Farewell for now…

After going back and forth between Medium and WordPress, I’ve decided to go back to the former. While WordPress initially received a good amount of engagement, unfortunately it doesn’t have the same potential as Medium these days.

Stay tuned – and follow along here.


100 Things

I really didn’t know what to expect before diving into Susan M. Weinschenk’s 100 Things Every Designer Needs To Know About People. But based on the reviews and the recommendations, I had to give this a read.

Spoiler alert ūüôā

The beauty of this book is that the topics that are covered are all very relatable. After all, it’s about people and the sometimes silly things we do, say, and think. The difference is that the book provides solid data around the motives for our thoughts and actions. Not to mention, the points that the author makes are for the purpose of designing¬†for humans.

The book is divided into these categories:

  • How people see
  • How people read
  • How people remember
  • How people think
  • How people focus their attention
  • What motivates people
  • People are social animals
  • How people feel
  • People make mistakes
  • How people decide

There were so many obvious yet brilliant points made that my book has more dog-eared pages than not. For the sake of brevity, I’ve included my favorite points/resources below below…


  • All capital words aren’t necessarily harder to read – we’re just unused to reading them as such. Capital letters should really only be used for headlines (sometimes) or when you need to get someone’s attention.
  • Design with forgetting in mind – if some information is really important, don’t rely on people to remember it.
  • If you have a brand new product that you know will not match anyone’s mental model (representation of something that a person has in mind – which is why we had skeumorphism earlier on), you’ll need to provide training to prepare people to create a new mental model.
  • People process information best when told as a story. Bear this in mind when trying to make tutorials or demos livelier.
  • People like to feel that they are making progress. Including small signs of progress – especially during onboarding – can motivate people to move forward to the next step in a task.
  • When you are designing a product that has social connections built in or implied, think about whether those interactions are for strong or weak times.
    • If you are designing for strong ties, you need to build in some amount of physical proximity, and make it possible for people to interact and know each other in the network.
    • If you are designing for weak ties, don’t rely on direct communication among all people in a person’s network or physical proximity.
  • When you’re designing a product, think about the interactions that the person will have with it. Do the interactions follow the rules of a person-to-person interaction?
  • Write a good error message that…
    • Tells the person what he or she did
    • Explains the problem
    • Instructs the person on how to correct it
    • Is written in plain language using active, not passive, voice
    • Shows an example
  • If you foresee that you product may be used during stressful situations (e.g. healthcare) make sure to design for this so stress-induced “tunnel vision” doesn’t get in the way of a person accomplishing what needs to be done.
  • If you need to provide choices, limit the number of choices to three or four. More choices doesn’t mean higher conversion/engagement.


Thoughts on The Best Interface is No Interface

I can say without a doubt that Golden Krishna’s book,¬†The Best Interface is No Interface, is definitely one of my favorite books thus far. It beautifully articulates¬†the certain frustrations I’ve had with apps and sites in an extremely easy to understand way.

If you’re looking to pick up a book related to product design, you need to read this one. It’s a quick yet poignant read.

As a fair warning, there are many spoilers in this post about the book.

One of the first points Krishna¬†drives home is the app conundrums we’ve got ourselves into, and only slowly starting to move away from. In college, ¬†I wrote freelance for an iPhone app review site, and was amazed by all of the different apps that were out there. Some apps I remember reviewing include a social fitting room advice app, an app for different photo poses, and a whole lot more.

As Krishna¬†puts it, “We moved way past ‘mundane’ social issues and collectively propelled the technology field – where disruption and innovation has a proven track record of changing everyday lives – to giving the world what it really needs: more mobile apps.”

From there, Krishna uses various examples to show how, even considering how advanced technology has become, we are still trading ease of use, fewer steps, and our sanity for a mobile app interface or general GUI. In other words, we love to slap an app on just about everything!

There are three main solutions he describes in how to break out of this habit as well as how to advance how we solve design problems:

  1. Embrace typical processes instead of screens
  2. Leverage computers instead of serving them
  3. Adapt to individuals

I’ve already given enough away, but this book really makes you think hard about how we go about creating solutions. It’s definitely changed the way I look at solutions.

I’ll end this post with one of my favorite quotes from the book:

The real power of “the best interface is no interface” is as a call to action. As a philosophy. It’s not about flat design or skeumorphic. Web or mobile. This is about aiming for the best outcome of NoUI. One that doesn’t distract us or try to get us addicted, something that embraces the way we live and aims to make it better quietly and elegantly. For technology to become embedded in the fabric of our lives instead of a distraction away from what really matters.

Design Log: January 2017

Tuesday, January 31, 2017

With today being the last day of January (and what a month it’s been, in many ways), I thought I’d shared a couple more articles I’ve been reading ūüôā Cheers!

Thursday, January 26, 2017

Recently, I wrapped up Sprint by Jake Knapp and had to say that I definitely understood why it received the attention it did. It’s straight to the point and gets just about anyone excited to dive into a big problem.

There’s a lot of great content, but I wanted to post the parts that I thought were most valuable (not everything fits here – trust me, I dog-eared more pages than I can remember). I’m hoping to use this method when presented with the opportunity!

Getting Started

  • Sprints will help solve these three challenging situations:
    1. High Stakes – A big problem, with a solution that will require a lot of time and money. A sprint is a chance to experiment.
    2. Not Enough Time – A problem where you need a good solution, fast.
    3. Just Plain Stuck – A problem where a starting point is needed.
  • Recruit a team of seven (give or take a few)
    1. Decider – Who can ultimately make the decision for your team?
    2. Finance expert – Who can explain where the money comes from and goes?
    3. Marketing expert – Who knows your company’s messaging best?
    4. Customer expert – Who talks to your customers most?
    5. Tech/logistics expert – Who understands your company’s technical stack?
    6. Design expert – Who designs the products your company makes?

The Sprint

  • Monday
    1. Think of a long-term goal
    2. Make a map of the challenge
    3. Ask experts at your company to get their insight and knowledge
    4. Figure out what the problem is that you’re trying to solve for
  • Tuesday
    1. Review ideas to remix and improve them
    2. Have every team member sketch for the solution, keeping critical thinking at the forefront, with visuals being secondary
    3. Start recruiting people to interview for Friday
  • Wednesday
    1. Decide on which of the sketched solutions you will test
    2. Take the “winning” solution and weave it into a storyboard, a step-by-step plan for the prototype
  • Thursday
    1. Turn the storyboard into a realistic prototype
    2. Pick the right tools. If it’s on a¬†screen, use Keynote, PowerPoint or SquareSpace. If it’s on¬†paper, use Keynote, PowerPoint or Microsoft Word. If it’s a¬†service, write a script and use your spring team as actors. If it’s a¬†physical space, modify an existing space. If it’s an¬†object, modify an existing object, 3D print a prototype or prototype the marketing.
    3. Maintain a “prototype mindset”throughout all of this –¬†perfect to just enough, long-term quality to temporary simulation. Think “Goldilocks quality” – “If the quality is too low, people won’t believe the prototype is a real product. If the quality is too high, you’ll be working all night and you won’t finish.”
  • Friday
    1. Interview the customers that you found starting Tuesday, and learn by watching them react to your prototype.
    2. Interview in five acts: 1) A¬†friendly welcome to start the interview, 2) A series of general, open-ended¬†context questions¬†about the customer, 3)¬†Introduction to the prototype(s), 4) Detailed¬†tasks to get the customer reacting to the prototype, 5) A¬†quick debrief to capture the customer’s overarching thoughts and impressions

Final thoughts

  • Instead of jumping right into solutions, take your time to map out the problem and agree on an initial target. Start slow so you can go fast.
  • Instead of shouting out ideas, work independently to make detailed sketches of possible solutions. Group brainstorming is broken, but there is a better way.
  • Instead of abstract debate and endless meetings, use voting and a Decider to make crisp decisions that reflect your team’s priorities. It’s the wisdom of the crowd without the groupthink.
  • Instead of getting all the details right before testing your solution, create a facade. Adopt the “prototype mindset” so you can learn quickly.
  • Instead of guessing and hoping you’re on the right track – all the while investing piles of money and months of time into your ideas – test your prototype with taret customers and get their honest reactions.

For more info/to buy the book: http://www.thesprintbook.com/ 

Wednesday, January 18, 2017

Lots of things going on which has kept me busy! Started doing Daily UI challenges when I can, so I always have something to look forward to when I come home from work.

As I mentioned previously, I’ve been doing a lot more reading. Not only have I been reading books, but I’ve been reading a lot of design-related Medium articles. Even though I’ve been a follower of Medium articles for a while now, but it didn’t really don on me until a couple of months ago how much of a haven Medium is for designers. There’s a lot of great content there, and I wanted to share some stories I’ve read (note: two of these articles are not from Medium):

More to come!

Sunday, January 8, 2017

The quote that keeps me going:

‚ÄúNobody tells this to people who are beginners, I wish someone told me. All of us who do creative work, we get into it because we have good taste. But there is this gap. For the first couple years you make stuff, it‚Äôs just not that good. It‚Äôs trying to be good, it has potential, but it‚Äôs not. But your taste, the thing that got you into the game, is still killer. And your taste is why your work disappoints you. A lot of people never get past this phase, they quit. Most people I know who do interesting, creative work went through years of this. We know our work doesn‚Äôt have this special thing that we want it to have. We all go through this. And if you are just starting out or you are still in this phase, you gotta know its normal and the most important thing you can do is do a lot of work. Put yourself on a deadline so that every week you will finish one story. It is only by going through a volume of work that you will close that gap, and your work will be as good as your ambitions. And I took longer to figure out how to do this than anyone I‚Äôve ever met. It‚Äôs gonna take awhile. It‚Äôs normal to take awhile. You‚Äôve just gotta fight your way through.‚ÄĚ

-Ira Glass

Friday, January 6, 2017

While execution is crucial when learning how to design, I’ve also been learning a ton from design books. I’m planning to read a lot more than I did last year, and these are only some of those books that I’ll read.

Here’s the list I’m going to tackle this year – I’m excited.

Monday, January 2, 2017

During break, I had some time to revisit several articles in Pocket. One of them was the popular “The Art of Designing with Heart” which made its debut in August of last year. With the projects we’re working on right now, I really want to try and incorporate the author’s advice into everything.

Some key takeaways:

  • “When you’re designing something, imagine you’re sitting in a room, helping a real person with the task at hand.”
    • What would you say to them?
    • How would you explain this screen or feature?
    • What advice would you give?
    • Say the answers out loud, then write down what you said. Now you’re 80% of the way there!
  • Check yourself from time to time
    • Are you using natural, casual language?
    • How are you reducing choices needed to make the user’s life a little easier?
    • Is this interaction or feature respectful of a person’s time and attention?
  • Like a respectful person, design should not…
    • Interrupt people in the middle of something
    • Nag them incessantly
    • Hard-sell them into doing what you want
    • Take advantage of people

Design Log: December 2016

Thursday, December 21, 2016

I just finished Creative Confidence¬†by Tom and David Kelley, and I’m so glad that Amazon recommended this book to me. I don’t think I’ve learned this much from a book before. Though every chapter was loaded with fantastic information, I think my favorite part of the book was Move, which talked about all of the different design activities that IDEO utilizes. Though all the activities sounded great, the ones I think I’ll continue to use the most are…

  1. Mindmapping
    • Mindmapping is an activity that helps open the mind to new ideas as well as map an individual’s thought process and record the evolution of an idea
    • Mindmapping also facilitates divergent or unconventional thinking and idea generation
  2. Empathy Maps
    • Empathy maps are based on what people¬†say and¬†do, and should help you draw real and valuable insights on what they¬†think and¬†feel
  3. Customer Journey Mapping  
    • Customer journey maps help an individual think through each step of what they would ideally want a¬†customer to do
    • It’s helpful to be able to “journify” the process for both customers and stakeholders alike

I’d recommend this book to everyone – it’s not meant for just “creative types.” Regardless of industry or background, anyone can apply design thinking to their jobs.

Monday, December 19, 2016

Today, I spoke with a user researcher at Microsoft to learn more about how user research is conducted in other teams. Tools they use include Survey Gizmo, MAXQDA, UserZoom, UserTesting, and others. Microsoft also has their own participant recruiting arm as well as a team that’s dedicated to recruiting test users specifically for games.

In terms of how someone could get into user researcher, the most traditional way is getting a graduate degree – Masters or PhD – in computer science, human-computer interaction, etc. Post-grad work is generally research-heavy, so you’ll be learning how to do research in one way or another. Other ways of getting into user research (though not as common) include doing a product management role that works closely with research and design, or a product design/UX role that works closely with research. It definitely depends on your team.

“Just build websites”

Trying to learn as much as possible about the fundamentals of product design and front-end development, I talked with Dave Rupert about his thoughts on how web development fits into product design, and web development as a discipline in general.

How did you get started, and how did you get to where you are now?

Dave: I was making webpages when I was 15, so I’ve been making webpages for over 20 years now. I did that as a hobby as a kid, and didn’t think I could do what I was doing as a profession. In college, there was a dotcom bubble, but it burst. Then I was living in Japan and ran spare websites there. When I came back, I started Paravel about 10 years ago. We started with mom and pop websites and then grew and grew with bigger and bigger projects. We built a name for ourselves as “pixel perfect” in web design. And that’s when responsive web design kind of happened and kicked in, which changed the way we did everything. We’re very committed to pixel perfect perfection, and multi-device strategy ruined us completely. On the other hand, we figured it out, and were early adopters in figuring it out. So for example, we used RWD for Microsoft’s Build Conference in¬†2012. It’s sort of the big thing. Since then, we’ve worked with Starbucks, Wired, RetailMeNot, etc. We’ve done a couple of other really great projects too – Etsy was another client of ours. It’s been cool but also weird too because we started out 10 years ago in a nook in my closet and now we work with big clients, which is neat.

What are your thoughts on how front-end development fits into product design?

Dave: Product design is just a new name for an old thing – caring about how the user interacts with a product. I think there’s web design, and people switch to apps, and then it was app design, and then it was product design with a little bit of UX design. I kind of consider it all to be digital product design, and consider it all to be the same thing. I consider things to be more appy, like a chat app. Some things are more static like a blog. It’s all the same thing, but just a little bit of difference and nuance and activity. In terms of just code, you’d be surprised, how much code affects the overall look, feel and performance of a website. The quality of the underlying code, the consistency as its translated out to multiple pages… it affects the overall design of a product. I’ve been getting into video games, and there’s a term that Nintendo’s Shigeru Miyamoto uses – tegotae (śČčŚŅú„Āą) – which means “hand response.” It’s how things feel as a video game. Anyone can make pixels move across a screen, but how does it feel? That’s how I feel about code.

Front-end code is a valuable discipline because… 80% of the time a user is waiting – let’s say the page loads in five seconds – four of those seconds are because of front-end coding. On a mobile phone, you have to load your website under three seconds or the user is gone, and an interactive widget under five seconds.¬†It’s the job of the developer to render the page under three seconds, or at least lazy load some components so that the user doesn’t notice. In terms of performance, that’s huge numbers on the bottom line of a company. There’s a site call wpostats.com, which is a blog about web performance. If a website is taking a long time to load and is poorly coded, that’s half of your business falling out the window. So in terms of front-end in product design, I think it’s hugely important. The accessibility happens on that end too, and it’s a huge business impact – lawsuits for some people, even. It’s a very important thing that happens there. If you consider performance stuff, these things affect design decisions that happened earlier down the waterfall. Product people and business people hand something to design, and design hands what they have to development. There’s never a conversation of how it is going to work for the user. These are some of the reasons why front-end is a very valuable discipline. You get into style guides, which have gone into rebirth. Companies will have really good print style guides, and marketing agencies will prescribe web techniques in digital briefs, and they don’t fit the web at all. The style guide adds consistency – a designer will design one page, and then will design another set of pages. With a whole system of content, you can’t think from a page by page basis – a system of content.

What are some of your best experiences working with designers? What are some of your worst experience? 

Dave: It’s tough because I mostly work with Trent and Reagan. It’s good but we’re used to each other – we’re like old married folks. Some of the best things are when we work on things together. When we’re working and sketching ideas together, we can share ideas quickly and validate them between us and start building something together. It’s way better than when we’re handing things over the fence – when we’re building and sharing, that’s by far the best experience, and that’s what I live for. Sharing your work – I think that’s very important to both designers and developers so there’s feedback. The worst situations… there are dozens, but mostly it’s just that I’ve had designers treat design as gospel, and that “Here, code this,” attitude is very off-putting. This is a terrible phrase, but kind of being a code monkey for people – being responsible for someone else’s design problems – is the worst. You didn’t hand me any solutions. That’s probably the worst part.

What are some things that will help a developer grow? What are some things that will hold a developer back?

Dave: It’s interesting – I think keeping up with front-end development historically is tough. It changes every six months, there’s always something brand new and sometimes you can get caught totally off-guard. Sometimes it can be hard to keep on track for something that’s so high velocity. I spend a lot of mental time and effort to keep on top of things. I have a phrase on ShopTalk (my podcast) – “just build websites.” If you want to learn something, start solving a problem, and the things you’ll need to learn will start showing themselves to you. Maybe bite off more than you can chew, but you need to start somewhere and start something. That’s kind of the time-honored way of learning stuff. Genki Hagata did 30 days of “Hello World,” where he did 30 examples of a language or what not – something he was interested in – and would take ¬†a couple of hours to learn something and get it off the ground. I’ve only read half of his documentation, but I think that’s a really great way to learn. Identify what you don’t know, and learn a little bit about it.

What are some trends to key an eye on for 2017?

Dave: The CSS grid specification. CSS has never had a great layout module. There have been tables and floats where you can send things left and right, there’s display inline and flexbox, which will take 100% of width and divide it up and flow content the best it knows how. It’s kind of a weird math engine that sometimes works and sometimes doesn’t. The CSS grid spec is really truly kind of a grid – there’s a grid cell and a gutter, and you can control not only the x-axis, but also the y-axis. Most engines only control one direction, but this can control 2D x and y directions happening in CSS. It lands in all major browsers in March of 2017. ¬†I’ll let it blow up in other people’s faces first, and then I’ll do it. It’s interesting that we’ll have these advanced layouts. So there’s one thing. There are languages like JavaScript frameworks and things like that – they’re bad for performance but create a neat real-time experience. I think those are going to have their major problems fixed, as there should be a performant way to make interactive webpages. It’s available now, it’s good and fun and great but not the most amazing technology in my opinion. There are web VR specifications happening where you can make VR experiences using web pages. It’s interesting to think about, but maybe not practical yet. Those are my three things. Some ways it’s plateaued, and there are chunks of new tech that’s coming out to enable.

Thanks Dave!!

You can read all of Dave’s fantastic blog posts at his website, listen to his podcast, and see what the team at Paravel has worked on.

Back to Basics

About a week ago, Apple released a physical book – “Designed by Apple in California” – to the public for the cool price of $300. The book is dedicated to Steve Jobs and explores 20 years of Apple design.

Apple’s newest innovation – the book.

What I find fascinating about this book is that Apple Рone of the tech giants that really set forth the digital and mobile revolution Рdecided to publish this manifesto in the form of a heavy book instead of an app or a video.

Though photo printing and coffee books have been around for quite some time now, there’s been a revitalization of print. In fact, it could even be considered a glorification of print.

Artifact Uprising is an example of a company that’s capitalizing on this print renaissance. With their services, you can get your Instagram photos printed individually on matte-finish paper or create a softcover photo book for your coffee table. Photo books from my childhood always seemed a little tacky and cheesy – they were also only one of few ways we could keep and share photos. Now that there are so many platforms on which to share photos – the majority of them being free – we have plenty of choice in the digital space. But there’s something to be said for a beautiful photo book filled with your own curated photos that¬†will live on even when there’s no wifi or outlet.

Like Apple’s new book, seasonal magazines that are en vogue such as Cereal, Kinfolk and Drift are definitely pricier than the average magazine, but they’ve become akin to status symbols. Complete with stunning photos and plenty of delicious white space, these magazines are more art than content at times. If you were worried that print would vanish soon, make no mistake – the sexiness of print is here to stay.

Magazines – the ultimate… accessory?

And on the flipside of that – though we have Evernote, OneNote, Wunderlist¬†and so on and so forth, we simply remember information better if we write it down. The first thing that comes to mind when I think of glamorized analog is RIFLE PAPER Co., a charming stationary brand that sells calendars, notebooks, planners and much more. Sure, I could buy a 50 cent notebook from Staples… but getting to open a cloth-bound, copper-foiled planner every day for the next year sends chills of excitement down my spine.

Then there’s the resurgence of physical “pens” and “pencils” for digital products. FiftyThree sells $30 “pencils,” and Microsoft and Apple have been duking it out in terms of who has the better “pen”.

The prettiest planners you ever did see.


Amazon had initially made books more consumable, and still do.¬†Whether this is a good thing or a bad thing is hard to say. These days, buying a book is as easy as two clicks of a mouse – nothing particularly rejuvenating.¬†In fact, the discovery of the Japanese word¬†tsundoku – the act of stockpiling books never consumed – was a hit among popular media recently. It’s just another testament to how much we take buying books for granted.

Before Amazon, you probably went to Barnes and Nobles and embarked on a mini-scavenger hunt looking for books and stumbling upon others along the way.¬†But the book shopping experience is long from forgotten. There’s been a resurgence of independent bookstores, bringing back dusty bookshelves and bargain book finds.

Amidst all of this rambling, I think what I’m trying to say is that there will still be a place for books, stationary, pencils and erasers in many of our wired hearts. Yes, there are many who are full-blown digital and are¬†completely plugged in with smartwatches, Kindles, iPhones and all. But when the portable battery runs out of juice, will you then lunge for a book? When your computer is malfunctioning during a lecture, will you go through your backpack, searching for your paper and pencil?

Whether you’re¬†drooling over the recent issue of Drift or caught up in an unexpectedly good dollar novel, keep it up. Continue to support print in any form. Maybe even check out a couple of books from your local library if you want to take it a step further – bonus points for using the Dewey Decimal¬†System.


Other resources I’ve found a couple of days after I posted this…

People are falling in love with a simple productivity system that just uses pen and paper

Nothing can kill our love of books, not even e-readers