Captain Obvious I am not.

Captain Obvious I am not. 

It only recently occurred to me that there are two, well-known, UX professionals with nearly identical names. They both contribute frequently to A List Apart and UIE. (For those of you in the industry, you know who I’m talking about.) 

Stephen Hay: is a front-end design and development consultant based in the Netherlands. He is the author of Responsive Design Workflow (Peachpit/New Riders 2013), a contributor to Smashing Book #3, and a frequent speaker. 

Stephanie “Steph” Hay: is a content and UX consultant whose clients include Happy Cog and UIE. 

The New

I’m probably a little late to the party (better late than never), but I wanted to briefly mention the newly unveiled The Beta site came out earlier this spring, generating lots of commentary and speculation about its approach.

Essentially, Virgin America took everything off the home page in order to shift focus to the booking process in a fully responsive website. VA looked at their site analytics about how people use the site and determined that people primarily want to book airline tickets. Book ’em.

The beauty of the new site is its inherent simplicity and the fact that the screen is dedicated to helping the user make one decision or choice at a time. Instead of a website, it feels like a web app. The process is so transparent it more or less fades into the background. home page.
Home screen – desktop
Home screen - mobile
Home screen – mobile


Upon arriving at the homepage, the site uses geolocation to determine my current location and shows me only the destination options available to me based on my location. (Naturally, I can override the current location in case I’m not going to be flying out of Seattle.)

After each selection, the page scrolls down to the next section (number of adults, departure date, arrival date, etc) while the booking information is displayed at the top of the page where the information is locked. The site responds quickly to each choice with a quirky, VA style, easy to read summary of my selection followed by instructions for the next section. Additionally, the top of the screen keeps a running tally of the cost of the tickets.

Screen Shot 2014-07-15 at 1.44.49 PM
Seat selection + traveler info – desktop


Seat selection - mobile
Seat selection – mobile
Traveler info - mobile
Traveler info – mobile


I can easily go “back” by scrolling up the page or using the omnipresent left arrow indicating the previous step.

Inputs and fields are designed for touch with finger tip/finger pad sized dimensions (at a minimum).

An interesting flavor of criticism of the website has been around the functions the site can’t or won’t do. Which reminds me vaguely of the criticism Steve Jobs/Apple got when the first iPad was unveiled. People complained that they couldn’t put Word on it. Which was the point. The iPad wasn’t intended to be a computer. And look where we are now.

Kudos to Virgin America for flipping the industry on its head. I just wish I had somewhere to fly to.

A case of the hiccups

Earlier this week I was creating an online account in order to start a trial for a cloud wireframing prototype tool. The form itself was easy to scan and follow, aesthetically pleasing from a visual standpoint, and was using real-time field validation instead of “on submit.” It was all good until I had to enter, in order, a username and password. Then I encountered an unforeseen hiccup in the validation implementation.

After I entered my first choice for my username, I received the following alert and error messaging. uname3
Nice error message design

So I deleted my first choice and proceeded to type my second choice for my username.uname4
That’s weird. What are the odds

So I deleted my second choice and proceeded to type my third choice for my username.
Did I create an account once and forget? WTH is going on?

And other colorful commentary.

Then realization hit through happenstance of clicking away from the field. The form field didn’t recognize that I was typing in a different username after I had deleted the first. It was “stuck” on the original choice I entered. The field wouldn’t “clear” until I tabbed or clicked away, then entered a new choice for username.

Success! I wasn’t losing my mind. I wonder how many users of the same cloud software tried half a dozen usernames and passwords (yep, same issue) before they gave up or (luckily) figured it out. And/or lost their minds trying.

But, lesson learned. When implementing real-time form-field validation make sure legacy messaging validation, specifically in the case of error messaging, clears appropriately in order to better inform the user. 





Even UX for hoodies matters


I am a hoodie fanatic. My husband can’t stand it and had literally phased me out of them several years ago but then they made a fashion resurgence.

However, I won’t just buy any old hoodie. The details are too important (I’m confident other hoodie freaks can relate). Too thin (as in weight)? Forget it. Not fuzzy enough? See ya. Sleeves not long enough? Buh-bye. It has to maintain the fuzzy, comfy appeal through repeated washings. I go so far as to hang dry to keep the fuzz factor from getting sucked away in the dryer (except to fluff). Even if the hoodie has a design or graphic that is the shizzzzz, if the sum of the parts don’t add up after repeated wear, fail. Honestly, I like my Lululemon Scuba Hoodie, but I don’t LOVE it.

Sounds like someone finally got hoodie design RIGHT.