Christine Perfetti

Christine PerfettiChristine is one of the most requested instructors at User Interface Engineering, and has worked with dozens of companies on their toughest web design problems. She's regularly a top-rated presenter and keynote speaker at conferences all over the world.

Christine is responsible for User Interface Engineering's business strategy initiatives. She manages UIE's events and training business development and helps to ensure coordination of affiliates.

Christine's posts:

Starting a New Adventure: Perfetti Media

July 17th, 2008 by Christine Perfetti

Tomorrow is a bittersweet day for me. July 18th is my last official day working at User Interface Engineering. I’ll be leaving UIE and launching my new training and consulting organization, Perfetti Media.

For eight years, I’ve been excited and happy to come to the office every day, continually challenged by my work. While my job role has evolved significantly over the years, I’ve enjoyed every moment: conducting usability research, collaborating with the leaders in the world of design, consulting with clients, teaching courses, developing new product lines, and most recently, managing the day to day operations of the company.

I’m extremely grateful for the support I’ve received from everyone at UIE. I would like to thank all of my co-workers for making UIE such a fun and exciting place to work. I would especially like to thank Jared Spool for giving me the opportunity to learn from his brilliance for nearly a decade. Jared: you’ve been a wonderful mentor and friend.

I expect to collaborate with the great folks at UIE in the not-too-distant future. I have full confidence that User Interface Engineering will continue to be a leader in the field for years to come.

Interviews with Scott Berkun, author of The Myths of Innovation

July 17th, 2007 by Christine Perfetti

Flickr, the online photosharing web site, changed everything for web applications. For one of the first times, elements of Flash and AJAX were combined in a seamless form, along with the HTML page. Interestingly, Flickr wasn’t originally conceived as a photosharing tool. It was an online game called The Game Neverending. Facing business obstacles with the game, the design team shifted priorities and recognized the value of the photosharing application. As a result, Flickr fundamentally changed the way we look at web applications.

All the time, I hear from clients working to build products and sites that reshape the market, hoping to duplicate Flickr’s success. But how can these design teams best go about developing innovative designs? Is it just luck when sites such as Flickr become successful?

If you’re challenged with creating innovative designs, I highly suggest you check out Scott Berkun’s writings on the subject. Scott is the author of the new book, The Myths of Innovation, and an expert when it comes to the history of innovation.

UIE’s Ashley McKee recently posted about a great interview Guy Kawasaki conducted with Scott Berkun, author of the new book, The Myths of Innovation, where Scott discusses how innovations happen and some of the biggest challenges designers face when trying to build innovative products. You’ll also want to check out Digital Web’s interview with Scott.

Branding and the “Hey” Phenomenon

April 11th, 2007 by Christine Perfetti

Dan and Chip Heath, authors of the book, Made to Stick: Why Some Ideas Survive and Others Fail, have written a great article, Polarize Me, for this month’s issue of Fast Company. They discuss why marketing headlines typically fail to impress users:

Why do these headlines suck so much? Fear. Fear of saying too much. Fear of saying something clever that someone might think is stupid. Fear of saying something revealing that might turn someone off. The headlines try desperately not to exclude anyone. In doing so, they succeed at boring everyone.

The “Hey” phenomenon is rampant in the corporate world. Branding is nothing more than a company’s personal ad, and companies are as bad at it as singles. Gap (NYSE:GPS), for example, is the “Hey” of fashion, thus its recent woes. And Ford Motor Co. (NYSE:F) –who, exactly, does it want to date? Brands with enough scale think they can get away with being generically likable. And some can, at least for a little while.

Dan and Chip touch upon a common mistake we’ve observed in our research: When design teams focus on satisfying the needs of everyone, they often fail to entice the people who actually matter, the target audience. Time and time again, we’ve found that the most successful teams focus on their specific users’ needs and create messages targeted just to them.

Recruiting Volunteers for User Interface 11

August 18th, 2006 by Christine Perfetti

User Interface 11 is only two months away. It’s looking like we’ll have more than 400 attendees from all over the world. There are folks coming from Africa, Europe, Asia, and North America.

Would you like to join us? We are holding User Interface 11 from October 8 – October 12, 2006. We are still currently looking for volunteers who are available to assist us throughout the full five days of the conference. Volunteers will be asked to arrive in the afternoon on Sunday, October 8th and stay until the end of the conference.

Throughout the main four days of the conference, volunteers will be assigned to full-day seminars and short talks to assist conference speakers with their needs. Volunteers are responsible for paying for all travel and hotel accommodations but we will provide breakfast and lunch Monday through Thursday of the conference.

If you’re interested in volunteering, or if you have any questions, please send your replies directly to uiconf@uie.com. I’ll give priority to full-time students and those of you available to help out for the full conference, from Sunday, October 8th through Thursday, October 12th.

My 90-mile Bike Ride for Best Buddies

April 13th, 2006 by Christine Perfetti

On the morning of Saturday, May 20 2006, I am riding my bike approximately 90 miles from JFK Library in South Boston, Massachusetts to the Kennedy Compound in Hyannis Port in support of the Best Buddies charity. Best Buddies is a non-profit organization dedicated to helping people with intellectual disabilities form friendships and find jobs in their community.

Last year, I completed the 90-mile ride in 9 hours. (I’ve been telling everyone the ride is actually 94 miles since I measured the distance last year!) The ride took me awhile — but I’m blaming my slow pace on the 50-degree weather, rain, and winds! :) This year, my goal is to complete the ride in 7 1/2 hours.

I started training for this year’s ride in January, working to get in shape for the big day. Now that it’s finally getting warmer in Massachusetts, I’ve started biking outside to prepare for the ride.

I’m writing to ask for help to reach my fundraising goal of $1,250. All donations will go to the Best Buddies organization. Any contribution you can spare will go a long way to my achieving this goal. Plus, Jared Spool and User Interface Engineering have graciously offered to match all of my contributions up to $1,000. Thanks guys!

You can make a donation for my bike ride here. Thanks in advance!

UIE Happy Hour: Atlanta, GA – 2/24

February 22nd, 2006 by Christine Perfetti

User Interface Engineering is hosting a happy hour in Atlanta, GA on Friday, February 24th for user experience professionals, information architects, knowledge managers, designers, usability specialists, and other members of the Atlanta UX community.

Jared Spool and I will be your hosts. Jared and I are in Atlanta for the kick-off of our UIE Roadshow 2006. We want to take this opportunity to meet and chat with others in our field.

The happy hour takes place from 5:00-6:00 pm at Django Gypsy Kitchen & Saloon in downtown Atlanta. Django is located at 495 Peachtree Street, Atlanta, GA 30308. Please come, network, and meet your local colleagues. RSVP by emailing events@uie.com.

Yahoo! Publishes Design Pattern Library

February 22nd, 2006 by Christine Perfetti

I just returned from presenting a one-day course in Portland, Oregon where I had the opportunity to talk with more than 40 designers, programmers, and content writers about their specific design challenges.

Every time I give a course, I learn a tremendous amount about the problems that designers face. One of the big themes of the day was how difficult it is for organizations to manage the dozens (and sometimes hundreds) of people contributing content and creating design elements on their sites.

Some of the questions attendees asked:

  • How can they get everyone contributing to the design on the same page?
  • How can they guarantee that all of the designers produce successful results?
  • Should they stick with their current templates or style guides?

Lately, one promising strategy we’ve shared with design teams is the creation of a Design Pattern Library. A design pattern describes a specific design problem that an organization has dealt with, such as presenting a login screen. The design pattern consists of a pattern name, a description of the design problem, the design solution, and the designer’s rationale behind that solution. (For more details about how to create a pattern, Jared recently wrote an article about the different components of a design pattern.)

We’ve really started to see design patterns take off within organizations. We’ve worked with several design teams that are now focused on building their own design pattern libraries. Even more exciting is that organizations have started to share their pattern libraries with the design community. For example, just this month, Yahoo published the Yahoo! Design Pattern Library.

We don’t advocate that design teams blindly follow the patterns outlined in Yahoo’s library. After all, your sites have their own unique goals and users. However, Yahoo’s design pattern library is a great model for organizations to review before getting started on creating their own internal libraries. While building a design pattern library takes a lot of time and energy, we’re definitely seeing organizations reap the benefits from their efforts.

The Content Page Gets Priority

February 10th, 2006 by Christine Perfetti

In a recent article on A List Apart, Derek Powazek, an expert designer and past User Interface Conference speaker, describes how he goes about designing a web site:

When I set out to design a website, I do it backwards. I start with the design of the smallest, deepest element: the story page or search results. Then I work backwards to design their containers: section pages, indexes. Then, lastly, I work on the home page.

Derek’s approach to site design is consistent with what we’ve seen work most effectively. All too often, clients tell us they spend the majority of their time focusing on the design of the home page when we’ve found that it’s actually the least important page on the site. As Jared mentioned in his post, Is Home Page Design Relevant Anymore?, the home page serves only two purposes for users: it delivers the content, or it provides strong scent to get users to the content page they want.

We’ve seen that the most successful design teams focus on designing the content pages first, ensuring they have all the information that users need on those pages. They understand that the content page is the most important page to users for a very simple reason: this is where users find the information they’ve been seeking.

Does your team spend a large amount of time and resources focused on the homepage? Which page gets the highest priority with your team?

I’m Heading to Portland

February 6th, 2006 by Christine Perfetti

Next week, I’ll be heading to Portland, Oregon for a couple of days to teach a seminar for the great folks at Standard Insurance.

I fly into Portland on the 15th and leave on the 17th. I’d love some recommendations for what to do while there. Also, if anyone would be interested in meeting up for a drink, just pop a note. (You can use this form.)

The Grizzly Man: Disruption that Works

February 2nd, 2006 by Christine Perfetti

We’ve spent a lot of time researching what types of online advertisements actually work. Not surprisingly, we’ve found a lot of evidence to suggest that users ignore featured advertisements when they first arrive on a site. I recently posted about how featured advertisements on the home page typically fail. Why? Because the advertisements take users away from the task they’re trying to accomplish. The problem is that the ads are a disruption.

Advertising is all about disruption. TV ads disrupt users from the content. Billboard signs can disrupt people from focusing on driving. Online ads function similarly — they disrupt users from the content they’re looking for.

That’s why it’s always a surprise when I encounter online advertisements that actually work effectively. This happened to me today on Rotten Tomatoes, a site where users can find a summary of the movie reviews from top film critics.

When users arrive, Rotten Tomatoes often disrupts them with ads even before they’ve had a chance to enter the site. When I visited today, I was exposed to an ad for the popular movie, Grizzly Man.

Ad for Grizzly Man

The ad disrupted me from looking for the content I came for — the reviews for George Clooney’s Good Night, and Good Luck (a movie I really want to see.) But I wasn’t annoyed or frustrated. The ad supplied me with information I am actually interested in: Grizzly Man is showing on the Discovery Channel tomorrow night. I now have my TiVo all set up to record the movie.

We often remind our clients that users don’t want to be disrupted from their tasks. But disruption can actually work sometimes. Have you seen any effective online ads recently? How did the site get you to pay attention to the ad? Was the disruption acceptable?