Tuesday, December 27, 2011

The Internet: It's Getting Bigger and Bigger

Today Show, circa 1994
"That little mark, with the ring around it."
"It's a giant computer network"
"It's getting bigger and bigger all the time"

Defining Expectations = Defining Success

Close to tying a bow on a project and declaring it done.

So, how will we know we succeeded?

This time, teams on all sides defined expectations well. We didn't know exactly where we were going, but we had a compass to guide us, and we carved markers along the way.

Now, we're there -- and we know it was successful.

-- Expectations met and exceeded.
-- Agreed on standard #UX deliverables, which were reviewed and tested along the way, tweaked, signed and sealed.
-- Unpredicted deliverables were added and approved, as needed and as time allowed.

Handshakes and smiles: Phase 2 to come.

It should always go like this.

Wednesday, December 14, 2011

Stop Internet Censorship

I've censored the following, in protest of a bill that gives any corporation and the US government the power to censor the internet--a bill that could pass THIS WEEK.

To see the uncensored text, and to stop internet censorship, visit: http://americancensorship.org/posts/11034/uncensor

the ████ ████████ the ████████; don't let the ████ █████ it

Uncensor This

Wednesday, December 7, 2011

Content Strategy: Editing, with Mods and Patches

Editors edit.

  • Editors of words also do write-thrus that magically make sentences fit together better with smoother sequences, sharper points and rounder edges.
  • Editors of images apply magic to colors, narratives, and action of pictures that are still or moving.
But editors who put words and images together online -- planning, shaping, structuring, linking -- in enterprise, intranet, e-commerce and news/entertainment sites; in apps; in email campaigns -- well, those editors have the upgraded mods, add-ons and patches of content strategists.

Tuesday, December 6, 2011

Compass > Map

Compasses are better than maps: so goes the current paradigm of starting from where you are to get to where you're going.

"... it is now usually cheaper to just try something than to sit around and try to figure out whether to try something. The product map is now often more complex and more expensive to create than trying to figure it out as you go. The compass has replaced the map, and “rough consensus and running code” has become the fundamental philosophy for the so-called lean start-up movement." -- Joichi Ito, director of the M.I.T. Media Lab.

Making things up as you go, failing fast, iterating iteratively: these ideas are spreading.

This is a big deal.

Writing is a totally iterative process -- some first drafts are better than others, and things get better with polish.

The change we're living with now is that you have the power to show things to the world, after however many drafts you think you need, whether it's a blog post, a Kickstarter project, an iOS app or a 3D-printer project.

It's a flavor of change that old versions of the future utterly failed to predict, and it's better than jetpacks and flying cars.

Wednesday, November 30, 2011

Robots: I Don't Like It That You Are Reading My Email

Google told me that their robots are reading my email, and that is severely creepy.

What do they do when they're done -- forward my recipes? Cut out hats from one photo and paste them onto heads in another?

It's like when SkyNet became self-aware.

The #UX of the message doesn't make me feel better -- it actually makes me feel worse.

It's making me think about the value of a paid email service that

(a) has no ads
(b) doesn't read my mail.

Tuesday, November 29, 2011

Before cellphones, there were payphones

In olden days, making a call on the road meant getting out of the subway, getting out of a taxi or pulling into a rest stop and hoping you had change in your pockets.

Newspapers and wire services depended on reporters having stacks of change, to make calls and dictate stories.

When I worked at the City News Bureau of Chicago, I had a mental map of corners with payphones.

When I lived in London for a semester, the red telephone boxes were a link across the ocean to home.

Wikipedia has this most awesome payphone: 

UX Changes: What Happened to My Mail?

A cry for help in the face of confusion on logging into the new Gmail interface: "Mom, come here. What happened to my mail?"
  • Why is it different?
  • Where did things go?
  • Are my things okay?
How do you help your users through uncertainty when you are working to make things better?

How do you make sure you are making improvements, and not making things worse?

What questions would you ask your users if you are changing the things they use everyday?

Monday, November 28, 2011

If the UX Needs a Sign, the UX is Broken

So sleek. So shiny.

But nobody can find the paper towels -- hence, the awkward sign.

If the UX needs a sign, the UX is broken.

Sunday, November 20, 2011

Snail Got Mugged by a Tortoise ...

It's one notch up from knock-knock jokes on the evolutionary chart of humor, but it still has resonance for grownups:

The snail who got mugged by a tortoise described it like this to the detective: "It happened so fast, it was a blur."

Perspective depends on who you are: that's why we do UX personas.

Saturday, November 19, 2011

Googlemaps Whodunnit: Digital Natives Oversharing Less

Whose cars are in your driveway on Google Maps? Yours? The plumber's?

On Zillow?

Who's tagging you in photos that you might or might not want to be public?

Whodunnits with plot twists that turn on social media are only going to increase, until they stop, and they will only stop when permission and privacy matter.

One sign that could happen sooner rather than later: the current generation of digital natives has learned from the online embarrassments of those who came before them, surveys say.

Plus, the sketchy, shady privacy policy shenanigans of Facebook have been jolting people out of complacently oversharing for some time now.

Progress marches on.

UX is a State of Mind: Swimming Birds and Flying Fish

Delight is apparent immediately: When an interaction is wonderful, you feel it.

And conversely.

So how can a big organization learn to make interactions better, for internal customers, who pay with their time and attention, and for external customers, who pay with dollars?

More UX, one interaction at a time.

If the UX mindset becomes a core corporate skill for people who touch anything that users touch, then things will work better for users, frustrate them less and delight them more.

But how?

It might start out feeling like teaching birds to swim and fish to fly, but it can happen in three ways: through training, hiring and reinforcement.

  1. Training elevates empathy for the user to the top of the requirements list. Tools give people the hammers and nails to implement that empathy.
  2. Hiring makes the UX mindset a prerequisite.
  3. Reinforcement brings rewards to people who do things with a UX smile.

Friday, November 4, 2011

Work, Making Things and Economics

A generation of college graduates faces record unemployment: an economic fact rising to the level of often repeated sound bites on cable news.

Several generations of blue collar workers offshored out of work: old news now, but still a daily reality for the people living it.

Not everyone can be an internet entrepreneur hacker artist marketer, etc.

So what are people supposed to do when the economy can't provide them with jobs?

There have been some interesting middle class trend stories floated: farming heirloom vegetables by hand, renting sheep as lawnmowers -- good adaptations by a few but not necessarily solutions for the many.

I remember when abandoned factories became news during the great deindustrialization of the previous century. I remember driving through the rustbelt and seeing the broken windows in the places where people used to make steel.

I don't know what the answers are, but I have a lot of questions.

And a few suggestions:

-- Invest in science as a national policy. Fund schools down to kindergarten to teach children that the world we live in runs on science, and they can be part of making things happen with science.

-- Invest in schools as a national policy. This is related. Crumbling schools lead to no good results for anyone.

-- End the useless wars, but keep the military employed -- give the people who serve more meaningful work building and fixing things here.

-- Invest in green industry as national policy for three reasons: to take the lead in green technology, to create jobs, and to help the planet.

I am grateful that I can work by tapping on keys to talk to people, and sometimes flying through the sky to see them in person. The internet started as a government program.

"abandoned factories" image search on Google

Monday, October 31, 2011

UX, UI, IA, Content: Hats and Roles != People

It could be a cosmic alignment or just selective observation, but here are several smart posts on Hats and roles !=People, but they need to be assigned.

In UX/UI/IA work, that could mean:

A UX strategist who also has strengths in content strategy and IA. That would be me -- I came from newspapers, writing and planning every day. Then the web happened, add boxes and arrows. Then mobile; add magic.

There are also UX/UI people with visual strengths. Some are just as strong with content as the pure IA types; most are brilliant at visualizing the structures as things that are beautiful. Staff accordingly.

Here are the longer takes:

It's Time to Define CXO:  This is a cautionary and instructive read, on the roles and strategies for building UX into products and processes. You don't need to have a CXO on every project, but you do need to have people on the team who think like one.

Do Organizations Need a Chief Content Officer? The short answer is yes, of course they do. In olden days, the ranks of editors at print publications performed these roles at their organizations. The model has some carryover in terms of planning, ownership and responsibility for words and images.

Equipping Your UX Team for Success: Lots of do's and don'ts, worth noting.

And, finally: Designer Developer Workflow. Get it right, or else.

Tuesday, October 25, 2011

Burning the Candle at All Three Ends

Some truths that bear repeating:

Adding more people to a late project makes it later.
-- The Mythical Man Month

Nine women working for a month will not produce a baby.
-- Brooks' Law

Sunday, October 16, 2011

The Bacon Conference: BarCampNashville

It's over now, and what a day -- so many great speakers, so much support from the community.

Nice logo on the shirts: burgundy on cream for the crew, and reversed for the rest.

My preso on UX Leadership is up here: "UX: See, Speak, Share." Main points I hit:
  • Show people things they've never seen before, and things they've never imagined.

  • Interfaces are songs, and they have a beat, so make yours go vroom vroom beep beep.

  • Learning the methodologies, buzzwords and tools is the least of it. Buy the books, use Google, go to workshops, and be ready to take what you need and leave the rest.

Do you work for love or money? Either one is okay; just know the difference.

Monday, October 10, 2011

New Coke, the Gap logo and Netflix "Qwikster"

Netflix is keeping its DVD and streaming services together after all.

The New York Times had the story this morning:
“We underestimated the appeal of the single web site and a single service,” Steve Swasey, a Netflix spokesman, said in a telephone interview. He quickly added: “We greatly underestimated it.”
Right now, the value of the dual DVD and streaming services lies greatly in this scenario: Search DVD and streaming > available only on DVD > rent DVD.

There's innovation, there's revolution, and there's trying to force more money out of a business model in ways that don't help customers.

Related: The Gap abandoned its new logo less than a week after its debut.

Sunday, October 9, 2011

When they've never seen anything remotely like it ...

My favorite quote from a New York Times appreciation of Steve Jobs:

"This is what customers pay us for — to sweat all these details so it’s easy and pleasant for them to use our computers. We’re supposed to be really good at this. That doesn’t mean we don’t listen to customers, but it’s hard for them to tell you what they want when they’ve never seen anything remotely like it.”

Here are two photos I took at the local Apple store yesterday:

Monday, October 3, 2011

A Corporate Press Release that's Interesting

Holy cow. I don't know what the parties are disputing, or why, but if more corporate press releases were like this, I would read them. Right or wrong, Oracle has pwned every corporate flack ever hired with this:

Oracle Issues Statement

REDWOOD SHORES, Calif., September 28, 2011

"After HP agreed to acquire Autonomy for over $11.7 billion dollars, Oracle commented that Autonomy had been ‘shopped’ to Oracle as well, but Oracle wasn’t interested because the price was way too high.  Mike Lynch, Autonomy CEO, then publicly denied that his company had been shopped to Oracle.  Specifically, Mr. Lynch said, “If some bank happened to come with us on a list, that is nothing to do with us.” Mr. Lynch then accused of Oracle of being ‘inaccurate’.

Either Mr. Lynch has a very poor memory or he’s lying.

‘Some bank’ did not just happen to come to Oracle with Autonomy ‘on a list.’

The truth is that Mr. Lynch came to Oracle, along with his investment banker, Frank Quattrone, and met with Oracle’s head of M&A, Douglas Kehring and Oracle President Mark Hurd at 11 am on April 1, 2011.

After listening to Mr. Lynch’s PowerPoint slide sales pitch to sell Autonomy to Oracle, Mr. Kehring and Mr. Hurd told Mr. Lynch that with a current market value of $6 billion, Autonomy was already extremely over-priced.

The Lynch shopping visit to Oracle is easy to verify.

We still have his PowerPoint slides.”


Minimum Viable Personality: Lessons from a Giant Robot Dinosaur

The greatest post ever on voice and personality as defining characteristics of online success is Minimum Viable Personality, an instant classic by FakeGrimlock on Fred Wilson's AVC blog.

Written in the voice of a giant robot dinosaur, the post proves its own points in every paragraph of all caps wisdom.

Here are the two greatest #grimlockquotes:

When you set out to make personality part of your project, you can be OmniGraffle or Visio, Shake Shack or McDonald's, Target or Walmart -- but make sure that what you choose is real.

Sunday, October 2, 2011

PointCast, Pets.com, Kozmo, Urban Fetch ...

PointCast, Pets.com, Kozmo, Urban Fetch ... are to the current tech boom as ... ?

There are so many smart startups happening; and so many, well -- here are some pieces of 20th century history for comparison:

Pointcast: When they turned down $450 million for a push-driven screensaver, the consensus around the lunch table at Yoyodyne was, dude, they had the hubris to spurn that much money for something sysadmins routinely blocked as a broken bandwidth hog?

Pets.com: Despite being an early "It doesn't matter if we're losing money: look how many customers we have" startup, not even its mascot could save it. "Because pets can't drive" is still one of the best taglines ever, and the commercials were awesome. But it wasn't just the free shipping on the 50-lb bags of dry dog food that killed them; it was pretty much everything they did. 

Kozmo.com and Urbanfetch were the two failed dot.com startups I loved most and still miss. They would gladly bring CDs (this was before MP3s) and ice cream to the office, really quickly; they also threw in insane amounts of swag with your order, from t-shirts to mugs, key chains, pens, etc. I still have some. Today, FreshDirect is a smarter, more focused, more solely urban -- and successful -- reinterpretation.

Sunday, September 25, 2011

Interfaces are songs: Mobile is a beat you can dance to

 An interface has a beat, just like a song. It can be slow, fast, syncopated or straight time.

And mobile is a beat you can dance to. The taps on iOS leave so much room for animation and delight: layers and levels become successive opportunities for folding enchantment into experiences.

I have been thinking about this for a while. It came into focus on seeing Elvis Costello tonight. (I saw him the first time in college, again with Bob Dylan, and now with The Imposters.)

The blazing talent was always there, but the whole package is so much more awesome this century than the previous one.

The parts were all there before, just not as tightly polished and integrated.

Interfaces, too. Mobile interfaces are for dancing.

Tuesday, September 20, 2011

So Much Awesome ... But Space and Time Can Be Bent

Speakers, Sessions and Slots: It’s Not Over ‘Til It’s Over > You Can Still Have Your Say at BarCamp Nashville 

Here’s a math problem: If 84 outstanding speaker topics are submitted to BarCamp Nashville, and the random draw has only 35 slots, what percentage of speakers get a place on the schedule? 

It’s a total good news/bad news situation: Nashville has so much awesome, that only 42% of the people who pitched could be accommodated this year. 

But bending the laws of space and time is what the tech crowd does all day, so here are the three other paths for participating: 

1. Sign up, attend, hang out: Being there is being part of it. Seriously. The event is as good as the community; no more and no less. 

2. Grab an Impromptu Session: In the pure, original spirit of the one true BarCamp, these 10 prime slots (5 rooms, 10:30 am and 1:45pm) are first-come, first-served, Darwinian social engineering. 

During the 35-minute Impromptu blocks, the main stages will be dark. 

To get one, find the Impromptu Board (early!) and be one of the first 10 people to claim a session by writing your name, title, format,  (Case Study, Hands-On, In-Depth, Introductory, or Panel/Discussion) and session description.

3. Claim a Discussion Table, or set yourself up around the main bar.


Here’s the tally of awesome that went into the random drawing, held Sept. 20, 6:00 pm - 8:00 pm at ESpaces, streamed online, and Facebooked: 

BCN11 Session Count by Category and Format
as of 8:00p 2011-09-19

Code: 35 (42%)
Content: 31 (37%)
Design: 11 (13%)
Gear: 7 (8%)
Total: 84

Case Study: 13
Hands-On: 8
In-Depth: 26
Introductory: 25
Panel/Discussion: 12

Total: 84

Monday, September 19, 2011

Netflix: You Are Testing My Love for You

So, this happened:

"... streaming and DVD by mail are becoming two quite different businesses, with very different cost structures, different benefits that need to be marketed differently, and we need to let each grow and operate independently. It’s hard for me to write this after over 10 years of mailing DVDs with pride, but we think it is necessary and best: In a few weeks, we will rename our DVD by mail service to “Qwikster”. -- Reed Hastings, Co-Founder and CEO, Netflix

The reaction was instantaneous and huge: 21,234 comments at last count.

I didn't mind the recent price increase; Netflix is still a piece of the future.

But the streaming/DVD split breaks the UX for people who do both, by requiring separate sites and separate searches-- that's the opposite of an improvement.

Until as much content is available through streaming as the US Postal Service delivers to my door in the familiar red envelope, this change makes the UX worse, not better.

"Software is media," says Fred Wilson, and media that is smooth will beat media that is clumsy. Netflix just made itself more clumsy.

360° of Awesome: BarCamp Nashville, You, and Digital Nashville

BarCamp Nashville is a big and growing part of the 360° of digital awesome here. Every year's sessions bring people you can learn from, and people who can learn from you. This year's festivities: Oct. 15, Cadillac Ranch, dawn til late.
  • All of y'all, A-Z  -- angels, bizdev, coders, designers, marketers, mentors, sysadmins, PMs, QAs, UX, VCs -- who have signed up to speak: Thank you, and congratulations for stepping up, whether you won a slot in the random draw or not. (Want to shape next year's selection process? Join the crew.)
  • If you didn't pitch, think about it for next year? The community needs your talent, your skills, your passion and your vision. Sharing makes us all smarter.
    Another homegrown tech community, Digital Nashville, is also built by people who code, design, fund, manage, and sell things to be clicked or tapped.

    For those who want to attend/speak at knowledge sharing events throughout the year, the DN education committee hosts three kinds: evening sessions, half-day and multi-day events.
    • If you want to speak, let's talk about your topic/date (I'm the chair), and I'll put it in front of the team. Right now, we're looking out into 2012.

    • If you want to attend, here's Digital Nashville's calendar, which aggregates tech things around town, acting as a clearinghouse for one-stop updates.
    See you at BarCamp Nashville, and at Digital Nashville. Together, we know everything.

    BarCamp Nashville is set for Saturday, Oct. 15, at Cadillac Ranch. BarCamp is a free, new-media focused "unconference" that's equal parts networking, knowledge-building and fun.

    Digital Nashville is here to enable you. Stay informed with our newsletter and twitter feeds. Get advice through our mentorship program. Save money. Find a workerExplore, make yourself at home, and make it yours.

    Next up on the blog tour: John Ellis

    Storytelling, Narratives, Scenarios and Use Cases for Sites and Mobile

    What can a user do on your site? On your iPhone app?

    • When you say it in a paragraph, you have a use case.

    • When you say it with conditions (if/then), you have a scenario.

    • When you say it sequentially (this happens, then that happens), you have a narrative.

    • When you say it across repeat visits today, and next week, integrated with social, and across all your conditions, you are telling a story.
    Overly simplified? Not at all. Add wireframes and storyboards for key interactions and transitions, develop the personas: fast, lean; build; launch.

    Some of the oldest stories are the simplest.

    Friday, September 16, 2011

    Amazon: Can we talk about the price/cart message?

    Oh, Amazon.

    There's so much that you do so well. So much that you get right.

    But there's this one little thing, well, if we could just talk about it?

    The price change alerts on the top of the page: Please fix them.

    I know you're trying to do the right thing, but this is a silly interruption.

    Suggestion: Give users a preference filter for alerts. Let me set/change the parameters, with sliders, for price changes by X% or $Y.


    Monday, September 12, 2011

    The Man Who Walked Between the Towers

    "For me, the towers are still planted solidly in the landscape of New York City,
    in my heart." -- Philippe Petit

    "When did the idea for the walk between the Twin Towers come to you?"

    "In 1968 I was 18 years old and I saw an article about those towers. There was a photo of a model, and the article said that they would be built one day, and they would be the finest in the world. And here I was, a completely new self-taught wire walker, and I thought, "What a fabulous thing to transform the top of those towers to a theater for one morning." And that's how the idea came." -- Gothamist.

    "Now, the towers are gone... But in memory, as if imprinted on the sky, the towers are still there " -- The Man Who Walked Between the Towers 

    Saturday, September 10, 2011

    BarCamp Nashville 2011: Mountain Climbing and Porch Sitting

    So, this is your first BarCamp? Excellent. Let me show you around.

    BarCamp Nashville's version of the franchise is way bigger and more organized than the just-show-up-and-talk BarCamps of the pure original vision, but not yet a trade show with shiny booths and shinier suits. It's something inbetween.

    And that seems to be the right thing, right place, right time.

    The scheduled sessions go all day, and there are several scheduled in each time slot. If you want to speak, post a pitch by Sept. 18. (Do it! Do it!)

    Please note: There's always drama around getting a speaking slot. The organizers are loath to simply choose (that's not how BarCamp works, say the purists), so there is annual tinkering with the process. This year, a lottery system is in place, emphasizing randomness. My .02 is that the process should combine crowdsourced voting for pitches (60 percent) and committee selection (40 percent). /soapbox.

    There's also space for side discussions in the Impromptu Rooms that are there for the taking. If you don't get a slot, you can hold a session of your own on a topic of your choice; just show up. (That's the true spirit of BarCamp, say the purists).

    How do you choose how to spend your time when you're there? Here's my advice:

    • Spend one-third of your time at sessions on topics you are familiar with. 
      You will experience both:
      (a) reassurance that you know more than the speaker, and
      (b) awe at the speaker's deeper knowledge

    • Spend one-third of your time at sessions completely over your head and out of your lane. You will have the stretching sensation of being a traveler unschooled in the local language. This will be good for you.

    • Split the remaining time between sessions put on by your friends, and shameless networking. Bring cards, chocolates, and mints.

    • Buy the meal plan, eat a nice lunch; maybe take a nap during the first afternoon session.

    • Also, the bar opens early (11ish?), and the lines get longer as it gets later.

    By the time the afterparty starts, you will have climbed mountains, done some porch sitting, and be ready for the night out.

    Follow: @Barcampnash
    Fan: Facebook

    Next stop on the BarCamp Nashville blog tour: Cal Evans.

    P.S. The crew is still accepting volunteers, especially for day-of-event help. Sign up, and you will get a t-shirt and street cred. The event also accepts sponsors.

    Do you want to go to there? http://www.barcampnashville.org/bcn11

    Friday, September 9, 2011

    Identity and the Social Platforms that Will Own the Future

    The conversations around required unity of identity online keep continuing; but to me it's this clear and simple: You can have as many email addresses as you want, and you use them as you want them; why should social network personas/identities be any different?

    When you send a message from your work email, you speak in one voice; when you text from your phone, you speak in another.

    Online communities should be no different in terms of audience and participation and voice.

    Fred Wilson put up a particularly smart post on the topic, with a fiery discussion: Following Facebook Down the Wrong Path. The sharp, funny commenters who post pseudonomysly on his blog prove the value of identities that are contextual to their online communities.

    Yes, forums that breed trolls are bad, but that's a separate issue, and not one that insisting on real names on Facebook or Google+ will cure. Moderators, active commenters who vote people up or down, the banhammer: there are many ways to deal with trolls beyond forcing users to wear one identity across all of time and space.

    My prediction: the future of social media will be won by platforms that allow people to establish many identities, to wear as they please.

    The social platforms that will own the future will:

    (1) Create better  communities: more people will speak more freely in more voices in more places.

    (2) Make the market for monetizing social speech bigger, because the speech and the communities will be better.

    Cory Doctorow lays out the single identity issue as just an us vs. them thing:

    "The first duty of social software is to improve its users' social experience. Facebook's longstanding demand that its users should only have one identity is either a toweringly arrogant willingness to harm people's social experience in service to doctrine; or it is a miniature figleaf covering a huge, throbbing passion for making it easier to sell our identities to advertisers.

    Google has adopted the Facebook doctrine at the very moment in which the figleaf slipped, when people all over the world are noticing that remaking ancient patterns of social interaction to conform to advertising-driven dogma exposes you to everything from humiliation at school to torture in the cells of a Middle Eastern despot. There could be no stupider moment for Google to subscribe to the gospel of Zuckerberg, and there is no better time for Google to show us an alternative."

    I think this is exactly correct: On the internet, when you create an identity in a community, nobody knows you're a dog, or a mermaid, or a robot dinosaur, or a mom, or ... anything beyond the knowledge you drop and the interactions you share.

    People/identities who add value will be leaders/contributors in a community; people who don't will not be.

    It matters little to a community if a contributor's name is Lady Gaga, Madonna, Grimlock, or Marie, Queen of Romania; what matters is the contributions.

    O, Tumblr, Orly?

    This is such a rude and inconsiderate message in what is an otherwise smooth signup process for Tumblr:

    My URL is too long for you?

    You can't handle more than 32 characters?

    O, Tumblr.

    Thursday, September 8, 2011

    remembering 911

    a photo from the union square park memorials that appeared in the days after 911: flowers everywhere, and signs calling for peace

    Thursday, September 1, 2011

    From Wireframes to Beta: Failing, Winning and Launching, Often

    Wireframes. Prototypes. Mockups: Sometimes they succeed, sometimes they fail.

    The more quickly you get through the fails, learn, and fix them, the more quickly you can succeed.

    Here's how.

    Today, right now, do a sketch: in Omnigraffle, on a whiteboard, with a pencil, with Balsamiq, Mockingbird ... it doesn't matter.

    It doesn't have to be the whole site, app, or tool -- start with just a piece of it.
    Dive into the middle and swim back to the surface. You are expected to argue with yourself while you are doing this.

    Show this low fidelity wireframe to people; get comments and feedback. See where it succeeds, see where it fails.

    Refine it. Or go back to the beginning, and start over.


    Now you have a higher fidelity wireframe.

    Show this to more people: get comments, refine, repeat.

    You're moving toward a prototype.

    Now, start adding actual content to sub for lorem ipsum, or bring in a content writer (I do content strategy and writing, so I do this part myself); start doing visual design, or bring in a colleague (I reach out for help here).

    You're moving from prototype to mockup.

    Show people, refine, repeat a few times with this approach.

    Whoa, you're ready for beta.

    Now, do another.

    Monday, August 29, 2011

    The Best Space Toy Ever Made, Before Paradigms Shifted

    Past visions of the future reveal more about the moment than they predict about tomorrow.

    This vintage space toy, for broadcasting TV from far, far away, reveals so much about the technologies and the hopes of its time, while solving the wrong problem:

      • Issue: Space travelers will need broadcast TV

      • Wrong Solution: Imagining a space tractor, with space treads, to haul around a mid-20th-century television studio setup.

      • Better Approach / Paradigm Shift / Poking the Box: Instead of figuring out how to haul around something really heavy, why not invent something lighter?

      Metaphor for innovators: Are you still imagining a space tractor, or are you thinking about how to shift away from that big heavy thing to something portable?

      Exit Strategy UX

      So, I thought it was pretty well established that EXIT signs (in the US) use red capital letters, sans serif font.

      Apparently not.

      If you search for "exit sign," the Google returns "About 16,500,000 results."

      Narrowing the search to images produces: "About 3,600,000 results." Here's a screenshot from this morning:

      What's your exit strategy?

      Do you communicate your calls to action clearly, in standard and instantly recognizable ways?

      Friday, August 26, 2011

      UX Fail: Error Messaging Hall of Shame -- Three All-Star Entries

      Mistakes happen. They are part of life. When you make one, gracefully apologize as quickly as possible.

      The same goes for UX mistakes. When something goes wrong, you can either:

      a. Politely smooth the experience, with helpful error messages
      b. Make a bad thing worse, with rude and uninformative error messages.

      Here are three all-star entries in the #uxfail #errormessaging #hall of shame. I know you can do better.

      1. In this example, if what they mean is "no support for mobile,"  they should say so -- in plain words. Otherwise, it sounds like they are telling me I need a sub-dermal chip implant:

      2. This error message from Facebook is repetitive and redundant, and says the same thing over again:

      3. In this Facebook glitch, the error message might as well just come out and say, "we are tech geeks and you are not"

      Thursday, August 25, 2011

      Word Crimes Against UX: Puffery, and Bloviation

      The Upscale Shopping Mall has two floors, and it has an elevator.

      Should the buttons say 1 and 2?

      You would think so.

      But they say ★LL and UL, as shown here:

      Elevator interface at the Upscale Shopping Mall

      LL (for lower level?) and UL (for upper level?) are the opposite of an empathetic, clear and simple UX that is helpful for users.

      The puffery and bloviation inherent in these labels are word crimes. Such language is bad enough in a rental agent's pitch -- "Put your store on the Upper Level, where the other expensive stores are, and the lease costs double!" -- and worse in an interface.

      Crimes against language are word crimes against users.

      Machines Should Be Quiet, Unless It's Something Urgent

      The new microwave does its job well enough. It reheats coffee. It cooks frozen cha siu baau and dumplings quickly and conveniently.

      But its personality needs work.


      Unless it's a smoke detector, or an alarm clock with a snooze button, one round of beeping, followed by a reminder, is all the noise I need.

      UX: Why Apple Won't Allow Flash on iAnything

      I missed this when it was posted, but here it is now

      Thoughts on Flash: Steve Jobs, April, 2010

      "We know from painful experience that letting a third party layer of software come between the platform and the developer ultimately results in sub-standard apps and hinders the enhancement and progress of the platform. If developers grow dependent on third party development libraries and tools, they can only take advantage of platform enhancements if and when the third party chooses to adopt the new features. We cannot be at the mercy of a third party deciding if and when they will make our enhancements available to our developers."

      That also pretty much covers Silverlight, SharePoint ...

      Typing on my MacBook Pro and Talking on my iPhone: UX of Apple

      In order of remembrance and thanks:

      • Every day that I don't have to use a machine with a Microsoft OS.

      • Rip. Mix. Burn: There was a building-high ad along the West Side Highway, on your left, heading south, just before the World Trade Center came into view.

      • Tek-Serve

      • The rubberized "Batman" laptop that everyone had in the first Silicon Alley boom. Its hotness cannot be exaggerated. Mine is still in the house, someplace.

      • The original iMac (Mine was blue.)

      • The commencement speech at Stanford.




      • A lot of times, people don’t know what they want until you show it to them.

      • Design is a funny word. Some people think design means how it looks. But of course, if you dig deeper, it’s really how it works

      • "The only problem with Microsoft is they just have no taste. They have absolutely no taste. And I don’t mean that in a small way, I mean that in a big way, in the sense that they don’t think of original ideas, and they don’t bring much culture into their products."

      • “Do you want to spend the rest of your life selling sugared water or do you want a chance to change the world?

      Facebook UX: Thank You, Google+

      "Profile and post controls have been moved from the settings page and placed on an inline menu, so you can quickly change who can see your details and who can read your posts. You can also change your mind about who can read a status update after you’ve posted it, which wasn’t possible before." -- via PSFK

      Facebook is improving the user experience by making its privacy controls easier to use: they are surfacing the menu, and allowing privacy edits to posts.

      Would this have happened without Google+?

      Monday, August 22, 2011

      The Original Astro Boy: Mighty Atom

      I use the black and white image of the original Astro Boy as my online avatar because when I was growing up, the imagined future had the cheerful optimism that after the unambiguously virtuous hero is tested, she wins.

      There was also the belief that while technology can be used for good or for evil, the people using it for good would defeat the people using it for evil.

      "IN THE YEAR 2000..." Thus began many episodes of ASTROBOY, the first Japanese animated TV series to reach the American market.

      Today, the future is more complicated. Climate change is a greater threat than the cold war, but green technology has no funding equivalent to the Apollo program. Space dollars from the government built the foundation for the computer industry (and the internet) -- what changes could come from making green technology and green jobs as urgent?

      Meanwhile, technology does give us many paths back to the future:

      -- Flying cars are a decade overdue, but the idea is an anachronistic extension of current transportation paradigms, and not nearly as cool as pod cars that you take and leave.

      -- YouTube has the black and white intro for the first English language version of the Astro Boy TV series, featuring the unforgettable theme song.

      -- YouTube also has a home video of the Astro Boy theme song playing as the outro for trains leaving Takadanobaba Station (I want to go to there).

      -- Wikipedia has a long Astro Boy and a profile of its creator, Osamu Tezuka.

      21st century technology also offers ways to purchase memories:

      -- Amazon.com has the full original Astro Boy black and white box set on DVD
      -- eBay has old and new Astro Boy collectibles
      -- iTunes has a bunch of more recent stuff

      And the 1960's B&W Series: Opening Credits are, of course, online:

      There you go, Astro Boy,
      On your flight into space
      Rocket high, through the sky
      For adventures soon you will face!

      Astro Boy bombs away,
      On your mission today,
      Here's the countdown,
      And the blastoff,
      Everything is go Astro Boy!

      Astro Boy, as you fly,
      Strange new worlds you will spy,
      Atom celled, jet propelled,
      Fighting monsters high in the sky!

      Astro Boy, there you go,
      Will you find friend or foe?
      Cosmic Ranger, laugh at danger,
      Everything is go Astro Boy!

      Crowds will cheer you, you're a hero,
      As you go, go, go Astro Boy!


      Friends and Family: Wagon Train to SXSW 2012

      The always remarkable Allison Hemming and The Hired Guns have compiled this friends and family list of people pitching for SXSW 2012.

      It's an impressive group: I learned a lot just reading and voting for these pitches.

      See you in Austin?

      Laurie Kalmanson
      UX Leadership - See, Speak, Share
      Judy McGuire
      Allison Hemming
      Get Engaged: Job Hunt Better Than You Date
      Jen Pugh
      If you're creative, why does your portfolio suck?

      Ramona Pringle
      Avatar Relationships & Real Life Success
      David Alexander
      Let the film find you

      Jordan Burchette
      Eat Shit Sleep: Enlightenment Through Unemployment
      Tom Chernaik
      Marketing Responsibly In 140 Characters or Less
      Meryl Cooper
      Jessica Kleiman
      The Fame Game: Get Recognized & Rewarded at Work
      Lisa Dickens
      Sheryl Victor
      8 Tips To Help Explain Digital to Normals
      Phil Gilman
      Leading Strategy & Creative in a 365 World
      Jeff Gothelf
      Demystifying design: fewer secrets, bigger impacts
      Allison Hemming
      Manage With Care: Employees Are Your New Clients 
      Todd Henry
      How To Be Brilliant At a Moment's Notice
      Rachel Kramer Bussell
      Dating and Privacy Online Post-Weinergate

      Inna Kurbatsky
      Four Simple Steps to Launching An Online Movement
      Brandon Lee
      Social Networking: Giving Cancer Patients a Voice
      Bryce Longton
      Panel: DIY Flashsale (Create & Concept One)
      Jenine Lurie
      Urban Intelligence: Messages from a Smart City
      Erica Reitman
      Brooklyn the Brand: How The Internet Made BK Famous
      Noah ScalinGet Unstuck: Creative Inspiration from Skull-A-Day
      Larry Smith
      Marshalling Your Army of Interns
      Matt Smith
      Panel: Complicating Products Is Easy, Simpliflying is Hard

      Nichelle Stephens

      Major Laser Focus: From Dilettantes To Polymaths
      Beth Temple
      How to Thrive in the Attention Deficit Economy

      Friday, August 19, 2011

      Three by Three, They Came

      Why the WordPress Three-Column Layout Became the Web Standard, Until It Wasn’t Anymore -- A Discussion of User Experience Evolution and the Adoption Curve in Pattern Libraries, Interaction Design, Visual Cues and Calls to Action, with References to The Wayback Machine, Popular Culture, and Art


      Changes in the pattern libraries, interaction designs, visual cues and calls to action of web sites, mobile tools and online applications come in waves, and they follow the typical adoption cycle: bleeding edge, everywhere, over.

      While we don’t always have a working theory of where these changes are going, --  just the knowledge that change is the only constant --  the law of evolution is:

      (a) observable in action and

      (b) enforced by the market.

      Figure 1: The Technology Adoption Lifecycle, as it Applies to Anything that Plugs In or Has a Battery, plus Popular Culture and Art*

      * The version of the adoption lifecycle referenced here is from Crossing the Chasm.
      This custom illustration is from Wikipedia. 
      The adoption curve concept also applies recursively to the adoption curve.

      The Present and the Recent Past

      Here are three examples of  user experience evolution in full effect: adaptations in pattern libraries, interaction designs, visual cues and calls to action that appeared in a few places, spread, and are already fading out of coolness into ubiquity: 
      1. Three-column webpage designs: Totally new at first, these clean and simple slabs of content and color upended overly art-directed sites. But now they’re as prevalent as daisies; they’re everywhere.   
      Prediction: Something else is coming soon. 

      2. AJAX/jQuery Action Bars and Plugins: Functional and sleek, these tools do so much that used to be handcoded or impossible.  
      Prediction: They’re here for a while, until they aren’t.  

      3. My Account / Login / Sign Up: Typically tucked into the top right corner, the utility nav area has been around for long enough for an overhaul.
      Speculation: Something will replace it in the future. What will it be?
      Compare and Contrast: The Present vs. the Ancient Past (in Internet Years)

      Using the upper righthand corner of websites for account management tools is typical today, but it wasn’t always thus. In the beginning, these functions barely existed.
      Q. How did the toplevel utility nav come to be the way we expect to see it today?
      A. Like most things -- slowly, then all at once.
      On the Amazon.com homepage from 1998,  “Buy Books” was a category, and “Shopping Cart” and “Checkout” were subcategories:

      Figure 3: Amazon.com, Earth’s biggest bookstore: July 1, 1998 
      (via The Wayback Machine.)

      Today, the old interaction metaphors Amazon used feel like the website equivalent of maps from the "here be dragons" era of cartography, but without the cool drawings.

      The Future is Already Here — Just Not Evenly Distributed

      Websites, online tools and mobile apps of a given time and place go through periods of change and equilibrium:
      1. They look and work the same

      2. They differentiate

      3. They start looking the same again.
      This cycle of user experience evolution follows the older adoption curves of popular culture and art:
      1. Styles and schools are invented

      2. Defenders of the status quo cling to the old thing

      3. The new thing becomes standard, and upstarts differentiate.

      The law of evolution doesn’t predict how things will change: just that they will.

      Love songs are examples of popular culture calls to action, and here are two examples of how they have changed across four centuries:
      Had we but world enough and time” Andrew Marvel, 17th Century
      Online, the ways we create engaging user experiences have already changed at least this much, in much less time.

      What will happen tomorrow? 
      I can't take credit for discovering the evolution of online user experience, but if I wanted to name it Laurie’s Law, and say it was discovered by you, that would be an appropriate example of Stigler's law of eponymy. *

      *Stigler's law of eponymy is a process proposed by University of Chicago statistics professor Stephen Stigler in his 1980 publication "Stigler’s law of eponymy".  In its simplest and strongest form it says: "No scientific discovery is named after its original discoverer." Stigler named the sociologist Robert K. Merton as the discoverer of "Stigler's law",  consciously making "Stigler's law" exemplify Stigler's law.