Brad Nunnally

Brad has been practicing the craft of User Experience for the past 4 years. During that time he has helped clients in the financial, health care management, public utilities, and pharmaceutical management industries. He's provided them with deep insight into their customers and users, and designed engaging experiences that were catered directly for their customers and users. As a Senior User Experience Consultant at Perficient, he's performed a variety of UX activities that allows him to build an empathic link to a variety of people that directly informs the designs he creates. These activities cover the full spectrum of research, modeling, design, and testing. Brad's passion in User Experience Design is centered around the modeling of data gained from user research and the creation of interactive prototypes and wireframes. He's mentored and presented on these two aspects of User Experience Design to people around St. Louis, MO and across the country.

Posts by this author: RSS

Abstracting the UI Layer

Last month at the IBM Digital Experience Conference, Shyam Sunter, a Perficient Technical Solution Architect, and I presented on a method for abstracting the user interface code (HTML, CSS, and JavaScript) out of WebSphere Portal. A key part of this presentation was going over why this abstraction was important.. It’s of my opinion, that abstracting the UI code out any platform, be it WebSphere Portal, Sharepoint, SiteCore, what have you, is vital for building modern, cross channel digital experiences. Supporting an abstracted UI layer is a common practice for many digital platforms, especially in the start up space. It’s time that the enterprise world starts to consider adopting this practice as digital solutions become more pervasive and complex.


Diagram showing the various layers that make up a user's digital experience.

Elements of User Experience


For a long time now, User Experience professionals have been working in a world of abstracted layers. This is best illustrated by Jesse James Garret’s famous 2010 diagram of the Elements of User Experience. Even when the web was simply made up of two layers, structure and style, designers used these abstracted layers to map out the overall structure, information design, behavioral touchpoints, and visual design elements of a given solution. As the web matured and additional technical layers were added, such as behavior, content, and contextual awareness, these layers became more important for us to work through and support. Modern digital solutions, such as Disney’s My Disney Experience, Airbnb, Uber, and many many more, are ones built on top of these abstracted layers so that their overall solution is more scalable and maintainable.

Modern Web Architecture

Several other benefits manifest themselves as well, including:

  • Design teams being given ownership and control over the development and deployment of the user interface layer. Design is naturally an iterative process, which involves creating and testing various solutions to a given problem. Having control over the UI layer, gives design teams the freedom and flexibility to try out new solutions and to simply “play” with the overall design.
  • Publishing UI code more frequently. With the control of the UI layer living in the hands of the design team, code can be pushed out more “real time”. This doesn’t always mean to the production environment, but users and stakeholders are able to touch, feel, and play with a new design quicker and in a realistic environment.
  • Easier to support cross channel solutions. It isn’t news that the days of people being chained to a desktop computer and chair are over. But, the new world of multiple digital devices and varying resolution sizes is a still new, and it’s really complex. By supporting a stand-alone UI layer, it’s easier to contextual deliver the right design for the right environment.
  • Proper support for accessibility standards. Accessibility doesn’t just apply to UI code, but a good chunk of it does. If you don’t have a backend platform interjecting its own code or compiling code that a UI developer has written, many accessibility issues can be addressed in a more streamlined fashion.


Ultimately why does having an abstracted UI layer matter though? Because there is no such thing as just having a website or just having an app anymore. It’s about providing a digital service that people can interact with, play with, and enjoy at any time from any device. Many things go into ensuring that the resulting experience is a pleasing one, but taking the time to build a UI layer that isn’t, at least fully, dependent on a backend platform is one of the key methods for properly serving people who use your digital solution.

SxSW Day 3 – Behavior Change as Value Proposition

At the end of the third day of SxSW, I sat in on a session about Behavior Change and how design can use that as a value proposition. Chris Risdon, of Adaptive Path, was the speaker, and it was great to sit in on this topic again and see how much it’s matured since the last time I got to see Chris present on it. The market today is becoming filled with products and services that are designed to not only track and monitor our behavior, but provide insight into how we might change that behavior for the better. Chris covered many of the concepts and principles behind this new breed of products during his talk.

Below are the notes I took during the session, please note it is mostly a stream of consciousness so please forgive any spelling or grammer mistakes.


SxSW Day 3 – The Best Interface is No Interface

The third day of SxSW started off with a provocative session given by Golden Krishna (website) on the concept of No UI and the invisible interface. On the surface, I really enjoyed the presentation and the material that Golden covered, but I didn’t “fall in love” with his argument as many others did. In fact, since the presentation several blog posts have been written that argue against the concept of No UI which aligns to my way of thinking.

Scott Berkun –

Timo  Arnall –

Below are my notes from the session, please notes taken with my handy iPad mini and Evernote. (more…)

SxSW Day 2 – From Muppets to Mastery

Following a wonderful experience working with upcoming SxSW speakers during the Tweak Your Talk workshop, Russ Unger delivered his presentation on the life of Jim Henson and the lessons UX Designers can learn from him. I’ve personally been able to see the evolution of this talk of the years and it was great to see it presented on the big stage at SxSW. The highlight of the talk was ~1000 people singing along to Rainbow Connection. Below are my thoughts and notes from the session. (These notes are simply my stream of consciousness from the session, so I apologize in advance for any sloppiness. :D)


SxSW Day 1 – The Mechanics of Magic (Game Design Theory)

The first day of SxSW kicked off in great fashion by attending Christina Wodtke‘s (Twitter) session on Game Design and the 7 key lessons that come from game design and game designers. Christina did an amazing job of looking at the practice and craft of game design and applying it not only the design process but looking at common sites we use and showing the gaming components that are present. Below are all my notes and photos from the session that act as a stream of consciousness from the session. This talk was recorded and I highly recommend tracking it down once it gets published (sorry the link just isn’t available at this time.)


Power of a Sketch

The story of how Southwest Airlines was founded is one of my favorite stories to share about the power of a sketch. If you are not familiar, take a moment to hop over to Dan Roam‘s blog post Southwest Airlines keeps up the napkin spirit…I’ll wait because I trust you’ll return. Back….good. Dan Roam refers to this story as a great example of problem solving, and that’s just what sketching is. Sketching is a standard part of my design process, and it’s an activity that happens at various stages of any Perficient XD project. Something I hear from others when I ask them if they can sketch out an idea, or ask to see their sketches, is “I can’t sketch…” This commonly happens when people equate sketching with drawing, or illustration. The ability to illustrate is very different from being able to sketch out an idea.

Getting Comfortable With Sketching

The first thing I show people that show a hesitation towards sketching is the sketchers toolkit. This is a series of simple shapes that can can be used in a sketch to visually express the an idea, like a user interface. Dan Roam, in his book Back of the Napkin, going into more detail about the type of shapes you can use and the purpose of those sketches to express a variety of ideas. For the purposes of this post, I’ll be focusing on sketching out a user interface though. Using the shapes shown below, you can quickly sketch out a layout and various features that you think may belong on a given interface.

  • Line – Line of text or if combined with a triangle an arrow
  • Circle – Icon place holder or button
  • Square – Content area, call to action, or even an image placeholder
  • Rectangle – Tab, content area, or image placeholder
  • Weighted Line – Heading or line of separation

Sketch Toolkit - Line, Circles, Squares, Triangles

Using Sketches To Drive Design Concepts

There are a number of design activities that can be performed in a group setting that will both encourage other smart people to share their ideas for a solution but also bring up great conversation about design direction, desired functionality, and content requirements. One that is used often at the beginning of our projects is a design studio. During a design studio, a group of stakeholders from different departments are asked to sketch out a series of design concepts to meet a defined scenario that typical users would find themselves in. Once these sketches have been produced, members of the design studio present their ideas and collect critique from their peers. This critique is used to refine the design ideas and spurn conversation around the possibilities and constraints of the solution.

Sketching Before Wireframing

Another area sketching shines is prior to the production of wireframes, or interactive prototypes. I firmly believe that once you sit down with any kind of design tool, you begin to limit your thinking to the design patterns that are present within the design tool. Sketching prior to using a design tool frees you and your mind up explore ideas that may not be supported by the widget library available to you. You don’t fall into the trap of filtering out ideas in your head rather than on paper and with your peers. An idea that may not sound all great in your head might be what another designer or peer needs to produce their own concept that will push the solution to the next level.

There are a variety of paper template or sketch pads that facilitate the sketching phase of a design

If you haven’t incorporated sketching into your design process yet, give it a try. Don’t be discouraged if your first couple of attempts aren’t the greatest. Also, don’t try to make a piece of art. The goal of sketching is to communicate an idea, if you are able to do that (regardless if the idea was good or not) than you have created a successful sketch. Good luck sketching!

Lessons on XD from Photography

Over the last couple of years I’ve really enjoyed learning the ins and outs of photography. It has been the creative outlet that I needed that is similar enough to user experience design, but different enough that it doesn’t feel like work. Now that I’ve been shooting for awhile now, I’m finding that many of the habits I have when practicing ux design are starting to carry over into my photography. The hook between the two lies in the attention of detail, a specific moment in time and properly serving the subject being photographed. The importance of these three concepts is the same in photography and in user experience design.

Attention of Detail

The ability to point out the minor flaws of an object or interface is curse for every designer. Personally, nothing drives me more batty now then seeing a UI widget be a pixel off from its intended alignment with other UI widgets. The curse exists in the world of photography. Nothing distracts more from a photo than an out of place object. This could someone accidentally, or intentionally, photobombing the subject, or simply a power line spanning the width of the scene. Getting the details of an experience, be it interactive or visual, wrong disrupts the user and takes away from overall engagement. Being asked to take photos for a friends family or going out on a photo walk has helped increase my attention. This experience naturally translate to the work I do at Perficient XD and makes the work I produce for my clients better.

Austin Skyline

Being In The Moment

When you use an application, website, or product there are certain magical moments that will either hook you into the experience or drive you away. The same magical moments exist when you are photographing a subject. I’ve read a lot about the best way to take photos of a sunset or sunrise. The one piece of advice that is consistent across photographers is find the scene you want to shot and wait. Wait for that moment when the light is perfect, then hit your shutter release. Once you’ve captured that “perfect” moment, wait 5 or 10 minutes and take the photo again. In just that short span of time, you will have a set of photos that tell different stories and convey a different mood. The core of this advice can best be applied to registration and up selling your customers. The span of time to ask and convince someone to sign up for your site or to buy additional products happens during “magical” moments while the person is using your site. Asking too soon or too late means you failed to convert that user or that you missed out on additional revenue. Be patient, wait for the moment that will really “Wow!” someone.


Corvette Redesign Revealed

The video highlighting the new design of the Chevrolet Corvette has been revealed, and it’s mighty impressive. What’s more impressive about the video is all the passion, creative thought and desire for greatest that is expressed by the designers of the new model is the very same thing that drives us as Experience Designers. As I was watching the video below, one thought hit me pretty hard. Why is it a given that so much time, effort and craftsmanship given towards the design of a car, but the same amount of time, effort and craftsmanship isn’t always applied to the digital world.

The process followed by many Experience Designers isn’t all the different from the design process shown in the reveal. We start off with a desire to learn and understand, then we move on to creating a vision and making sure that vision works. Finally, we put the final touches on our digital darlings to ensure they are set up for success.

Take the time to watch this short 3 minute video, and notice the emphasis on detail and collaboration. This is the level of craftsmanship that we strive for when designing for the digital space.

Finding Inspiration

Inspiration sometimes sneaks up on you. That’s what happened to me when I took my son to see Wreck-It Ralph, and prior to the movie the Disney Short “Paperman” was shown. I cannot properly expresses how amazing the creative genius of this short is, and it’s great to see that it was recently nominated for an Emmy. The emotions that hit me when I watch “Paperman” range from pure joy to complete disappointment. Please take 6 minutes out of your day and watch the video below, I promise you it will leave you inspired and give you a desire to do greater, more creative work in the future.

We want our users to use….

This statement comes up a lot during the initial phases of a design project. On the outside I nod my head, note down the feature or interaction that is being described, but on the inside I’m wondering, “Does your user want to do that?” Frankly, the question I’m thinking about is way more interesting than the feature being described. What people WANT to do is typically the thing that leads to a project’s success and an engaging user experience, rather that being offered features that someone thinks they want to be doing.

So how do we find out what people want to be doing with a certain site, app, or product? It’s simple, you talk to them…scary I know. My friend and co-author Russ Unger recently gave a presentation at UX Thursday in Chicago where he provided attendees with a great overview of user research and how to get started. Below are his slides for the talk and I highly recommend looking them over. After you’ve digested the wisdom presented there, start to think about how you can find, or make, the time to talk with users on a regular basis and begin to hone your site, app, or product to better align with your users needs.