How To Propose

Today I’d like to share some lessons on how to propose ideas to managers, clients, and others outside of your design team. This is very different from proposing ideas to your fellow designers and developers. When dealing with non-technical individuals you have to approach the proposal carefully to help them see what you are proposing and get past any ill formed objections to your proposal. I have found that many people have a dim concept of the technologies you are working with and they have often formed some sort of conclusions about the effectiveness of using these technologies. Sometimes they are right, sometimes they are wrong, but they are rarely well informed. We see this with Flash development as we […]

Got Ethics?

Do professional ethics play a role in your work? Have you had to deal with unethical actions on the part of the people you work with or work for? Does money always trump other considerations for you? I think that for web designers, usability professionals, and other information professionals ethical dilemmas can be serious and the consequences of our actions far reaching. We deal with a great deal of information in our jobs, often of a sensitive, personal nature. We know names, addresses, e-mail addresses, credit card numbers, passwords, and other data. We have the opportunity to collect and access this information in the course of our daily work. We have real responsibilities to the people that such information belongs […]

What Do You Do?

Here’s a simple test to see if you’re homepage needs to be redesigned. Find someone who doesn’t know what your business does or what you have to offer. Show them your homepage for 5 seconds. Ask them what you do. If they can’t tell you what your business is and one or two of your major products or services you may need to redesign your homepage. There should be no ambiguity as to what your organization does. If you sell cars put a picture of a car and say that’s what you sell. If you are a bank, use the word “bank” even if internally you are a multi-tiered, adaptive, integrated, globally scoped financial service and currency broker. Web designers […]

Finding Time For Theory

I had an interesting discussion today where the topic of theory and practice came up. It is so easy to get bogged down in the day to day practice of our jobs that we forget to spend time on research and theory. When we are pressed to meet deadlines and produce results quickly we find ourselves with little time for reading, hypothesizing, and experimentation. I think that is a shame. I have been fortunate in the last few years to be both working and going to school so I have been able to balance learning and exploration with practical application. In looking for full time employment I’ve discovered that some companies recognize the value of exploring new ideas while others […]

Flash Wallpaper Contest

I have two entries in the Flash wallpaper contest being held at mesh on mx. I think they came out pretty well. Mine are the ones from There are a ton of really nice entries and I expect we’ll see some even more impressive designs before the contest ends. If you like you can enter too, just visit the link above and submit a design. They range from mad 3D renderings to simple, elegant designs. This is the follow up to the Central design contest they just finished. I think it’s a fun way for designers to try something creative outside of the bounds of what they have to do at work. Here are my two entries so far… […]

Learning From Others

The average bloke learns from his mistakes, but a wise man learns from other people’s mistakes too. In design, as in life, you can learn from watching others. See what they do wrong and what they do right. Break down the successful design to see why they are successful and do the same for those that you deem bad or just imperfect. I have found that spending a little time regularly analyzing and exploring the work of other designers has really helped me improve my designs. This doesn’t mean that I stopped experimenting or exploring on my own. But seeing where other designers fall on their faces or where they have really nailed a technique or style helps me to […]

Everyday Usability

Usability is often regarded as a nebulous concept or ideal. This is the natural result of usability professionals developing their own odd little language with their unique acronyms and buzzwords. Outsiders are sometimes left with just a fuzzy notion of usability. Part of the difficulty lies in distilling down usability into something you can describe to the uninitiated at a party or in the first 30 seconds of a meeting. People come away with ‘you make things easier to use’. In some ways this works to the advantage of usability designers. We retain some of the aura of power that practicing a mysterious discipline imparts. It’s hard to explain how varied and complex the activities involved in our jobs are. […]

More Costs of Outsourcing

I thought I’d take a few minutes to talk about the outsourcing trend that has taken hold in so many industries and how it affects usability in information systems. Of course I may be a bit biased since I am part of the group whose potential jobs are being shipped overseas, but as with other issues in life I think it is possible to get past those personal biases to look at the issue from many perspectives. In this case I think we need to stand back and ask why we would want to move our designers overseas. What value is to be gained and what is lost in the process? Usability and user experience design is part science and […]

Brochure Sites

Anticlue posted a five stage timeline of Internet Business Maturity. Today I’d like to focus on the first stage which they call Publish. This is the way that most organizations enter the Web. They create a static brochure that has Home page, an About Us page, a Contact Page, perhaps a map, and maybe a few pages of static content describing products or services. I call these types of sites Brochure Sites. They are essentially the online equivalent of the three-fold brochures you see by the receptionist’s desk. Now before anyone objects, this is not necessarily a bad thing. Creating a Brochure Site gives an organization a rudimentary Web presence. People can find a phone number or e-mail address to […]

Heuristic Evaluations

Heuristic Evaluation is a method for quickly examining an interface based on a set of usability rules. A good list of heuristics was proposed by Jacob Nielson and we will use them here. This article will discuss the role of a heuristic evaluation in your design process. The Role of the Heuristic Evaluation One common mistake made by those practicing User Centered Design (UCD) as they start to advance beyond the novice stage is that start to believe that they know their users well enough without really talking to the users. They make up a few user personas and use scenarios, they write up a few paragraphs on their audience demographics and they think that they understand how their users […]