?



I’ve officially switched my allegiance from IconExperience to Icons8.

They did a great job for many years of having a comprehensive iconset in a wonderful system where you could find what you wanted. However, after the V collection, the next bunch of sets were pretty low quality. The O-collection is too chunky and ugly, the M-Collection was just useless, the I-collection was OK if you were making an iPhone app, but not for general purpose icons. The G-collection was nice, but the two-toned color palette rubbed a few people the wrong way. Also, if you zoomed the icons to be large, they didn’t look quite as good. It’s a very good attempt, imho.

Icons8 is a totally new approach to icons. No longer do you have a downloadable zip set that remains static until they release an updated zip. You have a cross-platform app that allows you to search and use icons, but it constantly syncs to the icon cloud. As such, they can roll out new icons much easier. I asked for a mailbox and a week later, there was a new mailbox icon in multiple styles. Nice!

The colored icons are the ones I like the best. They have a great palette and the details of the icons translates from small to big. They have all the sizes and formats I want (SVG) and they make it easy to search and manipulate. All-in-all, it’s a great service/system.

I’ve worked many years in the IconExperience family, but when I see something better, I have to change. Sorry guys.

PM / UX as Peer Groups

In many organizations, the product managers (PM) are the ones who define the “solution” for their project. They create wireframes and detailed UI requirements. They basically put the product designers (UX) into the role of “make it look pretty”. UI Graphic design is important, but it is not User Experience Design.

What is User Experience Design?
Article to understand what UX Design is to me.

I think this model makes designers feel pretty crumby and unimportant. I think there is a better model.  For many years, I have advocated a different approach. Product Managers (PM) should define the “problem” and the product designers (UX) should define the “solution”. They should act and be treated as peer groups.

What this means is that PMs should define the environment of the customer in detail. They should describe WHY the customer is having a problem that a new product or feature could solve. They should also go into details about the varying flavors of the problem so that a solution covers the right scope. They should prioritize the facets of the problem as well as how many times and how severe this problem occurs. In other words, they should set the stage for a solution.

UX should define the solution. It might be something in a browser, it might be a service. It might be an extension of an exiting feature or something brand new. They should give a deliverable to engineering that specifies what they should build. They should OWN the delivery of the solution, just as engineering owns the delivery of the code.

Now of course, design is partially a team effort. Collaboration with PMs and engineers and customers makes for a good design process. You shouldn’t design in an ivory tower. However, I advocate for designers to have specific deliverables that they should be held accountable to.

This all requires that PM, Eng and UX be peer groups. When the UX team reports up to engineering or product management, it automatically makes the design process less functional. It’s not impossible, but I think the designs in these systems is less than it could be. Here is the organization put in simple form.


When treated like a peer, the UX team can be measured and managed as a peer. When treated as a child group, they don’t get measured or managed in the same way. They end up saying horrible things like, “Just tell me what you want and I’ll do it”. This breaks my heart.

Feeding or Slaying the Dragon

I’ve heard the expression from executives, “Let’s slay this dragon once and for all.” What they mean is “We have had complaints from customers on [topic x]. Let’s do a project that makes all of those complaints go away. The dragon in this metaphor is the complaints that customers have.

I think this is the wrong way of thinking about it. You can not completely eliminate customer complaints. In fact, they are a healthy sign that people care and are actively using the product. If no one complains, that is a very bad sign.Also, when you do a project to reduce/eliminate complaints, the fix will not last forever. Software is constantly moving and evolving.

Side joke: Just because you don’t receive any complaints, doesn’t mean that all of the parachutes worked.

For example, when I designed Marketo, I made something called a Smart List. It was an incredibly flexible/powerful query UI. It allowed marketers to get information that was impossible without it. It is one of my finest creations. However, it made the engineers crazy. There were so many permutations and variations that keeping it bug free was hard. Additionally, depending on the size of your database, it could get slow.

In 2007, it could support 100k leads. Customers with 200k leads would complain of performance. So we did a project that I will call “Feeding the Dragon.” We improved performance so that 200k leads worked well. Each and every single year, we increased the performance, we fed the dragon. Today, hundreds of millions of leads can be used. Our dragon has grown to enormous proportions. We never slayed the dragon. Now customers want BILLIONS of leads. We have to keep feeding the dragon.

When you build something great, you give birth to a dragon. You can’t just expect it to be great forever. You have to feed it. You have to keep it clean and improve functionality consistently. You can try to build another dragon, but you have to be careful not to neglect your first one.

Sometimes, you just have to do the exact opposite of what everyone else thinks. Isn’t that odd?feedDragon

The UX of ERP vs Loose Platform

As a designer, I have always appreciated tight integrations. The fact that I can copy a bunch of cells in Excel and paste them into PowerPoint is just awesome. When designing Marketo, I thought of the solution as one small city. There was the neighborhood of making landing pages and the adjacent neighborhood of forms, which go on landing pages. Everything connected together tightly. The roads and bridges connected everything seamlessly. Let’s call this model the ERP model.

Enterprise resource planning (ERP) is business management software—typically a suite of integrated applications—that a company can use to collect, store, manage and interpret data from many business activities.

And then we started to grow rapidly. (A blessing and a curse) We acquired companies and integrated them in different ways. Sometimes, we did a full blown absorption into the mothership. However, we didn’t always have time for that. So I designed a portal where different experiences could be launched.  Each experience was “similar” but not exactly the same.  This is the same model Google is currently using. Their portal looks like this:


If you go to each of these, there is wide variety in the look and feel. The interfaces are different, as well as the implementation of Material Design. Add to this list to the 53 different properties Google owns and you have a design coordination nightmare. Can you imagine trying to have a grand unified theory of how all of these systems should work?

Every large company struggles with this problem. Here is the quandary: When you are a startup, you don’t have that many properties, so an ERP style system is beneficial. Customers love how the system is consistent and integrated. It’s only when you are successful that it starts to fracture.

I think you need to optimize as a startup for total experience and integrate tightly. Then, assuming you grow, you need to build a system where acquired properties could be part of the family, but not need to be identical and integrated tightly. Loose integrations will work then. To achieve this goal, you need a team that develops design languages like Material from Google. Additionally, you need tons of APIs to allow each property to integrate as they see fit. If you don’t have a strong API system, the loose integrations will seem like NO integrations.

The hardest thing is changing the culture from tight to loose integrations. It’s almost baked into the DNA. You have to be willing to change your mindset. What makes a company succeed in the beginning is not what makes them succeed in the end.

Of course, the devil is in the details. Bad implementations lead to bad outcomes. Bad UX leads to low sales. It takes just the right ingredients. Too much salt and it’s ruined.

If it ain’t broke…

Sometimes, you need to reinvent something. I’ve done it several times in my career and have successful.  However sometimes, you just gotta leave it alone.  Microsoft just released a new product called Sway. (I’ll review it later maybe). Anyway, they felt the need to reinvent this.


Bold is no longer B. It’s E. E for emphasize! Why is that better? Who do they think they are? Did someone do some insane test and conclude that A = Accent?  It’s I for Italics! WTF!

God, it makes me so mad! I just want to punch the screen and say, “It’s BOLD MOTHERF****ERS! BOLD!!!


Ok, ok, calm down. It’s just a button.  Just a button that everyone sees every time they edit text. Nothing to get riled up about.


Are there little things people have redesigned to be worse that freak you out?  Am I the only one?

Cheating the Customer

I try to buy nice shirts from designers like Zachary Prell, sometimes Canali. I used to be a Men’s Wearhouse sort of guy, but once I tried on a shirt that fit me well, I couldn’t turn back. These shirts generally can not be washed in the washer/drier at home. They usually need to be dry cleaned.

The reason I am telling you this is because I have a suspicion that my dry cleaner is cheating me. I got my shirts back and they smelled like body odor. (Hopefully mine) My fear is that they take the shirts, throw them in a press to take out the wrinkles and call it finished.

The truth is that many of the products and services we pay for are less than what we thought. Volkswagen just had a major scandal where they cheated customers relating to the emissions of their diesel cars. Banks routinely slap fees onto low balance accounts and make it very onerous to fix. Insurance companies under staff their customer support lines in the hopes you will give up and go away.

Software products regularly ship with known issues or skimp on the polish. This last one bugs me to death. Skimping on the polish is akin to cheating the customer. The customer pays (this is assuming they pay) for software that has been thought-through and well designed. When things go wrong, a security hole for example, it makes the company look foolish and the customers angry.

I know that the profit motive is extremely strong. I get that companies need to make money to grow and thrive. However, I believe that a company can grow more, can retain customers and employees more, can lower their cost of acquisition and increase their average selling price…all by paying attention to the details and not cheating the customer.

We live in a cynical and fucked up world. There is scandal all over. This is a golden opportunity to be the bright light in a sea of darkness.

I might need to find a new dry cleaner.

PowerPoint Design Memes

I know that many designers love their Sketch. It’s a good tool and is making Adobe scramble. However, when it comes to UX for enterprise applications, I still believe storyboards are the way to go. Invision is a great tool, but I still think storyboards are better than clickable prototypes.

The best tool for Storyboards? PowerPoint of course. My designs are fairly high res, animated and ridiculously fast to produce and iterate. Many designers feel that anything from Microsoft MUST be bad. They are missing out. The ONLY thing it’s missing at this point are reusable objects (like Sketch Symbols).  It has everything else you need and much much more.

Just to show my love, I made a bunch of memes for this underrated design tool.











What would I do without memes?

Bernie Sanders is Larry David

I was watching some clips of the debate and Bernie Sander’s voice kept poking me in the brain. It sounded exactly like someone else. As if Bernie was doing an impression. Then it hit me. He was doing an impression of Larry David.  Check out these two clips.

The first is Larry David on 60 minutes. You only need to watch the first minute or so.

Then here is Bernie at the debate.

His cadence is awesome. It has a comedic timing and rhythm that makes you want to listen to him. I think this was a smart move on his part. He looked like he was “above the fray” and not political.

I’ve met Hillary Clinton, and loved her.  However, right now, Bernie has my vote. I’m a progressive and I love his policies. Hillary is a great choice, but Bernie is tapping directly into my progressive spirit.  Sorry Hillary.


UPDATE: Right after I posted this, Saturday Night Live had the exact same idea.

Tailoring the Position to the Person

Once I had a job as a project manager. I was terrible at it and eventually was fired. The job was designed for someone with alot of process in mind. This is clearly not me. Remember my personality results?


For a project manager, you want high EXAMINE. Obviously, mine is not suited for that job. Another job I failed at was Systems Administrator, also a high EXAMINE type job.

Once I became an interaction designer, my skills and personality started to shine. And of course, my skills in a startup environment were much more effective than in Intuit’s corporate world. The lesson here is that people are complex and don’t just fall into “good” and “bad” job grades. Every person has a perfect position for them. The key is to understand what their personality and skills are and then tailor the position to them.

It’s like football. A great coach changes tactics based on the players on the team, not the players the coach wishes he had. A great manager tweaks the position based on the person employed, not the person they wish were employed. A great manager changes the org structure based on the people.

Now one might ask, “But Glen, shouldn’t you just fire the person and get someone who is a closer match to the ideal?” Good question, but the answer is “probably not”.  The reason is simple. It’s really hard to find ideal people, almost impossible. Maybe you get lucky once or twice, but usually people have flaws. Unless you want a revolving door in every position, you need to be flexible. If you are rigid, you will be setting people up for failure. It doesn’t do them any good and it certainly doesn’t help the company.

This might seem like counter-intuitive advice, but why should this advice be any different? My brand is counter-intuitive, just get used to it.

As I have hired UX Designers over the years, I have given them different types of roles and different structures of support. Some people are great alone and others require teammates to succeed. Some people are multipliers of others efforts, but don’t achieve that much themselves. Some people need a mission with no details and others need a detailed checklist.

Don’t fall into the rigidity trap. You will consistently be disappointed. Tailor the positions to the people and you will unleash massive potential.

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.

Product Idea: Wearables for Women

Most technology products are geared towards men. The styles and capabilities are designed for bigger wrists. However, women all have smart phones too. In fact, they have an additional distinct disadvantage. They put their phones in their purse, where they don’t feel the vibration of a call. It’s a running joke in my family that my wife never answers her phone. If she had a wearable, I think she would realize the phone is ringing more often.

What she needs is a wearable, either a phone or some other kind of jewelry. There is a new product called Ringly which starts to enter that market. However, offerings needs to be more diverse. Bracelets with screens, necklaces, earrings and clothing all should be made for this unserved market. Women buy lots of accessories and their is no reason that some of them shouldn’t be connected to your smart phone.

Even something as simple as a thinner smart watch for women. It could have a smaller screen and still be quite functional. The more we miniaturize the components, the easier this will be. Someone will eventually make alot of money in this market.