My (partial) book list

People often ask me what books I refer to while at work. So frequently I just decided to post this list (in no particular order):

  • Universal Principles of Design, Lidwell, Holden and Butler
  • Information Visualization, Colin Ware
  • Information Architecture for the World Wide Web, Rosenfield and Morville (The “Polar Bear” book)
  • Mental Models, Indi Young
  • Designing with the Mind in Mind, Jeff Johnson
  • Defensive Design for the Web, 37 Signals
  • Information Architecture, Christina Wodtke
  • An Introduction to Human-Computer Interaction, Paul Booth
  • Designing Mobile Interfaces, Hoober and Berkman
  • Implementing Responsive Design, Kadlec
  • Observing the User Experience, Kuniavsky

Happy Reading!

Is the Start Button really the key to consumers embracing Windows 8.1?

Users don’t hate change. Users hate change that doesn’t make their life better, but makes them have to relearn everything they knew.

UX bad-ass Christina Wodtke nails it with her take on change and consumers/users/customers and the companies/products they love and hate depending on the update. While Wodtke centers her article, “Users don’t hate change. They hate you.” primarily around the latest iOS from Apple (and rightfully so), the same discussion can easily include Window 8 and undoubtedly the upcoming Windows 8.1.

I’ve never been able to understand the decision to introduce a drastically, mega-huge change to such a widely used and very familiar operating system. I mean, what did Microsoft think was going to happen? They took a UI designed for a mobile context (phone), and dumped it on top of a operating system that 90% of the world uses. Brilliant. Innovative. Modern.

Much has been written and discussed about the OS and the hardware, with most ifnot all notable UX professionals weighing in. Jakob Nielsen summarized,  “Hidden features, reduced discoverability, cognitive overhead from dual environments and reduced power from a single UI window and low information density.” I can’t disagree. When I first started using an RT, it was a constant  running dialogue of “whoa” and not in a good way.

Granted, once you put aside all your iPad or iPod expectations and mental models, and hopefully don’t have to do a lot of back and forth between the two environments (desktop and Start screen)  it’s just about tapping and swiping. But heaven forbid having to use desktop mode. Ever tried to use Desktop mode on a tablet with your finger tip?  Hashtag I can’t hit the target my fingertip is too fat.

The WTH list is a mile long, but the one that crawled to the top of the list was the removal of the almighty Start Button. Never mind consciously removing (crapping on) usability best practices, removing the Start Button was too much change.

From what I’ve seen of the new ads, the Start Button appears to be an icon in the lower left corner of the Desktop mode that when tapped or clicked, opens the Start Menu. I’m assuming that tapping or clicking the Start Icon in the Charms bar will continue to open the Start Menu, as well as tapping on the window icon on the tablet hardware.


So what exactly is this solving? Is this a digital version of a placebo? There’s still no “menu” like in previous versions of the OS prior to 8 (unless you count the Start screen it links to and the horizontal scrolling patchwork quilt information design), but I digress.  Yeah, the Start Button is back, but will it make up for all the other issues that are backsliding user-centered design?

WTF QR CODES dot com

Gotta give a huge shout out to the blog,, for bringing some hilarity to my dreary NW Tuesday. I can’t believe I haven’t come across this gem before. The (lack of) usefulness and usability of some (most? all?) of the QR’s they post are over the top. My personal favorite – any QR code you have to scan while driving. WTF, indeed.

Quote re: RWD

“The most important part of adapting experiences is not the responsive-centric focus on screen size and breakpoints, but making sure functionality and content is similar across every touchpoint. ” — Steven Hoober

See more at: UXMatters

UX Concepts and Practices That We Wish Would Just Go Away!

From the experts at UX Matters dot com, a round-up of UX concepts and practices that defy best practices, and consequently create negative concepts and practices.

One True Way: That there is just one true way to practice user experience.

Expecting Perfection and Pixel-Perfect Design: Focus pixel perfect design and perfection––we have to begin designing for mistakes, uncertainty and imperfection.

Imitating Other Companies: The imitation of other companies’ user experiences that have nothing to do with your own…we want our site or application or product to be the next Apple or Google. The problem is that their companies are neither Apple nor Google.

Lean UX: The key original concept of lean is about efficiently testing assumptions and approaches, then iterating in response to what you learn.

Focus Groups and Preconceived Notions: Focus groups may be okay for driving small incremental changes, but innovation happens in leaps. Focus groups can kill innovation and great ideas.

Return on Investment (ROI): Accept the common-sense notion that improving usability is worthwhile… good user experience is valuable and essential.

Roles and Politics: Delegating user experience to one person or role is the wrong approach; each team member should bring his or her own flavor of user experience to the table. End the practice of using the term user experience as a catch-all for all the skills required for product design and development.

Terminology and Semantics: We are not doing ourselves any favors by talking in terms that our companies and clients struggle to understand.

Lorem Ipsum: When used in the wrong context, it can confuse participants in usability studies.

Fewer Clicks: Another example of people trying to dictate a solution before understanding the problem. Is it better for the user to take 5 clicks without thinking, or one click after spending copious amounts of mental energy skimming the page and mulling the available options?

Regarding Terminology and Semantics, I have one internal label that I use when it’s appropriate to what I’m working on  – the Technical User Requirements Document, or “T.U.R.D.”

Read the complete article: UX Concepts and Practices That We Wish Would Just Go Away!

What to do when a stakeholder passes away

More often than not, UX Architects are called upon to conduct stakeholder interviews for the purpose of gathering individual thoughts regarding a particular project. And, more often than not, these interviews are recorded to augment and support any notes taken during the interview. The question then becomes, what do you do with a recorded interview when the stakeholder unexpectedly passes away?

We all know in our personal lives we’ll eventually have to deal with the death of our friends, loved-ones (people and pets, in my case). Depending on the nature of our grief and sadness, we hold on to mementos that represent the soul we’ve lost – notes, letters, drawings, photos, (and more recently texts, Facebook pages, blogs). Sometimes those mementos include a voicemail (message or greeting) or a video, where we can hear the voice of our friend or loved one in an everyday moment.

But in our professional lives we rarely give death of a colleague or acquaintance a second thought, as in it will happen at all. Sadly, as I just recently experienced, this does happen – a stakeholder passed away suddenly one weekend. Oddly enough, of all the stakeholders I interviewed, hers is not recorded; I can’t recall why, and I did go back and review the recordings, just to be certain.  Regardless, when I heard the news, I immediately thought of the interviews I’d conducted and what would I do with hers (if it existed)? It would only be an interview, q/a – nothing that I thought could be uniquely interesting or personal. But it would have been her voice – the one thing that tends to fade the quickest in our memories but is one the most recognizable aspects of our individual self.

Ultimately, I decided that if I had the recording, I would have deleted it. Principally because it felt eerie and somewhat wrong (but not disrespectful) to have it at all. It’s hard to explain and/or rationalize. Right decision? Wrong decision? I guess until it happens (God forbid) it’s hard to say. But, because we all react to and deal with death in our own personal way, it’s the only decision I know I could make.

Example: How contrast works

I was recently on the Microsoft Support website (I don’t recall the exact URL) and was interrupted by one of their overlays asking if I would be willing to take a survey after using the site. (See the screenshot below).


Now, I’m guessing that was the intent of the overlay based on previous experiences, because I can’t actually read the text at all. In fact, even attempting to makes my head hurt.

The lack of contrast between the text color and the background color, a basic accessibility, usability and readability tenet, is obviously lacking. It makes the attempt to gather potentially useful user input a useless exercise. Even more regrettable is that this is on a Help and Support website, which should be as accessible and usable as possible. Not to mention how poorly it reflects on the Microsoft brand–which is very legible with its two logos–a fair example of admissible contrast.