The only interstitial popup I’ve ever liked

interstitial popup

This is the only interstitial popup I’ve ever liked. When visiting a UX company’s website, the contact page presented this:

interstitial popup

Why do I like this one? It makes me feel like I am talking directly to the company, and that they care why I am here. This pop-up is not trying to sell me something. It’s not (yet again) asking me sign up for your stupid email list. It is simply asking a question, and I am most likely to answer.

Mobile First is Like A Tiny House

Mobile first is like a tiny house

I have been thinking about how to explain the mobile first concept to designers in my industry that obviously do not understand what it is. It bothers me when they don’t want to try, and quote “we will never be a mobile first company”.  It makes me think about different ways I can explain the concept, so that even the stubborn will start to learn.

Have you heard of the “tiny house” fad/movement? People are foregoing the traditional size homes and basically living out of a shed.  The small square footage is maximized to accommodate modern amenities. You have everything you need to live in just a few square feet.

Now, imagine you live in a tiny home. If I were to ask a tiny home dweller “what are your most important possessions?”, I would expect them to reply with something like “toilet paper”, or “toothpaste”.   The home is so small, there is no room for anything non essential, therefore you learn to live with just the bare minimum. Now imagine asking someone in a larger home what their most important possession is.  I would expect them to look around the room, and say something like “large flat screen TV”, or something similar.

So do you think toilet paper is less important to the large home dweller because they didn’t list it? No. I think we can safely bet that toilet paper is just as important to the large home dweller as it is to the small home dweller. Why the difference in answers? Because there is so much room in the larger house, it can be easy to overlook what’s important because there is so much more to evaluate in the larger home.  The toilet paper is lost, or overlooked.

It is imperative to prioritize what things can occupy your shared space in tiny homes. It forces you to make decisions about the worth of something vs. the amount of space it requires. You are deciding the hierarchy of importance.

Once you have lived in a tiny home, you will instinctively know that what is important to you in the tiny house will also be important in the larger house. It doesn’t work too well in reverse, you can’t expect the large home dweller to get the hierarchy correct because they are too preoccupied with the big screen TV. The tiny home guy doesn’t have that distraction.

The tiny home dwellers are synonymous to mobile designs, while the large home dwellers are synonymous to desktop designs. Once you have lived in the smaller space, you will more clearly see the hierarchy of importance because the large distractions are removed. The same principal applies to design. The mobile space needs to be defined with a correct hierarchy defined. This is not to say that once you lived in the tiny home, that you could not upgrade to a larger space (via media queries) and then once we are in the bigger space, you can bring the TV into play.  One must realize, though, that you can’t bring the big screen TV to the tiny home, there is just no space for it. So if there is no space for it in the tiny home, then it becomes far less important an item.

But you wouldn’t know that until you lived in the tiny home FIRST. 🙂


Adding to the UX Drinking Game

I love the UX drinking game, I think it it absolutely hysterical. It is funny, and sad, at the same time because some of these hit a nerve and are so true. Actually, I am learning something from this. I am not alone. These ridiculous absurdities have been experienced elsewhere, by other competent designers. Do I need to learn to accept the fact that I will be faced with this mentality in the workplace? Do I need to fight harder for the user experience? When do I throw in the towel and give up on a company?

Here are a few of my own:

  • If the Design Director is quoted saying “We’re never going to be a mobile first company”, drink at lunch.
  • Someone says “98% of our users are desktop users” on a product has not launched yet, have a drink.

And my most applicable existing quotes on the site:

  • If your team thinks Agile means endless changes and no documentation, finish the bottle
  • If multiple inline scroll panes are considered user friendly, drink a White Russian
  • If the error messages are in uppercase and red, drink

And this one I don’t understand at all:

  • If a design question is answered with “Lets see how others do it,” go visit another bar
    • Not sure I agree with this… isn’t research part of the learning process to craft an excellent user interface? Why wouldn’t we want to learn from other’s mistakes?

Don’t put Drop-downs in your Quick Launch

Don't put drop down choices in a quick launch-style of menu.

Here is a utility navigation at the top of a page. I consider it a “quick launch” type of navigation, very similar to the traditional Windows system tray in the lower right hand corner of the Windows operating system. I have become very used to this type of system tray that utilizes tiny icons with no text. I think it was even called the “quick launch tray” at one time or another (or still is called that?).

It’s called a “quick launch” for a reason. Click once and it takes you to the expected location or expected action. This quick launch tray is the first piece of functionality in the history of the Windows operating system (that I can remember) that acclimated users to the 1-click action (instead of double click). Again, contributing to the quickness of it because you don’t even have to take the time to double click. Mac users speak up here, I’m sure there is related quick launch functionality in your operating system too?

Don't put drop down choices in a quick launch-style of menu.
Don’t put drop down choices in a quick launch-style of menu.

This example shows a quick launch style bar, when clicked, presents the user with the equivalent of an additional drop-down menu which feels to me completely counter intuitive. The action of quick launch should take the user immediately to the intended destination, yet this example makes the user choose AGAIN from another menu. HOW is this quick? HOW is this action any different than the main navigation bar? Shouldn’t the quick launch buttons have consistent behavior among themselves in the bar? AND shouldn’t it behave differently than the main navigation bar? Shouldn’t it behave the same as the standard industry convention, that is, behave like we expect quick launch buttons to behave?

Why did this happen? It happens because we are not keeping an eye on the larger IA picture. This happens because we don’t know where else to put these menu choices. This happens because we pick the easy way out and group like items together, regardless of whether it belongs there or not. I challenge us as interface designers to be better than this.

I think the answer here is to remove the “Help” from the main navigation and have the quick launch button launch immediately into a contextual help screen. Once the user is presented with contextual help screen, then offer additional help choices such as the FAQ’s or opening a support ticket. Is there a better way? I think a study into how other reputable sites present help menus is needed.

Is there ever a reason to put drop-downs in a utility-style navigation bar?  Have you seen this before? Have you done this before, and what is your reasoning? Can anyone show me examples where this behavior is acceptable?


Did You Feed the Dog? My Invention in Unobtrusive Usability

My first invention, the fully unobtrusive way to answer "did you feed the dog?"
My first invention, the fully unobtrusive way to answer "did you feed the dog?"
My first invention, the fully unobtrusive way to answer “did you feed the dog?”


“Did you feed the dog?” or “Did I feed the dog?” is heard every day in my household. On 3/10/15 the dog started howling in pain that night. Nearly midnight, I called the all night vet. She quizzed me on a couple habits concerning the dog and discovered it was possible that we overfed him. The dry food, when moistened, expands in their belly which is next to the diaphragm. “He’s going to be uncomfortable” and “we get a lot of calls like this” is what she said.

There has got to be a better way.

So if this happened to us, maybe it happens to other people. And, why don’t we have the technology to fix it? I see a need and think about how to fix it. Calendar? No, Gregor won’t. Push a button? No, Gregor won’t. Push a bead on an abacus? No. Just no.  There has got to be a better way. Only a completely unobtrusive approach will work. I wanted a way to know when food went into the bowl, and it had to happen automatically, without Gregor’s intervention. The answer is a SCALE. The scale measures the amount of food in the bowl to trigger a timestamp to tell us the last time food was in the bowl, answering the question “did you feed the dog?”.

The answer is a scale, and have it timestamp the last time food was in the dog bowl.

I researched the project for a month until I finally found an existing patent. I was so disappointed. I don’t know why, I just wanted the patent for my own idea. I stopped working on the project.

“… but did you feed the dog?”

Three months later I found myself still asking the same darn question. I decided I just need to do this to see if it betters our lives. I hired an Arduino board consultant, I purchased the parts, and put it all together. The circuitry went inside a Quaker Oats round cardboard can. Now ready for the first day of usability testing!


The first night it worked as expected, and the next morning it worked as expected. But on the second day it stopped working. When I checked on it the timestamp was a full day behind: Tuesday 7:22pm but it was Wednesday. I tripped the scale and the timestamp updated from Tues 7:22pm to Weds 7:22pm. I scratched my head and checked the time, and yes, it was exactly 7:22pm (funny odds).

I asked Gregor if I could observe him feeding the dog

So the scale is technically working. I asked Gregor if I could observe him feeding the dog. He tossed the dry food into the bowl just as I expected, but the scale read 277, and the program is waiting for 300. Bingo!

So I set the program to 200, uploaded it to the circuit board, and reinstalled the dog dish. Because it sits under the ironing board, I dropped a sock on it just to see if it would trigger. It did, even though the sock weighed less than 200. I had to power boot the dish again, but so far it has been working successfully.

Testing showed me something else

After about a month the dish so far is performing as expected, but I did not take into account the times the dog is put into his crate, and fed there. So sometimes he is not being fed out of the scale-dish.  Oh well! Even though I believed I knew what my household’s needs are, this just goes to prove you never know what your users needs are until you go to testing. Even if the user is yourself.


Awesome Quotes:

Copied from the above website:

45 Inspiring Quotes to Ignite Your Creative Spark

“To be creative means to be in love with life. You can be creative only if you love life enough that you want to enhance its beauty, you want to bring a little more music to it, a little more poetry to it, a little more dance to it.” – Osho  twitter-logo

“Authenticity is invaluable; originality is nonexistent. And don’t bother concealing your thievery — celebrate it if you feel like it.” – Jim Jarmusch  twitter-logo

“It’s not where you take things from — it’s where you take them to.” – Jean-Luc Godard  twitter-logo

“Learn the rules like a pro, so you can break them like an artist.” – Pablo Picasso  twitter-logo

“Creative works may indeed by kind of like property, but it’s property that we’re all building on.” – Kirby Ferguson  twitter-logo

“The inner fire is the most important thing mankind possesses.” – Edit Södergran  twitter-logo

“Creativity is one of the last remaining legal ways of gaining an unfair advantage over the competition.” – Ed McCabe  twitter-logo

“The object isn’t to make art, it’s to be in that wonderful state which makes art inevitable.” – Robert Henri  twitter-logo

“The thing is to become a master and, in your old age, to acquire the courage to do what children did when they knew nothing.” – Ernest Hemingway  twitter-logo

“There are painters who transform the sun to a yellow spot, but there are others who, with the help of their art and their intelligence, transform a yellow spot into sun.” – Pablo Picasso  twitter-logo

“Any activity becomes creative when the doer cares about doing it right or better.” – John Updike  twitter-logo

“Get it down. Take chances. It may be bad, but it’s the only way you can do anything really good.” – William Faulkner  twitter-logo

“This is how you do it: You sit down at the keyboard and you put one word after another until it’s done. It’s that easy, and that hard.” – Neil Gaiman  twitter-logo

“Never put off writing until you are better at it.” – Gary Henderson  twitter-logo

“Imagination is everything. It is the preview of life’s coming attractions.” – Albert Einstein  twitter-logo

“Think outside the box, collapse the box, and take a f**king sharp knife to it.” – Banksy  twitter-logo

“An idea that is not dangerous is unworthy of being called an idea at all.” – Oscar Wilde  twitter-logo

“I believe humans get a lot done, not because we’re smart, but because we have thumbs so we can make coffee.” – Flash Rosenberg  twitter-logo

“The chief enemy of creativity is good sense.” – Pablo Picasso  twitter-logo

“Never retreat. Never explain. Get it done and let them howl.” –  Nellie McClung twitter-logo

“Creativity is intelligence having fun.” – Albert Einstein  twitter-logo

“Life is pretty simple: You do some stuff. Most fails. Some works. You do more of what works. If it works big, others quickly copy it. Then you do something else. The trick is doing something else.” – Tom Peters  twitter-logo

“Once we believe in ourselves, we can risk curiosity, wonder, spontaneous delight, or any experience that reveals the human spirit.” – e.e. cummings  twitter-logo

“The first draft of anything is sh*t.” – Ernest Hemingway  twitter-logo

“Go where the silence is and say something.” – Amy Goodman  twitter-logo

“You can’t use up creativity. The more you use, the more you have.” – Maya Angelou  twitter-logo

“The scariest moment is always just before you start.” – Stephan King  twitter-logo

“That’s the great secret of creativity. You treat ideas like cats: you make them follow you.” – Ray Bradbury  twitter-logo

“Creativity takes courage.” – Henri Matisse  twitter-logo

“Vulnerability is the birthplace of innovation, creativity, and change.” – Brené Brown  twitter-logo

“The difficulty lies not so much in developing new ideas as in escaping from old ones.” – John Maynard Keynes  twitter-logo

“Almost always, the dedicated creative minority has made the world better.” – Martin Luther King, Jr.  twitter-logo

“‘Keeping busy’ is the remedy for all ills. It’s also the means by which creative impulse is destroyed.” – Joyce Carol Oates  twitter-logo

“The worst enemy to creativity is self-doubt.” – Sylvia Path  twitter-logo

“You cannot discover new oceans unless you have the courage to lose sight of the shore.” – Andre Gide  twitter-logo

“They always say time changes things, but you actually have to change them yourself.” – Andy Warhol  twitter-logo

“Creativity is a type of learning process where teacher and pupil are located in the same individual.” – Arthur Koestler  twitter-logo

“Our best successes come after our greatest disappointments.” – Henry Ward Beecher twitter-logo

“The greatest mistake you can make in life is to be continually fearing you will make one.” – Elbert Hubbard  twitter-logo

“Can anything be sadder than work left unfinished? Yes; work never begun.” – Christina Rossetti  twitter-logo

“There are no rules here. We’re trying to accomplish something.” – Thomas Edison  twitter-logo

“Clean out a corner of your mind and creativity will instantly fill it.” – Dee Hock  twitter-logo

“If you hear a voice within you say, ‘You cannot paint,’ then by all means paint, and that voice will be silenced.” – Vincent van Gogh  twitter-logo

“Have no fear of perfection; you’ll never reach it.” Salvador Dali  twitter-logo

“From 30,000 feet, creating looks like art. From ground level, it’s a to-do list.” – Ben Arment  twitter-logo

Ukulele Songs to Learn

I got a ukulele!  What can I learn to play?  I don’t care that I can’t sing.  Screw it, I’m going for it!

Ukulele to-do list:

  • Hey Good Lookin, Hank Williams. Because my grandfather sang it to my grandmother. learn the right chords this time:
  • Me and Bobby McGee (with some vocal help?); wriitten by Chris Christopherson
  • Take a Walk on the Wild Side: Lou Reed
  • I’m a joker: Stemve Miller Band
  • Billie Holiday – You go to my head (?) in falsetto voice
  • I will survive – Donna Summer, Beck remake too
  • I Gotta Woman – Ray Charles
  • Gimme 3 Steps – Lynyrd Skynyrd
  • Folsom Prison Blues – Johnny Cash
  • Jackson – Johnny & June Cash
  • Big Mouth Woman – Johnny & June Cash
  • L&N Don’t Stop Here Anymore (for Richard!)
  • Lying Eyes – Eagles
  • Looking at Country – Loretta Lynn
  • Stuck in the Middle with You – Steelers Wheel
  • Train Train – Blackfoot  (for Conner!)

ViewBug Busted

I have really been digging the new website  As a (hobbyist) photographer it seems an easy way to share photographs and enter them into photo contests at the same time. It is social sharing geared for photographers.

As a (professional) website designer & developer, I am also marveling at the easy and intuitive user interface. It seems like a well thought out website from a usability standpoint. I really like the immediate engagement techniques and the “rewards” or “badges” type of system also is very clear & visible. I excitedly got started uploading my photos immediately.

Within the first 2 hours of uploading my first 8 images, I had already received 6 “awards”.  WOW! I’m a fantastic photographer! ViewBug is immediately satisfying and validating my photography skills.  I uploaded a few more of my favorite photos.  I check my “stats” every day for a week, but received 0 awards after that first day.  Something starts to smell fishy.

horses in fogThe photographer side of me understood that the “awards” really were just some “likes”; someone viewed the photo and simply clicked a button. No rocket science there. The cleverly used term of “award” appeals to the target audience of wanna-be photographers (like me) looking for validation of their photography skills.  I even understand that the “contests” are concocted frequently, and the judging is done by a panel of “featured judges”. No disrespect is meant towards this group as I have not researched (yet) who they are… but I am guessing it doesn’t matter because the majority of the users are not going to do so.

While the excitement of my photographer side starts to wane, the web developer part of me starts to peak.  I can clearly see there are algorithms built into the website to “hook” the targeted audience. Now I am thinking “if I were to build this website…” and realizing all the tactics I could use to get that immediate engagement, thus allowing the website traffic to build traction, or increase the retention rate and engagement of the users.  Of course there is the obvious share buttons that awards major points when you share on social media. You get points also when you enter contests.  The more you engage, the more points you receive.  I like that, it works.  Thinking about my “awards” I received the first day… I thought these people liking my photos may be paid employees of ViewBug,  in much the same fashion marketing companies pay content writers to generate text and articles. It would be a very effective way to implement that immediate engagement of the newly-signed-up user.

I continue to monitor ViewBug as both a photographer and a web developer. My most awarded photograph has 4 awards. I click on my “Horses in Fog” photograph to yet again marvel at my own photograph (LOL). As I analyze the website I realize that the people clicking on these awards may not even be people at all, but instead, a developer has fashioned an algorithm to assign awards program-matically. It really wouldn’t be that hard to do, just create a few fake accounts to tie the awards back to.

If there are real people giving these awards, these people are not even opening the photo to view it; I know this because the views on the photograph are 3, yet there are 4 awards (and 6 likes). At first I thought this was a sham, but I think the “views” count is only counted if the photo is opened; therefore the likes and the awards are given based on the view of only a thumbnail. Humbug.

As a web developer I still like ViewBug as a great example of immediate engagement, clear rewards & point system, and harnessing the power of social media. I think it’s an excellent business model targeted towards a specific target audience, knowing that target audience well, and catering to that target audience. Applause.

As a photographer… they honeymoon is over.



Developing a Top App

I just love this article about app development, and I am linking to it here so I can come back to it and refer my employer to it at some time.  It is absolutely ridiculous that I am expected to jump in Photoshop and skin a product before we even know what it is, what it does, or what problem it will solve.  How do I communicate this to a shop full of people and a boss that doesn’t know what a user profile is?  It is so frustrating.