Archive for the ‘Design’ Category

I’m Giving Thanks for these 5 Content Resources

5 Content Resources to be thankful for

The weather is getting colder, the days are getting shorter, and it’s once again time to give thanks for all things, large and small, that enhance our lives. As a content strategist and copywriter, I am always thinking about how to make content more useful and engaging. That’s why I’m thankful for the following 5 sites that provide guidance, tips, and tools as well as thought leadership I find myself referencing again and again.

  1. UX Magazine explores every facet of user experience. Articles about the psychological impact of transactions and human interaction live comfortably next to technical documentation tips and a review of social engagement flaws. You may not read every article, but if you’re working in UX you’re sure to find something interesting and informative here.
  2. Readability Score is a fantastic resource for testing content to ensure you’re providing a level of reading clarity, ease of comprehension, and depth that aligns with your readers. Different audiences have different readability needs. This site helps you quickly assess content by both difficulty and grade level according to the Flesch-Kincaid scale and other measurements.
  3. Grammar Girl Mignon Fogarty, the founder and managing director of “Quick and Dirty Tips,” is my go-to source for plain language clarification when I have a question on word use or grammar. She clearly believes that learning should be fun and provides her tips and education in short, easy-to-follow posts chock full of humorous anecdotes, real examples, and clever memory tips.
  4. The Moz Blog is a collection of optimization focused blogs and tools to help writers ensure their content is findable, an important consideration for any type of content that lives in the digital universe. Practical tools, like the Title Tag Preview tool, help authors and content managers improve the effectiveness of on- and off-page content.
  5. A List Apart is one of my frequently referenced bookmarks because of the depth and breadth of information on design for a multi-device world. Looking to understand the most important considerations for Responsive Web Design? Check out the latest blog from Ethan Marcotte. Want to get inspired for your next Content Workshop? Make sure you read Karen McGrane’s post on “Rolling Out Responsive.”

If you like this list, check out my coworker Olivia Saldano’s favorite design resources.

What websites and resources are you most thankful for in your work? Please share them in the comments below; I’m always interested in finding new favorites and useful resources.

Happy Thanksgiving!

Posted in Content, Creative, Design, News

5 Design Resources To Be Thankful For


It’s that time a year again, the time where we focus on all that we are thankful for in our lives. That may be our family and friends, or more simple things like a good night’s sleep. This year, I’m especially thankful for the following 5 design resources, in no particular order because I’m equally thankful for all:

  1. Webdesigner News curates all the latest and most important design news for you. I subscribe to their daily emails, so that I can stay on top of what is going on in the industry, anything from news to case studies, inspiration, you name it and its there.
  2. Webdesigner Depot is the place to find articles on the latest tools, deals and new tools. They also do a monthly article called What’s New For Designers, which I find really helpful to see what new resources and cool tools are out there.
  3. showcases the best design videos and allows you to filter through by either category or by length. It’s great for inspiration and learning about a certain topic.
  4. UI Patterns has a library of UI patterns backed by explanations and user votes as to if they liked that item or not. It has come in handy when I find myself getting stuck trying to solve a problem.
  5. UI Movement is a great way to get daily or weekly design inspiration to your email. It includes the actual interaction of interfaces, which helps spark big ideas.

I would love to hear what resources others find helpful and maybe we can introduce each other to something new.

Happy Thanksgiving!


Posted in Design, Education, Trends

User Experience Debt: How and Why? (Part 1)

shutterstock_289434728_350As a user experience designer, I used to think that the worst designed websites were the best candidates for improvement. Symptoms of user experience debt may sound familiar to you – confusing navigation, excess clicks, accessibility violations, and painful load times. I applied to jobs thinking the larger the UX debt, the greater the opportunity. Perversely, however, the opposite is true.

Why? Because a good site already has the resources – money, labor, and knowledge capital – to improve. A bad site doesn’t.

We may be seduced to believe otherwise when so many elements of web design are free. Responsive frameworks like Bootstrap? Free. jQuery libraries? Free. Stock photography? Free. So it should cost little to transform a bad website into a fully responsive, whizzy experience.

Unfortunately UX debt can’t always be paid with free templates, or extra people or refactored code. This is because UX debt represents more than a lack of resources. It represents the existence of exacerbating conditions. Some examples:

Lack of executive support. Rightly or wrongly, organization leaders may prioritize other activities (e.g., developing new functions) over user experience. You can’t improve UX simply by hiring more designers. The decision-makers in your organization are still there!

Hero mentality. Some designers want recognition as creative geniuses, and tackle every project with visual brainstorming. However, standard UX processes today – including research, usability testing, analytics and multivariate testing – are all about user data and iteration. Brainstorming is an activity, not a strategy. Your designers may be actively generating UX debt by focusing on artistry instead of usability.

Overdesign. Often a design doesn’t lack resources. On the contrary, it may suffer from excess people and ideas. A common scenario is a new feature that could potentially work like X or Y. Stakeholders disagree, then compromise by making X and Y a user setting. The final settings menu has 67 items that’s impossible to navigate. Bigger is not always better. Good design has boundaries. You can actually incur UX debt through addition, not subtraction. Read the rest of this post »

The dangers of listening to customers too closely

Part 1 of 2

How do you excite the imagination of your team to devise new ways of solving design problems, to create new ideas and better user experiences? Where do you start? Design firms, and those invested in design thinking and innovation, start by asking customers what they want. I’ll be the first to admit that I relish talking to customers, getting inside their heads to the point where I can “see” their needs and aspirations (i.e., empathy). But user research can be problematic if it’s not handled right. When firms expect customers to know what they want, and have accurate insight into how to solve their own problems, they are in for a surprise because customers are often unable to express what they want if they are even good at identifying it. Without a doubt, customers know what rubs them the wrong way and what brings them delight. However, customers are mostly clueless about how to come up with solutions to fix their issues. In some cases, lead users (e.g., die-hard, I’m never leaving this brand, customers) are able to express what they want due to their extensive and intimate experience with a brand, but that’s not typical.

Rev-up your firm's imagination, ask customers about outcomes.

Rev-up your firm’s imagination, ask customers about outcomes.

How do we resolve this challenge? If you want to release, say a blockbuster app, “Stop asking customers what they want. Start asking what they want your products to do for them,” advises Anthony W. Ulwick, CEO of Strategyn, a consulting firm based in San Francisco, and frequent contributor to Harvard Business Review. As a researcher, it’s tempting to give serious consideration to the solutions that customers suggest, but it’s imperative to distinguish between outcomes and solutions. Why? Read the rest of this post »

Part 2 – What to do about “the too familiar persona?”

Read part 1: The too familiar persona

The all too familiar persona

I imagine we’ve all used Cooper’s personas to routinely “engage the empathy of the design and development toward the human target of the design.” Nothing wrong in using goal directed personas, however one user profile model isn’t the best fit for every brand or its users’ motivations and unmet needs. So if we are going to hinge a design’s behavior on a handful of personas they better be the ‘right’ ones. As Dr. Lene Nielsen suggests we need to create a vivid and realistic description of fictitious people and treat personas as more than stereotypes. This is the greatest challenge I’ve encountered – to keep personas relevant, fleshed out, authentic, and alive to team members; another challenge, to not see them as an exercise that must be completed to move on with design.

By no coincidence I stumbled upon an article by Laura Klein that shares a similar sentiment. “We can do better. Frankly, most teams can improve their process for creating personas in a lot of ways, but there’s one problem that’s inherent in even decently researched and constructed personas: even the best personas tend to be descriptive, but not predictive.” Klein makes a good point. To recap in my words, I’ve conducted user interviews and constructed some form of a persona, could be proto-personas or goal directed personas, sometimes user profiles. In one case I created a narrative of a user who makes a perfect stand-in for a group of users. I did this for a transportation client and had a blast talking with the young and hip “bus queen.” I’m not making this up; it’s what her NYC friends call her. These are reliable research models, but I wanted to go further so I researched other methods to extend persona’s shelf life and include them in the entire design process. Read the rest of this post »

The too familiar persona

Too familiar persona

Design personas are user research models employed in various fields of design. Software design teams have been embracing personas in their work since roughly 1999, following Alan Cooper’s published work on goal-directed personas in his “Asylum” and “About Face” texts. They’ve become a user research staple, and the must-do-method for most of the products and services we design. We love personas and so do our clients; these handy models are visual and enticing, and useful at kick starting conversations between clients and design teams. And, unlike other forms of design research I find we encounter minimal to no resistance including them as a research deliverable. With all that is positive about personas my growing impression is that – dare I say – traditional personas are now a bit overfamiliar through overuse, and this familiarity has certainly clouded my perspective.

This familiarity is problematic.

Clients have trailed behind in understanding personas and how best to use them. At times the meaning and intent of design personas are lost in translation as other parts of organizations use them to represent such things as market segments. You may have encountered this at one time, “We’ve created personas. Let me check if marketing can send them over.” As a result development teams miss out on much needed behavioral insights. Along with this Dr. David Travis recently noted in his blog that by bringing personas to life we inadvertently turned them into parodies,” enlarged and printed on posters then cemented into a brand’s identity. Also, project constraints such as time and budget limit going beyond “good enough for now” to employ personas in a more meaningful way. Perhaps my experiences with personas are singular, but I must say I have had few opportunities to refresh a brand’s personas once the research phase was completed and signed off. Read the rest of this post »

89,000 employees and “one curious culture”

I was really intrigued when I heard Eric Quint introduce the scale and scope of his job on a Web Conversation by to an audience from 40 countries. We were there to hear the 3M Company’s Chief Design Officer talk about change management. For those who are not familiar with 3M, their products are found in our offices and homes: Post-it notes, Scotch tapes and Filtrete home air filters to name just a few. The #73 firm in the FT Global 500 (June ’15) has 89,000 employees, 5 business groups, 27 divisions, 46 technologies and “one curious culture” according to Quint.

Quint’s job is vast – building and managing 3M’s global multi-disciplinary design teams in innovation and branding. His background before 3M included leading and managing award-winning teams. So when Quint joined 3M in April 2013 he came prepared and ready to introduce change into a giant corporation with design pedigree, highly recognized brands and a culture of successful innovation through design. The heart of his talk was on just that – being a “catalyst of change” in a well-established organization.

The first steps to changing a design culture – “define a direction”

To get started, Quint’s first initiative was to clearly define a direction. Because he came in “with a fresh view” he started making introductions with top executives across the five business groupCuriouss (“BGs”). He learned what he could about the company and culture to create synergy with colleagues as the new head of design. It also demonstrated he had good intent and it started the process of working together with the heads of the five BGs.  Read the rest of this post »

My Thoughts on the First Enterprise UX Conference

I recently attended the first annual Enterprise UX conference. UX professionals of varied backgrounds and areas of specialization, developers, designers, business analysts, content managers, project managers, IT and marketing managers, program managers and more, all gathered to learn how to plan and manage large application development projects. I enjoyed two days of speakers, a full day interactive workshop and a great time of discussion and sharing with colleagues in the enterprise UX space.

The conference presentations were good, especially Kelly Goto’s “Emotion Economy: Ethnography as Corporate Strategy.” She talked about “humanizing technology”, and the importance of balancing data and emotion to inform strategy and design, encouraging us as practitioners to embrace the move from “I think” to “I know”.

Because the area of enterprise UX is relatively new, and this was the first year of the conference, there weren’t we didn’t have many examples shared of successful enterprise projects. Most of the examples shared were consumer projects and only a few case studies were presented that involved enterprise UX. The rest were consumer examples that we were encouraged to consider and adapt to our environments. That was a slight disappointment, because in talking to other attendees, we were really eager to learn vetted methods and processes.

For the first conference though, we got good insights. Most we knew and understood, but it was good to hear others share their experiences, from the smooth to the painful, both successes and failures. Here are my key takeaways:

1. We’re all learning. Many of us left very excited to try new methods as well as perfect the processes we have been working on to find an effective way to manage the UX side our enterprise projects.
2. Creating a shared understanding is key. Enterprise projects can be executed more smoothly when the entire team, from stakeholders to developers, are meaningfully engaged and consistently informed, providing input and insight or clarifying goals and needs at each stage of the project from discovery to development.
3. Design and development team collaboration during a project can save time and build confidence. Waiting to engage key players can minimize a project’s success. Once the work starts, researchers, designers and developers should work together when/if possible. When a designer receives a report from a researcher or a developer receives a “blind” handoff from a designer and they haven’t been involved in the project prior, it takes time to ramp them up and context may be lost, results or designs may be misinterpreted or reworked because of lack of understanding.
4. Failure is expected but keep trying. Presenters and attendees shared stories of failed projects and the not-so-great moments of their enterprise projects. It was helpful to have presenters analyze failures and show how they could have adjusted and improved for a more favorable outcome.

Enterprise UX is emerging. No one has mastered the process. But with conferences like Enterprise UX 2015, we can come together, share information and learn and grow together. That’s exciting.

Posted in Design, Musings, UX

What Does This Icon Mean? The Answer

On Monday I showed you an single icon from NPR One’s website, and I asked you ponder what you might expect to happen if you clicked on that icon, then to post the name you would give the icon in the comments.

It’s friday. So, I’ll make good on my promise to reveal the true meaning of the icon in question.

Read the rest of this post »

What Does This Icon Mean?

In his blog What Happens When You Push the Broccoli Button? Brian Flanagan brought up a great point about iconography.  A few hours later after reading it, I misinterpreted the meaning of an icon on a website. I showed the icon to Claire, a co-worker, who guessed something completely different would happen upon clicking the icon than I did, yet we were both wrong. Inspired by this coincidence, I’d like to know what you think the icon means.

Read the rest of this post »