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: Attaining a Collaborative Shared Understanding

May 14th, 2014 by Jared Spool

In this week’s UIEtips, we look back at an article that discusses two types of shared understanding we uncovered and how one of them is far more likely to end with a successful design.

Our next virtual seminar with Dan Brown covers shared understanding and how you and your team interprets and responds to everyday design challenges. Join us on May 15, 2014 for our next virtual seminar, Make Collaboration Happen, Even with Stubborn People.

Here’s an excerpt from the article:

I remember seeing an architect who talked about his best projects. When he walked through the finished building for the first time, he said it felt completely familiar because it matched exactly what he’d imagined years before. His intention had made it all the way through the implementation process.

Seeing our designs rendered exactly as we imagined them is exciting. Yet it’s frustrating when our designs aren’t implemented the way we were thinking.

As we study what makes design teams successful, shared understanding keeps bubbling up to the top of our list. Teams that attain a shared understanding are far more likely to get a great design than those teams who fail to develop a common perception of the project’s goals and outcome.

Read the article: Attaining a Collaborative Shared Understanding.

Which approach (contractual or collaborative) do you feel would be most effective in helping your team to attain shared understanding? Leave us a note below.

UIEtips: Scenarios and Journey Maps Help Designers Become Storytellers

May 7th, 2014 by Jared Spool

In today’s UIEtips, Jared Spool explains how storytelling is the core of design communication. Here’s an excerpt from the article:

Knowing how to change the users’ behaviors is one thing. Knowing which behaviors to change is another.

There are often many approaches to improving a design. Everyone can think they are working towards a better overall experience, but if each team member chooses a different approach, the design becomes confusing and complex.

When we’re working on a team, getting the entire team to work together from the same approach becomes job one. Smaller teams (such as those with six or less folks) have always had an easier time of this than larger ones. This is because it’s more likely the smaller teams are checking in and talking to each other.

Fortunately, there’s help for larger teams. It comes in a technique that is as old as humanity – storytelling.

Read the article Scenarios and Journey Maps Help Designers Become Storytellers.

How do you encourage creating stories in your design team? Tell us about it below.

Register for UI19 by May 15 to Secure the Lowest Rate

May 7th, 2014 by Jared Spool

Take advantage of the $1,395 Rate – Register by May 15

Save money and guarantee your spot in the workshops of your choice. Register for the User Interface 19 Conference, October 27–29, in Boston at the lowest rate of $1,395 by May 15.

    “Both the workshops and speeches were extremely useful and inspiring. The whole experience was beyond my (high) expectations!”

- Juha Rouvinen

Watch the UI19 Preview Video

Your UI19 Registration Includes:

  • Immediate access to UIE’s All You Can Learn for one year. This resource includes virtual seminars from many of the UI19 workshop leaders plus past conference recordings
  • Two daylong workshops and a day of featured talks from the workshop presenters
  • Complete conference materials from all the workshops and talks
  • Access to video recordings of the featured talks through All You Can Learn
  • A designer’s toolkit to help you create and communicate your design ideas

Save your spot, guarantee your workshops, and get the lowest price when you sign-up by
May 15.

UIEtips: Misconceptions about Collaboration

April 30th, 2014 by Jared Spool

In today’s UIEtips, Dan Brown of EightShapes discusses the three ways in which people misunderstand collaboration. You’ll be much more successful encouraging collaboration with an understanding of these misconceptions.

Want more of Dan’s thinking about design teams and collaboration? Join us on May 15 when he presents our next virtual seminar, Make Collaboration Happen, Even with Stubborn People.

Here’s an excerpt from the article:

Sometimes, people think of collaboration in very simple terms, ignoring the planning, structure, and organization it requires. There are three common misconceptions that oversimplify collaboration, as discussed next:

Throw smart people together. Suffice it to say that working with smart people is satisfying and challenging. But collaboration isn’t just about smarts. It’s about providing a framework for working together. Just as important as intelligence is a willingness to work within the framework.

Read the article Misconceptions about Collaboration.

How do you encourage collaboration in your team? Tell us about it below.

UIEtips: Pleasure, Flow, and Meaning — The 3 Approaches to Designing for Delight

April 24th, 2014 by Jared Spool

Here’s an excerpt from the article:

We can measure a design on a scale from frustration to delight. The middle of this scale is a neutral point, where the design is neither frustrating nor delightful. It doesn’t suck, but it’s not remarkable either. It’s just a neutral experience.

When improving a bad design, we first must remove the frustrating bits to get to that neutral point. Observation of the users’ experience, followed by careful rethinking of the design can remove everything that’s introducing frustration.

Improving the design from the neutral point, to introduce delight is a different process. It’s additive, whereas getting to the neutral point is reductive. We have to know what to add to make the experience become delightful.

Read the article Pleasure, Flow, and Meaning — The 3 Approaches to Designing for Delight.

What approach does your team take to add delight to your design? Tell us about it below.

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.