UX Resources: What’s on my bookshelf?

I like to read. I like to keep learning. I could waist, I mean spend, an entire day if not more just reading books or the millions of articles that are posted online daily regarding all things UX.

I’ll also admit; I’m also a sucker for that promotional email that says, for a limited time only download this new book at a price you can’t beat! Yep, that’s me, downloading away. I recently purchased A Practical Guide to Information Architecture, by Donna Spencer offered through UX Mastery for only $5.  I’ve already read through a bunch of it and though I know most the information already, it’s always good to refresh my memory.

The Must Haves

If call yourself a UX designer then you must have read and own the following:

The Design of Everyday Things by Don Norman
– You will never look at the world around you the same. I keep this one as an e-book so I can re-read through it when ever I have a few minutes.

The Inmates Are Running The Asylum: Why High-tech Products Drive Us Crazy and How to Restore the Sanity by Alan Cooper
– I work with a lot of complex B2B products, this book is essential to say the least.

Don’t Make Me Think: A common Sense Approach to Web Usability by Steve Krug
– I still have the original version. I’m realizing I should really go out and picking up the latest version based on the reviews.

Personal Favorites

Web Form Design: Filling in the blanks by Luke Wroblewski
– I’ve seen Luke speak at a couple different events, he’s always gives a good talk!

About Face 3: The Essentials of Interaction Design by Alan Cooper, Robert Reimann, and David Cronin

Persona Lifecycle: Your Guide to Building and Using Personas by Tamara Adlin and Jon Pruitt

100 Things Every Designer Needs to Know about People  by Susan M. Weinschenk, Ph.D.

Interaction Design

Designing Web Interfaces by Bill Scott & Theresa Neil (O’Reilly book)

Sketching User Experiences, getting the design right and the right design. by Bill Buxton

Designing the User Interface, Strategies for Effective Human-Computer Interactions by Ben Shneiderman

Designing from both sides of the screen. How Designers and Engineers Can Collaborate to Build Cooperative Technology by Ellen Isaacs and Alan Walendowski

User Research:
Observing the User Experience, A Practitioner’s Guide to User Research by Elizabeth Goodman, Mike Kuniavsky and Andrea Moed

Institutionalization of Usability, A Step-By-Step Guide by Eric Schaffer

Paper Prototyping, The Fast and Easy Way to Design and refine user interfaces by Carolyn Snyder

Notes from: “What Designing For Kids Can Teach Us About User Experience”

The second I get just a little bit of free time I love attending or listening to all sorts of UX/UI webcasts and seminars. I recently stumbled across the fact that O’Reilly offered free live webcasts on a variety of subjects, yes FREE!! Previous webcasts are all archived and available as well, visit http://www.oreilly.com/webcasts/index.html for more information.


One such webcast I found particularly interesting that I was able to attend live was Debra Gleman’s “Just Make it Fun, What Designing for Kids Can Teach Us About User Experience.” In it she talks about the five principles for designing for kid’s friction, response, investment, action and flow and goes on to go into each one in detail and how to use it effectively for grown ups.

For example, the right right amount of friction makes the interaction interesting but at the same time too much friction may hurt, especially when it comes to commerce. Users may like a fun way to add to cart, but make sure it’s fully tested.

When it comes to response it’s key to remember every action a user takes has a response. This is a great when doing repetitive tasks like form completion, nothing too in your face but something in a fun and interesting way.

She also mentioned using communication as a great way to get people invested. MailChimp is a great example of this and is one of my favorite online applications for this very reason. The error messages and fun sayings at the top make me smile whenever I was helping small businesses set up an online subscription service. It full fills the business requirements in a fun and interesting way.

When it comes to action or movements, she talks about how kids need movement but for adults it need to be very purposeful. Examples when movement on the screen would be appropriate are things like, first-time user, using action as a way to highlight what to do on the screen, contextual help or when browsing or discovering. It’s not for routine tasks as it can get in the way.

Lastly, is flow, users need to feel as though they are progressing through an experience. This is especially useful when tracking, searching or creating information.

One of the big take-a-ways from this webcast for something I know all too well from watching my kids play countless games on the iPad, was the idea of a Lagniappe. Many times it’s a simple badge or trophy that shows up on the screen after they complete a task. My kids eat this stuff up, and they can’t wait to get to the next level or the bigger trophy.

Now I can’t stop thinking all the different ways to translate that concept into the grownup world as well. Maybe take an upload complete pop up and add a colorful icon to it or some fun messaging?? It doesn’t need to be much, simple is good but there is no reason even corporate sites and applications can’t make one smile while using it.

Again, if you haven’t heard of the O’Reilly webcasts, be sure to check them out.

A Happy Path vs A Winning Path

There is often talk in the UX design to define the users “happy path,” meaning, what is their main goal when using the application and how will they best complete that goal.

When my eight-year-old son started another season of little league baseball this past spring, our main “Happy Path” for him was to have fun and hopefully improve his game along the way. Throughout the season he and the rest of his team did just that, they even won a few games in the process.

Entering into the play-offs, we hoped they would win at least one game but didn’t expect much more. It wasn’t until they won the third game in a row, by quite a bit I might add, that I suddenly realized; something more was going on. When it was all said and done, they came in first place and won the championship game!

I started to think, what was it that made a difference in the play-offs? While the boys had certainly improved their skills throughout the season, so had most the other boys on other teams.

Make it Simple.

The coach didn’t give the team instructions as a whole, instead, he gave each kid very specific instructions. For example, the 2nd baseman might be told to make sure to step on your bag, whereas the pitcher would be told to throw to 1st base. At the same time, the 3rd baseman was told to hold the ball. Each kid, before each batter was told exactly what to do. So, very simple!

No longer did they have to think about what they were going to do with the ball after they got it. Of course, this wasn’t 100 percent fool proof, but it helped so much. The coach knew the only way to end an inning is to make outs, and one by one, that’s just what the boys did.

I then immediately started to realize all the different ways this translates into product user experience.

Target The Content

Targeting content to specific users requires having very specific personas. You’ve got to know who your users really are and have instructions specific to the task they are trying to accomplish. For example, on an edit page generic instructional text that says, “here’s where you create and edit items” simply isn’t enough. Instead, tell them WHY they need to create such items and then specifically HOW to best use them.

Limit Choices

When working on a very technically complicated product recently, we were struggling with the user defaults and how they flow through some wizards. At first we thought they can make edits to all certain parts of the particular item. However, we started to realize, did we want the user to make all these various edits, could they break something if they did it wrong?

We then started to talk more about what the 80% of user would want to edit and set up the path for that use case. The advanced editable options were left in for those users who wanted more control but in a collapsed section that was not in the way of most-common use case. Just because you CAN edit something doesn’t mean you NEED to be able to edit it at all times.


Parents and kids alike weren’t just happy with the season; we were ecstatic! I now try to think about this at the start of any project, the goal is to not just create a happy path for the user, but what is it going to take to hit it out of the ballpark and get that championship trophy!

Users Don’t Care About The Back End



When I first started out in designing User Interfaces, way, way back when, I worked in-house for a high-tech B2B software company where all the buttons in the product were graphics. One of my many tedious jobs was to create images for any and all buttons that the product needed, and there were A LOT of buttons!

Numerous times I had an engineer come to me as ask for a new button with a generic label, something like “Request”. I would then step through the process of asking the million dollar questions… “What screens is this on?” “What is user is trying to accomplish?” and “Why do you think the button should have this name?” Inevitably the answer to that last question was always, “because that’s what it does on the back end, I’m making a request to the database”.

The user doesn’t care what the back end does or what technical term you use when coding. The user is simply trying to accomplish a task. The question is, what exactly is that task and how can we make that experience as straight forward and easy as possible.

Don’t Make Me Click.

Now, I could launch into a how to properly name your buttons and if this was say 3 years ago I probably would have. How the label should be a specific action item, think verbs followed by possible noun, and how you need to be consistent throughout the entire product and so on and so forth; however, now a days the interface should do what the user needs with out any buttons. Yes, you heard me, no button!

Okay, so maybe you need some buttons, Facebook has it’s Like button, right? However, when using Twitter and Pintrest you no longer need to click to “view more” it automatically loads when we scroll down. No more expand/collapse sections, just let me quickly scroll down this long page of content. I’m using Evernote right now to type up a draft of this post, there is no save button, it automatically saves it to the cloud as I’m typing, sweet!

I’m sure there are all sorts of things are going on in the back end that I, as an end user, are not aware of, and I love that! I was even thinking there is no confirmation that my Evernote is saved, but I just now saw the little “synchronizing” message that popup in the lower left corner. Yes, the lower, LEFT corner. You know, that place where no one ever puts anything but do look there every now and then.

As a user, I don’t want to make any choices. I do that enough through out my day. I simply want to use a product that makes the right choices for me and lets me get on with my day.

Clouds180 on Instagram

With all the controversy around Instagrams policies, I’ve decided to started to using the service to post most my cloud photos quickly and easily. Check them out at http://instagram.com/designcounts/. This is just a fun side project and I have to admit, the posting of photos via the iPhone app is extremely simple, fast and easy. I can understand why it’s so popular.

However, I have to admit the website leaves a lot to be desired usability wise. Wow! I nearly gave up with the website all together but I have seem to have finally figured it out.

Instagram Home

First day, I upload some photos through the app then I go to the website and this is the home page. Um, I want to log in and see my photos. Oh, those links at the bottom that I had to scroll to see, that “your account” might be it. Okay, I’m in but I can’t post a photo through the website? Really??

Anyway, I now go to Twitter and see the my photos posted, cool! Spend waist some time surfing through my twitter feed to find some more Instagram photos, view those on the website. Okay, so if I want to follow this person in Instagram??? OH, I have to click on their username to get the button and I have to click on the profile photo to see all their images.

I know Mobile first is the wave of the future but that doesn’t mean you ignore simple use cases on your website. Why would you hide the “Follow” button within something?


I’m also not sure why Instagram doesn’t remember that I’m logged in or that I have an account. I leave the site and when I come back I get that same home screen that does nothing for me. I finally get in to my profile, above, and nothing is clickable. My followers, nope, my following, nope, neither is clickable. What’s the point of having followers or being followed if I can’t figure out how to see them??


Okay, enough dissecting the horrible usability of the site and maybe I’m just missing the point of the site all together, back to my project. I hope to check in and post my cloud photos here every now and then but to see (hopefully) all 180 cloud photos go to http://instagram.com/designcounts/. Good luck if you want to “follow” me there.