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: Taxonomy-driven Content Publishing

January 7th, 2014 by Jared Spool

The term for disorganized content throwing off your user experience is called content sprawl. To help you solve this problem, we’re publishing an excerpt from an article by Stephanie Lemieux and Michele Ann Jenkins of Dovecot Studio Inc. In it, they suggest taxonomies are perfect allies in the mission to tame the content chaos.

If flexibility in content publishing is a key goal for your team, then it’s time to try taxonomy-driven design. On January 9, Stephanie will show you how when she presents our next virtual seminar,
Managing Content Sprawl.

Here’s an excerpt from the article:

If you’re using a taxonomy to tag your content, you can really begin to leverage its structure to not only keep your site fresh and reduce manual content management, but also to simplify the way users navigate your content.

Taxonomy-driven content publishing (also referred to as search-driven display) allows you to dynamically retrieve and display content on a page based on specific taxonomy or other structured fields enabled within your content. A content display block (or entire page) is programmed to perform a search on one or more taxonomy tags or other fields selected in the configuration. This content is dynamically loaded when the page is accessed, eliminating the need for a content manager to manually assign the content to a particular page.

Read the article Taxonomy-driven Content Publishing

How does your organization use taxonomy to manage content sprawl? Tell us about it below.

Coding Prototypes, Even if You’ve Never Tried

January 6th, 2014 by Jared Spool

An hour of prototyping can save days of meetings and misunderstandings. Collaborate with developers earlier to refine interactions; your team — and users — will thank you for it. Let Nate Schutta take the scare out of using JavaScript and jQuery to build mobile prototypes, using HTML and CSS in a text editor, and debugging what you’ve built. Come and see for yourself that you don’t need JavaScript expertise to build a simple application.

Nate’s workshop, Coding Prototypes Even If You’ve Never Tried, will cover:

  • Demystifying JavaScript
  • Digging into jQuery Mobile
  • Using jQuery Mobile
  • Building a mobile app
  • Fitting the parts together
  • Showing your vision to developers
  • Stepping beyond basic CSS and HTML

Nate is one of those people who makes everyone feel comfortable. His expertise in prototyping comes from working with cross-functional teams. As a senior software engineer, Nate focuses on making usable applications — the ideal end-result of any project.

He’ll teach you how to:

  • Use browser tools and a text editor, comfortably
  • Debug what’s screwed up
  • Address often-overlooked pieces like error messages
  • Use the not-so-mysterious dollar sign ($) with ease
  • Understand and navigate a document library
  • Simulate a mobile interface right on your laptop

Nate Schutta will help you build out the pages for a prototype, use tools like lists, create a detail page, decide how to handle transitions, and experiment with different themes. After his workshop at UXIM14 on April 9 in Denver, CO you’ll have everything you need to get your mobile prototype up and running.

See you at UXIM14!

UIEtips: Design is the Rendering of Intent

December 30th, 2013 by Jared Spool

In this week’s TIPS, I’ll begin explaining design as “the rendering of intent.” Simply put, this is when the designer imagines an outcome and puts forth activities to make that outcome real.

Here’s an excerpt from the article:

What if the team had approached the design with a different intention? What if they had intended that users would get through the sign-up process without ever seeing an error message?

Designer extraordinaire, Robert Fabricant once said, “Behavior is the medium of design.” When we encounter a user’s behavior that isn’t what we’ve intended, we change the design until we see what we want.

An implication of this definition for design is how it changes our notion of who is a designer.

Read the article Design is the Rendering of Intent.

How do you assure your design process is a way to come to a single intention? Tell us about it below.

UIEtips: Explore These 7 Great Podcasts from 2013

December 23rd, 2013 by Jared Spool

This past year we featured some fantastic podcasts from a variety of UX luminaries. It was difficult to cull the list but we managed to do just that. Here for your listening pleasure are our favorite podcasts from 2013.

Designing Microinteractions

Dan Saffer photoDo you think about the ringer on your phone and the ability to turn it off? Dan Saffer uses this example to kick off his book Microinteractions. Silencing the ringer on your phone is a common feature. If that feature is clunky or hard to find, it interferes with needing to silence it quickly, in a crowded movie theater for example. These tiny interactions that surround the main functionality are integral to rounding out the entire experience.

Listen to the podcast

Lean UX: Escaping Product Requirement Hell

Jeff Gothelf photoAssumptions tend to be the downfall of many research projects. Jeff Gothelf suggests starting with an attitude that you’re testing a hypothesis which leads to a more open discussion. The main thing is, hypotheses, just like design, can change. Being flexible and iterative in your design process encourages an environment of collaboration.

Listen to the podcast

When Responsive Design Meets the Real World

Jason Grigsby photoResponsive web design allows the notion of “one web” to be a reality. Designers are increasingly able to sell to their organization the idea of delivering content to multiple platforms. Putting it into practice is another story. Jason Grigsby, co-founder of Cloud Four, says that it is easier to sell the idea of responsive web design than to do it well.

Listen to the podcast

Prototyping for Mobile Designs

Kelly Goto photoBuilding a prototype is a great way to test your design early on with users. Whether you choose to go for a high-fidelity representation, or go lo-fi with paper, you can learn a lot about the usability of your site. Often, teams are concerned with which technique or tool to use because of the litany that are available. Kelly Goto, founder of Gotomedia, suggests that the importance of the tool lies more with when you use it than why.

Listen to the podcast

Using Scenarios to Design Intuitive Experiences

Kim Goodwin photoScenarios can represent the ideal picture of a user’s experience with a product or service because you can see how and when they’ll interact. However, a scenario is often missing the details of what’s going on at this moment in time and that can be a sticking point. This is where the value of the journey map emerges. Kim Goodwin has years of experience teaching teams how to create and work with personas and scenarios.

Listen to the podcast

Adapting Your Content for Mobile

Karen McGrane photoContent touches all aspects of a design. Having presentation independent content allows for it to adapt to different screens and devices. Karen McGrane suggests that having the specifics of how the content will be structured in place first, allows for the freedom and flexibility to make the right design choices. Karen says that thinking about content first, over how it will appear, helps ensure you’re communicating the right message.

Listen to the podcast

Accessibility as a Design Tool

Derek Featherstone photoAccessibility is important, but somewhere along the way it got an undeserved reputation for being ugly, costly, and driven only by technical-compliance requirements. Making it an integral part of your design early creates something that is beautiful, inexpensive, and user experience-driven. Derek Featherstone of Simply Accessible believes that implementing accessibility into your designs will flat out make for better design.

Listen to the podcast


Share Your Thoughts with Us

What were your favorite podcasts in 2013? Tell us about it below.

UIEtips: Announcing our Favorite Articles of 2013

December 19th, 2013 by Jared Spool

Over the past year we published more than 35 articles. Here are 6 of our favorites in no particular order:

What Makes an Experience Seem Innovative?

There are so many better things we could be doing with our time than standing in line. But if we step out of the line, we lose our opportunity to get the service we want. Who would’ve thought you could innovate around something as simple as waiting in line?

Here’s an excerpt from the article:

Since customers think standing and waiting is a necessary evil without alternatives, they may not complain about it. Organizations that focus on the specific activities to resolve their perceived customer objective, may overlook the deep frustration from tool time that’s happening in the gaps between those activities.

Teams that study the entire experience look into those gaps to see from where the deep frustration emerges. Addressing that frustration, when no other product or service has done so, will look innovative to the customer.

Read the article What Makes an Experience Seem Innovative


Feedback Illuminates the Rules

In this article, Dan Saffer discusses how a good microinteraction immediately shares a result with a user. It lets them know the next steps to take or if they’re going in the right direction.

Here’s an excerpt from the article:

Let’s take a microinteraction appliance like a dishwasher as an example. The dishwasher process goes something like this: a user selects a setting, turns the dishwasher on, the dishwasher washes the dishes and stops. If someone opens the dishwasher midprocess, it complains. Now, if the dishwasher has a screen, each of these actions could be accompanied by a message on the screen (“Washing Dishes. 20 minutes until complete.”). If there is no screen, there might be only LEDs and sounds to convey these messages. One option might be that an LED blinks while the dishwasher is running, and a chime sounds when the washing cycle is completed.

Read the article Feedback Illuminates the Rules


Extraordinarily Radical Redesign Strategies

In this article, Jared Spool discusses how it is common for companies to completely change their website design all at once versus gradually. But it often causes havoc for the user. There’s a strong case for making your redesign practically unnoticeable and slowly releasing small aspects of it.

Here’s an excerpt from the article:

It’s your most loyal customers who will hate your flip-the-switch redesign the most. Designers are quick to declare, “Users hate change.” But that’s not it at all.

Your loyal users have invested a lot over the years mastering your current design, to the point where they are fast and efficient with everything they need to do. When you change it, even with something you want to label “new and improved,” all of that investment is flushed down the drain.

Read the article Extraordinarily Radical Redesign Strategies


Meetings: The Canary in the Culture Coal Mine

We all know that a company’s culture is a key factor to its success. Culture isn’t something you can whip up or easily change, but its presences will define what is and is not possible to accomplish. In this article, Kevin Hoffman talks about understanding the effects of an organization’s culture on its processes and outcome.

Here’s an excerpt from the article:

The culture of a group or a project team is like water to fish: it is invisible yet everywhere, and it defines what is and is not possible to accomplish. Understanding or changing any aspect of a culture requires immense focused effort and luck.

Read the article Meetings: The Canary in the Culture Coal Mine


A Typical UX Team of One Job Description

In this article, Leah Buley discusses the various ways one can spot a UX team-of-one situation. Few UX jobs are advertised as a team-of-one gig, but there are usually telltale signs that give them away.

Here’s an excerpt from the article:

To get a sense of what your colleagues do and don’t know about user experience, take them out to lunch and have a casual conversation. Consider a “Bathroom UX” campaign to promote a broader understanding of the roles and functions of user experience. Employers expect UX practitioners to be able to back up their recommendations and show their work. Employers also might expect the user experience practitioner to challenge and persuade others in the organization to adopt new approaches. UX teams of one sometimes have to be diplomatic, informed, and well-meaning meddlers.

Read the article A Typical UX Team of One Job Description


Five Prevalent Pitfalls when Prototyping

There are five common traps teams fall into with their prototyping efforts. Using prototypes is key when designing, but are you falling into some of the frequent traps with your prototyping efforts? Learn about 5 typical traps and how to prevent them.

Here’s an excerpt from the article:

A great prototype can sell an idea better than a specification or other form of describing the design. Seeing the design in action and playing with it brings the underlying ideas to life.

It’s no wonder that we focus so much on what the prototype will look like and how it will work. We want to achieve that wow factor with the key decision makers and stakeholders on the project.

As important as the working prototype is, it’s not the most important outcome of a prototyping effort. What’s more important is what the team learns from the prototyping process.

Read the article Five Prevalent Pitfalls when Prototyping


Share Your Thoughts with Us

What was your biggest UX challenge in 2013? Tell us about it below.

UIEtips: The Redesign of the Design Process

December 10th, 2013 by Jared Spool

There are two kinds of work in the world: work we do alone and work we do with others. Working with others often requires meetings, which can be a waste of time and energy. Feedback from clients, stakeholders and team members is also critical for designers but at times terrifying and often missing a common language to share the feedback. Progress comes from understanding why something is the way it is, then examining how it meets or doesn’t meet desired goals. If you and your entire team can build a shared understanding of success through objective research and validation, you’ll start spending your time on the right work for your business and for your brain.

This past UI18 conference focused on best practices and cutting edge techniques on advanced design processes in the areas of Lean UX, critique, and successful meetings in addition to other critical UX topics. Just imagine what you could do with over 13 hours of video and audio recordings from the inspiring talks and all the presentation slides and materials from the workshops. Get UI18 OnDemand for just $189 until January 16. Share all this UX goodness with your entire organization for this one low price.

Here’s an excerpt from the article:

Today, the best designs aren’t coming from a single designer who somehow produces an amazing solution. The best designs are coming from teams that work together as a unit, marching towards a commonly held vision, and always building a new understanding of the problem.

These teams create their great designs without using any magic or special formula. They create great designs by applying their design skills to the act of designing.

Read the article The Redesign of the Design Process.

Is your design process geared towards forming a common understanding? Tell us about it below.

Mobile UX Design That Delights

December 9th, 2013 by Jared Spool

How often do you start researching a product, reading an article, or listening to a podcast on one device and finish up on another? Common, right? Well your users are doing it too, and if you’re not creating delightful, cross-platform experiences—you’re likely to lose them.

The increasing use of mobile devices makes designing sites and apps more complex. To design for the user, you have to completely change the way you use to work and learn new tools, techniques, and patterns for success.

We’ve created a conference that focuses on the skills you need to create pleasing experiences for your customers regardless of the device they use. At the UX Immersion Mobile Conference, you’ll be led by industry experts on an intense dive into game-changing, mobile UX challenges.

Brad Frost will focus on establishing a practical foundation and workflow so your team can build responsive, adaptive interfaces. You’ll discuss how to use layout, image, and navigation patterns to design future-friendly experiences.

Karen McGrane wants to help you transform existing content into packages that work for your CMS, people, and users. You’ll learn how to publish content to many devices using one, author-centric workflow.

Mobile changes everything about how we conduct usability research. Cyd Harrell will let you in on the latest techniques for interviewing, gathering data, and involving your entire team.

Ease into mobile prototyping with Nate Schutta and discover that building prototypes using JavaScript and jQuery isn’t a black art. Dabble at using HTML and CSS in a text editor to debug what you’ve built. You don’t even have to be a coder for his workshop!

Dispel your fears of code, media queries, image optimization, and multi-device design with Jason Grigsby. See how fast and freeing mobile-first, responsive web design can be right now. Come ready to take your current CSS and HTML skills to the next level.

Ben Callahan knows that teams, timelines, and deliverables are an ever-changing challenge with responsive design. He’ll share how teams can manage expectations and create stronger products, faster by being truly responsive in both design and workflow.

Our presenters are experts on the ways mobile UX can transform teams and how users experience your content in this multi-device world. Learn more about the must-attend UX Mobile conference of 2014. See you in Denver!

UIEtips: Designing for Breakpoints

December 4th, 2013 by Jared Spool

In today’s UIEtips, we offer an article printed earlier this year on A List Apart – Designing for Breakpoints by Stephen Hay (reprinted with the permission of A List Apart, the author, and the publisher). It’s an excerpt from Chapter 7 of his book, Responsive Design Workflow, available from New Riders.

If your team struggles with how to design responsively, then you’ll want to hear Stephen’s practical approach to improving your responsive web design workflow during his December 12 virtual seminar on Responsive Web Design Workflows.

Here’s an excerpt from the article:

When thinking about major breakpoints, remember to think about device classes. If you’re thinking about smartphones, tablets, laptops/desktops, TVs, and game consoles, for example, you’re heading in the right direction. If you’re thinking in terms of brand names and specific operating systems, you’re on the wrong track. The idea is to think in terms of general device classifications and, sometimes, device capabilities. Capabilities are more important when designing web applications, since you should be thinking about what screens will look like both with and without any particular capability.

Read the article Designing for Breakpoints.

What are your strategies for designing breakpoints? Tell us about it below.

UIEtips: Devising a Strategy for Responsive Design

November 27th, 2013 by Jared Spool

In today’s UIEtips, I’m sharing a reprint of an article on the importance of organizations nailing down a strategy for making their sites responsive. Saying yes to responsive design will require changes to your editorial process, the ways you approach visual and interaction design, and how you think about your users and their goals.

And if your team struggles with how to design responsively, then you’ll want join us for Stephen Hay’s December 12 virtual seminar on Responsive Web Design Workflows. Stephen Hay has a practical approach to improving your responsive web design workflow.

Here’s an excerpt from the article:

A responsive design can have multiple breakpoints, say for a small-screen phone, then a large-screen phone, then a tablet, then a laptop/desktop. Many teams try to decide on breakpoints using average screen sizes.

However, it’s better to look at what the content and navigation wants to be. By letting the content and navigation drive the breakpoints, teams find they can often get away with fewer screen configurations. For example, a high-resolution Retina iPad might easily share the same configuration as a well-constructed laptop display, while lower resolution tablets might just need a little adjustment to that same configuration.

Read the article Devising a Strategy for Responsive Design.

What are your strategies for preparing a responsive design? Tell us about it below.

At $1,389, UXIM 2014 will sell out fast so get your spot now

November 22nd, 2013 by Jared Spool

If creating designs that function across multiple devices is important to you, then you’ll want a seat at the UX Immersion Mobile Conference in Denver, April 7-9, 2014 (Pssst. Last year sold out.) Designing for cross-platform experiences affects every phase of your projects — user research, content flow, page break-up and patterns, and the ways users input data. Even project managers must approach workflow differently.

Be sure to save your spot early and take advantage of the $1,389 price. There’s only 100 80 spots at that price. Reserve your spot soon before the conference sells out. Not convinced yet? Here’s what some folks had to say about last year’s sold out UX Immersion Mobile Conference:

Speakers are of a very high caliber. I totally feel that I got my money’s worth–and I paid for my own attendance!   – C. Azzarello

It really was an amazing conference. Rarely have I ever been to a three day conference where I learned so much. The full day workshops were very structured and the speakers seemed to be able to tailor their talks to the diverse makeup of the group. -  B. Hughes

Explore the conference at UXIM.co