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: Group Improvisation

January 23rd, 2014 by Jared Spool

Designers are constantly thinking about their process, workflow, and ways to improve both. In today’s UIEtips, we feature an article from Ben Callahan that offers an alternative approach to web design and development.

At this year’s UX Immersion Mobile Conference Ben is giving a full-day workshop on workflow with responsive web design projects. He’ll show you how to manage expectations and create stronger products faster.

Here’s an excerpt from the article:

In 1959, Miles Davis got a few of the most talented jazz musicians of all time together in a recording studio in Manhattan. The album they were about to record would go quadruple platinum and still be selling 5,000 copies a week in 2013. The title of that album was Kind of Blue and today it’s considered by many to be the greatest jazz record of all time.

The musicians Miles was playing with didn’t know what they were going to record when they arrived at the studio. In fact, Miles didn’t even really know. The only preparation he had was a handful of modal scales and a few melody ideas. No sheet music or chord charts. No rehearsals or overdubbing techniques. The first time the band made it through a track is the take that’s on the album. Though web design and modal jazz may seem worlds apart, there’s a lot that improvisational records like Kind of Blue have to teach us about our process-crazed industry.

Read the article Group Improvisation.

What techniques does your team use to improve collaboration? Tell us about it below.

Conducting Usability Research for Mobile Apps

January 23rd, 2014 by Jared Spool

Mobile changes everything about how we conduct usability research. With the right strategy, we can quickly understand our users’ behavior, wherever they are.

Join Cyd Harrell at the UX Immersion Mobile Conference, April 7-9 in Denver to learn the latest techniques for interviewing, gathering data, and involving your entire team.

You’ll learn how to:

  • Lead strong mobile-research evaluations
  • Envision studies even at the concept stage
  • Determine when to do (or not do) usability testing
  • Use mobile-research tools to study users’ questions
  • Recruit users for specific operating systems
  • Involve teams and stakeholders in the research

At Cyd’s workshop, Conducting Usability Research for Mobile Apps, you’ll participate in small-group and individual activities to hone your research and interview techniques. Wear comfortable walking shoes; you’ll need them for observing mobile users on-the-go. You’ll also dig into some diary studies to see what “research platform in your pocket” means.

You’ll discuss:

  • Designing a mobile-specific research plan
  • Collecting user data with mobile devices
  • Conducting user interviews on-the-go
  • Adding research — without blowing budgets

Cyd’s been doing remote research since 2007. When she was at Bolt | Peters she even developed methods to broadcast remote research sessions to observation teams. Today, as the UX lead for Code for America, Cyd regularly performs research on mobile phones from low-income residents through smartphone-happy elite populations.

In short, she’s The Expert. So don’t miss her at UXIM14.

A Tool No UX Designer Should Be Without

One of the tools Cyd uses for remote usability studies is her document camera. It’s a great way to have remote teams participate and to permanently capture the study. Get your own IPEVO document camera when you register for the UXIM Mobile Conference by January 30. Find out more about all the workshops and the IPEVO camera at UXIM.co.

Improve Communication With Your Remote Team

January 22nd, 2014 by Jared Spool

OK. Your meeting is going perfectly. Then a remote team member says, “I don’t understand. Can you show me what you mean?”

PANIC! MEETING IS DERAILING!

But you’re about to save the day. You plug in your trusty IPEVO document camera and focus in on the pen and paper. As you make your sketch you begin to hear folks saying, “I get it,” and the whole team is back on track.

How do you get this nifty tool? You register for the UX Immersion Mobile Conference by January 30.

Why You Need the IPEVO Document Camera:

  • Share your design ideas and sketches with remote teams to ensure everyone is on the same page
  • Document individual sketches during design studios to a digital file for easy access in the future
  • Project sketches to large audiences to convey your designs
  • Get everyone participating and working together saving time and increasing productivity
  • Conduct usability tests remotely while letting the team back in the office watch

Register by January 30 to Get Your Free IPEVO

We’re always looking to bring you new resources, processes, and techniques to help you become a better designer. Now we have a great tool that we’re excited to include with your UXIM registration, the IPEVO document camera. But it’s only available until January 30 so be sure to register now.

Explore the conference and IPEVO camera at UXIM.co.

Workflow on Responsive Web Design Projects

January 20th, 2014 by Jared Spool

The old workflow of designing for the desktop and a tablet, working up images in Photoshop or Fireworks, falls apart with responsive design. With the growing number of mobile devices, how do you design for the multitude of screen sizes? What priority will elements take on shrinking screens? How can designers make their intentions clear for developers ready to code? These are some of the questions Ben Callahan’s workflow seminar will answer.

With Ben, learn to manage expectations and create stronger products, faster by:

  • Structuring teams to be more flexible
  • Planning responsive projects, from soup-to-nuts
  • Designing interfaces using faster methods
  • Managing expectations and doing testing
  • Pushing “the whole” instead of “the parts”
  • Using more than one tool
  • Learning to let go of control

When Ben Callahan speaks, everyone listens. He has been a leading voice in making flexibility the core of responsive design workflows. Don’t miss his full-day workshop at UXIM14 in Denver, CO on April 7.

You’ll learn how to:

  • Build small “surgical” teams to maximize collaboration
  • Delay decisions until the last responsible moment
  • Overcome “baggage” that hampers a responsive process
  • Facilitate a collaborative design process that’s still adaptable
  • Convince others that responsive web design is a competitive advantage
  • Identify when trust waivers, then address it with transparency

Ben will help you overcome common workflow challenges. He’ll also offer practical, relatable takeaways from real-world stories and case studies from his own experiences in running projects.

If your design process is missing something and you want to know how to shift the focus from the process to the people involved—check out this workshop.

Get inspired at the UXIM Mobile Conference.

UIEtips: Atomic Design

January 14th, 2014 by Jared Spool

It’s quite common for designers to develop design systems and libraries of patterns. A designer can save a considerable amount of time if they develop a reliable design system. One that goes beyond colors, fonts, grid etc but rather focuses more on how the various elements and parts become a whole. In today’s UIEtips, we feature a post from Brad Frost where he explains a methodology for creating design systems. It’s called Atomic Design. It’s a term rising in popularity.

We’re fortunate that Brad is giving a daylong workshop at this year’s UXIM conference in Denver, April 7-9. He’ll show you how your design team can establish a practical foundation to make flexible, adaptive UIs. Learn more about Brad’s workshop, Using Atomic Design to Create Responsive Interfaces.

Here’s an excerpt from the article:

The thought is that all matter (whether solid, liquid, gas, simple, complex, etc) is comprised of atoms. Those atomic units bond together to form molecules, which in turn combine into more complex organisms to ultimately create all matter in our universe.

Similarly, interfaces are made up of smaller components. This means we can break entire interfaces down into fundamental building blocks and work up from there. That’s the basic gist of atomic design.

Read the article Atomic Design.

Does your company build interfaces using atomic design patterns? Tell us about it below.

Websockets and Why Designers Should Learn To Code

January 9th, 2014 by Jared Spool

HTML5 has an awesome feature that’s now gaining attention from designers: Websockets. It’s a way to create a persistent communication channel between the client and a server, without using page refreshes or the asynchronous mechanics behind AJAX. Think much faster communications, because it’s not establishing a new connection for each round trip.

Look at this cool Racer demo from Google, showing race cars racing across multiple devices, with no noticeable lag when the cars jump from one device to the next. Imagine moving messaging, data, or anything else at that speed.

Real time updated stock prices, auction bids, or other fast-changing data. The limit is your imagination.

Here’s the deal though: because it’s new, each browser implementation is somewhat idiosyncratic. The Racer demo works in Chrome, but may not work elsewhere. Making websockets work can be finicky. It won’t always be that way — the browsers will eventually fall into line. But for now, it’s a difficult thing to get it all to work.

Here we are with a great, powerful tool. If we want to take advantage of it, we need to dive in and start playing. We need to see what it can do and what it can’t. We need to learn it like an artist learns their paintbrush, paint, and canvas.

Websockets are just one reason why smart designers are taking the plunge and learning to code. With some simple coding skills, these designers can start playing with websockets and see what they are all about. They can work up simple demos and prototypes to test out ideas. They can get their coworkers excited about exploring these new technologies too.

Learning enough code to play around with websockets isn’t about learning production-quality coding skills. It’s tinkering in the garage, not building a new car for Toyota. That’s all that’s necessary here. Enough code to learn what the tools can do and speak intelligently to our peers in development.

Designers don’t need to learn to code. But those that do now can start playing with things like websockets.

Still not convinced? Take everything above and swap in “media queries” for “websockets.” That’s where responsive design started 3 years ago. Remember, it was designers like Ethan Marcotte and John Allsopp that got everyone excited about what responsive design was all about. And that started by playing with CSS tools like media queries.

Designers don’t need to learn to code. However, designers that learn to code will be the ones leading us to better user experiences.

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.