Jared M. Spool

Jared SpoolJared is Founding Principal of User Interface Engineering. He's been working in the field of usability and design since 1978, before the term "usability" was ever associated with computers. Jared has guided the research agenda and built UIE into the largest research organization of its kind in the world.

Jared is a top-rated speaker at more than 20 conferences every year. He is also the conference chair and keynote speaker at the annual User Interface Conference, and is on the faculty of the Tufts University Gordon Institute.

Jared's posts:

UIEtips: Becoming a UX Unicorn in 5 Easy Steps

April 2nd, 2014 by Jared Spool

Lately there’s all this talk of UX unicorns. Have you found them? Are you trying to nurture them? Are you hoping to be one? Research shows there’s a strong correlation between UX Unicorns and the UX skills they acquire and hone.  Read about the five ways you can become a UX unicorn.

Here’s an excerpt from the article:

We call them unicorns because they are supposed to be mythical creatures-something that doesn’t exist in the real world. That’s how the nickname came about.

Yet, over the past couple of years, we’ve started meeting people who fit the description of a UX unicorn. They are very real and they are amongst us. We know because we’ve met and studied several dozen of these multi-skilled designers over the past two years.

Where do you begin to develop these skills? Well, one resource is UIE’s All You Can Learn, a library of all things UX. Just create your account, and over 160 seminars will be at your fingertips.

Read the article Becoming a UX Unicorn in 5 Easy Steps.

How do you branch out beyond your existing core skills? Tell us about it below.

UIEtips: Why Lean UX?

March 26th, 2014 by Jared Spool

In today’s UIEtips, we reprint an article on the debate and discussion surrounding Lean UX. Some have seen it as a condemnation of extensive documentation while others have said it’s a rebranding of techniques they’ve been practicing for years. In this excerpt from Lean UX: Applying Lean Principles to Improve User Experience, authors Jeff Gothelf and Josh Seiden lay out their rationale for why Lean UX is something new and why it’s important now.

Here’s an excerpt from the article:

Working in software, designers faced new challenges. We had to figure out the grammar of this new medium, and as we did, we saw new specialties such as interaction design and information architecture emerge. But the process by which designers practiced remained largely unchanged. We still designed products in great detail in advance, because we still had to deal with a “manufacturing” process: our work had to be duplicated onto floppy disks and CDs, which were then distributed to market in exactly the same way that physical goods were distributed. The cost of getting it wrong remained high.

Read the article Why Lean UX?.

If you want a learning-focused process that rallies your entire team around continuous research-and more effective design outcomes-then join us for Josh Seiden’s April 3 virtual seminar, Lean UX: Forming & Testing Hypotheses.

How have you implemented Lean UX in your organization?  Tell us about it below.

UIEtips: New Rule – Every Desktop Design Has To Go Finger-Friendly, Part 2

March 19th, 2014 by Jared Spool

In this week’s UIEtips, we offer part 2 of Josh Clark’s article New Rule: Every Desktop Design Has To Go Finger-Friendly. In it, Josh reminds us that ideally the web is a platform that can be accessed from any device, no matter what its input or output method. For now, that means opening up all desktop layouts for easy finger-tapping.

Here’s an excerpt from the article:

For most of its short history, web-design practice has focused on the visual-on screen size. It’s not yet in our industry’s DNA to consider physicality and environment in our layouts. That’s why many are still surprised at the idea that they can’t just use their legacy desktop layout on iPad, even though the screen size is the same. The layout looks good, sure, but that rarely means it’s also finger-friendly.

The rise of the hybrids means touch is no longer the sole province of phones and tablets. It’s arrived on desktops and laptops, too. Most desktop website layouts, however, are not optimized for touch. They challenge our clumsy fingers and thumbs with small touch targets for links and menus, or they lean on hover interactions that can’t be triggered by touch at all. Few sites place primary navigation in easy reach of the thumb zone for either tablets or hybrids; they favor cursor-friendly screen-top navigation instead.

Read the article New Rule: Every Desktop Design Has To Go Finger-Friendly, Part 2.

If you want to convert your mouse-focused desktop sites into mobile layouts with touch-friendly screens, than watch Josh’s virtual seminar, Designing Touch-Friendly Interfaces. It’s now part of UIE’s All You Can Learn, the place to watch, listen, and learn from the world’s best instructors.

How do you ensure your designs can be accessed from any device? Tell us about it below.

UIEtips: New Rule – Every Desktop Design Has To Go Finger-Friendly

March 12th, 2014 by Jared Spool

Josh Clark’s article New Rule: Every Desktop Design Has To Go Finger-Friendly reminds us that the web can be accessed from any device, regardless of its input or output method. For now, that means opening up all desktop layouts for easy finger-tapping.

If you want to convert your mouse-focused desktop sites into mobile layouts with touch-friendly screens, then don’t miss Josh’s virtual seminar, Designing Touch-Friendly Interfaces. It’s happening this Thursday, March 13, at 1:30pm ET.

Here’s an excerpt from the article:

Touch has landed on the desktop. A whole new category of touch devices is flooding the consumer market in coordination with the release of Windows 8: touchscreen laptops and tablet/keyboard combos. These new hybrid combinations of touch and keyboard create a new ergonomic environment… and fresh demands on designers.

Like tablets before them, the ergonomics of these hybrid gizmos demand UI conventions that depart from desktop layouts of similar screen size. The hybrids not only need big touch targets to accommodate clumsy fingers, but they also need controls and navigation conveniently placed where hands naturally come to rest. Designing for touch introduces elements of industrial design: physical comfort and ease are critical considerations.

Read the article New Rule: Every Desktop Design Has To Go Finger-Friendly.

How do you design for touch-friendly interfaces? Tell us about it below.

Getting Clients & Stakeholders Onboard with a Bias for Making

March 11th, 2014 by Jared Spool

Shaun wrote:

I recently read your article A Bias for Making. I was wondering if you had any tips on how to educate clients/stakeholders and get them onboard with the process?

Shaun has asked a great question. I have four tips for getting clients and stakeholders onboard.

The first is to choose clients who are ready to push the bias on making over planning. If a client has no interest in a process that involves iterative making up front, will they be a good client? (Good means “a client you want to work for.”) Being picky about our clients is an important step in our work.

Second, when they lean towards asking for plans, suggest the best way to learn what to plan is to build something quick and see how it turns out. The resulting plans will be more solid when you have most of the questions answered by a quick upfront prototyping adventure.

Third, build your internal processes so that you always turn in your plans along with something you’ve built to show what you mean. When you’re doing a project timeline, build something quick to show the different pieces and how they’ll start to look. If every deliverable involves something you’ve made, you’ll condition your client to expect that from you. (And, of course, if you’ve made the right things, it’ll make their reaction to the deliverable that much more insightful and valuable to you.)

Fourth, open up your process to the client. Involve them in the making. Make your stuff alongside of them, so they can see how you work through a problem. One of our worst design habits is the “Big Reveal”, where we show our client what we’ve done without any of the thinking behind it.

UIEtips: Code Sketching – A Stretch Goal for Your Design Superpower

March 5th, 2014 by Jared Spool

There was a time that providing a simple sketch on paper conveyed enough information to the stakeholders on the intent of a design. Now, with the plethora of devices a person can use, a sketch lacks the detail needed to convey how the design will appear on various devices. Today’s article discusses the benefits of sketching in code and why you shouldn’t fear it.

If showing your designs on multiple devices is important to you, you’ll want to explore Nate Schutta’s full day workshop, Coding Prototypes, Even if You’ve Never Tried at the UX Immersion Mobile Conference this April. He’ll ease you into mobile prototyping–from using HTML and CSS in a text editor to debugging what you have built.

Here’s an excerpt from the article:

Our designs flow and move. Expressing the subtlety and nuance of how we imagine our designs is hard to do with a static sketch. Microinteractions are essential for a good experience, but difficult to imagine by just looking at a picture.

We compound by desiring to express how the design will change as we move across platforms. We need to see if we’ve made something too complicated. Maybe we’ve left something important out? Maybe it’s too clumsy when there’s no keyboard?

Building the entire design to discover an important flaw is a time-consuming and expensive process. We want to get our ideas out there for review and reflection. How do we make it easy to do and cost effective?

Read the article Code Sketching – A Stretch Goal for Your Design Superpower.

Have you added sketching in code to your design toolbox? Tell us about it below.

UIEtips: Responsive Design for Apps

February 25th, 2014 by Jared Spool

In this week’s UIEtips article, Jason Grigsby tackles the concept of responsive design for mobile apps. He looks at widgets for desktop and mobile and explores the idea if phones are really different platforms than tablets.

When it comes to incorporating and understanding mobile first responsive design, Jason Grigsby is one of the UX superstars to turn to. That’s why we’ve asked him to do a full-day workshop at this year’s UX Immersion Mobile Conference, April 7-9 in Denver, CO.

Here’s an excerpt from the article:

 A few months ago I was tasked with finding a good solution for a client who wanted to move to responsive design, but had a web app that they needed to support as well. The question they asked is one that I’ve seen others argue about in the past: does responsive design make sense for apps?

Read the article Responsive Design for Apps.

How does your company decide which form factors to design for when developing a responsive app? Tell us about it below.

UIEtips: Content Marketing Sustains the Conversation

February 19th, 2014 by Jared Spool

In today’s UIEtips, Ahava Leibtag shares an excerpt from Chapter 9 of her book, The Digital Crown: Winning at Content on the Web, to explain the challenges content marketing can solve and the set of tools it provides you.

If you’re looking to expand upon traditional content strategy-both external (branding, messaging, tone) and internal (governance, workflows)-by folding UX into the conversation, you’ll want to join us on February 20, when Ahava presents her virtual seminar, Designing Effective Content Marketing.

Here’s an excerpt from the article:

As a UX, web and communications professional, you have daily challenges that are ever present on any given day. Today’s technologies are so fast, and accessibility to information so consistent and portable, that capturing your audiences’ attention and focus seems like an insurmountable problem.

Everyone says content is the solution, but when you try to find new ways to manage it in your organization, you feel like you’re fighting an ancient beast from the deep. Why is content so hard? How do you lasso this monstrous beast and align your content developments to your business objectives? And what’s this new thing everyone is talking about called content marketing?

Read the article Content Marketing Sustains the Conversation.

How does your organization align content development with business objectives?  Tell us about it below.

Get Lifetime Access to the UXIM 2013 Recordings for Free

February 18th, 2014 by Jared Spool

Get the UXIM 2013 OnDemand Recordings on us!

We’re celebrating the fantastic program at this year’s UX Immersion Mobile Conference by giving everyone lifetime access to the 2013 sold out conference.

Hear the same great content as the attendees from these top UX experts who shared their best practices for improving mobile UX skills.

  • Luke Wroblewski – Create designs without compromising optimization
  • Chris Risdon – Tell a visual story of what pains and delights your customers
  • Kelly Goto – Design with your customers’ behavior in mind
  • Cyd Harrell – Make better personas with tools to interpret user data faster
  • Jason Grigsby – Look into the future of designing for TV
  • Karen McGrane – Chunk your content to adapt to different contexts
  • Dana Chisnell – Consider the flow instead of the UI of your design
  • Jared Spool – Ensure delightful content regardless of the device

It’s easy to get your free lifetime access

Just submit your email by Friday, February 21, 11:59 PM PT and you’ll get access to last year’s UX Immersion talks. No tricks, no hidden payments.

Now hurry up and get your recordings from the sold out 2013 UX Immersion Mobile Conference and be sure to spread the word. The clock is ticking.

UIEtips: The Beginning of a Beautiful Friendship – Data and Design in Innovative Citizen Experiences

February 11th, 2014 by Jared Spool

Applications built on public data (think flight and train schedules) bring great benefits to their users. But the benefits they bring are highly dependent on how well the applications are designed. Designs will get better if the designers really watch users with the applications and use their feedback for updates.

Today’s article by Cyd Harrell is an excerpt from chapter 12 in the book Beyond Transparency. She discusses the relationship between data, design and the end user. Cyd’s workshop, Conducting Usability Research for Mobile Apps, dives into the usability research that captures these relationships in addition to other valuable information.

Here’s an excerpt from the article:

The past decade has brought enormous and growing benefits to ordinary citizens through applications built on public data. Any release of data offers advantages to experts, such as developers and journalists, but there is a crucial common factor in the most successful open data applications for non-experts: excellent design. In fact, open data and citizen-centered design are natural partners, especially as the government 2.0 movement turns to improving service delivery and government interaction in tandem with transparency. It’s nearly impossible to design innovative citizen experiences without data, but that data will not reach its full potential without careful choices about how to aggregate, present, and enable interaction with it.

Read the article The Beginning of a Beautiful Friendship: Data and Design in Innovative Citizen Experiences.

What choices has your team made to present innovative experiences with both public and private data? Tell us about it below.