International Usability

Travel always opens my eyes to new concepts and UX alternatives. In Warsaw last week, I found a sign on the bus that wowed me with its usability.

This bus sign has three levels:

  • The top level lists out all the stops, consistent with every other bus map I’ve encountered.
  • The middle level (in red) divides the stops by neighborhoods.
  • The bottom level divided the stops by street. As a tourist this was fantastic; I knew I wanted to get as far south on Ujazdowksie Street as possible. This map showed me when I was at the southernmost stop before the bus turned onto Armii Ludowej.
Bus Sign

The Warsaw Bus Map

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Live from STC Summit: Get Out of Your Office: Conducting Successful Site Visits

Get Out of Your Office: Conducting Successful Site Visits, by Rhyne Armstrong




Every client is different, and is motivated in different ways.

Having empathy means we want to understand how they’re motivated, what makes them tick.

What does this give you?

  • Improved content.
  • Improved personas.

Part 1: Getting approval from your own team Continue Reading


Live from STC Summit: Under the Influences: Context as Strategy

Under the Influences: Context as Strategy, by Keith Anderson

Content floats around in space, disconnected from its creators, easily misunderstood.

Content without context is just data. Writers and designers worked together starting with the printing press.

Summit2015_datesThen came the typewriter, and we “untethered” our content. Now we’ve moved to computers, internet, social media, big data… we get more and more information without context for it.

We provide restrictions via platforms, via devices, via siloed channels.

“We promote portable content without providing information on how to maintain context.”

If we are truly to support our organizations, content strategy must include all organizational content, support the long-term welfare of the organization, avoid worship of the stakeholder, identify customers as people, and communicate effectively with our audiences. Continue Reading


Live from STC Summit: Making Sense of Any Mess

Making Sense of Any Mess, by Abby Covert

Summit2015_datesThere’s a real opportunity for those of us in the communication space to deal with (moral, ethical, complicated) messes.

Most of the mess that exists is made of information – both analog and digital. No matter what our job is, our world is full of messes we must make sense of.

Thinking about information as material is hard, because you can’t hold it or delete it. Everything has information, but sometimes it’s physical and sometimes it’s the lack of physical material (when you see a hole between 2 products at the grocery store, you know they are out of that item). We figure out what’s happening in a given moment in three ways:

  • Data – facts, observations, and questions (context, knowledge, assumptions).
  • Content – whatever a user is interacting with, or whatever you’re arranging or sequencing (products, etc).
  • Information – whatever the user interprets from the arrangement and sequence of things they encounter (beliefs, subjective reasoning).

Trust the Chaos

“Trust the people
Trust the process
Trust yourself
Trust chaos”
Terry Mazany, 1994

My first experience with the business world was joining my father in staff development workshops. As an education consultant – and a fierce opponent of lectures – he excelled at bringing together teachers and administrators and guiding them to new ideas. Back in the 60s, teaching in his own classroom, he had often been admonished by other teachers for not “controlling” the students, or having a “rowdy” classroom. But from my father’s perspective, it was that very noisiness that signaled to him that students were discussing, probing, asking questions, and in short, learning. Continue Reading


The Tip of the Iceberg

In 2013, Ryan Babineaux’s book Fail Fast, Fail Often urged startups to avoid the trap of spending all of their money and months of time on a product before testing it in the marketplace. The phrase itself, “fail fast, fail often” became more and more popular as a method of summarizing the larger idea.

Yet it took less than two years for articles to begin popping up warning us not to fail fast, but to succeed slowly. Even Facebook changed their famous “Move fast and break things” motto to the (less catchy) “Move fast with stable infrastructure.”

Did it suddenly become a good idea for startups to spend significant time and money on a concept before testing it? Of course not. So what changed?

Gabe Weatherhead explain the issue fairly succinctly in his article, “Beware Simple Stories“:

“I’m skeptical of big problems with small answers. As Burnham says, “Beware simple stories.” A summary of thousands of hours of work should leave a spark, not smoldering embers.” -Gabe Weatherhead

Gabe’s takeaway is that we should avoid the “simple stories.” Unfortunately, that’s simply unrealistic. It’s necessary to summarize big ideas; how else can we further the conversation beyond re-explaining a big idea itself each time it comes up in conversation? What’s more important is that we recognize that a short quote or simple story is nothing more than the tip of the iceberg. When we hear a short phrase like “fail fast, fail often,” we have to look below the surface, and remember it is merely shorthand.