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

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!

Facilitate a Better Design Critique

Winding Road

The path to a great UX can be a little winding. Put engineers, product managers, designers and various stakeholders together in a room and everyone has their own agenda and is trying to have their say. Too often I’ve heard the conversation get halted before the real UX discussions can even begin.

Share Openly and Often

One of the many reason meetings can get halted and go of track is when someone new is in the room and has never seen the designs before. Avoid this as much as possible. Get any and all key stakeholders in the room or at least viewing the designs as often and as early as possible.

I realize this is impossible to avoid all the time, executives are busy or someone is new to the group. At times this isn’t all bad, new eyes can be the best source to uncovering unseen usability issues.

Set the Tone

The key to the most constructive design meetings is to have clear cut goals and understandings up front. Make sure everyone in the room is aware of the purpose of the design, what is it exactly you are trying to accomplish.

Then describe how you got there, your thoughts and process of why the design is like it is today. The more details the audience has on the background, the more informative their feedback can be.

Lastly, what kind of feedback are you looking for? What is on the table for discussion and what is not.

Capture and Table Side Ideas

That being said, I’m a huge component of throwing out any and all possibilities at any stage in the process. Finding the best possible experience for the users is always the main goal at hand.

Sadly, many times numerous people have already invested so much time and energy to the current design that any new ideas are immediately shut down. I prefer to hear things out, briefly, jot down it down, and then move on.

Change Doesn’t Mean Now

Maybe it’s a hard code change, maybe it’s easy but it affects a lot of screens, or it’s impossible to happen in the next release. That doesn’t mean it shouldn’t ever happen.

The goal is let great ideas come to life, let the discussions flow and hopefully you’ll discover the best possible experience for the user. THEN figure out how to get it into the product at a later date.

At some point, mock it up, test it with real users and figure out a way to add it into the product in some future release, if it indeed works out to be a better UI.

Great ideas can come from anyone at any time, be open to them!

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.