about contact us

No posts containing your search terms were found.

Your search did not match any documents.


  • * Make sure all words are spelled correctly.

  • * Try different keywords.

  • * Try more general keywords.

Social + Big Data

. PeteW

There’s a lot of ideating (and designing) around social as of late. One of the important considerations with Social e-commerce revolves around the exponentially increased amount of customer data that results from it. Dana Boyd posted some interesting arugments recently about the use of Big Data. She argues: 1) Bigger Data are Not Always Better Data 2) Not All Data are Created Equal 3) What and Why are Different Questions 4) Be Careful of Your Interpretations She also surfaced a POV about ethics and customer data: "Just because data is accessible doesn’t mean that using it is ethical,” providing a series of different ways of looking at how people think about privacy and publicity. I conclude by critiquing Facebook’s approach to privacy, from News Feed to Social Plugins/Instant Personalizer." See the full article here: Privacy and Publicity in the Context of Big Data Dana Boyd is a researcher at Microsoft Research New England and Fellow at Harvard Berkman Center for Internet and Society.

Media Tectonics & Design

. Dennis Schleicher

Patrick Whitney presented "Media Tectonics and design" at the Chicago AIGA meeting.

He talked about design thinking. One example he gave was Suruga Bank and how they built a working prototype of a “future” bank focused on what customers wanted to do with their money and not just about the money. Yes, there were tellers, but they were in the back of the room. One of the Suruga prototypes had a “library” in the front part of the building that had travel books for customers to browse. Customers could choose a book about a particular travel destination and then put them on a “reading” table that has a sensor that read a chip in each book and and displayed all kind of relevant information about hotels, travel arrangements, restaurants AS the customer read the book.

Whitney said one could not have asked customers what they wanted and gotten this, but that it involved deep knowing of what customers felt and related to when dealing with a bank. That this envisioning the future we have to make to know. He also used the example to show how to get into the “what” rather than the how by decoupling ourselves from the craft, that if we can only approach problems from the craft toolkit we have we won’t be able to re-frame the problem.

4 aspects of Designing Thinking 1 – User Empathy & Corporate Context 2 – Do not take the Problem as Given 3 – Make to Know 4 – Envision the Future.

Yes, he covered many of other things too.

References Patrick Whitney: Director of the IIT Institute of Design in Chicago, the largest graduate school of design in the U.S. Thursday August 29 2010: 7pm to 8ish Design Thinking talk at AIGA Chicago was titled “Media Tectonics and design.” Michale Simborg and I from uxSEARS attended. Michael is an alumnus of IIT.

Portioning and Sequencing

. wandereye

Some people are asking what I mean when I say "portioning and sequencing" when speaking to user experience of interfaces. 

Information density is another term usually thrown in there in the buzz or our jargon and argot. A metaphor to use for this could be reporting or journalism, the basics of a scoop, the "who, what where, when and why?" frameworks (in addition to "if it bleeds, it leads..."). All this encapsulated in something referred to as "context" to make a "story". Some writers spin tales that require a lot of thinking from the reader to understand what's going on. Other writers are more direct. Depends on the story, the "vehicle" and other things like the tools of nuance and the beautify of prose. Seems like in all equations there is an audience (of one or many), experiencing it all from various viewpoints or perspectives (person). There is a great deal of consensus out there in the "community" baaaaing "elegance" and "simplicity" that "good" presentations are those that are consice and legible and organized in ways that allow for consumption in ways that allow for digestion, reflection, or enough pause to let something or everything or nothing sink in. 


When it comes to user experience and interface design, portioning is like a meal: there is an order, even if the order is non-linear or sequential, there is an order. Why? Because of that "time" concept. There are people who speak fast (like me, only sometimes), perhaps bombard you with tons of tangental abstract babble and leave you gasping for a moment to attempt to string together even a remote sense of meaning or value. And there are others you have to probe for reponses, who tend to be on the awkward end of the spectrum or simply quiet... There are rules embedded in language and culture both innate and learned that help us all function interdependently in a world of chaos. These rules are in place to portion the randomization of situation. The structures funnel everyone and the standards allow for exchange and interaction. And each one seems to be in place to hold back the flood of having to experience it all all at once. There are exceptions, like "thrash core" or "speed metal" in terms of music or sound vs. the soaring crescendos of lyric opera.

The Three-Level Interaction Model™

  1. Indication: introduce and orient and notification layer. Example: your phone shows a "1" over the icon, symbolizing that you have a message or a recent call (notice that even micro-symbol semiotics can have states thanks to visual design vernaculars).
  2. Engagement: acknowledgement and response state of indication. Examples: these layers are not cut-and-dry and sometimes there is overlap. Discover modes provide little in the way of indication and use engagement to trigger interaction. "Easter eggs" and games use this. Another example would be, to use the phone metaphor, a "tray" pops out of the phone icon to show the number (and other indicators) of the recent caller and/or other information about the notification/indication of a recent call or message.
  3. Immersion: launch or navigation to full context of indication. Examples: I tap on the phone icon and instead of a tray I go to another context like the "message box" where I can "navigate" my messages and "CRUD" them.

This model allows the design of the experience to focus on concepts like "periphery" and "primary" focus from all perspectives, including "backend" in terms of "latency" of response to "input". Why the ""? I can't help hearing the echo of an article a friend (thanks Ania, as usual) let me know about where the blogger said, in a nutshell, that the stuff we talk and think and blog about only .0000000000000231% of the population cares about, would understand based on the amount of "buzz words" (jargon and argot) and the amount of time it would take to do this that could be spent, say, winning a bingo game, seeing Bon Jovi, or eating Haagen Daas. But it comes down to a true and sincere and passionate advocacy of the audience us "user experience" professionals design "products and services" for. All of these models and diagrams and jargon and argot do have utility and meaning when applied, if not discovery of error and mistake that leads to succes and understanding. 


Part of presenting information requires proper sequencing. When you teach photography, design, art, or advertising, there are ways of introducing concepts to students or colleagues and this progression is handed out usually in the beginning of a semester (span of time) in the form of an outline or syllabus or schedule. Browsing or searching for products "online" or via any "interface" can feel like a time-warp lacking any logical sequence of events, information or context. We don't expect much from a computer in the way of empathy or understanding of us. And with shopping sites, we don't expect much difference from what our experiences in stores are like: large warehouses chock full of colorful variety stacked high on shelves. Aisles and shelves and pathways allow for a semblance of "portioning and sequencing" as the customer meanders, pushing cart, filling cart. Online, the information, the products, can come to the customer while s/he sits in a home theater next to a loved one surrounded by a TV and stereo and gaming systems and portable devices. There is no cart other than a symbolic icon and a reflection of purchase or order status (in best cases). Without customer service representatives, there need to be clear indicators of access to "help" but should that be front and center? Part of the joy of shopping online is that you don't have to deal with parking, crowds, lines. Part of the peril of it is not seeing the inventory and being able to instantly gratify the need for the acquisition buzz. Shopping online is like being able to walk into a "store" and wave your hands or snap your fingers while you watch a bunch of "aisles" and "shelves" dynamically and spontaneously reorganize. Real estate wise, it's a minimal investment for a maximum amount of "floor space" with no expansion limitations. Which is a good and a bad thing (depending on how you portion and sequence access to the space). 

UXSears: now more Zombie friendly

. Warren

A Manifesto for 2010 and Beyond

. wandereye

  • Time does not equal money. Without time, money would not exist. The most valuable resource in the world (to humans) is time. Therefore, abusing someone's time is a serious form of harm. A person who uses an interface is engaged and honoring the "provider" of that interface with her or his or their time. If someone buys something(s), it's value-addition. 
  • Repetition and redundancy suck in some situations no matter what. Never, ever, ask for input of information from someone more than once. For example, when I tell someone my name, they write it down or tap it into their "PDA", or acknowledge hearing it as well as spending time with my afterwards, I expect that person to remember my name. If this person continually asked me to repeat myself or asked about stuff I had already said or demonstrated, I would most-likely question the person's ability to retain information or their interest in listening to me. 
  • Form follows function used to be the norm. Now form is function. Experience in the context of eCommerce is the "brand". When we speak about "social" or "community" or "crowd-sourcing" we are most-often referring to the rising power of the customer in terms of choice, influence, awareness and, again, the allocation of time and attention. Therefore, function and form or not separate weightings to be applied to a service or tool or "UI". A functioning form is expected as a baseline. A relevant functioning form is a very serious design problem of the moment. More important, however, is the portioning and sequencing of function and form in context (this is a book in an of itself). 
  • Don't confuse value with the link that points to it. If something does not exist, like a product or information or a search query return, admit it. "Links" in "hypertext" are entry points into "paths" into more information. They indicate through form (graphic treatment like an underline and non-standard color) and promote through function (markup and javascript... a "nodal" progression or transgression through concepts presented through a communications channel. Impressions, perception of an experience matter and form a sense of "trust" between a "user" and a "system". The more a system comes up empty-handed, the less trust a "user" will have of the system and it's ability to satisfy a need or want.  
  • User experience is about inquiry above all else. It's about discovering the conversation in the parenthesis of intent and agenda and utilizing vast, deep and large bodies of insight to apply concepts, frameworks, and usable engagements that answer to design challenges. Requirements should be called "agreements" or something that conveys a shared epistemology (group understanding). 
  • Attention from and by a customer is sunshine or the harsh light of truth. Both illuminate. Every customer on or offline is an investor in my paycheck, career, and competence as a practicing designer and empathic/empathetic human being. Without customers, I would not exist in this world, would not be able to write a blog post. When a customer gives their time to an organization and the work of the colleagues I am honored to learn from and work with daily, value is on the table no matter how large or small.  
  • Bottom-up as well as top-down collaboration and innovation do lead to "flat" organizations. Organizations that can respond dynamically and tactically to radical shifts and "disruptions" along our crazy roller-coaster ride through the still-relatively-young universe of "electronic commerce". Seniority, title, and payscale are much less (if not at all) important as empathy, competency, openness, and passion for the "user's experience" when it comes to creating solutions that answer to design problems that are being solved to satisfy needs, wants, or necessity. 
  • Time is a design constraint. Deadlines are not just reality but necessary as all narratives happen within a span of time, have a beginning, middle and end. To meet this consideration, negotiate time needed by identifying what is flexible or necessary vs what brings the most value to the end product. 
  • Experience is conveyed through narratives or stories to other people or happens simultaneously with other people. Every story has context, artifacts, a timespan and a perspective (first person to third person), among other foundational understandings...
  • Interactions are active exchanges of sensory input via multiple sensory channels comprised of multiple feedback loops. An interface is a service and surface of inscription comprised of input and output at its most fundamental level. Surfaces no longer call for "point and click" but are starting to reflect an emergent awareness of human experience, ironically bringing us back to thinking about empathy and emotional understanding, inference... Showing understanding in most cultures is a way of showing empathy.
  • Inputs and outputs are not always literal; nor are indicators. Subtly and non-verbal ques area vital part of communications. Smell and touch will become the new fronteirs enabling taste someday.

Mobile Design Points of View

. D. Burns

The Mobile Design Team at UXSears recently created two documents to guide design efforts as we move forward in the mobile space. The Mobile Design Strategy POV provides criteria to guide innovation efforts and design considerations for the mobile space. The Less Is More POV provides justification for taking a simple approach to mobile design.

Value of UX Resources

. andrew

I run a large UX org, we bring great value to our company, it can be seen everyday in our companies bottom line. You can see it in the improved conversion on the site, increase in registered customers and the CSAT numbers. Due to the fact that we continue to grow and at a very fast clip we are always in recruiting mode. It is one of the biggest challenges we face, how do we attract and retain the best talent, period.

As is often the case the most valuable assets are the ones you already have. You want to keep the team happy and motivated. By doing so they become one of your greatest recruiting tools. It's pretty simple and is focused around two areas of social communication.

The first is just their own network, great talent begets great work, great work begets great talent. Smart, creative and motivated people often know smart, creative and motivated people (simple math, i think, but then again, i'm not so good at math). We have a really strong team that knows their jobs will only become easier and more fulfilling if they get to work with people just like them. This motivates them to refer the best and the brightest (not to mention a healthy $2,500 referral bonus). I know the team leverages thier FB and LinkedIn networks because I often see posts in those spaces for our open req's.

The second is positioning our organization and company as thought leaders in the industry. Leveraging our social communication tools like this blog, like our twitter and FB pages. I have often said that I would put our team up against anyone out there and we would kick their butts. We really have a very strong team, UX, FED, Vis Design, Taxo, Copywriting, top notch. So besides me talking about them I need to get them talking about themselves and the awesome work they do here at Sears. I need them to be publishing in these forums and others representing UX Sears as a force to reckoned with.

I think this is so important that this is going to be one of our goals this year, each and every person in the department has to publish/comment/communicate about what they do here or just to share an opinion. This will help in recruiting almost as much as leveraging our own networks. The more people hear about the great things we get to do here at Sears the more likely they will consider us as a possible place to work.

Don't get me wrong, working at Sears is no bed of roses, we bust our butts day in and day out, we have short deadlines, we get random changes in direction, we sometimes lose a battle. But since I have been here we have been winning the war. I have full confidence that when the dust settles we will be on top looking out over the vanquished, proud of what we have accomplished. Okay, I'm getting a little over the top, but, I am motivated and excited and sometimes can't keep it in.

So, if we are going to succeed, we will need to work as a team and leverage our most valuable asset to consistently bring in the best and the brightest.

Labels: , , , , , ,

Beyond the research…

. Mark Schraad

You’ll find my take on research pretty simple. We, as designers, don’t do or have enough of it. All you need to do is look at the percentage of products that fail miserably in the marketplace. Successful products (those that are profitable for over three years) are less that 10% of those introduced. In any sport that is miserable.

We should stop doing (that type of) research only when conditions are stable (not changing) and we are finding no new information.

So, what else is there?

The answer is always the same - know more about your customers. Spend five years working the store floor. Spend months in observation labs watching usability studies. Immerse yourself in a tradeshow for three consecutive days. Build data driven personae. All of these add to your base of information. Reading, of all things, a book on running I came across an interesting approach.

In Southern Africa, live a small tribe of bushman called the Kalahari. They have an interesting approach. It goes something like this (my online reference points inline).

“Even after you learn to read the dirt (site metrics and analytics), you ain’t learned nothing. The next level is tracking without tracks, a higher level of reasoning known in the lit as ‘speculative hunting.’ The only way to pull it off… …was to project yourself out of the present and into the future, transporting yourself into the mind of the animal you’re tracking.”

This is at the core of what persona building is really all about. It’s similar to method acting. If you can lose a little of yourself in the process of putting yourself in the heads of customers… you will gain some insight. This is far different that introspection or “designing for oneself.” But again, all of this must be data driven.

“Visualization… empathy… abstract thinking and forward projection… When you track, you’re creating casual connections in your mind, because you didn’t actually see what the animal did… …with speculative hunting, early human hunters had gone beyond connecting the dots, they were connecting the dots that existed only in their minds.”

You will find, when reading from the library of design, and in particular interaction design, references to “genius design”. This term, coined by Dan Saffer, is not really about a designer who is a genius. What I think Dan means is that the designer has become so intimate with the nature of the customer/user, that they can get inside that role and design for them fluently. It’s an interesting place to be. In my career, I have only known a couple of designers who could really pull this off. It takes extreme dedication and a skill set that I almost think you have to be born with. It’s a state we should all aspire to, and a competence we should never assume we have.

NOTE: In no way am I trying to imply that we are hunting those we design for. We are only interested in anticipating their shopping and lifestyle needs so that we can serve them better.

Reference: Born to Run, Christopher McDougall

The collapse of complex business models

. PeteW

Clay Shirkey piece on the collapse of complex business models. Consider this blog post and consider your business model and your group's culture. http://www.shirky.com/weblog/2010/04/the-collapse-of-complex-business-models/

Observing the Store (lobby) experience - 4 days

. Ariel

(On State street, that great street...)

Much of last week I was downstairs recruiting people for an in-store eye-tracking study. Spending hours a day in the busy lobby of the state street entrance, right beside the center of downtown Chicago, brought us in contact with a tremendous cross-section of the city and Sears customers. Thought I’d share some observations I had about the store and our customers that don’t necessarily relate to the homepage study we were doing. In no particular order...

  • People come to the downtown Sears for everything (sweaters, coffee grinders, car repair tools, electronics, jewelry, lingerie, etc...)
  • The store downstairs gets a very diverse mix of traffic, people shopping alone, in couples, in a hurry, just killing time, with their families or with their coworkers, shopping for themselves, shopping for others, shopping for unborn children, stocking up before leaving the country, or outfitting new places after just moved to the city, city residents and suburbanites in town for the day or tourists from far away places, people who shop online and people who seem to have never touched a computer, people living on the street and people who are gainfully employed
  • Revolving doors really do keep the draft out much better than normal doors
  • It’s true, many people just use us for our restrooms
  • At least a couple people a day come into the store to apply for a job
  • Something about the center of downtown Chicago seems to disorient people, people get turned around won’t hesitate to come into Sears to ask for directions
  • ‘Lunch hour’ these days seem to be anywhere from 11-4pm, and many spend that time shopping
  • The phenomenon you’ve long heard is true: once a line forms, people will just get in it, without knowing why or what it’s for, or how long the wait is
  • Middle-aged men are the hardest to get to stop and talk with you (especially if they’re wearing a suit)
  • Older folks, of either gender, are the next toughest group to stop
  • Middle-aged women are most likely to participate in the study
  • Some people spend hours upon hours in our store, often coming in and out of our doors many times on a given day (particularly older women)
  • Those State st. side revolving doors are heavy and many customers struggle with them
  • We have a lot of apparel shoppers (especially on colder days)
  • The store directories positioned by the doors are completely ignored by the vast majority of customers
  • The magic hours seem to be from 1-3pm for getting people to stop and participate

On top of what we learned from the actual study we were conducting, just spending that kind of time in the store engaging our customers was a great experience. Even if you aren’t actively involved in research or in-store intercepts, I’d highly recommend it as a great way to get closer to our customers to help complete the bigger ‘Sears’ picture...