Jared M. Spool

Jared SpoolJared M. Spool is the founder of User Interface Engineering and a co-founder of Center Centre.

If you’ve ever seen Jared speak about user experience design, you know that he’s probably the most effective and knowledgeable communicator on the subject today. He’s been working in the field of usability and experience design since 1978, before the term “usability” was ever associated with computers.

He is also the conference chair and keynote speaker at the annual UI Conference and UX Immersion Conference, and manages to squeeze in a fair amount of writing time. He is author of the book Web Usability: A Designer’s Guide and co-author of Web Anatomy: Interaction Design Frameworks that Work. You can find his writing at uie.com and follow his adventures on the twitters at @jmspool.

Jared's posts:

UX Immersion: Interactions is the One Conference You Absolutely Need to Attend in 2016

November 20th, 2015 by Jared Spool

I’m betting you’ve hit one of these challenges:

  • Designing for larger and more varied audiences than ever before
  • Working more closely with non-designers, stakeholders, and influencers
  • Dealing with applications so complex that your users are practically collapsing under the chaos
  • Struggling to integrate design into your organization’s strategic direction

I’ve put together this great UX conference to focus on these challenges and their solutions. You’ll gain actionable insights on:

  • simplifying complex applications
  • advanced research methods aimed directly at the problems of scale
  • solid techniques for engaging design collaboration across your organization

That’s just a small portion of the techniques and practices you’ll bring home.

You need to look at what we’ve created to see why I am so excited about what will easily be the best design conference of the year.

UIE Article – Bending the Protocols: Useful Variations on Usability Tests

November 18th, 2015 by Jared Spool

I remember my first usability test like it was yesterday, even though it was actually more than 30 years ago. I sat in the newly built lab (first of its kind) and watched the participant through the silvered glass as they struggled with the design we were working on. What I didn’t know then was how far we’d take this basic technique and how important it would become to great design.

Now I look at the basic usability test protocol like it’s a column of wet clay, ready to be molded into exactly the research instrument we need. Over the years, we’ve invented, borrowed, and stolen different variations, all to help us better understand our users and what we’re designing.

In today’s article, I talk about five of our favorite variations. You’ll see how we bend and twist basic techniques to discover new things about what we’re designing.

Read the article: Bending the Protocols: Useful Variations on Usability Tests

What are your favorite variations on usability testing? Tell us below what you’re doing.

UIE Article: Your Job Ad – The Start of a Great Hiring Experience

November 11th, 2015 by Jared Spool

In today’s article, I tackle the pitfalls and benefits of job ads: to design a great hiring experience, we need to understand the goal of the job.

Here’s an excerpt from the article:

For many designer candidates, your ad is the first thing they’ll see. It’s the only exposure they’ll have to your organization until after they’ve applied and you’ve called them back. Everything in your ad needs to convince a candidate to apply.

No, that’s not quite right. Not just apply. It needs to convince them that they want to work for you. It needs to convince them to put your job as their first choice. A great job ad goes way beyond just encouraging a potential new hire to apply. It inspires and creates desire to be part of your team.

Read the article Your Job Ad: The Start of a Great Hiring Experience.

What do you think talented designers look for when they’re considering a new position? Tell us about it below.

UIE Article: Designing without a Designer

November 4th, 2015 by Jared Spool

In today’s article, I discuss how designers can benefit your team in more ways than just delivering a design.

Here’s an excerpt from the article:

Those folks who learn how to do a good enough job have become consciously competent. They can make good results happen most of the time, though they often don’t know the underlying theory as to why. (Think of someone who can follow a baking recipe and create great cupcakes, but doesn’t understand the chemistry of baking.)

Read the article Designing without a Designer.

What challenges has your team faced in reaching conscious competence with their design skills? Tell us about it below.

UIE Article: Perspectives over Power: Habits of Collaborative Team Meetings

October 28th, 2015 by Jared Spool

We’ve all been in productive, energetic meetings and we’ve been in dragged out, nothing accomplished, pull your hair out meetings. The difference between the two types of meetings comes down to planning and facilitating. In our research, we’ve found teams that have the most effective meetings create a particular type of experience and they follow a specific set of characteristics to ensure a successful meeting.

Here’s an excerpt from the article:

As we were studying the different teams, we realized the outcomes in the more effective meetings didn’t happen by chance. They were quite intentional.

These teams had built up a toolbox of tricks and techniques that they regularly employed to get the most out of their meetings. The less effective teams tended to walk into the room and improvise how they were going to get their results. “How do we want to do this?” was a familiar starting refrain in many of these meetings.

We noticed the more effective teams spent more time preparing for the meeting than the less effective teams. In setting up the meeting, they’d discuss the approach they’d use and exactly what they wanted to get out.

Read the article: Perspectives over Power: Habits of Collaborative Team Meetings

What methods do you use for successful and productive meetings? Tell us about it below.

Testing Your Content Is the Missing Link

October 23rd, 2015 by Jared Spool

Typically when we conduct usability tests we watch how a person moves from one task to another. Where do they click? Why did they take that action? But we should also look to see if usability issues are actually understandability problems.

That’s one of the topics that Steph Hay and I discussed in a recent podcast, Designing with a Content-First Approach. Here’s an excerpt from our conversation:

There were a couple projects that had been in usability testing and the teams were saying “I know that there’s something here and we just can’t get at it.” What we ended up doing, taking a content first mindset, is actually extracting the content from the interface, from the prototype that we were testing, and putting it in a Google Doc or in a Word doc and then going in and testing the language agnostic of the interface.

We would figure out where the ah-ha moments were and we would pay attention to the language that they were using, so that we could really understand what specifically were the compelling words that would make somebody want to move forward.

Listen to the podcast interview or read the transcript.

In Steph Hay’s UI20 workshop, Content-First UX Design: A Lean Approach, you’ll learn how to:

  • Design conversations that engage and motivate your users
  • Plan your user experience with text in a Google doc
  • Write scripts for user interviews to test content and language preferences

Stop the Feature-Checklist War with Your Products

October 22nd, 2015 by Jared Spool

Engaging in user research can tell you how your customers use your product but more importantly why they use it a particular way.

If the users of your product are requesting what seems to be a simple fix, such as moving a button, perhaps there are greater underlying reasons. So rather than just accepting the request and acting on it, using research to uncover that “why” can lead to a new use case that you weren’t actively supporting. This in turn can lead to greater opportunities for the business as a whole.

Bruce McCarthy and I spoke at some length about this in a podcast around UX and Product Roadmaps. Here’s an excerpt from the podcast:

If all you’re doing is getting into a feature-checklist war with your competition, that’s just a recipe for becoming a commodity. You and all your competition will have the same list of features, and the only thing left to compete on will be price. That’s a terrible place to be operating.

I would much rather be the product or the company that really gets a particular segment of buyers and users. Really understands them in depth and can, as a result, serve them better than anybody else.

Listen to the podcast interview or read the transcript.

In Bruce McCarthy’s UI20 workshop, Collaborative Product Strategy: How UX Can Influence Product Decisions, on November 2, you’ll learn how to:

  • Create roadmaps that inspire and focus your stakeholders
  • Hold conversations with PMs that influence product direction
  • Pinpoint features to improve your product and delight users

How to Talk with Your Developers

October 21st, 2015 by Jared Spool

Speaking the same language as your developers is hugely beneficial and knowing some CSS will help you do that. Having this common language aids in creating a more collaborative feel to conversations with developers versus dictating to them what to do.

That’s why we’ve asked Jenn Lukas to give a full-day workshop at the UI20 Conference in Boston, November 2–4, on Mastering CSS to Build a Living Style Guide. Recently, I interviewed Jenn about her topic. Here’s an excerpt from our conversation:

When we understand the tools that we work with, we all become better at our jobs. The same way as a developer understanding design principles can make me develop better. I know what to QA for, I know how to keep a consistent grid, I know what goes into good typography. These are the rules that make you more well-rounded.

Going the other way, to be able to know what CSS and technology is capable of really helps people to create better, stronger designs. To know where you can push the limits of design, to know where things can be scaled back, to know what goes into the building blocks of creating something.

Listen to the podcast interview or read the transcript.

In Jenn Lukas’ workshop, Mastering CSS to Build a Living Style Guide, you’ll learn how to:

  • Build style guidelines to communicate effectively with developers
  • Understand the most common styles, including fonts, colors, and background
  • Get everyone on the same page about how your design should look and feel

See what else you’ll do during Jenn’s full-day workshop at the User Interface Conference, on November 4 in Boston.

UIE Article: The $300 Million Button

October 21st, 2015 by Jared Spool

In today’s article, I tell a story about a client who found a way to dramatically increase their e-commerce site’s revenues with a couple of simple changes. While the story is interesting, the story-behind-the-story is just as interesting.

The client had hired us because they were concerned about checkout-process abandonment. Their analytics were showing a 13% drop off in sales, which, based on the average value of the abandoned shopping carts, was worth about $1.2 million a year in additional revenue.

Checkout-process abandonment is common in e-commerce sites and something that you can easily detect with your site’s usage logs. You just look at the number of people who get to the first screen and then the number of people who actually complete the transaction. Everyone who doesn’t make it is an abandonment.

Two weeks of usability testing on the live site (and on competitors’ sites), followed by two weeks of iterative paper prototype testing produced a streamlined checkout process, which, once implemented, showed a dramatic increase in revenues. It’s amazing what you’ll learn when you actually watch your users.

Here’s an excerpt from the article:

It’s hard to imagine a form that could be simpler: two fields, two buttons, and one link. Yet, it turns out this form was preventing customers from purchasing products from a major e-commerce site, to the tune of $300,000,000 a year. What was even worse: the designers of the site had no clue there was even a problem.

Read the article: The $300 Million Button.

Have you seen results from changes to your forms? We’d love to hear your experiences. Share them with us below.

UIE Article: Content and Design Are Inseparable Work Partners

October 14th, 2015 by Jared Spool

It’s not uncommon within organizations that web site content is treated differently and separately from the web site design process. Yet the users do not separate the two and see it as one experience. When the content and design process are not done hand-in-hand, poor user experiences is often the result. Today we re-print an article focusing on this issue.

Here’s an excerpt from the article:

It’s not news that the content is the important part of the design. For years, Karen McGrane has told us that working on the design without considering the content is like giving your best friend a beautifully wrapped empty box for their birthday. They’ll enjoy opening it, but will be sorely disappointed with the entirety results. And recently, Steph Hay reminded us that “content is the entire reason people come to the design in the first place.”

The new thinking is that content creation and management cannot be a separate endeavor from design creation and management. That we need to inseparably integrate the two, structurally and organizationally, to create great experiences.

Read the article: Content and Design are Inseparable Work Partners.

If you are struggling with getting everyone on the same page with the conversation your design will have with your users Steph Hay’s full day workshop at UI20 will help you.


What can your organization do to make design and content feel more integrated? Tell us about it below.