Huis Clos: Furnished in the Style of the Second Empire

Second EmpireThey say not to judge a book by its cover, but when I walked into a hotel in Brussels and saw it decorated “in the style of the French Second Empire,” I couldn’t help but be reminded of the Scene description of Huis Clos (No Exit, in English): a plain room furnished in the style of the French ‘Second Empire’.

One note (and potential – minor – spoiler, for those who haven’t read No Exit). No Exit takes place in Hell. The implication is that Hell, at least for some people, is decorated in the style of Louis XIV’s elegant and overly elaborate red velvet brocades and gold and gilded chandeliers. So when I see that style, I immediately laugh to myself, “welcome to Hell.” Continue Reading


Live from HxR: Overcoming Barriers to Health Equity

Overcoming Barriers to Health Equity, by Samantha Dempsey and Olga Elizarova


Whose health are we designing for?

Often the answer is “people a lot like me.” People with a job, health insurance, a stable home. But what about people who don’t have the resources we take for granted? What does it mean to design “for health?”

The first step is designing what health means. Getting 10k steps in a day? Eating 5 servings of vegetables? Really it’s more than the sum of our health-related behaviors. According to WHO, it’s “a state of complete physical, mental, and social well-being, and not merely the absence of disease or infirmity.” We align ourselves closely with the healthcare system and what it says is healthy/unhealthy. But healthcare is responsible for only about 10% of health. Social and environmental factors, genetics – these matter significantly more. These are determinants of health. Continue Reading


Content Testing: Pros and Cons

Sara Zailskas Walsh recently made a solid case for content testing. Here’s a blurb from her Medium article that summarizes the benefits:

How Does Content Testing Help Design?

Here are three big benefits:

  1. It helps designers establish the framework for our conversations with customers.
  2. It helps designers understand the words we need to use so customers understand us.
  3. It helps designers understand the information and emotion their designs need to convey in customer moments.”

I highly recommend reading her whole article, as she makes a lot of good points, including:

  • Content needs to be tested
  • Content creators rarely get all their questions asked during usability testing
  • In content-first design, designers need to know what the content creators are trying to convey

I’d like to suggest some additional methods for testing content. Continue Reading


Not Mobile First, Not Not Mobile

When Jason Levin and I published our article, Mobile First Is Just Not Good Enough: Meet Journey-Driven Design, the responses were largely negative. They ranged from “this is obvious – why publish it?” to “mobile first is very important! Why are you denigrating it?” We didn’t respond to most of these comments, though in my mind I often wondered if the commenters had actually read the article.

If you haven’t read the article, here’s the TL;DR: for teams with limited budget and time, mobile first seems to turn into mobile only. While mobile is an important experience, there are still many actions that people prefer to take on their desktops, so we need to make sure to consider the context of an experience for any design.

But it’s worth addressing the detractors’ concerns. Continue Reading


Favorite Authors

I rely on book lists as well as personal recommendations, in part because I love hearing why people think I should read certain books. One of my favorites is 200 Books Recommended by TEDsters. Each speaker gave an explanation for what they liked about the books they were recommending, which helps me have context and decide what to read for myself.

And no, “I love it” is not good enough – unless I already know we have similar taste in books. Which brings me to the best part of personal recommendations. Over time, you learn who has similar taste in books to you. Or sometimes, if I hear someone has a predilection for the same authors I love, then I’m more likely to enjoy other books they recommend.

Lastly, there are my personal favorite authors. The ones I forget about, then remember and reread or find a new book by. In an effort to forget them less frequently, and perhaps introduce you to a new author you’ll enjoy, here’s my list.

Current Fiction

  • Margaret Atwood
  • Judy Bloom
  • Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie


  • Louisa May Alcott
  • Betty Smith
  • Leo Tolstoy


  • Isaac Asimov
  • Brandon Sanderson
  • NK Jemison
  • Erika Johansen
  • Garth Nix


  • Agatha Christie
  • Stephen King

Then there are authors I wouldn’t consider “favorites” but I’m always happy to read or recommend. We’ll call them the Runner’s Up:

  • Tim O’Brien
  • Michael Crichton
  • Marisha Pessl
  • Jhumpa Lahiri
  • William Goldman
  • John Irving

Live from HITMC: Words Matter

Words Matter – How ASCO (American Society of Clinical Oncology) Quality Checks Written Content for Clarity, by Lindsay Dudbridge, Fergal McGovern

Words matter. Current content audit methods struggle with:

  • Where to focus
  • Objective measurement is hard
  • Manual processes cause a lot of people to do non-systematic spot checks
  • UX focuses on wireframes and graphics, not readability

American Society of Clinical Oncology (ASCO) runs cancer.net. One of the challenges is that content is reviewed by medical experts, and then needs to be simplified for the general public. People get easily overwhelmed, confused, distressed. So they need to be clear.

They went to VisibleThread for a solution.  Continue Reading