Creating a UX Pattern Library with Evernote

I have a few very long term clients I've been working with for the last few years, and as we progress with their digital products, and things evolve, it's been tricky keeping track of the latest design and interaction patterns. I've been working with them to create standards, so developers and stakeholders can all see what things are supposed to look like. It's good to keep everybody in the loop on how things should look and work.

I first started using Evernote with the rest of my teams at the suggestion of Aaron Walter, Director of UX at Mailchimp, after he gave a talk at UX Salon in Tel Aviv. It's been a great tool to gather all the data about our apps' usage from all the disparate sources available. So, I decided to...Keep reading!


The Case for Usability

At a previous employer where I was tasked with leading up their new user experience team, it became apparent we needed to hire usability specialists. I was simply stretched too thin to handle it all on my own. I was already handling user research - which required travel - user experience design, ui design, and writing design guides to disseminate to other product teams. I was even getting involved in code, writing ui assets for silverlight developers. So I needed some help. I put together a presentation and pitched the executives. They love the presentation and were sold. Mind you, this is a company with thousands of employees, and I was their first design hire. Ever.

Anyway, I decided the pitch might be helpful to other people who might need to approach business stakeholders who may not be at all familiar with the user experience design process. So I went ahead and un-branded...Keep reading!

Wearing Purple Today

I've been asked what my favorite color is many times in my life - by my children, teachers, at interviews. And I've either given a scientific, philosophical or artistic answer. "Well, it depends what the occasion is." Or, "Well, what color do you want to pair with it?" Or, "What really is color, anyway? It depends on the lighting, and who's looking at it..." Or, "I love all colors, but I suppose this season's favorite color is [insert color] based on Pantone's guide and according to Vogue..." I can't pick a favorite. There's too much business at stake to pick just 1 out of millions of options.

But a child will tell you with certainty what their favorite color is! It can change from time to time, but if you ask a kid his or her favorite color, you'll get a definite answer, with a bright big smile, and a long explanation of why. No questions - it's obvious!

Rebecca Meyer'...Keep reading!


What's your user experience goal?

Thankfully, we live in a time where we no longer have to fight for UX as often as we used to. I find myself explaining what user experience is less and less, as people become more familiar with it. It's a given in any technology company that user experience is necessary, and I find myself turning down more and more job offers as demand for UX grows. People know they need, "a good user experience," but people don't usually know what that means.

The problem is, a "good user experience" is not a goal. It's vague and imprecise. "Good" can mean a lot of things - it might mean easy to use; useful; pleasant to use; fun to use; and many other things. But even though "good" isn't precise, it also completely ignores the other ways UX can help a business or app - the more emotional aspects, persuasion,...Keep reading!

Follow me on Flickr

My list on the left of this site, which tracks my social happenings has been updated with a new icon, for Flickr! I've been getting more into photography as another hobby of mine; another creative outlet. I've been learning about lighting, lenses, and setting up compositions differently than I'm used to. As I've been improving my craft, I've decided I'd share my shots with the world. It's mostly family and chronicling our adventures. We live in a very beautiful location, with vineyards and olive orchards dotting the rolling landscape. As I get better at my other newest hobby, mountain biking, and feel more comfortable taking along my DSLR on the rugged terrain (nearly killed myself a few weeks ago!), I hope to add even more adventurous photos. There are not only incredible views from the mountain trails, but tons of archeology - ruins dating back thousands of years! 

Hope you...Keep reading!

Attending UX Salon: My first conference in Israel!

This week, I got to attend my first conference in Israel - UX Salon, at the Israel Museum in Tel Aviv! It was exciting to finally get out into the UX community here and see what's going on. Until now, I've been sort of poking my nose out, keeping my work going, and getting settled here. I've met a number of really interesting people and startups, but until now, it's been a low key foray into the high tech scene in Israel. So I was excited to go to my first user experience event this past Sunday!

All the speakers were English-speakers, and most were flown in to speak at the event. Unfortunately, the Israel Railways train system has a number of glaring UX issues, and I missed the first talk, by Eric Reiss. All the other speakers were great, for the most part.

Justin Davis, from my old home-state Florida, spoke about "designing conversations." He analyzed how people talk...Keep reading!


Role Playing for Better Usability

There's no substitute for user testing, and without good user research, you're really not doing "user centered design." That said, even with good research, it's easy for designers and product owners to get "in too deep" and lose sight of the users' needs. Whenever I get stuck, I ask myself, "what would the user do?" (WWTUD for short). Role playing can really help the usability of a product, and helps reframe the conversation effectively. Here's how. (And if you've done great user research, it's very easy to slip into the user role and play the part!)

I was discussing a new flow with another interaction designer, we got into the details of a certain feature, asking whether or not we needed it, even though the client requested it. After a lot of back and forth on the merits of the feature, and the reasons why it may be confusing or unnecessary, I put the brakes on. "Hang on," I...Keep reading!


Getting out the House, Getting out of my Own Head

I wrote back in October (can I say, "Last Year"??) how, even though I work harder being my own boss, I still take precautions to make sure I don't get overworked and stressed out. There's a good ListApart article that came out recently, as well, which touches on the same issues. Well, having moved across the world, and taken on more work than I had said I would allow myself, I was starting to hit that burning-the-candle-at-both-ends-and-in-the-middle. I'd taken on one more pet project because it just sounded too interesting for me to pass up, but I was hitting the wall in creativity. I was overworked, and my brain shuts down when it gets overworked. I needed to get out of the house. 

...Keep reading!

The Wrong Kind of Emotional Design in Windows 8

An aspect of user experience design which can be just as important as usability, is emotional design. When designing any product - web, application, or real-life pysical products - we need to design for emotional response, as well as making sure something works properly and efficiently. It's important to think about not just how easy a product is to use, but the emotioinal response of the user using it. We should make people happy to use it. I love using my Swiss Gear Travel Gear ScanSmart Backpack 1900 laptop backpack, particularly because it's so perfectly suited for my needs: It fits my laptop, tablet, power cords, water bottle, granola bars, papers, phone, etc all perfectly. The earphone slot is convenient and smart. The padding is comfortable and actually does...Keep reading!


Happy Anniversary!

Wow! I can't believe it's been a year, already! (It's actually almost 2 weeks more than a year, but I've been busy, ok?) It's been just over a year since I embarked on my own (you can read my original post from October 17 last year), being my own boss, working from home offices, client sites, and cafes. This past year, I got to work with some really amazing companies and people literally all over the world. I got to meet hundreds of interesting people and hear their stories. Most of them didn't result in actual business for me, but I enjoyed the coffee, and was often able to connect other people together. I got to travel. I got to choose the projects I wanted to work on. I got to spend more time with my family and make my own hours. I got to live the dream!

So, I thought I would reflect on some things I've learned in the...Keep reading!

Elevator Glitch

User experience, and lack of user experience, is all around us. I get entertained by seeing silly things in my environment, where the creators clearly didn't take into account the people actually using their things. In Israel, the world of construction moves so fast, and with such little foresight, I'm running into silly things all the time in houses and buildings.

The other day, I had the pleasure of needing to deal with my driver's license, since it would be nice to be able to drive in Israel while we're here. I headed over to the building I needed to be, and knew I had to go to the second floor. Once inside the elevator, I encountered the following:Keep reading!

Passing the HumanFactors CUA Exam

I've been getting a lot of emails lately on advice for taking the HumanFactors Certified Usability Analyst (CUA) exam. I'm not sure why now, since I took the exam ages ago (has it been two years??) - but anyway. I thought I would post a brief heads-up about the exam, and strategies on how to take it.

First off, I didn't take their courses before taking the exam. I took the exam as a benchmark to see if I was keeping up with my professional development; to make sure I was actually somewhat qualified to do what I do. That said, I don't know how the exam would have been if I HAD taken their courses. Being as I passed without the course, I can definitely say, it's possible.

I get asked pretty often, "Is the CUA exam hard?" Well, it's supposed to be a professional certification of a pretty complex subject. YES, it's hard!! Again, I didn't take their courses, so maybe I would...Keep reading!


Life: Maximum Velocity!

By now, most of my friends and family know: we are moving our family across the globe from Chicago to Israel. When they heard the news, friends, family and coworkers have beeen shocked, excited, jealous, incredulous, happy, sad, and occasionally, downright angry. (We are removing a few very adorable children away from their beloved cousins and grandparents and neighbors.) Some have asked us why. But this post isn't about why Israel. It's about why we would do something so reckless and insane as quit great jobs, leave close friends and family, and remove our kids from great schools to transplant them in a foreign land which constantly has wack-jobs trying to destroy them. We sold our house at gut-wrenching loss to free ourselves of obligations here; sold our car; and packed all of our belongings into a metal box to be shipped for 6 weeks across the Atlantic Ocean. With the ridiculous...Keep reading!


User Experience vs. Usability in Ancient Jerusalem

I admit - never in my life would I have thought that making something usable could actually hurt the user experience. Or that crafting the user experience may require hampering the usability. I have encountered times when the business, or marketing, required anti-usability practices for their purposes, but that's not a UX goal. But let me tell you what I noticed on my recent trip to Israel which showed me that UX may or may not conflict with usability.

I'm actually still in Israel as I write this. I was going to take a break from my blog while I was on this 3 week trip with my family, but the thought occurred to me, 2 kids are sleeping and my wife is building a complicated wooden model with my oldest son. So I'm writing.

At the beginning of our trip, we stayed in Jerusalem, in the neighborhood of Shaarei Chesed. It was one of the first and oldest neighborhoods built...Keep reading!

How to transform a development-focused company into a UX powerhouse

I've always wanted to work in a UX-focused company. Those companies that spend so much time on crafting delightful, engaging, and top-notch - and yes, usable - experiences seem so exciting. The idea of not having to explain to anybody the power of good design; not needing to defend spending a few days on a fun illustration that welcomes users in a more humane way; the company that has copywriters on staff who just craft error messages so people don't want to hurl their computers out the window... it's just so tantalizing not to have to fight for good design.

Unfortunately, the growth in the design industry is happening in the companies that are just figuring it out. I have been involved in so many companies that I was the first or second designer, and/or the sole designer facing down herds of angry developers who chant...Keep reading!


What's Your Problem?

In my last post, I talked about creatively solving problems. I thought I'd talk about my process in problem solving - which doesn't have to be related to user experience or web design, by the way.

If you have a problem, you have to make sure you're actually looking at the right problem. I'll talk about something not related to interactive designer jobs to explain this better.

I do a lot of home repairs. I had installed a new ceiling fan, with attached light fixtures. Some time after my intallation, a bulb in the fixture went out. Naturally, I replaced it. Some time later, the bulb in that same fixture went out. I was puzzled, since the other 3 bulbs in the same fixture still hadn't gone out, from the initial installation. But, I did the (still) logical task of replacing the bulb. And then, some time later, sure enough, the same exact fixture with the same bulb went out...Keep reading!


Solving Problems

I solve problems all day long. That's my job, and I love it! The funny thing is, I realize that problem solving is one of my greatest talents, and I had no idea that I'd end up in a job doing that. I literally (in the literal sense) woke up one day and realized, "That's why I'm good at this!" After all the wireframes, user interface designs, interaction flows, storyboards, responsive css, JQuery, user research, and everything we user experience designers do when we user experience design, what we really do is solve problems.

For example, company has a problem. They have a bunch of features on their website, and they want to add 1 more. It's already "getting kind of confusing" and they just don't know where to put this new feature. Woosh! I fly in, talk to some people, play some magic card games, reorganize everything, and everybody suddenly feels as if I've lifted the fog from...Keep reading!

How your UX Designer can save your development budget

As a user experience designer, I've often faced off with armies of developers and engineers who outnumbered me 10 to 1 - or more! It seemed like the software and web developers would build what they felt they could when it was a tight deadline and budget, and when resources were available, and the project important enough, I would get looped in as the UX designer to make sure the website or app was intuitive, usable, enjoyable, and looked good. But that's the wrong outlook to take. There is always room for some good design, but that's not what I'm about to say. A good UX designer can actually save your development team both time and money. 

There used to be a debate about whether or not designers needed to learn to code. I say "used to" because any designer who still thinks there's a debate will end up being unemployed soon. A good UX designer may not necessarily write code as...Keep reading!


User Experience: Explained (with a cheese grater)

It's surprising the number of people who still don't know what user experience is. To some, I'm "in computers"; to others I "make wireframes." The problem is, there's lots of confusion even within our industry. I've even posted before about what I do, but this time, I'm going to get a little more into the process, so you know not just the outcome, but what I actually do.

So user experience design is: Architecting an enjoyable experience for users, so they can get stuff done.

That may or may not be related to software design. It may or may not be related to web design. It may or may not be related to a physical product. It can be any and all of those things.

As far as skills required, there are specialists and there are generalists. I'll tell you about specific skills involved in UX Design (for short), but first, let's turn this conceptual title into a real...Keep reading!


Rational Experience vs. User Experience

In both the enterprise world and the startup world there are lots of excuses for not employing the time-consuming and "wasteful" user-centered design processes (the process of hypothesize-build-test-learn-repeat). In the enterprise world, you only need to work better than Oracle. That doesn't take a whole lot. In the startup world, there's just no time to talk to real users. Neither of these are really true, but it's the attitude they take. So instead, they don't really do "User Experience"; they do what I call "Rational Experience."

What do I mean by that? 

A good user experience designer will have a level of expertise to create rational designs. Rational information architecture, rational interaction, and rational layouts. Anything a good designer will come up with will undoubtedly be better than the UI designed by an engineer! (No offense engineers! But you don't ...Keep reading!