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:

UIE Article – Pushback is a Poison. Alignment is the Antidote.

February 2nd, 2018 by Jared Spool

In this week’s article I talk about organizing tasks.

Here’s an excerpt from the article:

Alignment maps are a critical tool during the alignment process. They are representations of the current goals and direction of the project, encompassing the current thinking and recently uncovered details.

These maps become mainstay features of meetings and discussions. Comments are attached with sticky notes. New revisions integrate the latest thinking. They are simultaneously an overview of the strategic approach and a sounding board for the tactical efforts.

Read the article: Pushback is a Poison. Alignment is the Antidote.

How does your team utilize alignment maps? Share your experience with us below.

Embrace good ideas from every part of your team

February 1st, 2018 by Jared Spool

The search for the right solution to a problem evolves out of the way we think about it: How decisions are made to meet specific goals and objectives, and why we made them. With critique, designers are able to explain the thinking behind the choices they’ve made and get feedback on those choices. It can help them refocus their work in areas that fall short, and bring to light those areas that shine (and why).

When we begin by focusing on the goals, and whether the design has met them, we move the conversation away from personal opinion. Critique is a balance between reviewing what works and what doesn’t in the context of the design.

Good critique, explains designers Adam Connor and Aaron Irizarry, draws from the strengths of a given design decision to shed light on solutions for the weaker parts.

Over time, critique creates a more collaborative work environment, where teams feel comfortable discussing their designs in spontaneous and casual conversations, with less reliance on formal reviews. The practice helps teams relax into the process of giving and receiving feedback, and reaching a shared understanding of design problems to be solved.

Adam and Aaron break down the difference between critique and criticism a bit further.

When using critique, we try to:

  • Identify the objectives we think the creator is trying to reach
  • Understand those goals and objectives
  • Discuss the choices made to achieve goals and objectives
  • Review how effective design choices are in meeting their objectives
  • Identify strengths, potential challenges that arise from the choices made, and possibly missed opportunities

How can you integrate critique into your design practice? Both Adam and Aaron agree that starting small and casual is the best approach. Critique can be used in standalone reviews, design reviews, and collaborative activities. They suggest that teams consider the following:

  • Introduce critique into your process by starting small and informal, talking about designs in an analytical way
  • The more you communicate, the more natural critique will become a part of your language

Choose whom you critique with carefully and look for people who communicate well. (You’ll recognize who is less inclined toward the practice, such as some managers and executives who are generally part of larger design reviews.)

You need to start improving the conversations you have around design. To do that you’ll want to spend a day in this amazing UX Immersion: Interactions workshop with Adam Connor and Aaron Irizarry. Adam and Aaron have been discussing design critique for many years and are authors of the book Discussing Design, which is exactly why you want to learn about Consensus and Critique from them.

Give, receive, and facilitate helpful feedback

January 30th, 2018 by Jared Spool

It is always easier to find the flaws than it is to offer solutions. Many of us have gotten so used to looking for the fly in the ointment that we’ve narrowed our field of vision down to identifying error over opportunity.

This is the difference between delivering criticism, and critique, creating an environment that isolates and one that fosters collaboration. Understanding that difference can improve your team’s designs, the way you work, how you communicate with each other, and how you influence the way others communicate. Often misunderstood, critique is a technique, along with tools that foster collaboration and consensus that can raise your design game.

So, what do we mean by critique and why does it matter?

If design is the rendering of intent, then critique is the open exploration and discussion of that intent and the choices made to reach the designer’s objectives. Where have those choices succeeded, why were they made, and what can we learn from them? Where have they failed, and how can we improve upon them? Critique removes the element of personal opinion from the discussion and focuses instead on objectives and the choices made to reach them.

Criticism is the act of analyzing and judging a piece of work from one’s perspective. It is a process of finding flaws and delivering often negative feedback. Constructive criticism makes an effort to convey both the strengths and the weaknesses of the work.

Critique is an analysis that begins and is grounded by the design objectives. With critique, we weigh the work against the goals and objectives to be met and explore why choices were made and how effective (or not) they are in the context of the work. It creates a dialogue that extends far beyond formal reviews and helps teams focus and reach consensus. It delivers constructive, specific feedback to move designs forward, and it helps designers grow in their craft.

Effective Remote Design

January 26th, 2018 by Jared Spool

In this week’s article Jim Kalbach talks about increasingly remote workspaces and how companies are managing and benefiting from remote work.

We spend a lot of time and energy maintaining our office buildings. Getting our physical workspaces in order is important for productive work and effective collaboration.

Why don’t we spend as much effort configuring our digital workplaces?

The remote workspace is a constellation of services and tools: conferencing calling, chat, file sharing, and project management tools. It needs attention too.

Read the article: Effective Remote Design

Does your company design remotely? Share your thoughts with us below.

CSS Grid And Accessibility

January 25th, 2018 by Jared Spool

Now that we have the ability to separate source from design using CSS Grid, the likelihood that some creators will overlook accessibility is high. When we can easily reorder items in the display, we should be careful to also reorder them in the source, explains Rachel Andrew, lest we create havoc for screen readers.

Ideally, developers will create accessible documentation and use grid and Flexbox to display it across devices. The worst-case scenario, explains Rachel, will be those that remove semantic elements and make everything a grid or flex item.

CSS Grid has the power to realize design layouts that were previously difficult or impossible to do. As creators, we have the responsibility to make sure that what we create is available and accessible to everyone.

Join Rachel 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.

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.