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Month: April 2010

Designing for Change

A human body can last for over a hundred years. However, remove oxygen for 2 minutes and it will fail permanently. One hit to the head or major artery and its all over. How can a system be that fragile and last for so long? The Earth has supported life for billions of years. Modern civilization has come about in the last ten thousand years. Within that time, (equivalent to 2 minutes in a human beings life) we have seriously changed our environment. From hunting species to extinction to changing the global temperature to developing weapons that could obliterate all…

Empathy and Sympathy

What is the difference between empathy and sympathy and why does it matter to building a great product or service? Empathy Definition: the intellectual identification with or vicarious experiencing of the feelings, thoughts, or attitudes of another. In English: Putting yourself in someone else’s shoes. This should not be confused with sympathy.  To sympathize is to feel or express compassion, as for another’s suffering; commiserate. In other words, Empathy is 1st person; you can actually feel the emotions and reactions of the other point of view.  Sympathy is 3rd person; you don’t lose your perspective, and look at the other…

Marty Cagen’s Bad Product Leadership Habits

I loved this blog post by Marty Cagen.  It’s all the things that bad leaders can do to mess up a product.  However, I read it differently than Marty wrote it.  In other words, he wrote the things a CEO or Executive do that mess up the product manager.  Instead, I read it as the things a bad product manager can do to mess up the user experience designer. At Intuit, for example, the marketing managers of a website like Quicken.com (equivalent, but separate from the product manager for the product Quicken) would be in usability studies and constantly overreact…

Social Buzz Verbs

Google recently release Google Buzz.  This is a different service than Yahoo Buzz.  Of course, this is completely different than AT&T Buzz.com.  Why are all these web 2.0 social services named Buzz?  Why that verb? Facebook just released their “Like” button that you spread around the web.  Don’t confuse this with the Google Reader “Like” button.  I added a Like Button on the right column.  Click it now! Why is this copycat verbing happening?  You would think that Google would want their service to be clear.  Naming it buzz instantly confuses it with the other buzzes.  “Like” replaced “become a…

Trading Mobility for Quality

There has been a trend over the last 20 years in telephones.  That trend has been the trading of quality for mobility and features.  Here is the progression: First, I had a land-line with a squigly cord.  The quality of the call was usually perfect.  The phone was comfortable on my ear.  I could talk to to a girlfriend for hours on end.  I had to sit near the phone jack though and the call was charged on a per minute basis.  Kind of expensive.  Call-waiting was a pretty cool invention for this model. Then came the cordless phone.  I…

The UX of Inner Motivation

We moved into a new house a few months ago.  We still have boxes left unpacked; pictures not on the wall.  We had a nice surge of motivation to unpack, but then we ran out of steam.  The whole job seems really enormous.  It’s easier to just get through the day-to-day with the minimum of effort than to buckle down and tear open that box. Hanging up that first picture is hard work.  You have to look at all the walls and decide where each picture is going to go.  You can’t just pick up a picture and randomly point…

New Theme – April 2010

I couldn’t help myself. I am using the 3.0 beta version of WordPress. It comes with a new theme that is pretty clean from an HTML standpoint. I haven’t made a theme in a long time, so I took the opportunity to build one up. Voila. It’s not done yet, but it’s a good start. I have decided to use CSS3 in this theme which means IE is going to be sub-optimal. I suppose I made some IE specific fixes in a separate style sheet. IE7 represents about 5% of my traffic, whereas IE8 is 23%. IE6 (BOO!) is just…

A Better Goldman Sachs Metaphor

There have been many analogies and metaphors used to describe the Goldman Sachs fraud case.  I think alot of them are bad.  John Stewart was very funny talking about them. Metaphors and Analogies are important tools for User Experience (UX) design.  Not only is it helpful to explain to your peers what you are trying to accomplish, it helps sales and marketing to wrap their heads around the spirit of the product you are building.  Being good with these tools will help you achieve a better overall UX. For Goldman Sachs, here is the one I came up with on…

Did the iPhone get Leaked?

Yes. I may seem cynical, but this wasn’t an accident.  Apple purposely instructed that guy to leave his prototype at the bar. Apple is in the zone right now.  They are dominating everything they do.  The iPad is a runaway success, despite the menstrual name.  The iPhone sales are through the roof and profits are huge.  Their market capitalization is redonkulous.  This wasn’t a horrible mistake.  This was planned and it’s working exactly as they wanted.  Here are something points to think about: Are you really allowed to take the prototypes of the next generation of the most important product…

Font replacement strategies

I’ve tried many different methods for font replacement on my site.  I just can’t help wanting to use a fancy font.  I just switched techniques, but here is the complete rundown. Cufon. A JavaScript implementation that uses Canvas tags to change the fonts of specified tags.  It uses jQuery to find the fonts and a special JS file that you feed into the Cufon Generator to make the script.  Source here.  WordPress plugin here.  It’s pretty easy to use, but can be a little slow.  Also, you can’t select/copy any of the text in the canvas tags. sIFR. A Flash…

The UX of Axure Part II

It’s been almost a month of using Axure.  It’s not all roses and sunshine, but it definitely is the best click-able prototype creation tool I have used.  With that said, it still leaves ALOT to be desired.  Here are some of the things that bug me on a daily basis. Labels Some background:  If you want to add interactivity to a page, you have to add onClick “cases” on the page.  The wizard looks like setting up a rule in Outlook.  One of the steps is to choose which thing you want to interact with.  Let’s say you want a tab to switch or…

Easy Magic and Hard Magic

A conversation with Merlin: Me:  Hey, can you conjure up a cow? Merlin: Sure [POOF].  Easy. Me: Cool!  How about a purple cow? Merlin: Oh, hmm.  That’s hard.  Yes, but it will take a while. A conversation with an engineer: Me: Hey, can you make the data come back in date order? Engineer: Sure [clicky clickity].  Easy. Me: Awesome!  How about in order of relevance to the search? Engineer: Oh.  hmm.  That’s hard.  Yes, but it will take a while. A conversation with me: You: Hey, can you design the IA of this website? Me: Sure, [sketch, sketch].  Easy. You:…

Scarface – The Elementary School Play

Say hello to my little friend: And I thought the point of school wasn’t meant for learning.

The UX of Waiter.com

At work, they hooked up with Waiter.com to provide lunch delivery.  I just used the waiter.com site to register.  I am not saying this is the worst site in the world.  However, Waiter.com is freakishly bad. Look, if you are a website application/service, you have to understand how important it is that people are not horrified by your site.  Usability equals sales in this case (or lack thereof).  Take a look at this homepage screenshot. Some immediate issues: Way too much text.  Who is reading all this?  Don’t write copy based on what you want to say.  Write copy based on what…

The Point of School

I wish someone had told me this as a child. The point of elementary school is not to learn.  The point is not to train you for an adult life.  The point of elementary school is to practice following instructions. Let’s jump to high school.  The point of high school is not to learn.  The point of high school is not to train you for your adult life.  The point of high school is to order the children in a line from “best” to “worst”.  They use grades and SAT scores to measure.  This order is used by colleges for…

Should a designer be a SME?

SME stands for Subject Matter Expert.  It means that you have extensive experience doing tasks in a particular field.  The question is “If you are looking for a designer, should you try to find one that is also a SME for the target domain?”  The answer may seem counter-intuitive, but experience doesn’t help, it usually hurts a design. Every single thing I have ever designed in my career has been a new domain to me.  Designing a product or website has little to do with the things the product is doing and everything to do with what the people using…

UX Technique: Main Street

There is a technique I use alot when thinking about the architecture of a SaaS product.  It’s called Main Street.  It comes from when I visited Disney Land.  The technique makes an analogy of building a product to designing a theme park.  You have to decide where everything lives and how the roads interact with each other.  Envision your product as a physical place with different “streets”. Think of Main Street as the most important CORE of your product.  Main Street is defined as the stuff in your application that, if removed, would cripple the application.  Like the ability to Link on…

Storyboards or Prototypes?

What is the best method for a designer?  Storyboards or Prototypes? Storyboards These are used to tell a specific story.  You can not click wherever you want.  It’s just a series of screens in a chronological order. I have used Visio, PowerPoint, Photoshop, Whiteboard, Paper and Balsamiq to make these in the past.  They are usually quick to produce, low-fidelity and are designed to communicate to engineering the requirements of a feature.  It’s never pixel perfect, in fact it’s often sketchy at best.  The advantage of this approach are that you can control the conversation.  It’s limited in scope to…

The UX of Giving Up

When do you give up? Let’s put that another way, When do you realize you made a mistake and try something different?  Yes, that sounds much better.  Yet, it’s the same thing.  I have seen so many companies refuse to acknowledge the truth of a bad situation and stop the madness. When something is going horribly wrong, you need to be able to be objective and look at it without emotion. You don’t want to change direction every single time something takes a temporary downturn.  You don’t want to give up when you are moving through the dip to a…

April Fools, 2010

I love April Fools.  It is permission to have a sense of humor once a year.  It takes time to come up with a good joke.  It should be clever and not too mean.  One year I told my dad that we were pregnant with our fourth child.  He got really angry.  I don’t have a good joke this year.  I feel like I let myself down.  However, I try to have a sense of humor all year round, so I think it’s ok. Happy April Fools!

The UX of Product Testimonials

I saw an interesting question on UXExchange about product testimonials.  Are they good or useless? We all know that referrals are tremendously important to people in their decision making.  An advertisement for a new restaurant is worth a fraction of a recommendation from someone about the restaurant.  This is why Yelp and Amazon recommendations exist.  So it stands to reason that a testimonial on someone’s website saying, “This product is great” should go a long way.  Entrepreneur magazine even has an article with a checklist of how to make your testimonials good.  However, I think these kinds of testimonials usually fall flat.  Here…