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UX Goes Global (Book Review) ........................................................................................................... 3

A Curated Selection of Practical Tips and Advice (Book Review) .................................................. 7
From Local Context to Global Design (Book Review) ...................................................................... 9
Pay Attention (Book Review) .............................................................................................................. 11
Understanding UI Design Guidelines (Book Review) ..................................................................... 14
Privacy Meets Technology: Two Views of The Circle (Book Review) ....................................... 16
If It Can Be Done......................................................................................................................... 17
Mystique or Competitive Advantage? ...................................................................................... 17
Personal Analytics ......................................................................................................................... 17
Users Are More Important Than the Information We Collect About Them ........................................... 18
Learner Centered Design (Book Review) ......................................................................................... 21
Creativity in Design and UX (Book Review) ..................................................................................... 24
Making the Web Accessible to All (Book Review) .......................................................................... 27
Seeing is Believing (Book Review) .................................................................................................... 30
Redesigning Healthcare (Book Review) ........................................................................................... 33
Underground Diagrams (Book Review) ............................................................................................ 36
Two Museums of Future UX Design (Book Review) ...................................................................... 39
Letting Go of the Words (Book Review) ........................................................................................... 42
Plain Language ..................................................................................................................................... 43
Conversation ......................................................................................................................................... 43
You Need This Book ............................................................................................................................ 43
UX Professionals + Stakeholders (Book Review) ........................................................................... 45
The p Stops Here (Book Review) ...................................................................................................... 47
Not So Strange, These Fictions (Book Review) ............................................................................ 50
Diagramming: Making the Invisible Visible (Book Review) .......................................................... 53
Practical Guidance at Every Level (Book Review) .......................................................................... 56
Making Everything Fit (Book Review) ............................................................................................... 59
Its Finally Here! A Book about User Experience Management (Book Review) ......................... 62
Graphic Design: Two Views (Book Review) .................................................................................. 65
Graphic Design Solutions ................................................................................................................... 66
Concluding Comments ........................................................................................................................ 67

Another Research Tool (Book Review) ............................................................................................ 68

A Book That Talks (Book Review) ..................................................................................................... 71
Book Review: Of Testing and Techniques ....................................................................................... 74
UX Storytelling (Book Review) ........................................................................................................... 77
Book Review: Dos and Donts of Information Graphics ................................................................ 80
Shaker Design: Out of this World (Book Review) ........................................................................... 83
Book Review: Providing Access for All ............................................................................................. 86
Book Review: Design Problems in Book Form ................................................................................ 89
Deal Them Again: Card Sorting Revisited (Book Review) ............................................................. 92
The Classy Classic: Designing the User Interface (Book Review) ............................................... 95
Formally Speaking: Two Guidebooks about Designing Forms ..................................................... 98
More than Skin Deep (Book Review) .............................................................................................. 101
Book Review: Seeing the World through a Differently Wired Brain ........................................... 104
What a Character! (Book Review) ................................................................................................... 108
Book Review: Its Show Time! .......................................................................................................... 111
Book Review: What We Find Changes Who We Become........................................................... 114

UX Goes Global (Book Review)

by Chelsey Glasson
A review of Global UX: Research and Design in a Connected World by Whitney Quesenbery
and Daniel Szuc, and The Handbook of Global User Research by Robert Schumacher.[Read
Chelsey Glasson

A review of two books

Global UX: Design and Research in a Connected World
by Whitney Quesenbery and Daniel Szuc
Morgan Kauffman, 2011
The Handbook of Global User Research
by Robert Schumacher
Morgan Kauffman, 2009

I havent yet had the opportunity to engage in user research outside of the U.S., but I
have no doubt that I will in the near future. As technology becomes more pervasive
throughout the world and companies increasingly compete for global audiences, many UX
practitioners will be called upon to conduct research and design projects involving
international users. Fortunately, there are now two excellent books to help us with such
endeavors: Global UX: Design and Research in a Connected World by Whitney
Quesenbery and Daniel Szuc, and The Handbook of Global User Research, edited by
Robert Schumacher.

Global UX is a review of what it means to be a successful UX practitioner in a global

context, and is more of a discussion than a detailed how-to guide. Insightful interviews with
practitioners from around the world are sprinkled throughout the text.
The first part of the book addresses how an interconnected world impacts UX professionals.
One thing I learned from these chapters is that Asian countries and companies are
developing stronger connections with each other, which will ultimately influence how and
why people do things throughout the world. Next comes a framework for how to think about
culture and what culture means for UX. The book concludes with high-level tips on how to
manage international UX projects.
If youre looking for detailed, practical advice on how to conduct global research, definitely
take a look at Schumachers Handbook of Global User Research. This book discusses
considerations for various research methods when used in a global context, explains how to
prepare for and conduct global studies, and provides guidance on how to report research
findings from these studies.
UX practitioners who have worked in certain countries share their tips on doing research
there and describe how to establish key partnerships to support your projects. Lets say you
have a project planned in Denmark. Did you know that Danes often find it less awkward
when moderators sit next to research participants as opposed to moderating from a
separate room? Or that thinking aloud comes naturally to Danes? Japanese participants, on
the other hand, like to take a focused approach when working on tasks and prefer to talk
upon task completion.
In the first chapter, Schumacher provides the clearest explanation Ive ever encountered on
the similarities and differences of the UX discipline and those of psychology, anthropology,
marketing research, computer science, human factors, and industrial engineering. While
this information is not specific to global UX research, I wish I had access to such a thorough
overview when I started my UX career! On the topic of marketing and UX research,
Schumacher says, Smart organizations would do well to place user research and
marketing research side by side, each with its complementary contributions to the
enterprise. Ive often wondered if this is the case, but have never seen such a merger
occur successfully.
Although there is some redundant content between the two books, they complement each
other well and I recommend picking up a copy of each. If youre a user researcher or
designer just starting to explore the landscape of global UX work, Id start with Quesenbery
and Szucs Global UX. If youll be involved with an international user research project soon,
Id first read Schumachers handbook.
Happy reading!

Sketchnote by Amanda Wright, from Global UX by W. Quesenbery and D. Szuc

The sketchnote is titled: Effective Global Teams

Global companies + global products = global teams.

Folks who have gone our of their habitat tend to be the good ones. Henning Fischer

There are many patterns for setting up global teams.

The most common pattern: Teams organized into offices by function.
The team is global. The team is for the product and you work together. Tomer Sharon,
Collaboration is a challenge: missing conversations, early starts, late finishes, no 9-5
schedule, long-distance relationships, agile is tough
Get together at key times in a project
Setting a a schedule, so time is built into your day helps make collaboration a priority.
Listen carefully and take the time to find a communication style that works for everyone.
Video works best for meetings rather than workshops.
The value of global teams is their diversity.

Topics: Global
Published in: November, 2013 in Collaboration


Glasson, C. (2013). UX Goes Global (Book Review). User Experience Magazine, 13(4).
Retrieved from

A Curated Selection of Practical Tips and Advice (Book


by Dan Seward
A review of The Mobile Frontier by Rachel Hinman. A guide for people starting out in designing mobile
experiences. [Read More]

in the evolution of UIs superseding graphical user interfaces (GUIs), the distinguishing
features of which, per the authors examples, appear to be the lack of a mouse cursor and
the presence of touch gestures. Hinman also states that we are in a GUI-to-NUI chasm or
transition phase, but she does not provide specifics on what a future-state NUI would look
like; the book provides general design guidance only.
Many of the illustrative examples of NUIs would work on a modern desktop or hybrid device,
such as Microsoft Surface, which undermines the argument that a NUI is more than a
contemporary GUI. On several occasions, Hinman refers to the magic of NUIs, but does
not articulate what this actually means.
The Mobile Frontier also neglects to discuss mobile design for productivity. While many of
the concepts explored may be extensible to work-related design, Hinman makes claims
such as Mobile isnt a great platform for performing tasks (tasks here being defined as
linear start-stop journeys towards accomplishing a goal), and The pleasure [of using NUIs]
comes from the interaction, not the accomplishment. Cant it be both? Enterprise designers
may find themselves puzzled by this stance.
Criticism aside, The Mobile Frontier contains some practical and useful information.
Generally, the mobile design principles conveyed by the book feel sound, even if their
descriptions are not always explicit. Chapter 4, Shapeshifting, focuses on multidevice/ecosystem experiences and presents interesting models of multi-screen interactivity
borrowed from the German studio Precious Design. Chapter 5, Mobile UX Patterns,
contains an edifying breakdown of app types that have emerged over the past few years.
The book also delivers some useful prototyping guidance, especially around sketching,
stenciling, and paper prototyping.

Chapter 7, Motion and Animation, does an exceptional job of introducing animation

principlesborrowed from The Illusion of Life: Disney Animation by Thomas and Johnson
and intelligently extends these principles to mobile UI design. In addition, pages 222225
contain a fantastic library of touch gestures and their currently accepted uses.
To close the book, Chapter 9, New Mobile Forms, is well-written and rousing, alluding to
future considerations for the mobile space, including wearable computers, biological
measurement, and applications for emerging markets.
Hinman concludes with an inspirational encouragement for the reader to go forth and work
to define the mobile frontiera fitting message from a passionate mobile champion.
However, after striding through 250 pages of filler like What breathes life into nouns is their
relationship to other nouns in the world, GPS enables users to locate themselves in space
and time, and The Internet allowed users to focus and fall in love with content, the reader
may wish that the rest of the material in The Mobile Frontier carried as much weight as the
authors final words.

Topics: Mobile, Mobile

Testing, UX
Published in: November, 2013 in Collaboration


Seward, D. (2013). A Curated Selection of Practical Tips and Advice (Book Review). User
Retrieved from

From Local Context to Global Design (Book Review)

by Whitney Quesenbery
A review of Cross-Cultural Technology Design, Huatong Sun. This book examines the challenge
of understanding cultural expectations and local context. [Read More]

Oxford University Press





Increasingly, the work of user experience is global. There arent many websites, online
services, or apps that dont cross at least a few cultural or national boundaries. Even
websites intended for a local audience can be used by anyone around the world and
adapted for local use by people in different contexts and cultures.
This creates a design challenge that is difficult to solve with a few guidelines and patterns.
In Cross-Cultural Technology Design, Huatong Sun takes a broader view by examining the
challenge of understanding cultural expectations and local context. This is not a how-to
book offering guidelines and tips. It is (as Sun says in the preface) a scholarly work,
primarily intended for an academic audience; however, its well worth the time of any
practitioner interested in cultural issues in design.
If you are intrigued by contemporary theoretical debates, the first section of the book is a
review of the theoretical underpinnings of Suns work, including activity theory, British
cultural studies, and genre theory.

If you are more comfortable with the concrete, start with the middle section, Experiences,
which contains five stories of how people use mobile communications. These case histories
are rich with detailed observations collected over several years. They include Sophie, an
American business professional; Lili, a Chinese teacher; Brian, an American graduate
student; Mei, a Chinese graduate student; and Emma, an American college student.
Their stories carefully unpack the way their social and cultural context affects their user
experience of using text messaging in different ways, including how, when, why, and with
whom they choose to communicate. Each story ends with the authors reflections on what
the case study reveals about cross-cultural design. Instead of deriving design rules from
these case studies, Sun offers a framework for a design philosophy for making technology
usable and meaningful to culturally diverse users.
The framework, Culturally Localized User Experience (CLUE), emphasizes the need to
integrate understanding of the different ways we experience technology as both actions and

Local culture is an ever-changing context made up of both practices and meanings.

User experience includes both activity (situated in a context) and the meaning we assign to
or construct for that activity.
Design is both problem solving and engaged conversation.
Technology is a tool to produce something and a means of communication due to what our
choice of technology conveys.
Affordance includes the physical design, the interaction, and the social meaning.
How people use technology, and what that technology means to them, is an ongoing
conversation through which people make sense of their world. Culture is dynamic and
constantly evolving, with local culture in dialog with global influences. Design must start
from a full understanding of the local context and then integrate it into a larger, global view.
Do not let the somewhat academic tone of this book put you off. If you are wrestling with the
challenge of global UX, this book is a thoughtful exploration of the intersection of global and
local, of activity and meaning. Thinking globally, Sun suggests, requires both meanings of
the word global: thinking of the different context and cultures around the world and thinking
about a holistic overview in the design process.

Topics: Global
Published in: September, 2013 in UX Perspectives


Quesenbery, W. (2013). From Local Context to Global Design (Book Review). User
Retrieved from

Pay Attention (Book Review)

by Joe Bugental
A review of Ambient Commons by Malcolm McCullough. Its all about paying attention or
not. [Read More]
Joe Bugental

MIT Press, 2013






Malcolm McCullough, a professor of architecture at the University of Michigan, was a wellreceived invited speaker at UPA 2004. Our evaluations of his session were strongly
positive, and many of us still fondly remember his witty combination of intellectual
scholarship and truths about contemporary society. In Ambient Commons, his third book
from MIT Press, he continues his observations on cognition and architecture at the
elementary level where architecture and communication intersect. Many of his comments
are addressed specifically to those of us who play roles in information design and
interactions with the built environment.
According to McCullough, many people walk around with their eyes and brains locked in the
embrace of glowing rectangles (LED displays and touch screens) ignoring the ambient
delights of the unmediated world. For him, the ambient is everything in our immediate

surroundings, includingamong things we notice or dont noticethe pervasive music on

our headphones, speaker systems, and in elevators, but also the breeze rustling leaves in
the trees. Its all about paying attentionor not.
The commonsas in civic open space, a park, or community gardensis traditionally a
physical space that is not owned by anyone but is shared by everyone. Exploring the
commons, McCullough indulges in psychogeography, a practice defined fifty years ago by
situationists who deplored humanitys slide into monoculture and advocated walking
among, and noticing, less-noticed things. Please notice that McCullough is a speaker and
writer who makes fluent use of new vocabulary, as in crowd-sourcing the infrastructure or
a DIY commonsnot an oxymoron here but a variation on inescapably shared
information [which] becomes a new kind of commons.
Word games? Absolutely, but with serious respect for the inconvenient truths some of his
unconventional language reveals. McCullough refers to planetary change, rather than
either global warming or climate change, thereby avoiding offense to either the American
left or right. From early in the text through his conclusions, he insists that what hes put
together is not a thesis but an inquiry, one that invites our participation.
The structure of this inquiry leads us through a seductive progression from the obvious (a
view of sunlight crossing a wall) to the sophisticated (governing the ambient, as if it were a
commons.) Chapter 4, a definition of embodiment, is a pivot that moves readers from the
inescapable observation of our surroundings to a cognitive science of engagement,
whether initiated by the individual or the circumstances surrounding the individual.
In architecture and urbanism, you cant just turn off the screen or flip to another channel.
You have to live in the artifacts. Despite how private and public players have shaped
particular elements of built space, there is always some common circumstance to
inhabitation, a circumstance that shapes action and perception. Now, as information
technologies infuse these circumstances, how does that affect inhabitation?
Chapter 6, Tagging the Commons, inventories all kinds of tagsspray paint, stickers
and stencils, posters and handbills, carved inscriptions, banking and other corporate logos,
rampant signage, RFID chips, and more. Advertising makes brands into places and places
into brands, says McCullough (like the San Francisco Giants home at AT&T Park down
the street from where Im working). The danger that lurks in such an exhaustive survey of
whats happening around us is that some of the facts can begin to sound dated, including
community governments not-so-recent efforts to deal with ubiquitous signage and spray
As an architect, McCullough naturally uses schematic drawings as part of his vocabulary,
such as the frequent use of squares divided into quadrants to compare, for example, sent
versus intrinsic information in specialized versus generalized contexts. As a professor, he
also offers summaries of the key takeaways at the end of each chapter, the Main Idea,

Counterargument, Key Terms, What Has Changed, Catalyst, Related Field, and Open
One key to this inquiry is paying attention to the built environment, where the high
resolution and low demands of architecture provide a base for sense-making. Buildings
loaded with signage or GPS interactions with our portable electronics offer opportunities for
both the exercise and the occasional rest of our attention; they can be a refuge from peak
distraction and data smog. The implications for information design and human interaction
are huge.
The book is both a delight to read and a call to action in two ways. Civilized human beings
need to disengage from their glowing rectangles and appreciate the world around us, and
design professionals need to pay attention to the information content of our environment.

Topics: Communication
Published in: September, 2014 in Healthy Designs
Bugental, J. (2014). Pay Attention (Book Review). User Experience Magazine, 14(3).
Retrieved from

Understanding UI Design Guidelines (Book Review)

by Kamaria Campbell
A review of Designing with the Mind in Mind by Jeff Johnson. A psychological look at common
design problems. [Read More]
Kamaria Campbell

Designing with the Mind in Mind: Simple Guide to Understanding User Interface Design Guideline
Morgan Kauffman, 2nd edition

Have you ever needed to defend a design decision or been asked to explain why a design
pattern does or does not work? If so, the second edition of Jeff Johnsons book Designing
with the Mind in Mind likely contains an explanation based on human psychology as well as
relevant references.
This fourteen chapter book relates topics in psychology (such as perception), vision,
attention, and memory to their corresponding human-computer interaction applications. For
example, Chapter 6 Reading is Unnatural, addresses the role our visual system and
pattern recognition play in reading. Johnson details the implications for interface design and
how they relate to decisions about fonts, visual hierarchy, terminology, and the amount of
text used on interfaces.
Armed with this chapter alone, a user experience professional could easily make the case
for design choices such as increasing or decreasing text size or changing the style of text
and background graphics.

In fact, a major strength of the book is that each chapter follows the same structure. Each
describes an aspect of human psychology, relates it to human-computer interaction, and
then details the associated design implications.
The references to existing user-interface design guidelines are another strength; a total of
fourteen sources are listed in the Introduction and the Appendix, including the source as
well as full guidelines for six of these sources. For those seeking to do follow-up research
on guidelines, Designing with the Mind in Mind provides a great starting point.
In the Introduction, Johnson writes that the intended audience is
1. software design and development professionals
2. interaction design and human-computer interaction students, and
3. software development managers.
In truth, this book would make a good everyday reference for any user experience
professional. The clear writing style, comprehensive coverage of common design decisions,
and the reference to human psychology that provide the theoretical support for these
decisions make it a solid addition to your personal or professional library.

Topics: Standards
in/home/uxpapubs/public_html/ on line 18
Campbell, K. (2014). Understanding UI Design Guidelines (Book Review). User Experience
Retrieved from

Privacy Meets Technology: Two Views of The Circle

(Book Review)

by Joe Bugental, Kamaria Campbell

Two responses to The Circle by David Eggers. Lessons on privacy, information, and
technology [Read More]
Joe Bugental, Kamaria Campbell

Alfred Knopf, 2013



Privacy, A Casualty of Technology

At the dawn of the current millennium, Sun Microsystems ever-glib CEO Scott McNealy
was quoted as saying, You dont have any privacy; get over it. We frustrated HCI workers
were briefly unsettled by that line, but soon dismissed it as yet another challenge for the
sales and marketing departments. Dave Eggerss latest novel takes a more serious look at
the emerging war between technology and privacy, for some of us provoking thoughts that
perhaps we should have had sooner.

If It Can Be Done
The novel The Circle is the story of Maes career at a company called The Circle, a hightech organization that bears an eerie resemblance to both Google and Facebook. She
works in customer experience (or CE), a hybrid department of user experience and tech
support. From her brief stop on the rungs of newbyhood, she ascends to become a major
presence in the company, at one point responding to input from six screens lined-up on the
desk in her cubicle. The idyllic start of Eggerss adventures with Mae begins to unravel
through a series of sinister details that include one Circlers prediction that we will become
all-seeing, all knowing.
Privacy, Garrett Keizers non-fiction investigation of this topic can help us to understand
more about the war between technology and privacy that is central to The Circle. Keizer
says, Technology is our ever-expanding ability to let nothing alone. He goes on to
consider privacy as an issue and quotes an array of other writers on the subject.
Keizer says, The writer occupies a zone of extraordinary privacynot only in the conditions
necessary to write but also and frequently in the ancient sense of privacy as a form of
privation. He calls writing the chance to work alone and unmolested while producing work
of acknowledged public benefit.
Those same conditions, however, are the environment of software engineering, where
violations of privacy are easily realized.

Mystique or Competitive Advantage?

Years ago, I co-authored a book on how to write resumes, find a job, and so on. One of the
chapters, Your Mystique, suggested the need to reveal only whats relevant at the time.
Theres no question of personal mystique in Maes life; its all relevant to the ubiquitous
systems at The Circle.
As an intensely competitive individual, Mae achieves success through the performance
metrics that rule both the professional and personal lives of Circlers. In fact, the two kinds of
life are inseparable in this world, and cameras everywhere record both the achievements
and the infractions of the playerscapturing them in perpetuity on massive data storage
from which nothing is ever erased.
The most mysterious character in The Circle is Maes lover Kalden, who is completely
unknown to her co-workers, but has absolute power over his encounters with Mae. His
ironic character is anticipated by Keizer who quotes Australian professor Bonnie S.
McDougall, who says that privacy asserts powerand power confers privacy.
Personal Analytics
The ultimate violation of privacy, a lesson learned by more than one politician, is the
measurement of ones human aptitudes by fellow humans. Circlers live in a world of
constant personal analytics, which are rampant, relentless performance reviews.

Keizer again: Privacy provides a zone of reflection and discussion in which gentler, less
forward personalities can have some hope of making a contributiontemporary asylum to
those who know themselves to be impressionable. However, in a world where friends
and followers are reduced to numbers of visits to a website, artificiality replaces sincerity.
Mae takes the measurements as a personal challenge. In time, she becomes jealous even
of her mentor Annies success. Friendships and family members fail to survive Maes rush
to the top; her personal scorecard includes points for ditching her family and friends.
So the story in The Circle also becomes an ethical quagmire, in large part because privacy
has ceased to exist. When everything about you is known, everything about you is also
After reading The Circle, what is the eternally frustrated UX practitioner to do? Make a
commitment to address the issue of privacy continually in research among users and
research among designerseven when it may mean advocating against additional
features. Learn more about the limits of privacy to be observed and how best to implement
Joe Bugental

Users Are More Important Than the Information We

Collect About Them
Dave Eggers The Circle offers a cautionary tale about a world where information about
users is more important than the users themselves. The world of The Circle is awash in
information: productivity data to keep employees aware of how theyre performing; health
data to inform them of their vital signs and statistics; community rankings to reflect their
engagement; text messages, emails, and social media to keep them informed of news,
gossip, critical client and personal information, and so on.
While this information is helpful in providing real-time visibility into an employees standing
at work, well-being, and company involvement, at times it is prioritized above the employees
For example, Mae misses a few social events to visit her ailing father and to do some
personal reflection. Not active in the companys social media due to her relatively new
employment status, her community engagement score suffers and Human Resources
rushes to investigate. While the face-to-face meetings could have provided an opportunity
for HR to gather insight into the why behind the score drop and understand the stressors
Mae faces, instead, the metric is taken as a literal representation of Maes interest in being
part of the Circle community.

This singular focus on a number distorts the companys view of who Mae is and how she
contributes to the community. Since the score only considers activities that can be
trackedsuch as participation in social media and attendance at events Mae must overparticipate in these to increase her ranking.
In addition to this explicit information, there is also the implicit information yet to be
synthesized by Circle technologies. For example, video data captured via surveillance can
be analyzed by anyone curious enough to seek it out. In fact, many of the Circles major
innovations are technologies that bring together information in novel ways and analytics that
measure previously intangible attributes such as childrens development in school.
These innovations are not without consequences. Maes mentor suffers a nervous
breakdown upon learning the truth about her ancestors through PastPerfect, a tool that
synthesizes historical data. This information was always available, but the Circles
technology allowed her to derive meaning from it. Similarly Maes ex-boyfriend is literally
driven to death while trying to escape a mob-like search party made possible by The
Circles video surveillance technology, SeeChange.
While Mae appears to thrive on the information available to her, this is not realistic for many
people. Human attention and our ability to simultaneously process many sources of
information are limited. As emotional creatures, it is difficult to predict how we will feel when
we interact with information, especially personal or sensitive data.
Finally, and perhaps the most provocative question raised by The Circle, is what to make of
the reliance on metrics as a way to gauge intangibles, in some cases to the detriment or
distortion of the attribute being assessed. Metrics are excellent tools to diagnose and
forecast, but when analyzed out of context and without sensitivity to some larger picture,
they can be more harmful than helpful.

Although The Circle is fictional, our current information environment is not so different. What
lessons can we draw for managing interactions with information and the innovative
technologies that produce it?
Recognize that users will vary in their ability and desire to interact with multiple feeds of
information. Technologies that synthesize multiple information sources should allow users
to set preferences, and default settings should show the least amount of information
Its difficult to predict how users will feel when they interact with information, especially if it is
personal or sensitive. Some form of warning or advisory should be present to let them know
there is potential for harm or emotional distress.
Giving users control over what they share and how companies and other people can use
their information is critical. At the end of the day, the information belongs to the user.
Leverage metrics, but dont allow them to be the end-all-be-all when it comes to driving
decision-making or understanding. To quote Albert Einstein, Not everything that can be
counted counts, and not everything that counts can be counted. There is a critical
interpretation element that comes with metrics that is best left to human reasoning. Using

metrics alongside intuition and other qualitative inputs will lead to richer, more nuanced
Interacting with technologies created by companies like that in The Circle, along with the
information they produce, is not inherently dangerous. Keeping the focus on users by
safeguarding their information, allowing them to manage the data, and realizing they are
more than the metrics or information that exists about them will ensure their well-being, as
well as the value they get from interacting with the information.
Kamaria Campbell

Topics: Privacy, UX
Published in: June, 2014 in Motivation


Bugental, J., Campbell, K. (2014). Privacy Meets Technology: Two Views of The Circle
Retrieved from

Learner Centered Design (Book Review)

by Cynthia Cortez Kamishlian

A review of Interface Design for Learning by Dorian Peters. Creating designs that transform the
user. [Read More]
Cynthia Cortez Kamishlian

New Riders, 2014




Many of todays learning tools are now digital: 3D worlds, online classrooms, virtual
laboratories, and beyond. As UX professionals, we already know how to design for a
positive user experience, but what does it mean to design for a positive learning
experience? In Interface Design for Learning, Dorian Peters provides guidance on
designing to support the learning environment inherent in digital learning tools. She uses
examples from websites, research, UX books, and her own extensive experience to explain
and illustrate how we can design interfaces that support learning while creating a positive
user experience.
At the beginning of the book, Peters explains why learner-centered design is different than
user-centered design. The goal of user-centered design is to support task completion, while
learner-centered design transforms the userthe interface must be designed to intrinsically

challenge users while staying out of their way. She also notes that designers of interfaces
for learning are not instructional designers; instructional designers create content or
activities to meet learning objectives, while learning interface designers take the content
and transform it into an online resource using principles of usability and theories of learning.
However, these theories of learning must be understood before they can used as a basis for
design. How the interface is designed to support learning depends on which theory of
learning you subscribe to.
Peters leads us on a quick tour of learning theories from behaviorism (learning as the
science of behavior change,) with B.F. Skinners positive and negative reinforcement as
the most recognizable example; cognitivism (mind as computer,) which gave us the notion
of mental models; constructivism (knowledge as built by the learner,) made famous by
Jean Piaget and providing the foundation of online learningthe idea that we construct new
knowledge all the time in all of our interactions; and connectivism (learning is centered on
the building of connections,) where learning is described as a personal environment where
we use social, cultural, technological, and personal knowledge to construct new knowledge
and learn to solve problems together. Peters suggests that if we are to design for positive
learning experiences, our goal should be to create an environment where the learner can
adapt, personalize, and create as they learn; in effect, be partners in their own instruction.
Peters guides us through the current landscape of e-learning (MOOCs, Khan Academy, and
educational games), and reviews basic principles of UX, such as affordances, cognitive
load, mental models, and scaffolding. The heart of the book covers critical aspects of
learning: visual, social, emotional, games, and mobile learning. The chapters are generally
independent, so the book can act as a quick reference. The first part of each chapter
grounds the reader in the topic, while the second half contains strategies and examples.
Each chapter closes with sources for further information.
The book is well-organized and its format makes it easy to absorb the information in chunks
through the extensive use of headers and judicious use of page colors indicating sections of
information. For example, in the Multimedia and Games chapter, Peters provides
strategies for designing learning games through employing selective use of acoustic cues,
use of narration, using relevant video of appropriate length, and letting learners control the
pacing. She also discusses when to use still images for teaching (for example, for
conceptual processes such as how rain forms), and when to use video (for anything
involving motor skills). Conversely, in discussing Emotional Learning, Peters provides
examples of how to set a positive mood by designing an interface with a friendly
personality, which can reduce the stress of learning. She also discusses how to support
learning flow by determining when to make tasks easier (for example by using visual cues),
or more difficult (by adding an interface-based challenge). Sprinkled throughout are case
studies that illustrate learning interface challenges and their sometimes surprising solutions.

Lastly, Peters creates a Learning Interface Designers Toolkit by proposing eleven

heuristics for designing learning interfaces. These heuristics provide guidance to ensure
that, for example, the interface reduces cognitive load by including only necessary imagery,
or that feedback is both operational (provided immediately) and instructional (provided near
the relevant item).
This book is a well-written, colorful, fun-to-read, and full of information about the current
state of e-learning and how to design appropriate interfaces to support it. I found myself
visiting the websites mentioned in the book, and deeply engaged in discovering how to
design interfaces for learning. At the end of the book, Peters invites readers to join the
community by sharing their experiences in designing interfaces for learning at the Interface
Design for Learning group at Mendeley, and by twitter (#UX4L). I did that immediately.

Topics: Design, E-Learning, UX

Published in: June, 2014 in Motivation


Kamishlian, C. (2014). Learner Centered Design (Book Review). User Experience

Retrieved from

Creativity in Design and UX (Book Review)

by Alice Preston
A review of Creative ConfidenceUnleashing the Creative Potential Within Us All by Tom
Kelley and David Kelley. Creativity and design in the user experience. [Read More]
Alice Preston

Crown Business, 2013





In their new book, Tom Kelley, the author of The Art of Innovation and a partner at IDEO,
and David Kelley, the founder of IDEO and the Hasso Plattner Institute of Design at
Stanford University (also known as the convey a central message about
creativity and design that has a lot to do with User Experience. This is the big UX that is
now sometimes called Customer Experience, and it encompasses far more than computer
systems and software, far more than the web, and far more than any single interaction
between a human and the world.
This book builds on David Kelleys TED Talk from March 2011. He spoke about his earliest
observations of the end of creativity, starting in third grade, and then went on to describe a
process that has helped numerous individuals spread creative potential into situations and
businesses throughout the world. Its a discussion of the processes and training hes made
famous at IDEO and Stanford, but it is also more than an infomercialits an outline for

improvement. As UX practitioners, we can easily incorporate many of these techniques into

our work and user-centered design activities.
Sections in the book are filled with excellent case studies. We learn how a developer of
medical equipment took into account the fears and expectations of his young end-users,
modifying a scary MRI diagnostic system into a fun trip into space or on a pirate ship, with
Stanford students from a variety of backgrounds and areas of study set up companies
around their insights in a course.
Tom and David Kelley describe results as varied as an innovative app for news reading,
now available through LinkedIn (see, and the Embrace Infant Warmer
that is used to save premature babies around the world (see
There are other inspirational stories, more than can be listed here.
The book repeats a few messages from earlier IDEO books, especially some still-critical
ideas on how to set up teams to succeed in innovation, and how to set up spaces to enable
successful collaboration. But after reading all of them, I think this book has the best
description of the joy that can be experienced by our clients, colleagues, and ourselves, and
the joy our users can also experience, if we cultivate confidence in our own and our teams
Simply making the same old process look a little better or work a little better is no longer
enough. Finding a way to solve our users problems creatively can truly help make the world
better and improve our own working lives as well. In addition, this book brings in more
evidence for observational and test-based improvement. By conducting research in distant
corners of the world (like Nepal and India), the team contemplating how to save premature
babies learned critical facts about the families and their lives, facts that redefined the
problem. For example, in a family with multiple children in a village far from the hospital, the
mother and new baby must be home soon, far away from the high-tech incubator.
The book has single-word chapter titles followed with a phrase to help orient the reader both
to the gist of the topic, and for later reference:

FLIP from design Thinking to Creative Confidence

DARE from Fear to Courage
SPARK from Blank Page to Insight
LEAP from Planning to Action
SEEK from Duty to Passion
TEAM Creatively Confident Groups
MOVE Creative Confidence to Go
NEXT Embrace Creative Confidence
As a senior UX practitioner, I found that David Kelleys energy, together with Tom Kelleys
flair for storytelling, have energized me. This book inspired me to spread the word about

ways to bring more creativity into design, and I am excited that the rest of us have a chance
to conduct this kind of outreach in our work.
Disclosure: The reviewers daughter has been employed at IDEO for almost 10 years,
affording her a unique insiders view of the company.

Topics: Design, Innovation, UX

Published in: June, 2014 in Motivation


Preston, A. (2014). Creativity in Design and UX (Book Review). User Experience Magazine,
Retrieved from

Making the Web Accessible to All (Book Review)

by Alice Preston
A review of A Web for Everyone, by Sarah Horton and Whitney Quesenbery. A vision of a
future in which we all can use the Web. [Read More]
Alice Preston

Rosenfeld Media, 2014





What if everyone could use the web with equal ease? A student with reading challenges, a
blind professional, a shopper using an iPad, a patient whose only device is a smartphone?
Two of the leading authorities on UX and accessibility have considered this topic and this
book is the result of their collaboration. The insights and observations in this book give all of
us hope, and for those of us in the business of creating websites, they provide specific
guidelines and reasons for doing the right thing.
As all UX endeavors should, this book starts with people. Chapter 1 sets the stage, drawing
our attention to the value of diversity. The authors then help us remember that every aspect
of web design is important and needed. Even if its easy to use, if there isnt anything that
you would want to use, then the site will fail. If its beautiful but users cannot find the

navigation, again, it will fail. If its invisible to some users, again, failure. As the authors
point out, the responsibility for making the web work rests with all of us who design for the
no matter what your roles or skills are, its important that youthat all of usown the term
design because it comes with incumbent responsibilities which we need to own as well.
Design has the capacity to improve lives. When we wield such a powerful tool, we need to
appreciate its power so we are able to use it for good.
Chapter 2 defines the needy. Who are the people who need access to the web and cant
get it? The chapter introduces eight personas who appear elsewhere in the book. We meet
a bright autistic teenager, a college student with cerebral palsy, a deaf graphic artist, a
grandmother with macular degeneration, a Hispanic social worker with clients whose web
access is often phone-based, as well as several others. They all have unique needs that
can be met through flexibility in design and coding, and that dont require the creation of
separate unequal sites.
The following chapters in the book consider the challenge from different angles:

Purpose and goals of the website

Structure and use of standards
Easy interaction
Clean presentation
Conversation with the reader
Accessibility of media
Creating delight for the users
Each chapter includes real-world examples of good design (such as OXO kitchen tools, a
before/after image of a label on a pill bottle, a Medicare coverage summary, the layout for a
Wikipedia article), profiles of industry leaders in all aspects of web design, and a summary
that will be a useful as a refresher. I especially appreciated the use of personas describing a
challenge in their own words. For example, the autistic teen explains that even though he
enjoys figuring things out when he plays an online game, he needs better navigation cues
when he is using the web. The social worker explains how websites with information her
clients need to read will make the list or not based on use of plain English and readability on
the phones they use to access the web.
A few final words from the book:
Web standards are like curb cuts. They have value beyond their original purpose. Curb
cuts were originally created for people who used wheelchairs, but helped people with carts,
strollers, bicycles, and luggage. Similarly, both responsive design and accessibility rely on
strong standards for the broad benefits they create.

The commitment to accessibility cant stop there, however. Dont consider a site or app
done until everyone can use it. It is unfortunate when a small, basic accessibility bug keeps
some people from using a site, particularly when the problem could easily be prevented.
Quesenbery and Horton finish with a chapter on their vision of a future in which everyone
can access and use the web with equal ease and understanding, followed by a rich
selection of resources as appendices and references for more reading. Its all great, and we
should all inhale it.
But even more than just the UX community, consider the rest of your team. Have you
been in situations where some members of your web team didnt get it? I have had coders
tell me, We dont have to care about those people. When this happens to you, ask them to
order something from their favorite retailer on their tablet. Or to navigate on their phone to
information about just about any subject they are interested in, then read it, print it, and
share it with a friend. If they say, Its getting easier, then just answer Great! Then ask
them to go and do likewise. It might be helpful to leave this book open where they can see

Topics: Accessibility, Universal

Published in: March, 2014 in UX as a Goal


Preston, A. (2014). Making the Web Accessible to All (Book Review). User Experience
Retrieved from

Seeing is Believing (Book Review)

by Jussi Pasanen
A review of Eye tracking the User Experience A Practical Guide to Research by Aga Bojko. A
must-read book with tips for running eye tracking studies. [Read More]
Jussi Pasanen

Rosenfeld Media, 2013








I used to consider eye tracking a bit of magic and hearing the term conjured up images of
heatmaps and gaze plots. Recently, I have learned more about the method by working with
teams who run user experience studies involving eye tracking.
While I frequently conduct or oversee user testing sessions, I have not had to plan and run
an eye tracking study. When I do, Ill know where to turn: Aga Bojkos excellent new
book Eye Tracking the User Experience A Practical Guide to Research.
Bojko is a user experience researcher who has been involved with eye tracking in both
academic and commercial settings since 2000. She describes her book as: containing
everything you need to know to successfully conduct an eye tracking study and obtain
useful information from it. This is no exaggeration.

The audience for this book is the UX practitioner. Bojko is consistent in writing for her
audience throughout and the text is full of practical tips on how to make your study run
The book follows an outline that is easy to follow, especially by anyone familiar with UX
research activities:

Why Eye Tracking?

Study Preparation
Data Collection
Analysis and Reporting
Part one sets the stage for the rest of the book by opening with the big question: why use
eye tracking in the first place? Bojko writes: Where you place your gaze is typically
associated with what you pay attention to and think about. To me this is one of the key
benefits of eye trackingit gives you another facility to capture actual user behavior that
you can then dissect and learn from.
The first part of the book also describes how to decide if eye tracking is a suitable method
for your study. Bojko stresses that the selection of methods should always be driven from
the high-level study objectives and chosen only after the research questions have been
specified, not before. Eye tracking will not be appropriate for all studies. It is great to see
this clearly stated.
The remaining three parts of the book cover preparing, running, and reporting on your study
in detail. Consider it the how-to guide for eye tracking.
The chapters are organized in a logical way and help you learn the ropes on first reading.
They also serve as a great reference in the future. Each chapter begins with an overview of
the material covered and ends with a handy summary of the key points.
Bojkos writing style is measured and easy to read. It is clear that the user (reader) is
considered all the way through in how the content is structured and labeled. The content is
also well supported by tables, visualizations, and case studies. UX researchers should take
heed of gems such as Rules for Making Your Graphs Usable. since these rules apply to
virtually all UX reports.
One of the great things about the book is the consistent focus on actionable insights. In
Bojkos words: Rather than just focusing on what eye tracking can tell you, you should ask
yourself, Why do I need to know this? or even better, What type of decisions do I want to
be able to make based on the study results? The commercial reality is that study findings
need to provide direct value to clients, and this is well represented in this book.
This book makes eye tracking approachable and explains it in detail from both
methodological and tool perspectives. In doing so, it also makes it clear that conducting a
proper eye tracking study is a lot of work. There are many things to consider in planning,

running, and analyzing a usability study, and eye tracking adds to the effort. It is therefore
important to consider where eye tracking can add value and to be judicious in applying it.
A minor criticism about the book is that the writing could have been more entertaining and
perhaps the author more assertive at times. While I think the instructions could be clearer, I
also recognize that writing about UX is (almost) never black and white.
Overall, Eye Tracking the User Experience is a great book, not only for eye tracking
beginners, but also for seasoned professionals. The beginners will learn how eye tracking is
much more than just heatmaps and gaze plots. For the seasoned eye tracking professional,
this book will make you think about why you do things the way you do. Both audiences will
pick up invaluable practical tips for running eye tracking studies. Definitely a must-read

Topics: Biometrics & Eyetracking, Usability

Published in: March, 2014 in UX as a Goal

Testing, User

Research, UX

Pasanen, J. (2014). Seeing is Believing (Book Review). User Experience Magazine, 14(1).
Retrieved from

Redesigning Healthcare (Book Review)

by Alice Preston
A review of Design for Care by Peter H. Jones. Applying design thinking to healthcare
systems. [Read More]
Alice Preston

Rosenfeld Media, 2013




If there is a right person to think about how to design the future of healthcare, its probably
Peter Jones, associate professor at OCAD University in Toronto, Canada. I found his book
by turns insightful, inspiring, and intimidating, though his attitude is always optimistic and his
tone educational. Its always about improving patients experiences, with plenty of case
studies and tips on how to follow the design process. In fact, this book could be used as a
text, and I personally would love to be able to take that course.
The book covers three huge areas of thinking:
1. Rethinking Care. Until now, patients have often been passive, and healthcare
professionals have been thinking about health case by case. Worse, the healthcare system
itself is glued togetheras anyone can attest who has tried to navigate from a generalist
to a selection of appropriate specialists, deal with insurance and one or more hospitals
sending conflicting bills, or assist an elderly family member with managing multiple
conditions through the maze of regular care, hospitalization, long-term care, and,

eventually, hospice. The whole situation creates an opportunity for design thinking to be
applied to multiple challenging problems. Luckily, this is where design thinking excels.
2. Rethinking Patients. Patients need to become active agents and decision makers about
their own care. In short, when we are ailing, we need to become Health Seekers who
consult Dr. Google before consulting a medical professional. Of course, to make good
decisions most of us need additional training and tools to sort through and process the
volume of information that we will find. To work with these retooled Health Seekers, the
medical profession needs to understand the new paradigms, as do those who work with
medical billings, and even those who will conduct the design research that will help us get to
a solution.
3. Rethinking Care Systems. I never realized that many aspects of hospital design have not
changed in over 100 years. If you have been in a new hospital recently, however, you may
have noticed that there are surprising changesin more than just the medical equipment
being used. Buildings and visiting policies are friendlier to patients and families, and
physicians and caregivers are getting more and better education in how to work with
empowered patients. This is a good start, but there is more to dojust ask any of us who
have recently visited an emergency room.
Jones also advocates for systemic design in what he calls Healthy IT. This is especially
important as we deal with the challenges of Electronic Medical Records, a patchwork of
computer systems, increasing patient volume, and decreasing available funds.
I found the final chapter most inspiring and a little intimidating. Jones writes about the
potential for improved healthcare through three lenses:
What can be accomplished in the near term? Can we get ourselves from the big box
hospital model to community health centers? Designers working on these problems report a
variety of issues to overcome, including structural and organizational issues. Organizations
are not currently making solid use of design techniques, but there is some promising
research being done by cross-functional teams in hospitals.
What are the critical healthcare problems that must be resolved in the mid-future? A recent
investigation by a graduate class at OCAD identified several critical problems, ending with a
Whole Care Triage Funnel. Following processes like these, we can identify the right
problems to work on first, and understand their impact on related and secondary problems.
What does the longer-term forecast look like? Jones defines longer-term here as ten to
twenty years or more. And he explains ways to structure the questions, rather than answers
them in the book.
Its been clear for some time that our healthcare systems themselves need care. We need
to bring coherence and economies to a fragmented network with many types of practitioners
and organizations. We need to help practitioners and empowered patients find their way
through a huge influx of devices, medications, and confusing information. We need to use
design thinking to apply lessons learned across the globeand we will need some of the
best design minds to get this done.

How can you participate? Read more at and at the practitioner

Topics: Healthcare
Published in: November, 2013 in Collaboration
Preston, A. (2013). Redesigning Healthcare (Book Review). User Experience Magazine,
Retrieved from

Underground Diagrams (Book Review)

by Aaron Marcus
A review of Underground Maps Unravelled and Vignelli Transit Maps. An analysis of the
design issues that challenge todays professionals. [Read More]
Aaron Marcus

By Peter B. Lloyd and Mark Ovenden
By Maxwell J. Roberts






Around the world, millions of people rely on diagrams to aid them in navigating subways.
Technically speaking, these diagrams are often not maps. Yet these examples of mass
rapid transit information design and visualization are now accepted techniques of providing
travelers with just-in-time assistance. The general public and professionals from many
disciplines should celebrate the challenges and achievements of their usable, useful, and
appealing designs.
In 1977, I organized one of the first-ever subway diagram exhibits displaying global
examples at the American Institute of Graphic Arts in New York City. Many decades later,
two excellent books are available that explore the history of these diagrams in general, and
those of one noted design firm in particular.
Underground Maps Unravelled is a detailed and fairly complete discussion of subway
diagrams. It records their emergence in Londons Underground at the beginning of the
twentieth century in the sketches of Henry Beck, an engineer. It also describes their
evolving conventions over decades of experimentation, some eventual industry standards,

the challenge of international use, and occasionally playful ornamentation of fundamentally

functional visual communication media.
The author examines the minutiae of topology, node and link depictions, angles, visual
rules, and how to achieve geometric simplicity, coherence, harmony, and balance. These
details might not appeal to those who are not practitioners, fans, or devotees, but the many
visual examples clarify the issues within the scope and magnitude of the discussion.
Some usability professionals may notice the lack of detailed reports on testing. Although
tests have been performed, quantitative data are not reported much. The books
perspective focuses on visual syntax and semantics, the varieties of possible arrangement
of parts, and the general clarity of sources. References to some of the original rules of
placement of stations and lines according to some spatial grid show the emphasis on
designing an illustrative system that easily depicts many peculiarities of actual cities and
One notable limit to the investigation is the emphasis on printed media, which certainly was
appropriate for the first century of such diagrams. A future chapter or book might delve into
interactive, electronic displays that now populate many stations worldwide.
The author correctly points out the need to achieve both aesthetic and functional success;
that is, a successful user experience. He calls for more explorations and investigations to
achieve a comprehensive theory of diagram design for this crucial communication medium.
The authors of Vignelli Transit Maps focus on New York Citys underground diagrams and
those of one particular designer, Massimo Vignelli.
During the 1977 exhibit of global underground diagrams, the Great Subway Diagram
Debate was staged at Cooper Union in New York City. People discussed the Vignelli
diagram, which was introduced in the late 1960s. This diagram featured multiple lines, each
representing a train (a very simple, modernist, geometric visual style), the use of simple
white and gray areas for land and water, and the use of Helvetica typography throughout
the diagram.
A new proposal, pitted against this design approach, returned to traditional green parks and
blue water. It also used a single line depiction with multiple symbols to represent all the
different services of trains at different times of day, different routes, for example, express
versus local. After the debate, the Metropolitan Transit Authority decided to use the
conservative, traditional depiction.
The lead designer presents a modern-day discussion of the history of his design. He also
considers his predecessors and debates issues about geometric, diagrammatic depictions
versus the more conventional cartographic, geographic, spatial depiction (on top of a map).
The conventional design was the original depiction style of the London Underground before
Becks invention of a more topological approach, which kept the correct connections but
enlarged the center of the city to show the multitude of stations.

Vignelli Transit Maps provides fascinating, detailed historical narrative. The authors, along
with Massimo Vignelli himself, describe the visual, functional, social, political, and economic
factors that influenced the design. After thirty years, it delivers a new redesign effort based
on the classic Vignelli diagram. Professionals and students should find value in the
discussion of how to develop such a diagram.
The Vignelli blueprint has become an icon of this design style for its elegance and simplicity,
and yet is probably still vilified by others for its break with tradition. Reading through this
history is fascinating and informative.
Between both of these books, one has an immediate overview of this visual communication
domain and a structured, thoughtful analysis of the design issues that challenge todays

Topics: Graphics, Information

Published in: September, 2013 in UX Perspectives


Marcus, A. (2013). Underground Diagrams (Book Review). User Experience Magazine,

Retrieved from

Two Museums of Future UX Design (Book Review)

by Aaron Marcus
A review of Art of Imagination: 20th Century Visions of Science Fiction, Horror, and Fantasy by
Frank M. Robinson, Robert Weinberg and Randy Broecker and Future Toys: Robots, Astronauts,
Spaceships, Ray Guns by Antoni Emchowicz and Paul Nunnelely [Read More]
Aaron Marcus

Art of Imagination: 20th Century Visions of Science Fiction, Horror, and Fantasy
Introduction by Frank M. Robinson, with Frank Robinson, Robert Weinberg, and Randy Broecker
New Cavendish Books, 1999

Imagine visiting a museum of the future today. You canby reading these two compilations
of science fiction imagery and objects from creative minds of the past century.
Art of Imagination is a collection of some of the best illustration of science fiction
publications: novels, magazines, posters, and movies. Future Toys is a collection of
futuristic robots, astronauts, spaceships, and ray guns, produced during the period of time
between the end of World War II and the first moon landing in 1969, a period of scientific
and technological expansion. These classic images and objects offer the UX professional a
wealth of historical, cultural, and conceptual designs for the study of future user
experiences. Lets take a look.
The authors of Art of Imagination recognize that for centuries people have thought about
travel to distant galaxies and being in mysterious future worlds or alternate realities. The

authors have collected thought-provoking visual examples from publications in three genres
that stretch our understanding. What the illustrators/designers of these images have done is
to fabricate intricate, detailed worlds of people and objects, with implied structures of
technology, economy, government, and society, and processes of manufacturing,
distribution, and consumption.
Every single figure potentially can be considered a micro world of visualized assumptions
and theories: whether it is giant invaders from Mars (courtesy of H. G. Wells) shown on the
cover of Amazing Stories in 1927, a floating robot menacing a young damsel on the cover
of Fantastic Adventures in 1941, a flying (white male) astronaut on the cover of Science
Fiction + in 1952, or a black female astronaut sitting near her powerful looking helmet on
the cover of InterZone in 1998. As one looks through the details depicted of different kinds
of beings (human, alien, robotic, mixed-android), technology platforms (embedded, desktop,
mobile, worn, ambient), travel (ground, sea, air, interplanetary, interstellar), agriculture
(earth agrarian, hydroponic, other-worldly), cities (megasized, metastasized, underwater,
floating), and other categories of human and non-human civilization, one is almost numbed
by the implied back stories.
It would make for a good museum visit exercise to have UX visitors (readers) populate
some kind of template that would encourage them to imagine, then fill out all of the
traditional categories of UX analysis (personas, use scenarios, information architecture,
look and feel, and so forth.) There is much to analyze. If any one of these images is so rich,
imagine the numbing sensation of encountering a treasure chest of about 3,000 examples
of the very best that illustrator/designers have produced over the last century.
The introduction reminds us that many have been enthralled onlookers and consumers of
science fiction, typically beginning about the age of 10-14, perhaps younger now. The
newbies of today have missed out on decades of inventive visualization which deserves to
be studied anew. The lavish color illustrations are broken down into three sections within
the volume: science fiction, horror, and fantasy. Understandably, the last two subject matter
categories may have fewer details of technology, but even here one can find engaging
examples of alien or synthetic life forms. An example in the horror pages is the movie poster
showing actor Boris Karloff in The Bride of Frankenstein(1935) displaying his characteristic
neck electrodes for easier charging of his batteries. Each of the sections is divided into
entertainingly titled chapters, like Good Things in Small Packages that loosely orient us to
their contents.
All in all, Art of Imagination is an excellent resource for UX professionals trying out their
analytical skills, and an excellent resource for those tasked with inventing/designing the
future. At the very least, the book is a marvelous record of astounding creativity, design
thinking, innovation, and envisioning.
The second book, Future Toys, focuses on actual products or simulations of products, with
implied services. An opening quote from Warren G. Bennis sets the scene: The factory of
the future will have two employees: a man and a dog. The mans job will be to feed the dog.
The dogs job will be to prevent the man from touching any of the automated equipment.

Much room for robots here. The books closing quote is attributed to Wernher von Braun:
Man is the best computer we can put aboard a spacecraftand the only one that can be
mass produced with unskilled labor. Much room for (human) astronauts (with ray guns)
flying in their space ships to explore other worlds.
Here again the astute UX designer/analyst will find food for thought in studying the details of
shape, texture, color, complexity, flexibility, and detailing of these objectsand inventing
the back stories to explain the design strategies, personas, use scenarios, design details,
and likely issues of real-world or future-world production and consumption. Everything from
rounded versions of Robby the Robot to Japanese variations of manga cartoon characters
can be found. Any ethnographer, practical semiotician, industrial designer, or cultural
anthropologist will be able to trace worldwide threads of relationships. The collection of
chapters follows exactly the sequence of the books subtitle. What is not explored in the
book are differences/similarities among U.S., German, Spanish, and Japanese examples
(among others), an analysis of which might lead to insights about future cross cultural
Future Toys supplies about 1,000 images of enticing, delightful objects. As with the first
book, very little is provided in detailed text about each image. The visitor/viewers
imagination will have to invent the back story. The journey is entertaining, stimulating, and
Each of these books offers a significant contribution to those who would like to understand
the future, explore possible options, and know more about the history, breadth, and depth of
creative imagination in envisioning the future, through the illustrations and objects produced
over many decades throughout the world. The authors have enabled the visitor/reader to
take a Grand Tour of the Future by looking at the past in the comfort of ones favorite
reading chair. The two trips are worth the price of admission.

Topics: Science
Published in: June, 2013 in Science Fiction


Marcus, A. (2013). Two Museums of Future UX Design (Book Review). User Experience
Retrieved from

Letting Go of the Words (Book Review)

by Alice Preston
A review of Letting Go of the Words: Writing Web Content that Works (2nd edition) by Janice
In this seminal book, Ms. Redish brings together Content Management, clear writing, and
usability testing, with helpful examples, case studies, and stories. [Read More]
Alice Preston

Letting Go of
Morgan Kauffman





Content that




Do you write for the web? Evaluate websites? Read on the web? Then you need this book.
I was impressed with the first edition of this book in 2007, and I am even more impressed
with this rewrite. Not only did Ginny Redish keep all my favorite sections, she made them
better by using her own advice in the book. She also added information and managed not to
increase the page counta truly remarkable achievement.
This edition includes more on content management and makes clear the relationship
between that discipline and user-centered design, where so many of us in the UX field
spend our days. I dont know about other readers of this magazine, but I spend more of my
time on content management now than previously in my UX career.
For those who learn best from stories (and who among us doesnt?), Redish has added
case studies and interludes throughout the book, which offer great insight if you only have
time to scan the book quickly. They are also wonderful as a quick refresher. For example,

one case study discusses how a very successful website anticipates the site visitors
questions; another describes how product pages on an e-commerce site hold conversations
with little to no text.

Plain Language
Having trained as a linguist, with a Ph.D. in Linguistics from Harvard, Redish has been one
of the central figures in the plain language movement since well before the publication of
the first edition of this book. In a logical move, both editions include advice on how to write
more clearly. Depending on our audiences, we may have people who read poorly, those
who are in a hurry, those for whom English is a second language (or third or fourth), or
those who scan. In all these cases, plain language can make the difference between a
successful visit to your site and a bounce.
Below is the same paragraph as above, tuned-up using some of the tips provided in
Chapter 10 Tuning up Your Sentences:
Ginny Redish trained as a linguist and has been a central figure in the plain language
movement from the first. In a logical move, both editions of this book include advice on how
to write clearly. After all, your website visitors may read poorly, scan pages in a hurry, or
have another language as their native tongue. In all these cases, clear writing can keep
your visitors fulfilled and on your site.
In the same spirit, be sure to read Interlude 4: Legal Information Can Be Clear. Its a great
example of how to work with the lawyers in your (or your clients) company to ensure
success for everyone. There is even a model of a well-written privacy policy.

Redish has included information on how to ensure that your web pages conduct helpful
conversations with your site visitors. Recent research on trust and use of the web
demonstrates that people respond better when their interactions feel like a relationship with
another person. In fact, forms research has shown that if a form asks a question too soon in
the relationship, people will not respond to that question. Or you might lose them altogether.
As Redish points out, you should be applying the same rules of relationship and
conversation to all web writing.

You Need This Book

Redish is one of the senior UX practitioners who helped shape the user experience field. In
1995, she set up one of the first independent usability labs in North America. We have
benefited for years from her experience, her keen eye, and her willingness to share. Those
working in content management have become great fans of Redishs work, but as this book
illustrates so well, she hasnt left us behind. Redish continues to push the frontiers of user
experience research, bringing awareness to new groups. She continues to stress the
importance of making the world better for those who use the web, especially those who use

it under adverse conditions (those using a handheld device, having mediocre or poor
internet access, or those with accessibility issues like vision, mobility, or cognitive
problems). In case you missed it, all of these include an increasing portion of the worlds
Lets let go of the words. We need this book.

Topics: Content
Strategy, Personas, Plain
Published in: June, 2013 in Science Fiction


Preston, A. (2013). Letting Go of the Words (Book Review). User Experience Magazine,
Retrieved from

UX Professionals + Stakeholders (Book Review)

by Joe Bugental
of It's
Research by
In this compendium of experts advice, youll find useful nuggets that havent been recorded
anywhere else. [Read More]
Joe Bugental

by Tomer Sharon



Morgan Kauffman, 2012

The boldfaced Our in the title suggests that Its Our Research may be yet another defensive
plea to respect the beleaguered usability person. That interpretation, however, conflicts with
the injunction to develop empathy toward stakeholders at the end of Chapter One. As the
author further explains on page 60, Its not your study; its theirs and yours. Whew! Its a
book about teamwork.
Its also a textbook. Each chapter begins with a bullet list of the lessons to be learned on the
following pages and ends with the takeawayperfect preparation for a quiz or midterm.
Like many of todays textbooks, Tomer Sharons book gets a lavish use of second colors
and illustrations. It also benefits from his ready sense of humor. One chapter heading: If
Life Gives You Limes, Make Mojitos!
Tomer integrates lengthy quotes from colleagues in frequent sidebars. They provide case
studies and best practice advice from some of the big guns in user experience work: Rolf
Molich, Gerry Gaffney, Bill Albert, Sylvia Zimmerman, and others. The printed text provides
only part of the learning process, though. Sprinkled throughout its pages are QR codes to

access videos in which Tomer interviews these and other experts. Most chapters also list
references for further reading.
The intended audience for this book is a little puzzling; its clearly not for beginners. There
are no explanations of methodology for design or evaluation; the reader is expected to know
those. There is, however, advice on how to choose among several possible methodologies.
So maybe its UX 101: Getting Stakeholder Buy-In for User Experience Research Projects,
as the subtitle says. It is, after all, a solution to one of the problems of the beleaguered
usability person.
Speaking colleague to colleague, Tomer offers a mini-UXPA conference between two
covers. He writes with easy use of the first- and second-person pronouns, and at times, he
sounds like one of those fervent motivational speakers in front of an audience of
Readers will find the real nitty-gritty begin to unfold in Chapter Four, Whats Gonna Work?
Teamwork! and in Chapter Five, The Single Biggest Problem in Communication Is the
Illusion that It Has Taken Place. An example from Chapter Four: Asking for account
managers help is something you should do with extra care because some of them might be
sensitive to a situation where someone else approaches their clients with different
requests. I wish I had read that at least fifteen years ago.
Chapter Five suggests ways to fine-tune the reporting process: the difference between
reports and presentations, informal disclosure of key findings, how to organize the writing
process, storytelling, and visual communication. The outstanding utility of this chapter alone
goes far beyond the UX context and should be required reading for anybody who claims
even a shred of professionalism. Tomer clearly knows this information on a first-hand
basis; its the way hes written this book.
The short and final Chapter Six is a sweet dessert course on recognizing your success:
trust is establishedskeptical stakeholders become believersbusiness is
changedrepeated requests are made for UX research training Included is the authors
very personal sidebar, What Happened When I Invited Executives to Use the Product. In
it, he reveals a valuable way to influence management priorities and budgets, an
organizational ploy that I only learned inadvertently several years into my own practice.
Even if you skip some of the material in this compendium of experts advice, youll find
nuggets that havent been recorded anywhere else. Its a very useful book.

Topics: Management, Usability

Published in: April 2013 in UX Careers


Bugental, J. (2013). UX Professionals + Stakeholders (Book Review). User Experience

Retrieved from

The p Stops Here (Book Review)

by Korey Johnson
A review of Quantifying the User Experience: Practical Statistics for User Research by Jeff
Sauro and Jim Lewis A convenient reference text for practitioners who need to measure the user
experience and need guidance to determine the appropriate way in which to do the
measuring. [Read More]
Korey Johnson

Morgan Kauffman, 2012






In Quantifying the User Experience, Jeff Sauro and Jim Lewis accomplished two very
important goals. First, they provided a convenient reference text for practitioners who need
to measure the user experience and need guidance to determine the appropriate way in
which to do the measuring. Second, they uncoupled the complex statistical theories
underlying those methods of measurement from the application of the measures
themselves. The former makes all of us in the UX field more effective by helping us select
the right measurement tools to get the job done. The latter gives us the ability to apply those
tools with confidence, even if we cannot recite from memory the relationship between a
critical value of t and degrees of freedom, or a confidence interval and a standard error.
Practical Statistics for User Research is the perfect subtitle, as the practical application of
statistical tools is truly Sauro and Lewis primary focus throughout the book. If you endeavor
to thoroughly understand the formulae used to calculate statistical measures, you can find
that in Quantifying the User Experience. However, if all you seek is an understanding of a

measure sufficient to apply it appropriately, this as well can be found with ease. Sauro and
Lewis have demonstrated a propensity for making sometimes complex or convoluted topics
accessible to those who lack a strong background in statistics.
This is not the ivory tower statistics textbook you had to read in graduate school. Sauro and
Lewis acknowledge the theoretical underpinnings of the statistics discussed, but for every
commonly held academic convention described, a practical approach is also provided. For
example, in statistics courses we are typically taught that in order for an observed difference
to be considered significant, p must be less than .05. Sauro and Lewis remind us that this
criterion is largely arbitrary and, when conducting statistical analyses in industry, a less
conservative value of is very often appropriate.
Many other classic debates in measurement and statistics are discussed in this book,

Do you need to test at least thirty users to estimate or compare means?

Is it okay to average data from multipoint scales?
Which is it: the Magic Number 5 or Eight Is Not Enough?
In each case, Sauro and Lewis give the background for each side of the debate and provide
just enough detail for the reader to make an informed decision about which approach best
matches the problem they are trying to solve. For every academic absolute, a practical
consideration is provided; my favorite is that while it took Einstein years to give us E = mc2,
you dont have to be a genius to understand the economics of sample size (n = $). Fishing
with Jakob Nielsen was also as entertaining as it was informative.
In addition to tackling common debates in statistics related to sample size, significance
testing, and choosing the most appropriate measure, Quantifying the User
Experienceprovides readers with a valuable resource for selecting the most appropriate
standardized usability questionnaires. Evaluations of both post-study and post-task
questionnaires are included, and rather than simply describing the standardized
questionnaires that are available, Sauro and Lewis take it a step further by providing
guidance on assessing the reliability, validity, and sensitivity of those questionnaires, as well
as recommendations for their questionnaires of choice.
In my opinion, the true value of this book does not lie in the clear and concise manner in
which the authors describe statistical measuresthough that is certainly valuable in and of
itself. The most unique contributions of this book are the logic and practicality used to
describe the appropriate application of those measures. Those of us tasked with quantifying
the user experience know that convincing stakeholders that we are using the correct
measures is just as difficult, if not more so, as selecting the measures themselves. The
authors provide readers with the rationale needed to make informed decisions about the
application of statistical measures, but they also provide sufficient detail to understand both
sides of every argument so that when questioned, researchers have the information needed
to defend the validity of their results.
Sauro and Lewis strike a perfect balance between the complexity of statistical theory and
the simplicity of applying statistics practically. Whether you wish to delve deeper into the

enduring controversies in statistics, or simply wish to understand the difference between a ttest and Chi-square, you will find your answer in this book.Quantifying the User
Experience is an invaluable resource for those who are conducting user research in

Topics: Statistics, Usability

Published in: April 2013 in UX Careers


Johnson, K. (2013). The p Stops Here (Book Review). User Experience Magazine, 13(1).
Retrieved from

Not So Strange, These Fictions (Book Review)

by Gerry Gaffney
A review of Make It So: Interaction Design Lessons from Science Fiction by Nathan Shedroff
& Christopher Noessel The implications for the design of mechanical controls, visual interfaces,
volumetric projection, and gesture all brought to life through examples. [Read More]
Gerry Gaffney

Rosenfeld Media, 2012




A miniature Darth Vader appears as a cockpit projection. For the stormtrooper, the
miniaturization works well. However, what is Darth Vader seeing? Does he have to look up
at a giant stormtrooper to make eye contact? If so, this will create an unacceptable
situation, as it fails to reflect Vaders status (and ego). And if we adjust the projection to
correct for relative scales, how can we manage the problem of gaze-matching (or gaze
While it may be some time before you have to deal with this issue, its not inconceivable.
And if you work in video conferencing, some of this is relevant right now. Such is the case
with much of the content in this book; some of it is relevant to right-now problems; some is
likely relevant in the near future; and some of it is just plain interesting.
I was initially disappointed to see that they had decided not to consider interfaces from
written science fiction. They also excluded comic books, graphic novels, and hand-drawn

animated interfaces (including anime and the likes of Futurama). So essentially the book
presents a survey of interaction design in sci-fi movies, although filmic interfaces that are
not sufficiently detailed to deconstruct are also excluded.
The exclusions make sense once one accepts that the book is serious in its intent of
learning about interaction design from the world of sci-fi. Throughout, the authors identify
lessons and opportunities derived from the aspect of interaction design being
The authors made a survey of a range of sci-fi movies and shows (many of your favorites
make an appearance). Some of these are listed in the accompanying site
(, although I could not locate a definitive list.
The first part of the book delves into considerations of different types of interfaces:

Mechanical controls, such as joysticks, buttons, and gauges, with examples fromMetropolis,
Buck Rogers, When Worlds Collide, and Star Trek. Lessons include the use of mechanical
controls for fine motor control, and the need to observe gestalt principles.
Visual interfaces, with examples from Jurassic Park, Gattaca, Blade Runner, Space 1999,
Men in Black, and The Matrix. This is a wide-ranging section, with discussion of color,
layers, and transparency, and various presentations of file management systems.
Volumetric projection, with examples from Star Wars, Logans Run, Total
Recall andForbidden Planet. This is the section identifying the challenge of enabling Darth
Vader to maintain his status and relative position.
Gesture, with examples from (the original) The Day the Earth Stood Still, Avatar, Iron Man
2 and, of course, Minority Report. The authors identified seven gestures that were common
across their database of movieswave to activate, push to move, turn to rotate, swipe to
dismiss, point or touch to select, extend the hand to shoot, and pinch and spread to scale.
Examples of each gesture are included and described. This is followed by a discussion of
direct manipulation, from which the authors derived the lesson, Use gesture for simple,
physical manipulations, and language for abstractions.
Sonic interfaces, which includes discussion of ambient and directional sound, voice
interfaces, and music interfaces (Close Encounters of the Third Kind, Barbarella, andDune).
Brain interfaces, with examples from Buck Rogers, The Matrix, and Dollhouse, explores
invasive and non-invasive brain interfaces, worn devices, implants. This includes the rather
bizarre lesson, Let the user relax the body for brain procedures.
Augmented reality, with examples from Terminator 2, Robocop, and District 9, discusses
the use of heads-up displays (HUDs), and issues associated with location awareness,
focus, and the use of peripheral vision for non-essential information.
Anthropomorphism, with examples form Battlestar Galactica, Until The End of the World,
and Alien, considers the way that we tend to anthropomorphize in any case, how this has
been used in various movies, and what factors we need to consider when designing for
these effectsfor example, Achieve anthropomorphism through behavior.
The second part of the book looks at four areas of human activity as treated in the genre:
communication, learning, medicine, and sex (Sleeper, Serenity, and Lawnmower Man, from
which we learn, Give users safewords.).
In all, there are many dozens of lessons. Occasionally these seemed to be rather trivial,
traditional, or well established (for example, Otherwise, avoid all caps.). But this is a picky

complaint, and there is plenty of material that is challenging, fresh, and clearly derived from
the interfaces under consideration.
I enjoyed the systematic approach taken by the authors. For example, when considering the
typography of GUIs, they reviewed each property in their database and found that sans serif
outnumber serif typefaces by 100:1. Similarly, they reviewed the colors of screen interfaces,
and found that blue predominated. The range of UI colors is presented in a neat set of
The book is liberally sprinkled with stills from the chosen movies. This was fascinating in
itself (and a ready conversation-starter on the tram). Id recommend the hard copy over the
online versions from the point of view of using the book to wander through the rich pastures
of sci-fi. Although not coffee table format, it will live rather comfortably there.
Recently, I watched the original Total Recall. The scene in which Lori (Sharon Stone) plays
virtual tennis has aspects that are still in the realms of sci-fi. While we dont have the
volumetric projection shown in the movie, we do have the gestural recognition in the form of
the Wii or Xbox. And although many of the interfaces from sci-fi appear quaint or overblown,
others bleed into the real world, or remain compellingly convincingfor example, when
Klaatu controls his ship computer by waving his hand in the 1952 movie The Day the Earth
Stood Still.
We UX geeks dont really need an excuse to watch, read, or otherwise consume science
fiction, but its nice to have a book that not only encourages us to do so, but also enables us
to consider what we know in a new context, and learn new things from a consideration of
the genre.

Topics: Science
Published in: November, 2012 in Trust and the User


Gaffney, G. (2012). Not So Strange, These Fictions (Book Review). User Experience
Retrieved from

Diagramming: Making the Invisible Visible (Book Review)

by Aaron Marcus
A review of Designing Diagrams: Making Information Accessible through Design by Jan
One recent and five classic books about diagramming, the visual depiction of structures and
processes that help us to understand and to interact with complex information. [Read More]
Aaron Marcus

A review of
By Jan Gauguin






Thanks to information technology and computer-based displays, tables, forms, charts,
maps, and diagrams permeate our lives. All these formats supplement what direct
experience of the world tells us, what we learn through auditory and other senses, and what
texts convey. Information visualization helps us to think and act.
Diagrams are the most free-form and complex of these visualization techniques, conveying
structures and processes that are intended to be usable, useful, appealing, easy-to-learn,
easy-to-use, and easy-to-enjoy. Designing them well for specific audiences is a challenge to
all user-experience professionals.
Fortunately, a new guide by Jan Gauguin has appeared that provides specific introductory
instruction in topics such as proportion, use of grids, color, typography, format, and signs
(symbols and icons), as well as standard diagrams and an introduction to visual semiotics,
the science behind conveying meaning visually. This introduction to techniques and

methods is a welcome change from some books that simply show examples of good
design but do not guide the reader on the path to getting there. The author also provides
chapters on specific subject matter, such as organizational structure and operations,
demographics, geographic information, and navigation systems.
Other practical topics include using worksheets, methods for getting ideas across, even a
work plan. The book does conclude with a designers gallery intended to show excellent
case study material.
Like many books written and designed by professional graphic designers, the emphasis is
on quality visuals and a readable book layout. The major critique one might offer from a
user-centered design perspective is the lack of topics on viewer/user profiles, use
scenarios, and discussion of testing/revision in the design process. However, the content
offered provides much valuable guidance.

Books like these are rare, but important. To place Gaugins book in context, here is a
summary of some other excellent resources:
Diagrammatic Reasoning: Cognitive and Computational Perspectives, by Janice Glasgow,
N. Hari Naryanan, and B. Chandrasekaran, is unusual in presenting the results of cognitive
science and computer science research in exploring how to make effective computer
displays that, in many cases, act as user interfaces. One key objective is to determine how
best to design diagrams that both human beings and computers can process. The almost
800 pages offer intriguing accomplishments and insights.
Diagram: The Instrument of Thought by Keith Albarn and Jennie Miall Smith seeks to show
how diagramming can be a technique for expressing inner thoughts.
The scope of the examples is more limited, being focused on visual patterns that refer to the
authors interpretation of patterns of thinking. While more narrow than many of the other
publications, the approach is provocative. Like many of the other books, little attention is
paid to testing or proof of efficacy.
Diagrams: A Visual Survey of Graphs, Maps, Charts, and Diagrams for the Graphic
Designer by Arthur Lockwood (1969) is the closest publication to Gauguins newer book.
Hundreds of examples, some charts and maps, most in black-and-white, provide instructive
information from the most basic to elaborate explanatory and statistical graphics, with an
index organized by subject matter. Of course, in this era, there is no mention of computers.
Graphis: Diagrams, new edition edited by B.Martin Pedersen is the crme de la crmeof
beautiful diagrams gathered from professionals worldwide. This book is a beauty pageant,
with little or no attention to usability, testing, etc. Nevertheless, in its two editions, it gained
worldwide recognition and raised peoples awareness of information visualization, and not
only in the graphic design profession.
Information Visualization by Robert Spence attempts to integrate much information with
real-world examples and use of computer-generated graphics.
Like the last book recommended, it tries to describe the representation and presentation of
concepts and data in both static and interactive forms.
Readings in Information Visualization: Using Vision to Think, edited by Stuart K. Card, Jock
D. Mackinlay, and Ben Shneiderman, was a major breakthrough publication that featured

classic research papers about techniques of discovery and management of information

through computer-based displays. Included are the projects that became famous at Xerox
PARC, the University of Maryland, and IBM, including the Hyperbolic Browser, Treemaps,
Parallel Coordinates, and other innovative multi-dimensional approaches.
Semiology of Graphics: Diagrams, Networks, Maps, by Jacques Bertin (1918-2010). The
noted French cartographer and scientist demonstrates the system he developed for graphic
organization of charts, maps, and diagrams. First published in 1967, although this work
provides much useful information, this book has not been available for a long time in
Each of these documents offers significant contribution to understanding the history,
breadth, and depth of information visualization and, specifically, diagramming. Some of the
books are now out of print. That should not discourage one from trying to locate them in
print or online to benefit from their wisdom. Many are complementary in nature, namely,
emphasizing either conceptual or perceptual perspectives. Any dedicated UX professional
would do well to consider one or more of these to enhance ones professional practice.

Topics: Graphics, Information

Published in: November, 2012 in Trust and the User


Marcus, A. (2012). Diagramming: Making the Invisible Visible (Book Review). User
Retrieved from

Practical Guidance at Every Level (Book Review)

by Paul Linton
A review of Usability Testing Essentials: Ready, Set . . .Test! by Carol M. Barnum
Practical guidance for UX professionals at every experience level. From equipment, lab vs. field
testing, remote testing; testing protocols, analyzing results, and reporting the findings. [Read
Paul Linton

By Carol M. Barnum





Morgan Kaufman, 2011

I would submit that the single most common activity among the legions of professionals
calling themselves usability engineers, user experience designers, interaction designers,
information architects, and human factors engineers (yes, I can recall the 1970s and 80s),
would be usability testing. As usability professionals, we really cant quantify our success or
claim value added by our contributions to hardware and software development unless we
observe and record how our design is utilized by relevant user populations. The ubiquity of
articles and books relating to usability testing suggests that: (1) a real lot of usability testing
occurs; (2) testers are looking for advice and support; and (3) usability testing comprises a
broad spectrum of sophistication and techniques, part art and part science.
Before you tire of reading this rambling philosophy and put this magazine aside, allow me to
provide my recommendation right up front. Beg, borrow, buy, or steal a copy ofUsability

Testing Essentials: Ready, SetTest! This is as good a book on usability testing as you
are going to find, and it will provide practical guidance regardless of your experience level.
I originally started reading this book by candlelight. Yes, Hurricane Irene in late 2011
knocked out power to my home for eight days, and with no television or Internet I actually
started picking up hard copy books. Perhaps this review is colored by the fact that I felt a bit
noble, like Abraham Lincoln.
Ms. Barnums book is divided into ten chapters, each providing an insightful detail into such
topical areas as planning for usability testing, preparing for the test, conducting the test,
analyzing and reporting the findings, and even international usability testing. Ms. Barnum is
interested in usability testing as it is now most commonly practicedsmall studies with a
small number of participants, with primarily qualitative data. She does allow for, and
indicate, where the more rigorous, experimental design, statistically significant results route
is appropriate, but she realizes the reality that the vast majority of usability researchers are
challenged in terms of time and budget. She doesnt have to defend the emphasis on
smaller studies.
This book has that rare ability to identify and discuss essentially all the subjects of interest
to the usability researcher, but always at the just right level. The reader is never bored by
excessive detail, arcane references, or statistics that make her eyes gloss over. Ms.
Barnum writes very clearly and very understandably. This book is devoid of jargon and
academic arrogances. Equally important, however, the reader is never left with the feeling,
Oh gosh, another motherhood statement about usability. How does that help me? Ms.
Barnum consistently strikes the right balance. If a topic is worth being included in this book,
it is worth more than lip service. Its impossible to list even a majority of topics that Ms.
Barnum touches upon within the constraints of this review. An appetite-whetting sampling,
however, includes: how to put together equipment that might be needed without going into
debt; lab testing or field testing; remote testing; heuristic analysis; personas; understanding
user groups such as Boomers and the Silent Generation; and testing protocols. Chapter 8,
Analyzing Results, and Chapter 9, Reporting the Findings, are particularly well done and
extremely valuable for those researchers who are skilled at conducting the actual test, but
diminish the impact of their work by failing to convince stakeholders of the import of their
findings. Although not necessarily usability testing per se, practical advice on preparing and
delivering visual and oral presentation is most welcome.
To illustrate key concepts, the book includes a very complete case study of a Holiday Inn
China website weaving its way throughout the chapters. Where applicable, chapters
conclude with a useful and meaningful illustration of how the concepts in the chapter are put
into practice. As with the book in general, the case study is not contrived and strikes just the
right balance on level of detail. The case study is complete enough to learn from without
overwhelming the reader by unnecessary detail. An added bonus is the inclusion of several
well-composed forms and useful resources that can be found on the companion website.

(You dont have to own the book to access the companion resources and forms. A sample
chapter is also located on the website.)
An issue that doesnt generally receive mention in most book reviews, but I feel is relevant
here, is the physical appeal of the book. Ms. Barnum certainly practices what she
preaches; the book itself is exceedingly user friendly, if that term can be applied to a book.
The paper is a high quality, semi-gloss stock, and the use of subtle color throughout the
book is soothing and allows the reader to quickly distinguish color blocks indicating
sidebars, figures, case studies, and so forth. A very readable sans serif font is easy on the
eyes, even for ancient readers such as myself, and white space is judiciously used
throughout. The physical layout of the book, with its proper use of white space and
subsection separation, says that this book is easy-to-read and in some subtle way, masks
the fact that the book is actually very information-intensive.
As suggested at the beginning of this review, there are dozens of excellent books covering
most facets of usability testing. I own many of them. Some books focus on techniques and
methodology, and others focus on quantitative testing and metrics. Some books, such as
Steve Krugs Dont Make Me Think! are fun, quick reads that serve the purpose of
introducing the concepts of usability to a wide population. However, if you only want a single
book on usability, a book that will touch upon the primary topical areas in sufficient detail to
be useful, Usability Testing Essentials: Ready, SetTest! by Carol Barnum is the one to
read. You wont be disappointed.

Topics: Mobile
Testing, Usability
Testing, UX
Published in: November, 2012 in Trust and the User


Linton, P. (2012). Practical Guidance at Every Level (Book Review). User Experience
Retrieved from

Making Everything Fit (Book Review)

by Christine Danko
of Responsive
Design by
Making a case and practical instruction for creating a design that scales based on platform. [Read
Christine Danko

A Book Apart, 2011



For years, web design and usability didnt seem to go hand in hand. However, it wasnt for
lack of trying on the part of web designers. Designers created beautiful presentations only
to see them break in an older browser, be stretched out of proportion by a larger computer
screen, or become virtually unreadable with enlarged text sizes. As a result, designers tried
to have more control over the display, such as setting absolute page and font sizes. But
then people started viewing websites designed for a standard desktop display on a mobile
phone or a TV-size screen, and things just had to change.
In his new book Responsive Web Design, Ethan Marcotte makes a case for creating a
design that scales based on platform, and offers practical instruction for converting a

website to a design that can scale small enough to be readable on an iPhone, or big
enough to work on a wide-screen TV.
The book is a short read (just under 150 pages); it is the perfect size for someone who
knows something about building websites and wants a quick tutorial on best practices for
converting a website to a responsive design. It includes enough detail to be practical, but
not so much that the reader is overwhelmed with unnecessary information.
In its five chapters, the book tackles three main areas: flexible grids and layouts, flexible
images and media, and media queries. Each topic is given its own chapter. In addition, an
introductory chapter makes the case for responsive design, while the concluding chapter
offers advice on how and when to implement responsive design.
Marcotte believes designers need to let go of trying to enforce strict control over their
presentation. To this end, he urges using flexible grids that rely on proportions rather than
fixed sizes, tailoring style rules to make the design appropriate for both very small and extra
large platforms, and using CSS3 media queries that seek out information about the display
from the browser to be able to serve out the appropriate style rules.
Next, Marcotte walks readers through a detailed case study in which he converts a blog to a
responsive design. He tackles converting fixed sizes to proportional measurements via CSS
rules for page width, fonts, margins, and images. At each step, he looks at the changes to
the design, illustrates the examples with images, and examines how the design will hold up
in very small and very large displays. He includes advice on how to maintain balance in the
presentation. For example, large margins might be appropriate with a larger display, but
may not be desirable when the design is scaled to fit a phone screen, once the important
Marcotte also addresses browser compatibility issues and offers some JavaScript fixes for
the few cases in which his recommendations may not hold up with older browsers.
Some of the ideas in the book are not new. Proportional font sizes and screen widths that
adjust when a user increases or decreases text size, or their window size, have been
included in CSS for years. But Marcotte does introduce some new concepts, such as media
queries (included in CSS3, the latest CSS standard), and pulls it all together in easy-tofollow instructions for adding responsiveness to a website.
With the growing popularity of mobile devices, and increased pressure on site owners to
add a mobile website, this book is well timed. Marcottes guidelines allow a primary website
to be adapted to work well on mobile platforms, eliminating the need for a second site. In
fact, the author discourages creating a second site, noting that if the second site has a
different URL and users try to pull it up on a platform it was not designed to work on, results
are unpredictable.
Marcottes book is filled with good, practical advice. It is probably best suited for someone
who has hands-on experience designing websites. The book delves into modifying CSS and
HTML code, nothing too difficult for someone who has been exposed to writing web code,

but probably pretty boring for someone who is looking for a broader overview of responsive
Responsive Web Design is a good book with a useful collection of best practices,
particularly valuable for those designing for multiple devices. It should be included in the
library of anyone tasked with creating or maintaining a website.

Topics: Mobile, Responsive

Design, Usability
Published in: August 2012 in Featured Articles


Danko, C. (2012). Making Everything Fit (Book Review). User Experience Magazine, 11(3).
Retrieved from

Its Finally Here! A Book about User Experience

Management (Book Review)

by Chelsey Glasson
of User
Management by
A must-read for anyone who is managing user experience teams, or someday aspires to do so,
peppered with words of wisdom and advice from industry veterans. [Read More]
Chelsey Glasson

User Experience Management:
Morgan Kaufmann, 2011

Essential Skills






As the user experience industry has matured over the past decade or so, there has been an
increase in the number of books written to help individual contributorsresearchers,
designers, information architects, content specialists, and othersbe successful in their
roles. These books are available on numerous topics ranging from how to conduct a
contextual inquiry, to effectively prototype, to maximize ones efforts in an agile
environment, to complete a discount usability study, to conduct an international research
projectyou get the point, the list goes on and on.
While these types of books serve the very important purpose of making it easier for those
new to a particular research or design method to quickly learn and grow, they arguably dont
offer as much value to those who have honed their craft and are already experts in their
domain. So what resources are available for the latter population of practitioners, especially
those who aspire to become user experience managers or want to improve their
management skills? Sadly, almost nothing. Fortunately, though, Arnie Lund has come to the

rescue with his new book entitled, User Experience Management: Essential Skills for
Leading Effective UX Teams.
Arnie Lund, Ph.D., CUXP, hardly needs an introduction given the impressive mark he has
made on the development and evolution of the user experience industry. Currently working
as a principal user experience lead at Microsoft, Lund has previously held leadership roles
at companies such as AT&T Bell Laboratories, Ameritech, and US West Advanced
Throughout User Experience Management: Essential Skills for Leading Effective UX
Teams, Lund draws upon his twenty plus years of experience in the user experience and
emerging technologies fields to shed light on user experience management best practices.
As he recently shared with me, I have talked to many people over the years who have
wanted a book on managing user experience teams, and there wasnt one. It also dawned
on me that some of the most experienced and talented managers I knew were retiring. I
didnt want their wisdom to get lost. But the final trigger was a set of events at work that
caused me to come home steaming with the thought, These people are idiots! Im going to
write down how it should be done! Oy vey, Im sure theres an amusing story behind this
quote, Arnie!
One of my favorites is Chapter 4, in which the author talks about the importance of creating
the right environment for a user experience team. I recently had the opportunity to tour
several user experience offices across diverse companies, and was shocked by the stale
environment I witnessed on many occasions. This indicated to me that providing an
environment that supports and maximizes the unique work of user experience professionals
is not a priority at many companies.
According to Lund, providing user experience professionals with an appropriate work
environment is important because, Space shapes our attitudes, how we interact, and, in
many ways, how we think. Every place where I have seen a vital, influential user experience
team, I have seen a space that reflects their creativity. Not only does Lund provide
examples in his book of what an optimal space looks like for user experience professionals
to work within, but he also provides suggestions for how to get creative when minimal
resources are on the table for doing so (for example, never underestimate the influence of
an administrative professional.) Additionally, Lund provides helpful tips on how to bend the
rules of an organization when they get in the way of building an appropriate space for ones
user experience team.
I particularly enjoyed Chapter 9 and the discussion surrounding branding ones UX team.
When the ROI discussion arises, it is often not about ROI. It is really about understanding
what user experience is doing, and if the person asking the question understands how he
will benefit, he writes. This is why, Lund explains, user experience groups should have a
distinct brand and communication plan in place. Such a plan not only helps to clarify
ownership, but also inspires ones team, extends a teams presence, and helps shape the
environment a team works within. Lund also mentions that coming up with the appropriate

name for your user experience group can be especially powerful for a variety of reasons.
Unfortunately, putting effort into branding ones user experience team is often at the bottom
of many leaders priority list, when it should be at the top.
Additional topics covered in the book include how to build a user experience team, focus a
team, create a high performing team, nurture a team, transform an organization to be userexperience focused, evangelize UX, and decide if you should become a manager. One
piece of content that would be helpful to include in future editions is a section that provides
more in-depth tips regarding how individual contributors can acquire management skills
prior to actually becoming a manager. I was also left wondering if there are subtle
distinctions between the skill sets needed for design, versus research, versus content
User Experience Management: Essential Skills for Leading Effective UX Team is a mustread for anyone who is managing user experience teams, or someday aspires to do so. Not
only is the content of the book based on Arnie Lunds years of experience, including
mistakes hes made and successes hes won, but it is also peppered with words of wisdom
and advice from many other industry veterans. The book is an entertaining read, and one in
which the content is practical and relatable. I think the book would make a great teaching
tool for programssuch as the California College of the Arts Design MBA or Stanfords
Design Schoolthat aim to teach effective design management.

Topics: Management
Published in: June, 2012 in The World is Mobile
Glasson, C. (2012). Its Finally Here! A Book about User Experience Management (Book
Retrieved from

Graphic Design: Two Views (Book Review)

by Aaron Marcus
A review of Graphic Design: A New History by Stephen J. Eskilson and Graphic Design
Solutions by
Two books that make a significant contribution to understanding the history, breadth, and depth
of the profession of graphic design. [Read More]
Aaron Marcus

Yale University Press, 2007
Cengage Learning, 2011 (4th edition)





Graphic Design: A New History

Eskilsons book starts with a careful examination of the origins of the graphic design
profession, from Gutenbergs book design in the 1400s to the expansion of commerce and
the need for advertising posters in the 1800s. At that time, many famous painters and
graphic artists, including Toulouse-Lautrec and Mucha, involved themselves in creating
posters. Eskilsons well-written text and excellent color illustrations show the variety of Art
Nouveau graphic design across Europe.
The twentieth century brought a shift toward technology and saw the rise of Dadaism,
Futurism, Cubism, and Art Deco. Each of these visual arts movements influenced graphic

designers. Eskilson further chronicles the changes in graphic design as socioeconomic,

political, and technological revolutions, and World War II altered the media, the messages,
and the audiences for visual communication.
The book concludes with postwar developments: the rise of magazines, international
corporate styles and identities, expressive styles, and postmodern and new media,
including graphic design for the web, graphic novels, modern video, and, yes, even the
typography of email.
The author also takes time to discuss many influential graphic designers and studios,
especially modern ones like Stanley Morison, Saul Bass, Paul Rand, Push Pin Studios,
Wolfgang Weingart, Tibor Kalman, and architect Robert Venturi. If these names are not
known to you, rest assured they are worth a little research.
My only quibbles are the sparse mention of contributions from women, non-European/U.S.
designers, and the world of user interfaces/user-centered design. However, even with these
omissions, the book is a useful summary of centuries of work and represents a laudable

Graphic Design Solutions

Landas book, in its fourth edition, takes us in a completely different direction, packing about
the same number of pages into a book half as thick. The text type is smaller and the page
layouts more lively and varied, although at times overly complex. You can tell this is a hip
book because it provides environmental statistics on how the recycled paper printing has
saved trees and eliminated air emissions and solid waste!
This is not a history book, although it presents a timeline that begins in 1890 and takes the
reader through today. Landa starts out by asking fundamental questions about the
profession: With what are we dealing? What is the nature and impact of visual
communication? Why does design matter? What are the ethics of design? The discussion
of this last question is brief, and might not satisfy ethicists, but at least she asks the
question. On all topics, Landa points us to further resources.
The book introduces the formal elements of art and basic principles of design. The many
visual examples are taken from a wide range of contemporary examples, including websites
and CD covers.
The following chapters delve deeply into typography, the design process, visualization,
visual composition, even storytelling. Many of these chapters include case studies and
guest essays on topics that highlight the philosophy and principles being discussed. Alas,
this book says not a word about testing with the intended audience, only advising one to
check with the client, a typical oversight that UX designers will be quick to discern.

The final chapters discuss ways to apply graphic design to posters and publications,
branding and visual identity, packaging, corporate communications, advertising, and web
design. Mobile screens make no appearance, but that does not diminish the significant
content from all of the other areas covered.

Concluding Comments
Each of these documents is a significant contribution to understanding the history, breadth,
and depth of the profession of graphic design. They are complementary in nature, and any
dedicated UX professional would do well to consider having the appropriate library acquire
each of them. They will enrich ones understanding and practice. In addition, each is a
pleasure to read-in short bursts or dedicated study.

Topics: Graphics, Information

Published in: March, 2012 in Beyond Books


Marcus, A. (2012). Graphic Design: Two Views (Book Review). User Experience
Retrieved from

Another Research Tool (Book Review)

by Chelsey Glasson
of Search
Site by
Insights about SSA in a practical, straightforward, and enjoyable, with real-world
examples. [Read More]
Chelsey Glasson

Rosenfeld Media, 2011





In 2006, Louis Rosenfeld played an influential role in the establishment of the art of
information architecture when he co-authored Information Architecture for the World Wide
Web. Fast forward to 2011 and he is setting the stage once again for the underutilized, yet
remarkably enlightening and impactful research method of search site analytics (SSA).
Search site analytics is the analysis of user search queries on a website, and, as Rosenfeld
explains in Search Analytics for Your Site, is a powerful research tool because it tells you
what your users want in their own words without the biases sometimes introduced by other
research methods.
Over the course of the eleven easy-to-digest chapters of Search Analytics for Your Site,
Rosenfeld addresses the following questions:
What is SSA and why havent I heard about it?
Why should I care about SSA and who should be responsible for SSA?
How do I analyze and use SSA data?
How is SSA different from search engine optimization?

How can I use SSA to foster collaboration in the workplace among qualitative and
quantitative research professionals?
In Chapters 1 and 2, Rosenfeld clarifies that the goal in using SSA is not only to learn how
users interact with your website, but also to discover what they want and dont want to see
on your site and the tone and flavor they use to express those needs. Furthermore, SSA
provides data that can be used to discover design flaws, inspire change, validate designs,
and benchmark user performance. As in all user experience research, SSA is best used in
combination with other methods.
After explaining what SSA is and its many benefits, Rosenfeld moves on, in Chapters 3-7,
to review five ways to analyze SSA data. These include: pattern analysis, failure analysis,
session analysis, audience analysis, and goal-based analysis. Ultimately, company goals
and key performance indicators (KPIs) should influence which of these five options to
Chapters 8-10 provide practical tips on how to use SSA findings to enhance the user
experience of a website. While Chapter 8 discusses using SSA data to boost a sites overall
search experience, Chapter 9 addresses how SSA can guide site architecture, while
Chapter 10 summarizes how to use SSA data to improve site content. I found Rosenfelds
discussion in Chapter 10regarding how to use SSA to motivate ones marketing
department to bid adieu to unnecessary and confusing jargonto be particularly insightful.
Finally, in Chapter 11, Rosenfeld thoughtfully argues in support of web analytics
professionals (who usually focus on what people are doing) and user researchers (who
typically address questions of why people do what they do) teaming up in analyzing SSA
data. According to Rosenfeld, collaboration is key because, its not much use to know what
is happening if you dont know why. Conversely, its not much use to understand why things
are happening when you dont understand what they were in the first place. Chapter 11
concludes with several suggestions on how to encourage these research groups to work
together, and an explanation of how SSA can be helpful in this pursuit.
I have to admit that when asked to write a review of Search Analytics for Your Site, I was a
bit hesitant. My experiences in the past with web analytics books were that they were
tedious reads whose content didnt always translate into workplace practices. I was
pleasantly surprised to find that this was not at all the case with Rosenfelds book. No
matter what your backgrounduser experience researcher, marketer, product manager,
analytics guruthis book will provide valuable insight regarding SSA in a practical,
straightforward, and enjoyable means. I especially appreciate the books ample real-world
examples, which bring to life Rosenfelds explanations and provide enough detail to guide
ones own SSA projects. I also like that each chapter stands on its own two feetyou can
use the books content to take action within your organization prior to reading the book in its

Dont forget to check out the companion website for Search Analytics for Your Site, where
Rosenfeld provides additional content and has graciously made the books diagrams and
illustrations available under a Creative Common license.

Topics: Analytics
Published in: November, 2011 in Gamifying UX
Glasson, C. (2011). Another Research Tool (Book Review). User Experience Magazine,
Retrieved from

A Book That Talks (Book Review)

by Gerry Gaffney
A review of Practical Speech User Interface Design by James R. Lewis. Recommended for
students and seasoned practitioners with an interest in design of speech user interfaces. [Read
Gerry Gaffney

CRC Press, 2010





James R. Lewis Practical Speech User Interface Design is comprehensive, accessible,

practical, and fascinating. As an IBM human factors engineer for some thirty years, Lewis
brings a depth of practical experience to bear in this book. He has also added the breadth of
the current state of research in the field.
As he states in the closing pages, some of the research he reviewed confirmed my current
design practices, but more importantly, other research has led me to make some changes
in my design strategies. It is this combination of openness and expertise that makes the
book such an asset for anyone interested in speech user interfacesand what UX
practitioner isnt? Ive had the pleasure of working on a small number of speech systems,
and only regret that I didnt have this book prior to embarking on them.
Chapter 2 introduces speech technologies. Lewis describes two types of language models
in current usefinite state grammars (in which all legal words and phrases are fully
specified) and statistical language models (in which users may speak the words in any
order). This chapter also describes methods of speech production and discusses formant

text-to-speech (think Stephen Hawking) and concatenative text-to-speech. While

intelligibility of synthetic voices was once problematic, current systems are generally easy to
understand. However, the production of convincingly natural and appealing synthetic
voices has been a challenge, and Lewis points out that businesses are reluctant to risk their
brand images. Accordingly, most designs use recorded speech.
Lewis also discusses the use of speech biometrics (voiceprinting). However, he suggests
that current accuracy means that it can only be used in low-security applications or when
combined with other verification methods.
Chapter 3 is a fascinating discussion of human speech and its implications for design. It
on phonology (the
language),coarticulation (the phenomenon whereby we run words into each other),
and prosody(intonational patterns). A section on discourse considers the patterns involved
in our everyday conversations, and includes material on grammaticality, discourse markers
(which signal conversational intents), timing and turn taking, and social considerations in
conversation. Here, as throughout the book, the material is clearly presented, supported by
critically considered research, and focused on being of practical use to the user interface
This focus on the practical also means that the author largely avoids prescriptive
statements; rather, he recognizes that all decisions must be subject to the constraints faced
by the business and designer. Where prescriptiveness is possible, however, Lewis provides
unambiguous advice by clearly identifying appropriate durations of wait times, silences, and
Chapter 4 considers self-service technologies, their advantages and disadvantages, and the
propensity or willingness of people to use them and the factors affecting this willingness.
In the meaty Chapter 6, Speech User Interface Development Methodology, the steps
listed are largely familiar (requirements, design, develop, test, deploy, tune). While user
needs analysis is dear to the heart of any UX practitioner, Lewis describes the specifics of
doing the analysis for speech. For example, he suggests that (in a project lacking
countermanding data), it is reasonable to design in accordance with the capabilities of
older adults.
Lewis covers creating detailed dialog specifications, prototyping, development, and testing.
This chapter will serve a UX practitioner transitioning from GUI to SUI design particularly
well, as it enables the application of existing knowledge to the new domain.
There is an interesting discussion on the use of personas. Lewis states that while personas
can be useful, they should not consume a large part of the design effort, which will be better
rewarded by application elsewhere.
Chapter 8 gets into the gritty detail of how to script introductions, whether to tell people to
listen carefully because of changed menus (dont), how to provide help, and a discussion

of appropriate menu lengths. Lewis states that the common advice to limit menu length is a
mistake (a misguideline to use his term), and that broad menus are more effective than
shorter menus requiring greater depth. This might be seen as controversial (my eyebrows
certainly went up), but, as always, the author quotes extensively and critically from the
available research and his own work.
Each chapter in the book concludes with a summary, and a reader who does not need the
details can simply read the summary to gain a fair grasp of the content of the earlier pages.
If you have even the vaguest interest in design of speech user interfaces, and whether
youre a student or a seasoned practitioner, read this book.

Topics: Speech
Published in: August, 2011 in Mixed Topics


Gaffney, G. (2011). A Book That Talks (Book Review). User Experience Magazine, 10(3).
Retrieved from

Book Review: Of Testing and Techniques

by Gerry Gaffney
A review of Beyond the Usability Lab: Conducting Large-Scale Online User Experience Studies
by Bill Albert, Tom Tullis, Donna Tedesco. This book is well-structured for practitioners of
remote usability testing. [Read More]
Gerry Gaffney

Beyond the Usability Lab: Conducting Large-Scale Online
Morgan Kaufmann, 2010

User Experience Studies

In 2008, UXMagazine devoted an issue to remote usability testing guest edited by Tomer
Sharon. As managing editor at the time, I confess to having had a rather skeptical view of
the value of remote testing.
One of the articles that made me re-think my attitude was a case study comparing the
relative usability of two sets of information about the Apollo program, one provided by
NASA, and one by Wikipedia. That case study was written by Tom Tullis, one of the authors
of Beyond the Usability Lab, which takes the themes introduced in that issue (Vol 7, Issue 3,
2008) and explores them in detail.
Traditional usability testing has been focused on small sets of users, and the book does not
take issue with this approach. Indeed Bill Albert said to me in an interview, if the goal is
really just to identify usability issues, I think Id fall in line with a lot of other people, saying
six to eight users is plenty to identify the significant usability issues with a particular design.
(User Experience podcast, episode 55,

What the 2010 book concerns is the fact that web technology enables us to move beyond
the lab and efficiently conduct user experience studies with a much larger sample of users.
The book begins with an introduction describing what the authors mean by online usability
studies, including a description of when such studies are appropriate, what one can expect
to achieve, and the strengths and limitations. Remote studies are good for comparing
designs, for collecting detailed and scalable usability metrics, and for exploring design
issues in the users own environment, with all its attendant complexities. On the other hand,
there are many instances (such as identifying the major usability issues with early
prototypes) when other methods are preferred.
The book is well-structured for the practitioner. After the introduction, the following three
chapters explore planning, designing, piloting, and launching the study. The hands-on
approach is reminiscent of Rubins (and now Chisnells) classic Handbook of Usability
Testing, in that it contains sufficient detail to enable a practitioner to engage the method
with a degree of confidence.
Chapters 5 and 6 discuss data preparation, analysis, and presentation. Chapter 7 provides
good in-depth analysis of specific tools (Loop11, RelevantView, UserZoom, and
WebEffective) that can be used to conduct remote studies, as well as advice on choosing
the appropriate tool for your own study. Chapter 8 discusses discount methods, including
totally homegrown techniques for the adventurous.
Chapter 9 presents seven case studies of remote research conducted with between 24-300
users with a range of tools.
Throughout the book, specific examples illustrate concepts and methods. The authors
provide detailed instructions for using Microsoft Excel to calculate appropriate averages and
confidence intervals. There is also advice on dealing with data gathered from open-ended
questions (when simple numerical analysis is not adequate).
The authors describe how to identify and deal with data from flat-linersparticipants who
complete studies as quickly as possible to obtain the associated incentive.
Its a real pleasure to encounter a book that not only takes the reader on a journey through
the rich possibilities of technique, but does so in a manner that is clear, readable, and
accessible. I was particularly pleased with the simple explanations of statistical techniques,
which are so often presented as incomprehensible.
If youre interested in any of the following questions, you can look to this book for practical
and effective answers:

Should you conduct a between-subjects or within-subject study?

What variables do you need to consider?
How can you deal with outliers?
How can you calculate and display confidence intervals?

The book does not shy away from the difficulties involved in conducting remote research.
For example, if you want click-stream data, it may be necessary to have participants install
or allow a plug-in, which may mean you cant test with so-called novice users.
If I were to complain, it would be about the need for a chapter specifically on conducting
studies on mobile devicesan area that is ripe for a similarly detailed how-to guide.
Whether youve conducted remote studies in the past and want to extend your capability
and knowledge, or you are a complete newcomer, this excellent book is a necessary
companion on your journey from the lab into the world outside. You will refer to it often, and
it will alert you to opportunities and dangers. What more could you ask of a book?

Topics: Remote
Testing, Usability
Testing, UX
Published in: June, 2011 in Design for Social Change


Gaffney, G. (2011). Book Review: Of Testing and Techniques. User Experience Magazine,
Retrieved from

UX Storytelling (Book Review)

by Aaron Marcus
A review of Storytelling for User Experience by Whitney Quesenbery & Kevin Brooks and UX
Storytellers: Connecting the Dots Edited by Jan Jursa, Stephen Kver, & Jutta Grnewald.
A [Read More]
Aaron Marcus

A review of Storytelling for User Experience: Crafting Stories for Better Design
Edited by Jan Jursa, Stephen Kver, & Jutta Grnewald,

Storytelling is one of our primary communication skills as human beings. We have sat in
front of prehistoric campfires and modern-day e-books, absorbing with interest and
amazement the wisdom, wit, humor, and sadness described, soaking up facts, concepts,
and emotions. Little wonder that two recent books with different premises both focus on
storytelling in relation to the topic of user experience
The theme of UPAs 2006 conference was Usability Through Storytelling. The conference
announcement stated: Observing and analyzing users and their tasks creates stories that
will bring the user community alive in the minds of others. Kevin Brooks, a researcher at
Motorola Labs and a professional storyteller, was the closing plenary speaker. He has
teamed up with Whitney Quesenbery to write a book about how to use storytelling in the
development of usable, useful, and engaging products and services.

Each of us has faced the need to explain to ones own team, or others, what we are doing
and why. We all use stories to inform, describe, persuade, explore, and inspire. Our stories
help us better understand our users, learn about their objectives and goals, explain the
results of our research, and demonstrate our design ideas. Facts, concepts, and emotions
together help us communicate ideas effectively in order to get people on the same page
and to achieve buy-in for our objectives. Storytelling for User Experience sets forth all the
key principles of practice in a succinct, compelling narrative.
The book is divided into three parts:
1. Explaining why stories can be useful and why they work, including ethical considerations
when using stories about real people.
2. A review of the user experience development process, showing how stories can help
each step, from research to evaluation.
3. Detailed writing and use issues, including selecting the correct audience, ingredients
(perspective, character, context, imagery, and language), framework (structure and plot),
and medium (oral, written, visual, performance, mixed-media).
To its credit, the book is written and laid out in a readable, thick, chunky format, like
delicious peanut butter. You can dive in almost anywhere and find guidelines, citations to
further useful information, and examples that help you see the point and understand what
the principles mean in practice. My only minor lament is the scarce use of visuals that might
have enhanced the text; but then the books orientation is more toward verbal storytelling
than visual. That quibble aside, I applaud its reference to Scott McClouds Understanding
Comics, and the graphics it does include in its visual storytelling section.
All in all, this is a very useful guide for what most professionals sense they do frequently.
Here is professional expertise and experience set forth clearly to help you understand more
and do better on your next project.
And now, for something related but completely different. Jan Jursa, Stephen Kver, and
Jutta Grnewald have put together a collection of the reminiscences, horror stories, comical
recountings, and insightful memoirs of approximately fifty professionals from around the
world. As Jursa describes it in the book, UX masterminds, authors, and big thinkers tell
entertaining stories about user experience, information architecture, and usability. One can
easily view the authors list, select well-known names or lesser known figures, and spend a
few minutes, or hours, within their minds (full disclosure, I am one of the contributors).
In three loosely convened chapters you can find just about anything and everything, from
the UX development process, tools, how to deal with clients, life in agencies, and
descriptions of projects, to the proverbial sex, drugs, and rock-and-roll. The book is an
informative, entertaining mish-mash and substantive contribution of the authors, more than
just the anecdotal snippets you might have caught part of from some previous conference
or social situation.

The texts are more than just cocktail party stories, and far from academic analyses of
challenges encountered and, perhaps, solved. Admittedly, the writing styles, structure,
pacing, and detail vary. Thankfully, an eight-page index allows the reader to search for
topics of interest and to find references that may involve several storytellers. Nevertheless,
professionals of every kind in the UX-related fields are certain to find valuable nuggets and
aha! moments in reading through this marvelous and impressive collection of stories.

Topics: Storytelling
Published in: March, 2011 in Children & Technology
Marcus, A. (2011). UX Storytelling (Book Review). User Experience Magazine, 10(1).
Retrieved from

Book Review: Dos and Donts of Information Graphics

by Aaron Marcus
A review of The Wall Street Guide to Information Graphics: The Do's and Don'ts of Presenting
Data, Facts, and Figures by Dona M. Wong. Guide to creating information graphics that are
usable, useful, and appealing, especially in the business and advertising world. [Read More]
Aaron Marcus

A review of
The Wall Street Journal Guide to Information Graphics: The Dos and Donts of Presenting
Data, Facts, and Figures
By Dona M. Wong
W.W. Norton and Company, 2010
another guide appears providing assistance to both new and experienced
professional communicators regarding information graphics. Were it not for the everincreasing amount, if not quality, of information graphics communicated via the Internet, as
well as on paper and in other media, one might think that what we have published already is
sufficient. Unfortunately, many of the older, high-quality guides are no longer available, and
others of merit that are still available seem, regrettably, to have fallen by the wayside.
One of the newer and better contributions is Dona Wongs The Wall Street Journal Guide to
Information Graphics. Her credentials include the patronage of The Wall Street Journal,
where she served as the graphics director beginning in 2001, her earlier career at The New
York Times, and her graduate education in graphic design at Yale University. Her expertise
is evident upon first looking at the book, and confirmed by closer inspection.
The book is, in fact, a practical, brief, illustrated chart-design workshop delivered in book
format. Wong states her objectives clearly from the beginning. Readers will learn:
Every few years,

How to choose the best chart that fits the data

How to communicate most effectively with decision makers when one has only a few
minutes of their time
How to chart currency fluctuations that affect global business
How to use color effectively
How to make a chart appealing, even if only in black-and-white
Just flipping through the pages reveals good thinking and good visual design at work. The
pages are inviting and filled with many easily demonstrated examples of what to do and
what not to do in chart design; each example is provided with a graphical equivalent of a
thumbs up or a thumbs down in the form of upward- or downward-pointing arrows. Each
chapter has a short, clever title, like Chart Smart, Tricky Situations, and Ready
Reference. Each chapter, in turn, has clear, detailed sections and subsections, with
engaging titles, like the Pies section, which contains Slicing and dicing.
This book seems designed for both the skimmer and the deep diver, combining general
introductory paragraphs with sufficient details to satisfy the designer looking for practical
details, such as, It is most effective to place the largest segment [of a pie chart] at 12
oclock on the right to emphasize its importance, or typographical emphasis pointers
about not using bold numbers for the scales of charts, and not setting type at angles in
order to fit text along a charts bottom or sides.
Despite the many visual examples, only black, white, gray, and an orangey-brown are used
to demonstrate most principles and techniques. I would rather have seen a traditional
Venetian or Chinese red, but the overall color palette is restrained and conducive to the
clear contemplation of information, not to rhetorical persuasion as is sometimes evident in
the meaningless multicolored charts so favored by advertisements for software or hardware
The one serious quibble I have is with the color chapter. On page 44, in the color
subsection entitled Coloring for the color blind, the author states, According to the
National Institutes of Health, about one-in-ten men have some form of color blindness. In
my graphic design education, I was taught to refer to the challenge of color-deficient
viewers, because very few people have a complete absence of the ability to see color. Most
people with some malfunctioning of the color-sensitive cones in the retina are color-deficient
viewers. The ratio stated is also mildly unnerving; my reading in decades past taught me
that about one-in-twelve western males has color-deficient viewing.
In looking over the books other numerous statements and examples, I find it in general agreement with
what I understand to be the recommended practice of information designers and visualizers worldwide,
who believe that information graphics should be usable, useful, and appealing, and who place great
emphasis on the usability and usefulness aspects of information graphics. I do not hesitate to
recommend the book as a worthy contribution to the field. I hope many people, especially in the
business world and the advertisers of information technology software and hardware, will be influenced
by The Wall Street Journalpedigree to purchase and learn from this volume.

Topics: Graphics, Information

Published in: November, 2010 in Communication and UX


Marcus, A. (2010). Book Review: Dos and Donts of Information Graphics. User Experience
Retrieved from

Shaker Design: Out of this World (Book Review)

by Aaron Marcus
A review of several books on the Shakers, noting the ways in which they pioneered what we
would call today user-centered design. [Read More]
Aaron Marcus

A review of
Shaker Design: Out of This World Edited by Jean M. Burks
The Shakers: Hands to Work, Hearts to God by Amy Stechler Burns and Ken Burns
The Art of the Shakers by Michael Horsham
The Shaker Image by Elmer R. Pearson and Julia Neal
Shaker Design by June Sprigg

Some usability and user-experience professionals may lament the plethora of unaware or
uncaring managers, marketers, engineers, executives, journalists, even users. Would that
we were enmeshed in a society that valued more universally high achievements of product
design that delivered usability, usefulness, and appeal. Oh, it would be heaven!
But wait, there was actually a society that valued exactly these characteristics in the
products it produced: the Shakers. The Shakers are famous for their simple, clean
buildings, furniture, clothing, and artifacts. What is most compelling for the usability/user
experience professional communities, is that their implements, furniture, and products were
extremely well made, modern in their design simplicity, of harmonious proportions,
beautiful to behold, and easy to use. They had no schools of design and no professional

usability experts in user-experience design, evaluation, or strategy. How did they

accomplish their achievements?
For those not familiar with this group, it would be an eye-opening experience to read one or
more of the books I have assembled for your consideration. Some of them are old, one is
quite recent. I shall focus on the most recent and easily available book,Shaker Design: Out
of this World edited by Burks. These two volumes are visually exuberant, offering large, fullcolor photos of some of the most outstanding examples of Shaker design. The Burns
book, The Shakers: Hands to Work, Hearts to God, produced after the 1984 film
documentary of the same name, provides more history, photos of notables of the Society,
and some architectural photos. The Pearson and Neal book, The Shaker Image, primarily
an historical analysis, shows only black-and-white photos or people and architecture. The
Horsham book, The Art of the Shakers, while providing some history, divides its color
figures among objects, architecture, and people.
Burks notes that the Shakers embraced order, structure, and hierarchy. Order permeated
their daily rituals and the daily objects by which they ate, slept, cooked, and secured food.
They created a clear and functional hierarchical structure to administer to all of their
spiritual, domestic, and commercial needs.
In their buildings, they believed in proper ventilation, bathing, and sanitation. For example, a
specific design of exterior windows allowed the insertion of a strip of wood to promote air
circulation. Infirmaries were well stocked with medicine and equipment. Their progressive
healthcare practices led to their surviving much longer than their outer-world
contemporaries. One mid-nineteenth century commentator on the Shakers wrote that they
were strict utilitarians; their first question was: would it be useful? A noteworthy testimony,
indeed, to a society that promoted usability and usefulness.
The Shakers also encouraged progress. They were quick to adopt new techniques and
mechanisms to the manufacture of their own products and those they sold to the (outer)
world to earn money. Today, one of the last active communities sells its herbs on the
The Shakers were always searching for ways to simplify their lives and to streamline their
workflow. They promoted gender equality in leadership and responsibility, as well as
promoting racial equality, pacifism, and condemnation of capital punishment, all radical
innovations for the time. They were inventive and shared, for the most part freely, their
inventions with the world. The were the first to invent and, in some cases patent, wrinkleresistant fabric, condensed milk, a water-powered washing machine, and some believe, the
circular saw.
As Burks notes, they took the reality of human behavior into consideration when making
design decisions. They pioneered what we would call today user-centered design. Today
we would call them innovative product designers, yet with a difference. For them, work and
worship were inseparable; work was a form of worship. This approach may seem strange

and distant to people today, but the quality of their designs, their fit to both earlier times, as
well as to ours, gives us pause to consider what we do, and why. There are many lessons
to be learned from Shaker creativity, innovation, usability, usefulness, and appeal. I would
strongly recommend taking a look at what they accomplished, and how.

Topics: Design
Published in: August, 2010 in Eyetracking
Marcus, A. (2010). Shaker Design: Out of this World (Book Review). User Experience
Retrieved from

Book Review: Providing Access for All

by Aaron Marcus
This compendium provides intellectual tools for those active in changing the world by making
products and services more available to all who could benefit from them. [Read More]
Aaron Marcus

A review of
The Universal Access Handbook
Edited by Constantine Stephanidis
CRC Press: 2009

In less than a decade, concern for designing products and services for the less able, the
elderly, and other non-typical users, has gone from a peripheral issue on the agenda of
usability and user-experience conferencesand awareness of professionalsto a core
concern. In part, this change is due to the natural aging of developers and users who must
come to terms with their diminished capabilities. A decade ago, it was known that Japan
would, within a few decades, have the largest percentage of old people of any nation.
Universal access conferences held in that country already displayed strong corporate
support for products designed for those with visual, auditory, and mobility challenges. In the
USA, the government required government websites to conform to basic website
Consequently, publications on universal access began to appear for UX professionals.
Typical examples are Thatcher et al.s Constructing Accessible Web Sites (2002) and
Shawn Lawton Henrys Just Ask: Integrating Accessibility Throughout Design (2007). While

these very books have helped to increase awareness and educate UX professionals, the
industry has lacked a comprehensive treatment of the subject in print. That general
reference was provided by Constantine Stephanidis, who for years has championed the
Universal Access or User Interfaces for All movement for many years. His first
publication User Interfaces for All: Concepts, Methods, and Tools (2001) was the first
attempt to devote a major publication to a comprehensive and multidisciplinary approach to
all human-computer interaction and communication technologies.
The current version of that publication, The Universal Access Handbook (UAH) (2009),
continues the original objectives in a more massive and complete treatment. The nine parts
of this handbook address what constitute, for the editor, all major dimensions of universal
access, including:
Historical roots of universal access
Current perspectives and trends
Implications for development lifecycle of products and services
Implications for user-interface architectures
Support tools for development of universally accessible products
Examples, case studies, and best practices
Future perspectives, especially with regard to universal access in ambient-intelligence
Within this grand schema (including ninety-six contributors and forty-eight reviewers) one
finds in this massive tome what one might expect: general principles as well as details,
thoroughness, extensive references, and an understandably slight variance of writing tone.
However, it is to the credit of the editor and his twenty-one member advisory board that a
fairly constant and rigorous high level quality is maintained throughout (full disclosure: the
author of this review served as a reviewer, contributor, and advisory board member for this
In the scope of this short review, it is impossible to treat in detail the many topics covered in
the sixty-one chapters of the UAH. What one can say is that a twenty-two page index
serves as a reasonable jumping off point for the reader in search of a specific topic. For
those interested in a more prose-oriented approach, each chapter is very clearly organized
by easily skimmed titles and subtitles, in order to find the specific content that might be of
interest to the reader seeking a reference or training manual. The only concerns one might
have is the minimal graphic design given to the text page design, the modest amount of
illustration, and the non-sequential page numbers (they are linked to each chapter). Overall,
these conditions create a somewhat academic and dry appearance, which may be quite
desirable, even necessary, for some readers, but may leave others who desire a more
visual or new generation approach slightly unsatisfied.
To its credit, the UAH touches upon a number of non-technology issues in its closing
sections. For example, contributions discuss policy and legislation issues as a framework
for accessibility, the creation and maintenance of standards and guidelines, the
management of design-for-all programs, security and privacy issues, and what constitutes
best practices.

Perhaps the only topic lacking here is a political action manual for how to convince the
world (legislators, politicians, executives, and professionals) to promote, educate, and
persuade key stakeholders to make universal access even more central to the development
of all products and services.
At the very least, which is to say a lot, this compendium provides an outstanding repertoire
of vetted, comprehensive, up-to-date theoretical and practical knowledge that provides
intellectual tools for those who are, or will be, active in changing the world by making its
products and services more available to all who could benefit from them

Topics: Accessibility
Published in: June, 2010 in Usable Accessibility
Marcus, A. (2010). Book Review: Providing Access for All. User Experience Magazine, 9(2).
Retrieved from

Book Review: Design Problems in Book Form

by Joe Bugental
This book was written for everyone, about everything, and it covers a wide range of topics but is
skimpy on details and specific information. [Read More]
Joe Bugental

Design is the Problem: The Future of Design Must be Sustainable

Rosenfeld Media, 2009
Nathan Shedroff tells us in the first few pages of Design Is the Problem that his book was
written for the designer in all of ushelpful for engineers, managers, students, and anyone
who wants to build a better, more sustainable world. He announces his topic, design that
is about systems solutions, intent, appropriate and knowledgeable integration of people,
planet, and profit, and the design that, above all, cares about customers as people and not
merely consumers. In short, its for everyone, and its about everything.
As a college freshman, I imagined a fantasy project in which everything I knew could be
organized and categorized taxonomically. I even went so far as to begin outlining the toplevel headings and some of the secondary subheads, but I stopped short of actually filling in
any concrete knowledge. Perhaps I had looked into too many encyclopedias.
Now Nathan Shedroff has completed my fantasy project. The result is a distracting mixture
of sweeping generalizations and occasional fine-grained details. He writes four pages to
explain usability, including accessibility, and another four to explain the paper vs. plastic
bag conundrum. To his credit, there are references throughout the book to usability or user
experience, but there is no further development of the labels.

You have to wonder what source material Shedroff was working from. There are no end
notes to support his claims and only occasional footnotes, often merely citing a URL. More
typical is his statement: Again, I havent seen definitive proof of this yet, but my instinct
says there is a pattern here.
Sidebars and bulleted lists abound. Page 113 contains two lists: The Five Levels of
Significance from Meaning/Reality to Performance/Features, echoing the diagram on
page 112; and The 15 Core Meanings in alphabetical order from Accomplishment to
Wonder. There is no specific discussion of these terms.
To be sure, there are some nuggets that are at least as entertaining as they are useful. The
of transmaterialization turning
andinformationalization, sending the recipe, are particularly disarming. Car-sharing
services are an example of the former, and open-source design is an example of the latter.
The section on recycling and disassembly of discarded products contains some basic
information that was new and interesting to me. The chapter Declaring Results provides a
detailed survey of both the challenges and the current solutions to the problem of rating
corporate sustainability efforts and claims.
More often, Nathan leaves us hanging. He proposes a distinction between a fad and a
trend, discusses fads for the rest of the paragraph, but forgets to devote any words to
trends. User interface designers will love his injunction to choose metaphors that wont get
old quickly (or dont use them at all)its the shortest of three bullet points on designing for
durability. Too often, Nathan neglects to tell us how to.
Nathans copy editor lets him down occasionally, allowing SIM cards (SIMMs) and
memory to stand as distinct items in one list, confusing proceeding with preceding on
another page. The publishers, however, have given Nathan a gorgeous printed format with
many pages of full-bleed color, often blank, using purple to define major sections and green
for chapters. Although its never specified, one hopes they used soy-based inks. The book
is also downloadable as a PDF, and there are websites and an RSS feed available by
One possible use for the book tantalizes: take a large, cross-functional team and turn it into
a book club. Then assign different portions of the book to appropriate team members who
must read and do web searches to fill in all the how-to blanks in their respective portions.
This book should have been either narrower in its focus or many pages longer. Like an
encyclopedia, it covers a wide range of topics, but encyclopedias get down to details and
specific information in the short sections under the abstract headings. Design Is the
Problem usually does not.

Topics: Sustainability
Published in: November, 2009 in Sustainable Design

Bugental, J. (2009). Book Review: Design Problems in Book Form. User Experience
Retrieved from

Deal Them Again: Card Sorting Revisited (Book Review)

by Gerry Gaffney
A whole book on card sorting? This book is replete with solid advice, clearly written and
illustrated, and well supported by case studies and examples. [Read More]
Gerry Gaffney

Card Sorting: Designing Usable Categories

Rosenfeld Media; 2009
A whole book on card sorting? Perhaps others shared my initial surprise when they learned
that Donna Spencer was planning a whole book on the topic. After all, whats to know? Get
a few index cards, print things on them, and have representative users (or domain experts)
sort them into meaningful categories. The author obviously heard the same comment from
others, as Chapter 1 opens with the same question: A whole book on card sorting?
Spencer allayed any skepticism I had about how one might fill such a book with solid
content. This book is replete with solid advice, clearly written and illustrated, and well
supported by case studies and examples.
Chapter 1 introduces card sorting, but also alerts the reader to the availability of
complementary, and sometimes more appropriate, user research activities.
Chapter 2 is a succinct exploration of the ways in which information can be categorized,
organized, and classified. Without avoiding underlying concepts such as centrality and the
classical view of categorization, Spencer manages to explore these in a way that is
practical, simple, and well illustrated. The chapter concludes with a brief discussion of the
fact that coming up with a perfect categorization scheme is an unachievable goal, despite

occasional client expectations that information architects should be able to do things in the
right way.
Chapter 3 is a discussion on defining the need to conduct a card sort. I found this to be
rather light and unsatisfyingparticularly as this is an area where newcomers may need
significant assistance.
The following chapters jump into the practicalitieswhether and when to use open or
closed card sorting (including explanations of each), whether to use individuals or teams
(Spencer prefers teams), how to locate, select, and name content, and how to choose
Spencer discusses the use of software tools for card sorting, although she makes it clear
that her preference is to use physical cards.
Chapter 8 is a hands-on tour through the practicalities of preparing for, and executing, a
card-sorting session, and the following two chapters discuss how to manage and analyze
the material collected during the session. Beginning with instructions and examples on how
to enter data into a spreadsheet, Spencer then covers cluster analysis and multidimensional
scaling. This part of the book gives the impression that while the material is included in the
interest of completeness, it is not the authors own preferred approach to analysis, and
indeed, she cautions that statistical analysis, can produce such nice outputs that it is easy
to get drawn into a simple answer and forget about the underlying reason for the output.
This sentiment is also echoed towards the conclusion of the book, in the exhortation: Dont
rely on a technique to do your thinking.
An appendix entitled Documentation was extremely light on detail, but did suggest that
example reports were available on the publishers website (
although, ironically, I could not find them. (The author tells me they should be online by the
time this review is in print.)
I felt the index was, perhaps, not comprehensive. I was certain I had come across a
reference to facets (surely I did?) but word facet does not appear in the index.
Overall, the book is easy reading, and will be of benefit both to those who are new to the
card sorting (who will find useful step-by-step guidance and straightforward advice) and to
experienced practitioners who all too often fail (if I am any example) to question and reevaluate the practices that they feel they know thoroughly. For example, the statement that
individuals can handle more cards than groups surprised me, although on reflection it
confirms my own experiences.
I did find myself not entirely in agreement with the author on some points, and at times
found her advice overly prescriptive. For example, the instruction not to mix function and
content in a card sort is one that I would dispute, although her underlying concern was a
valid one.

Purists may feel that the books is not supported by sufficient theory or supporting
references, but given the strong practitioner focus, I did not find this to be a weakness.
The comprehensive use of real-life case studies to illustrate concepts and practices and the
frank admissions of instances where the author (and others) got it wrong, provide a way to
learn that is almost as good as making ones own mistakes.
Minor quibbles aside, this book is a must-read for anyone who uses, or intends to use, card
Use the code UXMAG for a 15 percent discount on this book or any other item

Topics: User
Published in: September, 2009 in Content & Context


Gaffney, G. (2009). Deal Them Again: Card Sorting Revisited (Book Review). User
Retrieved from

The Classy Classic: Designing the User Interface (Book


by Aaron Marcus
This updated edition of a text about designing user-interfaces is testament to the evolution of
these and other related topics the past two decades. [Read More]
Aaron Marcus

Designing the User Interface: Strategies for Effective Human-Computer Interaction, Fifth
By Ben Shneiderman and Catherine Plaisant, with contributing authors Maxine S. Cohen
and Steven M. Jacobs
(Addison Wesley, 2009)
Reviewing Ben Shneidermans and Catherine Plaisants most recent version of the classic
text about designing user-interfaces is a daunting, but rewarding challenge. Usually, it takes
about three times to get anything complex right. I have in my library at least two or three
versions of the book now. In comparison to the second edition (1992), the latest incarnation
uses many more color photos, much more visual enhancement of chapters, summary tables
of contents (in addition to the longer, completed table of contents), and other techniques of
modern book design to convey a contemporary feel. The book also comes with a pre-paid,
six-month access to the books companion website. The book is also contemporary in
evolving a web-based solution to new content and to readers continuing service fees to
obtain additional information.
Looking through two editions separated by more than eighteen years, one is struck by the
evolution of user-interface planning, research, analysis, evaluation, documentation,

implementation, training, and maintenanceas well as designin the past two decades.
The book itself is a thorough time-capsule of the field, incorporating the latest philosophies,
principals, methods, and techniques as best the authors and we understand them. Gone
are references to video disks and specification methods like user-action notation. For this
new generation of readers, the book references blogs, the iPhone, social networks, tag
clouds, Twitter, and YouTube.
At the beginning of the book, the authors offer eight ways of using the book, and specific
chapter sequences for readers coming from such disciplines as computer science (its core
audience), psychology and sociology, business and information systems, technical writing,
and graphic design.
In almost every topic that it tackles, the text summarizes the issues effectively and provides
specific details that are often found in more narrow-focus guidebooks.
In later chapters, the authors treat more generally large-scope topics, like information
visualization. Here it becomes impossible to provide extensive detailed design guidelines;
however, intriguing examples illustrate different approaches. Again, it becomes impossible
in a printed book to constantly update the images. Nevertheless, the images are succinct,
appropriate, well-selected supplements to the clear descriptions and explanations.
The references have been updated, but to their credit, the authors actually retain a few
choice morsels reaching back as far as the late 1980s, suggesting that they recognize the
other levels of readership: the Baby Boomers, GenXers, and the Millennials who will all be
looking at this text, seeking solutions for the widest and wildest challenges of user-interface
design in the coming decade.
In keeping with the user-centered design approach promoted by the book, I asked two
younger (by thirty or forty years) associates what they thought of the new book. They
represent the newcomers to the field, who may not be aware of the full range and depth of
user-interface development, practice, and theory over the past sixty years throughout the
One remarked: Upon reading through the contents, what I found striking was the language
in which the book was written. Right from the start, it was very clear, concise, and easy to
read. As a novice of user-interface design, I expected to be bombarded with technical
jargon that I wouldnt understand, but, surprisingly, the authors had none of that. Also, the
visuals played a significant part in furthering my understanding of the already readable
The other commented, Overall, the book was a good introduction to the meaning and
importance of user-interface design. However, I would like to have seen some definitions of
terms, such as user experience, user interface, and perhaps a brief history of userexperience design.

Of note is the sparse reference to user-experience (UX) concepts, although they are
covered as usability engineering and user-interface architecture concepts and are
mentioned explicitly a few times.
Clearly, one cannot be all things to all people; the second comment touched on one or two
items that, in my opinion, might have been given a little more space. However, these are
quibbles. The book maintains its legendary value as an indispensable, readable,
comprehensive, high-quality treatment of a still bustling, fast-growing, worldwide field
bursting with enthusiasm, energy, and innovation. This book presents both a birds eye view
and a ground-level view of the terrain.

Topics: Interface
design, User-centered
Published in: September, 2009 in Content & Context


Marcus, A. (2009). The Classy Classic: Designing the User Interface (Book Review). User
Retrieved from

Formally Speaking: Two Guidebooks about Designing


by Aaron Marcus
Two books about designing forms, similar in subject matter but contain different approaches to
defining problems, providing solutions, and presenting their approach in book design
storytelling. [Read More]
Aaron Marcus

Forms that Work: Designing Web Forms for Usability

By Caroline Jarrett & Gerry Gaffney
Morgan Kaufman, 2009
Web Form Design
By Luke Wroblewski
Rosenfeld Media, 2008
Designing forms, i.e., complex layouts of text, graphics, and interactive controls, has been
given little attention, despite the contribution that forms make: they help us to access data,
collect and present information,organize knowledge, and facilitate decision-making.
Fortunately, two very good books are devoted to interactive forms design for the Web.
One is Caroline Jarrett and Gerry Gaffneys Forms that Work: Designing Web Forms for
Usability (FTW). The other is Luke Wroblewskis Web Form Design (WFD). Both books
consider almost all two-dimensional typographic or verbi-visual arrangements as forms, and
would call even Googles homepage a form (which one must admit it technically is), even
though it is far removed from the complexity of federal income tax forms.

The two books are similar in their basic subject matter but take different approaches to
defining the problems, providing solutions, and, most notably, to presenting their approach
in their book design storytelling.
One fundamental difference is how each frames the process of thinking about what it
means to design good forms and the user experience of forms. WFD focuses on the artifact,
the details, and how to construct the design so that is usable, useful, and appealing. If one
has a good understanding of usability and user-experience design, as well as forms, then
one can find here very valuable guidance on the design elements and their combinations
and patterns that provide assistance for even the most challenging circumstances. FTW, on
the other hand, begins with framing questions about what using forms should accomplish as
a subset of all user-interface planning, research, analysis, and eventually, design. The
books discussion of process, personas, testing (terms missing in WFDs index), and trust,
all point to additional layers of conceptual analysis and modeling that have benefits for
general user analysis and business analysis. One might sum up the two world views by
calling FTW more Apollonian (more verbal, detailed, technical, and usability-oriented) and
WFD more Dionysian (more visual, artifact-, and appeal-oriented). The differences in the
two books are apparent just from looking at each table of contents (ToC). FTW has 189
entries, while WFD has 93. If I didnt miscount, this is essentially a 2:1 difference in detail.
FTWs ToC gives the impression of being a definitive, detailed account, almost like an
instruction manual, of all relevant topics and subtopics: from the introductory What is a
Form? to the telling conclusion Testing (The Best Bit). WFDs ToC, on the other hand, is
laconic, making the entries brief labels of the topics being discussed. No further information
appears about the content within each topic, but when the label says Field Lengths,
presumably there is not that much hierarchical complexity below. One noticeable structure
of the book is that each chapter presents its informative content and then concludes with a
bullet list called Best Practices, which summarizes the most salient pieces of advice in the
chapter. This approach is very practical for those with little time to read through either
books pages, those seeking a quick check of what I learned or know, or those wanting a
reminder when returning to the book to refresh their understanding.
In general, the extent of content detail, the examples, and the illustrations, are quite
successful in both books. Both books adopt a sometimes conversational approach to what
you might do or should do and what we think is better. Both use frequent illustrations in
color. WFD is notable for having colored call-outs that show likely user thoughts or
responses: favorable (green smiley face), negative (red unhappy face), and warning (yellow
neutral face). Although these signs clutter the layout, they effectively point to key design
issues and often, but not always, imply appropriate solutions.
In general, the books are similar in content; there seem to be few places in which
comparable advice differs substantially. They do differ in their approach to storytelling,
however, which begins in the TOCs. Considering the many large empty pages of color in

WFD as chapter indicators or the end of chapters, FTW probably has more actual content,
but what WFD shows is presented in a more readable, design-oriented appearance. If you
want a more usability-oriented, user-testing, user-centered design approach, youll probably
be drawn to FTW. If you are sensitive to and desire more visual design quality and a more
elegant presentation of the contents, then youll be more at home in WFD.

Topics: Design, Forms

Published in: June, 2009 in Forms
Marcus, A. (2009). Formally Speaking: Two Guidebooks about Designing Forms. User
Retrieved from

More than Skin Deep (Book Review)

by Aaron Marcus
This books focus on accessibility during the entire user-centered design process integrates
accessibility throughout product development and provides readers with a readable introduction
to incorporating these concerns into daily professional practice. [Read More]
Aaron Marcus

Just Ask: Integrating Accessibility Throughout Design

Shawn Lawton Henry, 2007
Universal access, universal design, and accessibility are finally getting the attention they
deserve. Centers for the professional disciplines of universal analysis and design have
emerged worldwide. For example, Japan has the Human-Centered Design Network and the
International Association for Universal Design , both of which focus on issues of universal
access. Europe and North America have similar organizations. Major corporations, such as
Fujitsu, IBM, and Microsoft, have all published guidelines. Fujitsus extensive guidelines for
web design and color selection tools are oriented to universal design. IBMs elaborate
guidelines contain introductions to the subject and thorough treatments intended for

software developers (but apparently not updated since 2004). Microsoft offers a comparable
set of guidelines on the Internet, and rates the importance of the guidelines and the
disabilities that are affected, as well as providing a foundation for testing software. (The
references in the sidebar will lead the reader to these and other sources of information.)
With all of these copious resources, do we need yet another book on the subject? The
answer is definitely yes! Shawn Lawton Henry has provided us with a book that is readable,
usable, useful, and engaging for practitioners in the usability analysis, user-interface and
interaction design, and user-experience professions. First of all, lets face facts: universal
design and universal access are not on the tip of the tongue for the general public and even
among many research and development professionals. Second, many of the guideline
resources are oriented to software developers, not user experience professionals. Third, the
integrated software methods and software engineering resources dont yet treat the subject
thoroughly. And fourth, until we see published a (ital)Universal Access and User-Centered
Design for Dummies book in that ubiquitous series, we need cogent, thorough, readable
summaries like (ital)Just Ask to guide us through the terminology, process, and techniques.
The book seems to accomplish this objective. The author acknowledges that the book is
oriented to electronic, computer-based information technology; for example, software-,
hardware-, web-, and mobile-device-based products and services. Note that the book does
not address compliance with legal or other specific accessibility standards. There are other
specialized resources for these topics in the items cited in the references to this review.
Shawn Lawton Henrys book even has two Tables of Contents: a summary for skimmers,
and a detailed version. A reader can sense immediately that the author covers the essence
of user-centered design and shows how to incorporate accessibility as an objective early
and throughout the development process; in particular, how to involve people with
disabilities in a project and how to interact with them. Such a delicate subject is important in
the humane treatment of subject-matter experts to get their best possible contributions,
feedback, and, in the end, solutions. The author takes the time to discuss what one should
call their disabilities and where to find such people.
After introducing the basics, Ms. Henry covers topics that essentially are an introduction to
user-centered design, briefly listing the key attributes of such classic topics as workflow
analysis, user profiles/personas, and task scenarios. Especially helpful are user-group
example profiles that she provides for retirees and college students, each of which includes
accessibility considerations. For the example of retirees, age-related considerations include
macular degeneration, cataracts, neurological conditions, and decreased muscle mass and
bone density. The implications for design include the use of larger fonts, higher color
contrast, larger targets, and keyboard functionality that obviates the use of a mouse.
Similarly, the author provides good example detail in task scenarios for the same user
groups. For retirees, she cites the task of changing retirement account investments and
adds detailed commentary about the difficulties of reading small-sized text, finding small
targets to select, and manipulating the mouse to select items.

In later sections on accessibility evaluation tools, heuristic evaluations, design

walkthroughs, screening techniques (identifying potential accessibility barriers in
product/service design), usability testing, etc., she provides further information, resources,
and suggestions for adding accessibility considerations to what before may have been
known steps in the development process but where developers did not know what specific
accessibility issues can or should be considered.
Even without the focus on accessibility, the book is a useful review of key steps in usercentered design. Its focus on accessibility during the entire user-centered design process
not only achieves the authors stated objective of integrating accessibility throughout
product development, but provides readers with a very down-to-earth, practical, and
readable introduction to incorporating these concerns into daily professional practice, which
is where many of us would like to be in our professional lives.
other very practical
online free at


Topics: Accessibility, Usability

Published in: March, 2008 in Mandating Usability





Marcus, A. (2008). More than Skin Deep (Book Review). User Experience Magazine, 7(1).
Retrieved from

Book Review: Seeing the World through a Differently

Wired Brain

by Susan Fowler
This book contains a matter-of-fact approach to dealing with the problems and strengths of
autistic people by providing a different way of seeing the world. [Read More]
Susan Fowler

AuthorHouse, 2006
Zosia Zaks, Aspergers syndrome advocate, and a member of the International Union of
Operating Engineers Local 825, was one of my best technical communication students at
Polytechnic University in Brooklyn, New York, and is now a friend and respected colleague.
Her book, Life and Love: Positive Strategies for Autistic Adults, is an eye-opener, not just
because she so clearly describes the effect of autism on the senses, but because of her
matter-of-fact approach to dealing with the problems and strengths of autistic people.

In the introduction to the book, Zosia describes the autism spectrum, which she says
ranges from classic autism to Aspergers syndrome. In classic autism, the affected child
shows serious cognitive difficulties as well as developmental delays in walking and talking.
A high-functioning autistic person may have developmental delays and cognitive difficulties,
but can function fairly well in the non-autistic world. Engineer and author Temple Grandin
(Thinking in Pictures) is considered to be a high-functioning autistic person.
A child or adult with Aspergers syndrome, on the other hand, has no developmental delays
and often does well in school, but may be lacking social skills. Rowan Atkinsons comedic
character Mr. Bean often behaves like a person with Aspergers syndrome.
Zosias book isnt about medicine and syndromes, but about what its like to have a brain
wired differently from most other people. For example, some autistic people have trouble
changing their routines. In a recent talk, Zosia mentioned a friend whose route to work was
interrupted by a detour for road construction. He couldnt get past the detour to get to work.
He almost lost his job, she said, until someone intervened and explained the problem to his
boss, who let him work from home until the construction was finished.
Autistic individuals are often overwhelmed by their surroundings because they cant filter out
sights, smells, and sounds like neuro-typical individuals do. In Chapter 1, Coping with
Sensory Inputs, Zosia explains how autistic sensory processing works. My senses seem
to work on a quota system, she says. I only have a set amount of energy or capacity to
deal with incoming sensory informationWhat happens when [that capacity] is used up?
Basically, I cant tolerate receiving any more sensory informationI need time to calm my
nervous system. Usually, this means retreating to a quiet, dark spot where I will not be
interrupted. Even kind and gentle suggestions like Would you like some help? continue the
sensory depletion rather than helping matters. Its best to leave me aloneThis is what
autistic people call a sensory meltdown or being overstimulated (pp. 8-9).
Chapters 2 and 3, Maintaining a Home and Living on Your Own, explain in detail what
you have to do to live in your own homefor instance, setting priorities for chores, starting
with sanitation (taking the trash out weekly and making sure your kitchen is clean enough to
cook in), safety (getting the landlord to fix wires hanging out of the ceiling fan), body care
(taking regular showers), and everyday objects (organizing piles of clothes and
Zosia describes zone maps and absolute spots as a way to keep clutter under control. A
zone map is a drawing of your home divided into kitchen, bedroom, bathroom, and other
zones for which you set rulesfor example, in the Home Office Zone, her diagram says No
food! The zone map also shows absolute spots, such as a small table near the front door
where you always leave your keys (it also helps to pin up a picture of keys on the wall).

Example of a zone map: It includes applicable zone rules and on Absolute Spot for keys. 2006 by Autisim Asperger
Publishing Company

In Chapter 4, Shopping, Zosia explains that grocery shopping is so difficult that, until she
developed shopping strategies, she would often just grab whatever was nearest the cash
registers, which was usually unhealthy junk food.
However, many neuro-typicals also have trouble with supermarkets (and keys), and her
strategies might be useful for us, too. For example, to make sure that she buys the healthy
food she really wants, she brings a map of the store with the items she wants marked on
the aisles. To reduce the glare of the indoor lights, she suggests wearing dark glasses, and
to cut down on the background noise, listening to a Walkman or iPod.
Chapters 5 to 7 in Part 1, Life, address transportation and travel, healthcare, and work. For
dealing with a hospital stay: Dont forget an emergency card that states your name, your
address, and your diagnosis, and any special behaviors or sensitivities that you haveFor
example, if you are in a lot of pain, you may not be able to explain why you need to keep
your sunglasses on. The nurses may try to take off your sunglasses thinking they are
helping you. Or if rocking back and forth soothes you, this is also important information for
emergency workers to know so they do not misinterpret your behavior and falsely assume
you are on drugs, for instance (p. 125).
Part 2 of the book is about love and emotion, including topics about dating on the spectrum
(dating other autistic people), spectrum/non-spectrum relationships, keeping safe (avoiding
sexual violence, for example), gender issues, friendships, disclosing your diagnosis, and
invisibility and self-esteem in the autistic community.

This is not a poor pitiful me book. Rather, Zosia shows how autistic people learn to cope
using strength-based therapies that help them skirt their difficulties and build on their
strengths. During a recent book-tour lecture, Zosia said, Were direct and honest in our
languagewe dont understand sarcasm and dont play gamesand for that reason we
can communicate more easily across cultures. We connect with animals. Were curious and
wont stop at anything to get an answer. Were passionate about our interests and love
learning. We have robust memories and we think in pictures, which is why the supermarket
map works so well. In terms of jobs, Zosia said, were great at shipping-and-handling jobs,
organizing factories, scheduling rooms, sorting, and anything requiring visual information.
But what do Zosias experiences and ideas tell us about usable and accessible design? I
believe that they reinforce what we already know: create logical navigation strategies, avoid
flowery or metaphorical language and inside jokes, and cut down on the buzzy, smashy,
bangy stuff. However, what Zosias book does best is show us a different way of seeing the
world. Once youve looked at a hospitalor a friendshipthrough her eyes, the inexplicable
behaviors of friends or acquaintances suddenly make more sense. Also, ignoring the filters
that we use to block out most of whats around us, albeit briefly, can be a real trip, and
I do mean that in the Sixties sense of the word

Topics: Accessibility, Cognitive

Published in: November, 2007 in Usability in Healthcare


Fowler, S. (2007). Book Review: Seeing the World through a Differently Wired Brain. User
Retrieved from

What a Character! (Book Review)

by Aaron Marcus
A review of Characters of the Information and Communication Industry by Richard
Bellaver.. An amazing, tumultuous, and awe-inspiring journey that begins with Gutenberg and
continues onward to the present day, 500 years later. [Read More]
Aaron Marcus

AuthorHouse, 2006





When I started to read this 300 plus page book, I thought: What a humdrum title. What have
we got here? ASCII characters or some of the current weirdoes of our industry? What I
discovered was a wealth of historical data, technology details, and personal quirks of some
of the fabulousalmost mythicalpeople who have animated and adorned our world of
technology, computers, and communication. The amazing, tumultuous, and awe-inspiring
journey begins with Gutenberg and continues onward to the present day, 500 years later.
I must first mention that Professor Bellaver of Ball State University has forty years of
experience in telecommunications and information technology, and has served as a UPA
Board member. He candidly admits that the book is a collection of graduate papers he has
edited and embellished from a course he has taught for fifteen years. Unfortunately, this

heritage shows: from typos in the foreword of the book, the use of underlined text instead of
italics (as though a quaint throwback to typewritten student reports from the 1960s and
70s), and a writing style that is sometimes bland, resembling encyclopedia entries, with
occasional ambiguities or loose ends left unexplained. For example, Charles Babbage
produced eight children, but only three sons survived to adulthood. How many sons did he
have originally? Is the number of surviving sons important? One begins to wonder about the
quality of graduate student writing capabilities, the ability to construct cogent arguments,
and the ability to employ our languages full power to embellish structured thought. I began
to fear for this gradual degradation when I taught at Princeton University in the 1970s. This
book is a sampler from about thirty years later. Bellavers own text has much more
engaging rhetorical flourishes, as demonstrated in his foreword.
Despite these minor off-putting characteristics (which make one want to read through the
book with a red pen to mark the typos or writing-style expressions that need editing,) the
basic premise and content of the book should interest anyone who is curious about
information technology, the emergence of computers, the recent centuries of personal and
mass communication, and the personalities that have produced these far-reaching changes.
The text holds many nuggets of curious facts, uproarious oddities, technical details, and
personality quirks. The books title is indeed about character, as well as unforgettable
characters, including Blaise Pascal, who is described on page 18 (alas, anonymously) as
precocious, stubbornly persevering, a perfectionist, pugnacious to the point of bullying
ruthlessness, yet seeking to be meek and humble. Then Bellaver asks rhetorically Does
this remind you of any one in our business these days? I had to smile as I mused upon
possible resemblances. Or, in a later passage, Charles Babbage is described as
notoriously incoherent when he spoke in public. The chapters are replete with:

Detailed descriptions of technical accomplishments

Geographic/historical milieu
Spouses, parents, siblings, offspring, and other complex family relations
The seemingly random role of bets, dares, bluffs, and accidents
The psychological, legal, financial, and educational struggles of the protagonists
Occasional breakdowns in physical, emotional, and mental health
This should give you a sense for the richly textured panorama.
What emerges are underlying shared threads of struggle, perseverance, unexpected twists
of narrative, and frequent (but not certain) achievement of successful innovation through
bold initiatives. The heroes and heroines are impatient souls, sometimes too far ahead of
their times, led by potent visions of what can be, of what, for them, inevitably must be. After
Gutenberg, the book holds forth on world-stage events (but focuses primarily on European
and North American originators, most of them male, but does include women including Ada
Byron/Lady Lovelace, Grace Hopper, and Barbara Walters) such as the emergence of
printed books, the newspaper and freedom of the press, the first calculators and computers,
the first electrical devices, the telegraph and telephone, the AT&T monopoly, IBM, radio and
television, the personal computer, and eventually the Internet. In addition to numerous

factoidsthe average wage for a servant in the City of London in the early eighteenth
century was four-to-five cents per day; the first transistor radio sold by Raytheon cost $80 in
1954the story of innovation touches on many modern themes and issues: who exactly
innovates? Who benefits? Who controls? What is the role of government? What are
appropriate levels of censorship, monopolies, and intellectual property rights? How does
convergence stimulate new technology directions?
Once you begin reading a chapterany of the twenty-one in this bookyou may find it hard
to stop. Despite the occasional imperfections of scholarship, the book is an informative,
entertaining collection of biographies and narratives of technology development during the
past half-millennium. By recounting the past, the author provides much food for thought
regarding how we consider our current innovators and their likely future.

Topics: Careers
Published in: September, 2007 in Interactive & Mobile TV
Marcus, A. (2007). What a Character! (Book Review). User Experience Magazine, 6(3).
Retrieved from

Book Review: Its Show Time!

by Aaron Marcus
These guidebooks are for those who have not been exposed to the philosophy, principles, and
techniques of information design and information visualization. [Read More]
Aaron Marcus

Information Dashboard Design: The Effective Visual Communication of Data

OReilly Press, 2006
Show Me the Numbers: Designing Tables and Graphs to Enlighten
Analytics Press, 2004
Every decade, it seems, a few valiant standard-bearers for effective visual communication
arise and publish guidebooks for those who have not been exposed to the philosophy,
principles, and techniques of information design and information visualization. Stephen
Few, principal of the consulting firm Perceptual Edge, is one such standard bearer.
These two books are good introductions to that field. The older and more fundamental
is Show Me the Numbers. The publishers comments identify it as a practical and
commonsense guide that one can use in business, where a more skilled presentation of
information will help you and your business to prosper. This book seeks to assist in that
effort, and its advice is sound.
Show Me the Numbers covers the essentials of communicating, through tables and charts,
quantitative data and relationships, especially summariesa key challenge for the busy
professional. The fundamentals are presented succinctly, such as when to use tables and
charts, definitions of charting types, and even a brief history of chart-making. Standarddeviation charts, correlation charts, scatter plots, line charts, bar charts, and others all have
their moment. They are defined and demonstrated, and advice is given for their best
Few denounces the pie chart as ineffective (because it is hard to judge angular
relationships and hard to label things in a readable manner around a circle). He also notes
that 3D charts provide visual clutter without enhancing communication.
Later chapters focus on details of arrangement, labels, color, and highlighting: all of the
nuances that make for superior graphic design. The text and illustrations are simple, basic,
and clear, delivering the goods in a way that does not distract. I recommend it to all who
seek such advice.
The second book, Information Dashboard Design, takes us to the next level. Sophisticated
data mining can reveal complex relationships and provide new insights, but Stephen Few
remains skeptical about the user-friendliness of many dashboards that seek to assemble
just the right information to give people insight into key business structures and processes.
The author shows and comments on a dozen complex business-based dashboards. He
considers what makes for good visual displays: all of the techniques discussed in the first
book must now work together in an assemblage of multiple charts and tables that provide a
single view.

The challenge is daunting. Timeframes can vary enormously, from snapshots of the
moment to long historical perspectives. With no industry standard for how these items are to
be assembled and presented, it is no wonder that many are poorly done.
The second half of the book focuses on details. It covers typography, color, information
chunking, and splitting items off onto additional screens. All the techniques are described in
simple, clear, readable text, punctuated, as in his earlier book, by questions posed to the
Like many guidebooks written by others, including myself, these devote little space to
testing. Only one page is devoted to testing your designs for usability. But at least that page
is there. With the help of Fews books, you should be able to produce effective designs,
ready to be refined further by testing.

Topics: Information
Design, Information
Published in: March, 2007 in Usability Around the World


Marcus, A. (2007). Book Review: Its Show Time!. User Experience Magazine, 6(1).
Retrieved from

Book Review: What We Find Changes Who We Become

by Michele Visciola
This book claims that findability is going ambient,- all we know about helping people find
information on the Internet will help people find things in their physical environments.[Read
Michele Visciola

OReilly, 2005



Ambient Findability is the second book written by Peter Morville. His first, Information
Architecture, was co-authored with Louis Rosenfeld. While Information Architectureprovided
a basic overview of a new field of knowledge and design practices, his second book looks
far ahead in the field, trying to set new frontiers for both practitioners and academics. It is
definitely worth reading and, as it is an intense 188-page book, it might be necessary to

read it twice, perhaps more slowly, to better taste the different flavors and perspectives
suggested to the reader.
I found many interesting theses, observations, new inspirations, and reflective views. Some
of them are just confirming, I believe, the state-of-the-art of current research in the fields of
interaction design and information architecture; others are new views opening potential new
fields of investigation and even helping us to better understand the current limitations of
ideas, concepts, and cultures that characterize the intersection of usability and interaction
design today. In fact, it is more a book of vision than a book of recommendations to follow in
your work.
This book claims that findability is going ambient, which means that all we know about
helping people find information on the Internet will also be of value in helping people find
things in their physical environmentsthat is, as soon as ubiquitous computing transforms
the Web into both interface and infrastructure for an ambient internet of objects.
(Ubiquitous computing moves computation into the environment and everyday objects,
rather than having computers as distinct objects.) This very valuable observation
immediately raises a question for information designers: Can users find what they need
from wherever they are? The book sets out to answer this question.
Ambient Findability contains seven intense chapters. In the first, Lost and Found, Morville
starts from observations of our everyday lives. He shows us that we can already find our
ways with mobile devices and that we are always connected to our network of people. As
soon as the infrastructure we use to connect to others meets the digital infrastructure of our
physical environment, the histories of navigation, communication, commerce, and
information seeking converge, Morville argues.
The second and third chapters, A Brief History of Wayfinding and Information Interaction,
illustrate the new concept of ambient findability: In the authors words, Ambient findability
describes a fast emerging world where we can find anyone or anything from anywhere at
anytime. In pursuing this idea, the book reinterprets the language and the concepts of the
ubiquitous-computing paradigm and provides many new inspirations for design.
The fourth chapter is titled Intertwingled from the word used by Ted Nelson to explain
hypertext, hypermedia, and the fact that things, information, and ideas are connected in a
non-sequential way. The chapter refers to current practices that support way finding (i.e.
tagging objects with RFID and wireless technologies) on one side, and metadata-tagging on
the Web on the other. How will we Google our way through a trillion objects in motion?
asks Morville. How will we trust information? With whom will we share information in a world
where physical positions are converted into symbolic locations and, more generally,
physical data do have corresponding symbolic information? Of course, the answers to these
complex questions are left to ongoing research.
While the final chapters present some immediate answers, this chapter suggests a faith in
the changes that digital and wireless technology will bring to us. Our destination lies

shrouded in fog, but our direction is clear. We are on the yellow brick road to ambient
findability and weve got magic slippers to help us find our way. But only a few pages later,
Morville asks: Do we really want to go there? This is a question we must continue to ask as
we intertwingle ourselves into a future with existing benefits but cloudy costsOur
enthusiasm for [ubiquitous computing] will undoubtedly be tempered by reality. Our future
will be at least as messy as our present. But we will muddle through as usual, satisfying
under conditions of bounded rationality.
I find this view a bit undetermined. I believe it does not completely take the position I would
have expected from a findability evangelist. Isnt it our responsibility to envision and to
design reality? We do not need to espouse idealistic views to be able to help user-centered
innovation perspectives to take place. As a matter of fact, that is our mission. There are
already many researchers, practitioners, managers, designers, and bloggers who are
advancing proposals and views to make ubiquitous computing and innovation user-oriented.
Morville is well aware of that; he acknowledges and openly refers to them. It may be that
these words of caution are devoted to the larger community of techno-evangelists who do
not care about the impact generated by technology on everyones life.
I think I understood these words of caution better in the fifth chapter Push and Pull, which
courageously embraces search engine advertisement and search engine optimization.
Morville brings his readers into the marketing realm and connects us to the most interesting
approaches for the usability community, I believe. So, besides the influence of the
Cluetrain Manifesto (the classic view that market are conversations), you will find
intuitions like, as technology disrupts and transforms the marketplace, only those who
listen carefully will profit from this persistent disequilibrium between supply and demand.
That is great!
But all in all, I found the sixth chapter, The Sociosemantic Web, the most interesting. I
deeply agree with the author, who is skeptical about the future of the Web as the semantic
web but has a strong belief in the future of so-called folksonomies. The skepticism is
justified by the observation that hyperlinks subvert hierarchies and that the design of
shared classification systems is complex, messy, and expensive.
Unlike large standardized classification systems, folksonomies are respectful of
participatory tagging and classification systems. This is of great interest for the usability
community, which can help these peripheral and local knowledge systems gain their
legitimate role in the world and global markets. As Morville observes, things get interesting
when many people apply different tags to the same object and when many people apply the
same tag to different objects. I believe views like this balance the standardization approach
in the usability community. Globalization can be detrimental if it just means sanitization and
reduction of diversities and differences. As Morville writes in his elegant English,
Folksonomies flourish in the cornucopia of the commons without noticeable costs.

Ontologies, taxonomies, and folksonomies are not mutually exclusive, and there is a
promising future for folksonomies.
Finally the seventh chapter, Collective wise decisions closes one of the many loops which
were opened in the very first half of the book. I will quote some of the contents which I
believe are masterful:

We should proceed cautiously before placing our lives in the invisible hands of smart
What we find influences what we do.
Internet end-to-end architecture locates intelligence at the ends rather than the center,
allowing for an innovation of commons thats central with respect to applications and
And what I find most interesting: Findability is at the center of a fundamental shift in the
way we define authority, allocate trust, make decisions, and learn independently. To me,
this means that we, as a usability community, have a role in facilitating this shift. Good
practices stem from thorough observations and sound theories.

Topics: Information
Architecture, Search
Published in: November, 2006 in Word Wide Government
Visciola, M. (2006). Book Review: What We Find Changes Who We Become. User
Retrieved from