Making Conferences Worth Your While

While there are more and more UX courses available, there are few better ways to learn about specific topics and improve UX skills than attending conferences. But conferences take time to attend, and for many people conferences are overwhelming, overstimulating, and not worth the time and money.

How can you make sure your next conference experience is worthwhile? Continue Reading


Live from ConveyUX: Disruptive Testing for Disruptive Technology

Disruptive Testing for Disruptive Technology: How to test without a prototype, by Sylvie Daumal

conveyuxWe ask ourselves: Are we designing the right thing? Does it enhance our experience as humans?

Then, to reduce risk, we create prototypes to test them with users. We think and evolve while we build prototypes.

“Prototyping is the conversation you have with your ideas.” -Tom Wudec

Up to this point, we’ve been able to sketch and wireframe apps to test them. Now we’re in a new world: the Internet of Things. We can’t prototype AI and robots. Continue Reading


Live from ConveyUX: Using Data Science to Quantify User Journeys

conveyuxUsing Data Science to Quantify User Journeys, by Sam Zaiss

Sam leads a team of data scientists (now called Experience Analytics) at Microsoft

He’s determined the goal of data science and user research is the same: use data to accomplish goals


Communication breaks down between data scientists and UX researchers because there is a lexicon barrier. When data scientists say there are “lies, damn lies, and observational studies” they mean “don’t assume correlation implies causality.” But UX researchers hear it as “you’re undermining us!” Continue Reading


Live from ConveyUX: Fundamentals of JTBD

conveyuxFundamentals of JTBD, by Jillian Wells

“…People don’t want a quarter-inch drill, they want a quarter-inch hole.” Theodore Wells (Harvard Marketing Professor)

…but most people don’t want a hole. They want to put up their bookshelf, so that their living room that feels like their own.

When we uncover goals, we can create disruptive solutions. Rather than starting with solutions. Continue Reading


Asking Questions

One of the hardest things to teach in a consulting space is how to ask questions. Yet our work as content strategists requires it: we need to get our clients, our users, and others talking in order to learn about their hopes, dreams, goals, struggles, the words they use, the phrases that confuse them, and so much more.

Yet time and again I witness others – and fall into the trap myself – asking questions that result in blank stares. Here are a few tips to asking questions that work:

Be Direct

We often like to preface questions with “let’s just discuss” or “let’s get a conversation going” to help people feel comfortable. No one wants to start an interrogation. But vague questions are harder to answer than direct ones. Don’t ask “tell me about your audience.” Ask “tell me about your audience’s top challenges.”

Don’t Provide Examples

I’m terrible at this. I often end a question with “such as…” Unfortunately, that means I’ve led the witness. It’s far better to finish the question, take a deep breath, and wait for them to come up with their own examples or directions.

Be Patient

Again, guilty. Actually, that’s why I provide examples! No sooner have I finished a question then I worry they don’t know what I mean. But when I can hold back the “I mean something along the lines of…” or “does that make sense?” and instead wait, productive responses come.

Send Questions in Advance

If you really want to have a conversation, get the questions over first so that the client or user can feel prepared to join or even lead the discussion.

Practice and Prepare

None of this is obvious or automatic. Write a script, with the exact way you want to phrase questions. Ask someone else your questions in advance. Read books such as Interviewing Users by Steve Portigal.

Good luck!


Designing for Mental Health: Workshop

For designers, the mental health space is a difficult one to reach. Hundreds of apps flood the app store offering to cure depression, bipolar disorder, and other behavioral health issues. But few are clinically tested or have proven their validity.

At Mad*Pow we want more for the world of mental health. We want designers with health knowledge and an understanding of the challenges that people who struggle with mental health deal with every day.

That’s why Experience Strategist Jen Smerdel and I are hosting a workshop on Designing for Mental Health

Screen Shot 2018-02-12 at 5.01.22 PM

When: March 8th, 9am-5pm
Where: Boston, MA
Who: Designers, content strategists, and other UX practitioners interested in the health care space!


It Depends: How Long Should My Page Be?

One of the most infuriating – and most often used – statements in a UX practitioner’s vocabulary is “it depends.”

While it’s true, there’s no one answer for how long a page should be, how many items should be in a top-level navigation, or how many photos to have on a homepage, there are best practices and guidelines.

This week, UX Planet has published my article “Please Don’t Scroll (and other page length myths),” to explain what page length depends on, and how to make the right decision. Give it a read for some concrete explanations, guidelines, and definitions, such as:

“A concise sentence or paragraph has no unnecessary terms, but contains all the information required to be well understood and valuable.”

Check it out! People Don’t Scroll


Books 2017

Another year, another 61 books. Although 2017 was an absolutely terrible year, it’s been a good year for reading. 21 of the books I read were 4 stars (out of 5) or above, including a few fun trilogies:  N.K Jemison’s Broken Earth trilogy, and Erika Johansen’s The Queen of the Tearling trilogy.

I discovered a few new favorite authors: N.K Jemison and Atul Gawande, and read some more by authors I already knew and loved: Margaret Atwood and Jhumpa Lahiri.

All three of my 5 star ratings went to nonfiction books (for the first time ever?), and 2 were by Atul Gawande: The Digital Doctor, Complications, and Being Mortal.

If you’re new to my book lists, here’s how I rate them:

  • * I couldn’t finish reading it, I hated it so much
  • ** I finished the book, but I wish I had the hours back I spent on it
  • *** It was about as expected, glad I read it but I wouldn’t recommend it
  • **** I really enjoyed reading the book, and would definitely recommend it to others
  • **** I MUST OWN THIS NOW! I want to reread it over and over and over

Looking for past years? Here’s 2016201520142013, and 2012. Continue Reading


Our UX Ethical Responsibility

In a recent UX Matters article by Peter Hornsby, Hornsby calls out Facebook for purposely designing an addictive application. He quotes Sean Parker, Facebook’s first president, on the company’s goal:

“How do we consume as much of your time and conscious attention as possible. And that means that we need to sort of give you a little dopamine hit every once in a while—because someone liked or commented on a photo or a post or whatever. And that’s going to get you to contribute more content. And that’s going to get you more likes and comments. It’s a social-validation feedback loop. … You’re exploiting a vulnerability in human psychology. The inventors / creators understood this consciously, and we did it anyway.”

[bolding added by me]

Hornsby was inspired by the realization that UX designers are essentially exploiting human vulnerability, and created his own variation on Asimov’s 3 rules:

  1. A UX designer may not injure a user or, through inaction, allow a user to come to harm.
  2. A UX designer must meet the business requirements except where such requirements would conflict with the First Law.
  3. A UX designer must develop his or her own career as long as such development does not conflict with the First or Second Law.

But here’s my question: is Facebook, in Hornsby’s example, actually breaking any of these laws? Continue Reading