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: Progressive Enhancement and the Content-out Approach

November 20th, 2013 by Jared Spool

Today, there exists a sea of design considerations like browsers, accessibility, device compatibility, and responsive or adaptive design. And with new techniques and devices coming out daily, it’s easy to feel overwhelmed. Fortunately, Aaron Gustafson knows how to wrangle all of these elements using progressive enhancement. With his practical approach, he designs for humans on any spectrum – with and without javascript enabled. In 2011, he published Adaptive Web Design: Crafting Rich Experiences with Progressive Enhancement.

In today’s UIEtips, we’re pleased to publish an excerpt from Aaron’s book which discusses how progressive enhancement can serve your users by giving them access to content without technological restrictions.

On November 21, Aaron will present our next virtual seminar, Designing Across Devices with Progressive Enhancement. If you’re trying to create a better web – and are open to rethinking how you approach designing for any interface, then you need to join us for Aaron’s seminar.

Here’s an excerpt from the article:

Fundamentally, progressive enhancement is about accessibility, but not in the limited sense the term is most often used. The term “accessibility” is traditionally used to denote making content available to individuals with “special needs” (people with limited motility, cognitive disabilities, or visual impairments); progressive enhancement takes this one step further by recognizing that we all have special needs. Our special needs may also change over time and within different contexts. When I load up a website on my phone, for example, I am visually limited by my screen resolution (especially if I am using a browser that encourages zooming) and I am limited in my ability to interact with buttons and links because I am browsing with my fingertips, which are far larger and less precise than a mouse cursor.

Read the article Progressive Enhancement and the Content-out Approach.

Do you use progressive enhancement in your designs? Tell us about it below.

UIEtips: LiRPPS – Lightweight, Research-Based Principles, Personas, and Scenarios – Part 2

November 14th, 2013 by Jared Spool

In LiRPPS: Lightweight, Research-Based Principles, Personas, and Scenarios – Part 1, I began to tell you how to use a lightweight, research-based approach to create usable decision-making references for designers. Well, now I’m going to tell you about how you can actually do them. Are you ready to go?

Here’s an excerpt from the article:

We use a simple rule to decide who gets a say in creating our personas, scenarios, and principles: only people who went on a minimum of two field visits. This way everyone is basing their decisions on research. If we let folks who haven’t been on visits participate, then they’ll draw from their own experiences or people we hadn’t talked to in this round of research. That reduces the chance we’ll get personas that match our audience, which, in turn, makes the reference tools less valuable.

Making this rule from the start of the project means everyone understands the price of entry. Want to help make the personas, scenarios, and design principles? Then you need to visit at least two sites and take notes.

If you haven’t figured it out, this is the secret part of our agenda. There’s lots of evidence to show the more exposure team members have to real users doing real work, the better the design. The reference tools we’re creating help us stretch the effects of that exposure, so without it, those tools are useless.

Read the article LiRPPS: Lightweight, Research-Based Principles, Personas, and Scenarios – Part 2.

What process does your team follow when creating personas, scenarios, and principles? Share your thoughts below.

The Insider Scoop on the Must-Attend Mobile UX Conference of 2014

November 13th, 2013 by Jared Spool

The mobile boom can be daunting. More and more users are accessing your site and products on their mobile devices, making a clear case for you to know how to design for those experiences.

Designers must create designs that function across multiple devices. Good design practices are being changed by a need for cross-platform experiences, and this shift affects every phase of our projects: user research, content flow, page break-up and patterns, and the ways users input data. Even project managers must approach workflow differently.

That’s why we’ve created a conference just for you that focuses on mobile UX. At the UX Immersion Mobile Conference from April 7-9, in Denver, you’ll participate in two full-days of hands-on workshops and one day of 90-minute feature talks. You’ll be led on an intense dive into game-changing material by these industry experts:

  • Cyd Harrell on User Research
  • Brad Frost on Design Patterns
  • Ben Callahan on Design Workflow
  • Karen McGrane on Content Strategy
  • Jason Grigsby on Responsive Design
  • Nate Schutta on jQuery Prototypes

Last year’s conference sold out and we know this year’s will too. There are only 100 specially-priced spots at $1,389. Sign up for the updates at the UXIM site and be one of the select few that can register starting November 19. Everyone else has to wait until November 22.

We’ll add details to the UXIM site in the days to come. In the meantime, get the approval you need and be among the first to register on November 19.

I can’t wait to meet up in Denver and share this experience with you.

UIEtips: LiRPPS – Lightweight, Research-Based Principles, Personas, and Scenarios – Part 1

November 6th, 2013 by Jared Spool

In this week’s UIEtips, I look at key parts of the creative brief – personas, scenarios, and design principles. I explore what gets us bogged down in obtaining information needed for these three key parts, the consequences that occur when we ignore certain steps, and an approach to follow to get the necessary information to make good design decisions.

Here’s an excerpt from the article:

The brief consists of four simple components: the objective, 1-2 personas, 1-2 scenarios, and 1-2 design principles. The objective is what we’re working on (such as, “The billing information form”). The personas describe who the users are (“Nancy, our frequent purchaser”). The scenarios are the stories that describe how the personas will use our design and why (“using a new credit card for the first time because of an identity theft issue”). And the design principles are the tests we’ll use to tell if our design is great (“Only tell us something once”).

Personas, scenarios, and design principles are reference tools for the work we’re doing. They act like razors that cut through passable designs, so we can focus on what could make the user experience great. Making them explicit helps everyone on the team understand the ‘why’ behind our decisions.

When we’re creating our brief, we know where the objective comes from. It comes from where we are in the design of our project. But, where do the personas, scenarios, and design principles come from?

Read the article: LiRPPS – Lightweight, Research-Based Principles, Personas, and Scenarios – Part 1

How do you go about involving your design team in the key parts of a creative brief? Tell us about it below.

Budgeting for 2014? Keep these events in mind

November 4th, 2013 by Jared Spool

Are you budgeting for 2014? Do you you have some funds you need to spend before year’s end? Take a look at these incredible UX resources we have lined up for you and your team in the coming year.

UX Mobile Immersion Conference

April 7–9, 2014
Denver, CO
Marriott Denver City Center

The best mobile experiences follow users from one place to another no matter what device they use. We’ve assembled six of the top mobile UX experts in the world to show you how to create seamless and delightful experiences for your users. You do not want to miss out on learning from these folks through full-day workshops and one day of talks.

Registration for the UXIM conference opens in mid-November and you can save money by registering early. But keep in mind that only 100 spots are available at the $1,389 rate.

User Interface 19 Conference

October 27–29, 2014
Boston, MA
Renaissance Boston Hotel

Sure we’re still working on next year’s UI19 topics and speakers for the 2 days of workshops and one day of featured talks but past history tells us workshops often sell out. Secure your spot and the workshops of your choice by registering now and you’ll also get the lowest possible rate of $1,389. That’s $300 off the regular conference price.

If you’re interested in registering now, send us an email at events@uie.com, otherwise watch for special announcements in the spring of 2014 about this conference.

Upcoming virtual Seminars for 2014

Instead of your team traveling to a training course, you can take advantage of the UIE Virtual Seminar program and hear the latest insights on the most important design topics right from your office. Take advantage of these amazing opportunities to get the latest thinking from the top thought leaders in the user experience design community through these 90-minute webinars:

01/09/14 – Stephanie Lemieux on Taxonomy & Findability

01/30/14 – Chris Farnum on Wireframes

02/20/14 – Ahava Leibtag on Content Strategy

03/13/14 – Josh Clark on Mobile Design

04/03/14 – Joshua Seiden on Lean UX: A Deep Dive

04/17/14 – Noah Iliinsky on The Four Pillars of Information Design

05/15/14 – Dan Brown on Design Team Collaboration

06/05/14 – Ben Callahan on Responsive Design Workflows

06/26/14 – We’re working on this last date in the program for you!

From January through June you can have access to all of these great presenters and topics for only $1,149. With these educational events on your team’s calendar, you’re sure to maximize your core knowledge and skills. Sign-up Once. Pay Once.

UIEtips: Five Prevalent Pitfalls when Prototyping

October 30th, 2013 by Jared Spool

Prototyping means being able to render ideas in order to better understand them. We’ve discovered some common traps design teams fall into with their prototyping efforts. In today’s UIEtips, we’re reprinting an article about the five prevalent pitfalls we’ve seen over the years.

While you consider the prototypes your team creates, and how to avoid these pitfalls, you’ll want to be sure you have the right fidelity for the research you’re conducting. Next week, Carolyn Snyder returns to the virtual seminar program to present Prototypes: Choosing the “Right” Fidelity for Your Research. Carolyn will show you which project variables to consider when choosing what to test in the first place, and then how to create an effective prototype that minimizes work and maximizes learning. Learn more about Carolyn’s seminar here.

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 imporant is what the team learns from the prototyping process.

Read the article: Five Prevalent Pitfalls when Prototyping

Have you run into any prototyping pitfalls? Tell us about it below.

UIEtips: Multi-Device Adaptation vs. Optimization

October 24th, 2013 by Jared Spool

In this week’s UIEtips, we revisit an article about multi-device adaptation vs. optimization. Luke Wroblewski uses a great analogy of how responsive design and optimization relates to taking a trip and packing appropriately.

Here’s an excerpt from the article:

If you don’t exactly know what you’re getting into, it’s difficult to arrive 100% prepared. Instead, you come ready for many situations and adapt to what you find when you get there.

As a simple example, imagine you are packing for a trip but don’t know what the weather is going to be like at your destination. You’ll probably bring some options for when it’s cold and hot. Better yet, you’ll pack layers. When you arrive, you can simply add or remove layers based on the actual weather conditions waiting for you. You didn’t pack just what you needed, but you’re comfortable and up for anything because you can adapt.

Read the article: Multi-Device Adaptation vs. Optimization

How do you adapt and/or optimize multi-device designs? Tell us about it below.

UIEtips: Meetings – The Canary in the Culture Coal Mine

October 16th, 2013 by Jared Spool

Kevin Hoffman’s most recent writing suggests the culture of a group or a project team plays a significant role in what is and is not possible. Kevin also says that understanding or changing any aspect of a culture requires immense focused effort and luck. In this exclusive article for UIEtips by Kevin Hoffman, Kevin focuses on both culture mapping and the simple feedback loop as essential tools for quickly understanding the culture of a group or a project team.

In less than one week, Kevin will lead a full-day workshop at the User Interface 18 Conference in Boston. His workshop, Leading Super Productive Meetings will show you how to develop empathy, trust, and collaboration in order to run effective design discussions. Plus, you’ll learn all about the visual listening and “who-do” frameworks to better understand and communicate with your teams — and manage conflict, too. Learn more about Kevin’s workshop.

Here’s an excerpt from the article:

Understanding the effects of an organization’s culture on its processes and outcomes can be challenging. 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.

Equally fascinating is the fact that organizations actually have two cultures. Their espoused culture is the one they claim to have, and the one which is promoted to customers and employees. They also have an actual culture, which governs how things truly go down and may contradict the former. For example, nearly all design firms speak of having a highly democratic, hands-on culture. However there are some decisions made in the style a dictatorship: people’s salaries, clients, even the selection of desks and equipment. It isn’t efficient or fun to get a group of twenty five people to collaborate on selecting a printer. When looking at troubled teams and companies it isn’t difficult to find stark contrast between their advertised and actual cultures. As a result of that culture contrast people feel disenfranchised, teams are less effective, and goals aren’t met.

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

How has culture affected your meetings? Tell us about it below.

UIEtips: Setting the Foundation for Meaningful Critiques – Goals, Principles, Personas and Scenarios

October 9th, 2013 by Jared Spool

Doing critiques well and constructively is no easy task. Often designers feel picked on or that the feedback doesn’t give enough direction. According to Adam Connor, a key concept to remember is that “critique is a form of analysis”. It’s a discussion on what is working well and what areas need improvement. To do this right you need goals. You need to ask if what you’re critiquing is reaching the objectives of the goals you and your team created. In today’s article by Adam Connor, Adam discusses how to set the foundation of a meaningful critique by using goals, principles, personas, and scenarios.

In less than two weeks, Adam Connor and Aaron Irizarry will lead a full-day workshop at the User Interface 18 Conference in Boston. Their workshop, Building Consensus in Critiques and Designs Studios will show you how to execute a productive design studio. You’ll follow a proven framework that goes from ideation to consensus-building. Learn more about their workshop.

Here’s an excerpt from the article:

In a recent post, Aaron talked about the importance of intent in the success of critique. Without the right intent on both sides critiques can go nowhere. Or worse, they can hurt the design, the designer and the relationship between the designer and the critics. But now lets say that the intent is right. The critics are looking to help the designer understand the impact of the decisions he or she has made. The designer has every intention of listening, of critiquing right along with the critics, and using what they learn to iterate and improve upon their design. There is still a chance that the critique will go south or yield little of use.

Remember that critique is a form of analysis. It’s a dialog about the hows and whys of the design aspects that are working and those that aren’t. But working towards what? In order to analyze anything, you need to have something to analyze it against. Often, this is where we see critiques fall down. The participants all bring their own perspectives to the critique, and that’s great, but they also may be bringing their own idea of what the design should be and do. Without everybody on the same page, the information you collect in a critique can be scattered, conflicting or irrelevant.

Read the article: Setting the Foundation for Meaningful Critiques – Goals, Principles, Personas and Scenarios

Have you incorporated meaningful critiques into your design process? Tell us about it below.

UIEtips: Avoiding Demographics When Recruiting Participants – An Interview with Dana Chisnell

October 2nd, 2013 by Jared Spool

When we’re planning a research study and get to the all-important consideration of the participants we need, we turn to Dana Chisnell.  No one spends more time thinking about how to get the right people involved with research than Dana.  In today’s reprint, Dana reveals the problems you can run into when you focus on demographics.

For more of her thinking on recruiting research participants, and how that step of the study can provide bonus user research, join us on October 17, 2013 for her virtual seminar, Gaining Design Insights from Your Research Recruiting Process.

Here’s an excerpt from the interview:

What kinds of problems do teams run into if they focus on demographics?

A few years ago, I did a study for AARP on the AARP.org web site. AARP is an organization for Americans over age 50. Among other things, AARP was interested in learning about how well their message boards, of which there were dozens active, worked for typical older adults.

We conducted a usability test in three different locations with 20 participants in each location. In the first location, we recruited based on segments. We recruited 6 people in their 50s, 8 people in their 60s, 4 people in their 70s, and 2 in their 80s. AARP is about age, after all. We did not select for what people did online.

When we got to the section of the test where we wanted people to do tasks with the message boards, we found that across the age brackets, most participants had not used message boards before and didn’t want to. Many simply refused to do the task. I asked them to do the tasks anyway. Guess what? The data wasn’t valuable. Message boards were not successful with these people because these people were not motivated to do the task.

Read the article: Avoiding Demographics When Recruiting Participants – An Interview with Dana Chisnell

What have you done to ensure you have the “right” folks in the test? Tell us about it below.