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