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:

Complex layouts are within reach with CSS

January 22nd, 2018 by Jared Spool

What is so phenomenal about CSS Grid is that it can do natively what developers had to achieve in the past through hacks, table layouts, and floats. CSS Modules now available—Flexbox, CSS Grid Layout, and Box Alignment—are changing layout on the web. Why? Because designers have the flexibility to create and explore layouts they were previously unable to do, and developers can realize that work natively in CSS without having to use extra markup or hacks.

With CSS Grid, we can control columns and rows. Flexbox simplifies how we lay out columns on a grid. Box Alignment allows us to apply the features of Flexbox to other layouts. It’s an exciting time for designers and developers, and as the major browsers roll out support for it in 2018, it’s time to get ready.

Join Rachel Andrew at the 2018 UXI Conference in her workshop Pushing the Boundaries of Web layout with CSS Grid and explore the possibilities of CSS grid layouts, advanced grid layouts, and design for inclusive accessibility.

The Hawaii Missile Alert Culprit: Poorly Chosen File Names

January 19th, 2018 by Jared Spool

In this week’s article I discuss how poorly chosen file names led to an actual emergency alert text being sent out in place of a test.

Here’s an excerpt from the article:

Saturday morning, January 13, 2018 at 8:09am Hawaii time, a staff member of the Hawaii Emergency Management Agency’s (HIEMA) State Warning Point office was going through their routine shift change checklist. They went through the same checklist every time they started their shift. It was routine. It wasn’t interesting.

At one point, they opened up their IPAWS alert software, retrieved a list of saved “templates” and picked one from a list of 9. What they picked was named PACOM (CDW)—STATE ONLY.

Only, this wasn’t the template file they meant to open. The template they meant to open was named DRILL—PACOM (CDW)—STATE ONLY. Other than the word DRILL in the file name, the two files were nearly identical. I say nearly, because there was one other difference: The drill version sent a message only to test devices, while the non-drill version sent the exact same message to every mobile phone in Hawaii.

Read the article: The Hawaii Missile Alert Culprit: Poorly Chosen File Names

If you want to make sure your design’s microinteractions are well designed, you should join us for Dan Saffer’s full-day workshop on Designing the Critical Details Using Microinteractions at the UX Immersion: Interactions conference in Newport Beach, March 5–7. You’ll spend a full day with Dan, learning about how to make your design’s little details seamless and delightful for your users. Give the workshop agenda a close look. 

What are some ways you protect against oversights in user experience? Share your thoughts with us below.

Use Microinteractions to Improve Your Design

January 18th, 2018 by Jared Spool

Complexity is a subjective thing. What one finds simple, another may find confounding. Teams struggle with satisfying growing feature requirements from stakeholders, user groups, edge cases, and managing the user experience across unique interactions, microinteractions, and transitions.

While we can’t please everyone, we can identify and avoid those elements that clutter and complicate our products.

Experiences that we recognize as simple and fluid contain distinct qualities:

  • They are understandable and have an underlying structure.
  • They are optimized for common users and use cases.
  • Users have an understanding of the complexity of the experience, but are not held back by it.

We can keep complexity under control by focusing on the core use of the functionality, says Dan Saffer. When we do this, and give ourselves time to find solutions, we can practice strategies to simplify the experience. Strategies such as removing items, hiding, organizing, expanding and collapsing features; reducing choice, using short cuts, and more.

Join Dan Saffer at the 2018 UXI Conference in his Designing the Critical Details using Microinteractions workshop and explore in detail the four steps for designing microinteractions, using feedback, setting realistic rules, and experimenting with loops and modes.

Small Things Have Big Consequences

January 16th, 2018 by Jared Spool

Microinteractions are tiny, task-based interactions that you barely notice when they perform well—and we’ve grown accustomed to expecting them to perform well. They are kind of like a bit of grease the keeps the flow of movement through an experience fluid and carefree. Muting your phone, updating a preference, uploading a file, connecting devices, receiving a confirmation message, liking or sharing a piece of content. These are all microinteractions. They extend to explanatory copy, such as call-to-actions, labels, form fields, menu items, the prompt within an empty state. They can include sound and visuals to convey information.

Dan Saffer coined the term “microinteractions.” These interactions are often an afterthought in the design and strategy, cobbled together with on-the-spot copy and mockups. But Dan says they are intricately tied to the way we experience a product and brand, and can influence our opinion about products. He’s outlined a four-step process to approaching how you design and develop microinteractions:

The Trigger – What starts the interaction: be it a person or a system trigger.
The Rules – The rules that define what happens when the microinteraction is triggered.
Feedback – How the rules of the interaction are communicated to users.
Loops and Modes – The nature of the interaction: does it repeat, what happens over time?

Join Dan Saffer at the 2018 UXI Conference in his Designing the Critical Details using Microinteractions workshop and explore in detail the four steps for designing microinteractions, using feedback, setting realistic rules, and experimenting with loops and modes.

Design Studios, When Done Well, Change Organizations For The Better

January 12th, 2018 by Jared Spool

In this week’s article I discuss how design studios have the power to change your organization for the better.

Here’s an excerpt from the article:

We can see the day-to-day chaotic hustle-bustle of our projects. Yet, it’s hard to see the change we’re creating in our organizations. When we take a step back, we can see we’re growing our co-workers’ understanding of what UX design really is and how it helps our organization stay competitive.

Design studios (and their close sibling, design critiques) are a powerful tool in growing that understanding. They surface how smart design gets done, bury the make-it-pretty myths, and establish a common language for solving tough customer problems the competition isn’t addressing.

That’s the kind of change we can get behind.

Read the article: Design Studios, When Done Well, Change Organizations For The Better

Do you use design studios to positively impact your team’s design process? Share your thoughts with us below.

Visualize the user experience across all touch points

January 11th, 2018 by Jared Spool

Teams get caught up in process. It happens. We all have work to do, and we are all fine-tuning how we do it. Without a process for examining the experiences we create, we move further away from understanding how users actually engage with our products, and where the experience falls short.

Diagrams and visual artifacts collect data in one place to illuminate problems we might not otherwise see. These maps align teams around real issues the customer is experiencing.

How do teams get started using experience maps? There is no right or wrong way to map an experience, so don’t let it hold you back before you get started. We use maps to visualize the customer journey as it happens. The map that solves the problem we are trying to identify is the one that works, explains Jim Kalbach, and it might take the shape of sticky notes, sketches, or more formal journey maps.

“The concept of mapping helps us understand complex systems of interaction, particularly when we’re dealing with abstract concepts like experience. But mapping experiences is not a singular activity limited to one type of diagram over another. There are many possible perspectives and approaches,” says Jim in his book, Mapping Experiences.

Join Jim at the 2018 UXI Conference as he explains how teams can Utilize Mapping to Gain Stakeholder Alignment, and learn the many ways you can approach experience mapping to communicate the customer experience.

Explore the User Journey Across All Channels

January 10th, 2018 by Jared Spool

The larger the business, the more likely it is that departments work independent of one another, even when their goals are aligned. When we engage with our peers and clients across department silos in strategic conversations, it can be a challenge to get everyone on the same page, to say the least.

Experience maps are visualizations, and diagrams, that serve as artifacts of the customer experience. They are based on research, but don’t need to be exhaustively researched or slickly produced. Visualizing the customer experience in this way shines a light on problems that teams across silos can immediately recognize and find alignment around.

“The reality is, very often, we don’t know, companies don’t know, what their customers actually go through,” explains Jim Kalbach. “I see that time and time again and that’s part of the activity of mapping, is to shine a spotlight on that, to say, “Well, here is the real experience, slowed down, frozen in time, so we can diagnose that and actually step through it step–by–step.”

Creating experience maps takes some care and consideration, because your map can’t contain all of the information that you’ve uncovered in your research, lest you want to overwhelm everyone. It needs to offer relevant, pointed, organized information about an experience. While experience maps don’t contain answers, explains Jim, they do provide an opportunity for deep engagement that helps teams identify strategic solutions.

Join Jim at the 2018 UX Immersion: Interactions Conference as he explains how teams can Utilize Mapping to Gain Stakeholder Alignment, and learn the many ways you can approach experience mapping to communicate the customer experience.

Save Hundreds on the Must Attend UX Event of 2018

January 8th, 2018 by Jared Spool

This is your last chance to save some money when you register for the UX Immersion: Interactions Conference in Newport Beach, CA, March 5-7. Here’s what you’ll get when you register through Friday, January 12:

  • A coveted seat to the UX Immersion: Interactions Conference
  • Your choice of two full-day workshops
  • A day of featured talks from all of the fantastic workshop leaders
  • A stupendous keynote from Jared Spool
  • 30 days of premium access to UIE’s All You Can Learn Library

What are you waiting for? You only have a few more days to save $200 on your UX Immersion: Interactions ticket. Prices jump after January 12.

See you in Newport Beach.

P.S. Save even more money when you bring your team We consistently hear from attendees that they regret not having their team at our conferences. We’re making it easier to bring yours. Just register 3 or more people from your organization and each person automatically gets $200 off from the current full conference price.

What Makes a Design Seem ‘Intuitive’?

January 5th, 2018 by Jared Spool

In this week’s article I discuss what makes a design intuitive.

Here’s an excerpt for you:

The biggest challenge in making a design seem intuitive to users is learning where the current and target knowledge points are. What do users already know and what do they need to know? To build intuitive interfaces, answering these two questions is critical.

For identifying the user’s current knowledge, we favor field studies. Watching potential users, in their own environments, working with their normal set of tools, and facing their daily challenges, gives us tremendous insight in what knowledge they will have and where the upper bounds are. Teams receive a wealth of valuable information with every site visit.

For identifying necessary target knowledge for important tasks, usability testing is a favorite technique of ours. When we sit users in front of a design, the knowledge gap becomes instantly visible. (We’ve had great success, right after a test, listing out all the knowledge the user needed to acquire during the test. It can be quite revealing!)

Read the article: What Makes a Design Seem ‘Intuitive’?

Have a different idea on intuitive designs?  Share your thoughts with us below.

A Typical UX Team of One Job Description

December 29th, 2017 by Jared Spool

In this week’s article Leah Buley discusses how to spot a UX team-of-one in job listings.

Here’s an excerpt for you:

This may point to a lack of awareness about the processes and people involved in user experience work. Some user experience professionals do include graphic design in their arsenal of tools, but many do not. You can still be a user experience designer even if you just stop at wireframes, but user experience generalists–which most teams of one are–are sometimes called upon to do a bit of visual design as well. 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. 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

Have you seen a UX team-of-one description listed somewhere?  Share your thoughts with us below.