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: 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.

How Are You Getting Your Team on the Same Page?

October 8th, 2015 by Jared Spool

While developing the topics and workshop leaders for this year’s User Interface 20 Conference in Boston, November 2–4, I realized that a general theme was emerging—getting everyone on the same page about your designs. Here’s how each workshop at UI20 contributes to this theme:

If getting your team on the same page is critical for your design success, then you won’t want to miss this year’s UI20 conference. Go explore the full-day workshops and discover how they can make your team stronger and more in sync.

UIE Article: Prioritizing Opportunities Across the Customer’s Experience

October 7th, 2015 by Jared Spool

In today’s article, I discuss how service design helps teams get on the same page about the context of their work.

Here’s an excerpt from the article:

Breaking large efforts into small teams makes sense. However, it also creates silos of effort. The outcome is a disjointed user experience. Employing a service design approach helps feed information into the project prioritization process, to ensure a better experience.

Read the article: Prioritizing Opportunities Across the Customer’s Experience.

How could you re-prioritize to provide a better user experience? Leave us a note below.

Aligning Your Team with Design Systems and Style Guides

October 2nd, 2015 by Jared Spool

Nathan Curtis, co-founder of EightShapes, has worked with component libraries and style guides for years. He says that when you’re thinking about all the platforms that comprise the totality of an experience, these patterns (such as a sign-in form, or elements like buttons) need to be more broadly applicable. It’s one thing to create the structure and layout, then thread all the pieces together for a single app or web page, but when that app needs to scale across platforms, it suddenly becomes a very different animal.

Recently, I interviewed Nathan on design systems and style guides. Here’s an excerpt from our conversation:

Oftentimes, style guide refers to a core part, or a foundation of the library of parts that everybody has at their disposal. People have been building those for years. It’s been 10 years since I worked with the sun.com team, and they had a massive component library.

All these component libraries aren’t new, but they’re starting to get used by more and more people. When you start to think about all the people that participate in that, and all the products they apply these things to, suddenly you have to think more systematically, and that’s where the term “design system” comes from.

Listen to the full interview or read the transcript.

In Nathan Curtis’ workshop, Building Scalable Design Systems and Style Guides, you’ll learn how to:

  • Create a library to articulate standards across all product lines
  • Identify and prioritize patterns for product consistency
  • Use cross-product standards to design and build better products

See what else you’ll do during Nathan’s full day workshop at the User Interface Conference, November 2 in Boston.

Using Journey Maps to Visualize the Path a Customer Takes

October 1st, 2015 by Jared Spool

Communication is at the heart of service design and Marc Stickdorn knows the core of it is getting everyone on the same page. He says that the importance of this lies in the fact that customer experiences sometimes aren’t tangible—a user or customer could be experiencing an internal event. It’s important to understand how different customers come in contact with the design.

One way of determining that is with a customer journey map. Being able to visualize the path a customer takes while interacting with your product is a powerful thing.

A few weeks ago I interviewed Marc Stickdorn on this topic. Here’s an excerpt from our conversation:

The journey map is as good as the data we use to create it. When we talk about journey mapping and getting everybody on the same page, we also need to make sure that the customer has a word in there. That means that we either have data about the customer, solid data, not so much talking about content of data, but rather qualitative research methods, ethnographic research, to really understand, “What is their experience?” from a customer perspective, step-by-step throughout the whole journey. Then based on this data, we can start to redesign or improve it.

Listen to the full interview with Marc or read the transcript.

In Marc Stickdorn’s workshop, Service Design: Creating Delightful Cross-Channel Experiences, you’ll learn how to:

  • Redesign the service experience using journey maps as the starting point
  • Map customer satisfaction and engagement throughout the customer journey
  • Sketch possible solutions to improve on top-priority problem areas in the journey
  • Make cheap, fast prototypes to test in the context of the service situation

See what else you’ll do during Marc’s full day workshop at the User Interface Conference, November 2 in Boston.