Presentation: The Lean Tech Stack

More and more organizations are following a Lean model for creating products. This model has been popularized by LeanUX and the Lean Startup movements which emphasize build-test-learn in rapid iteration.

In this talk I get into the tension between focusing too much on reuse and components and not enough on experience & experimentation. I also talk about the powerful technology stack available in the open source world that fits so well in the lean movement — I call this the Lean Tech Stack. I gave this presentation today at the Open Web Camp 2012.

The Lean Tech Stack
View more presentations from Bill Scott

Comments off

Does It Have Legs- Heuristics for Information Architecture

Great talk from Abby the IA. Fresh style, clearly expressed. Can’t wait for the poster she’s making.

Comments (2)

Examples for Functionality, Gamification, and Feedback Loops

I noticed an article on bokardo, Joshua Porter’s blog, about Functionality, Gamification, and Feedback Loops. He has some insightful comments on the Wired magazine article Harnessing the Power of Feedback Loops.

I saw a great example of gamification and feedback loops in the iPad app Kobo. Kobo is an alternative to iBook. Unlike iBook, Kobo has integrated a concept called “Reading Life” that offers awards, statistics, and images to share in my social networks

Kobo tablet screenshots- from OhGizmo

I immediately called my friend and asked her to get Kobo on her iPad so we could both use it and see who reads the fastest (a little competitive spirit going on). Then I sent a link to another friend- encouraging her to use it too. Then I bought some books and will shortly post my Bookcover on Facebook.

Compare this to Audible’s Stats (timer, achievement awards and badges), which leave me feeling under-motivated. I mean, I’ll use the app and all, but I’ll never intentionally open the Stats screens again.

Kobo and Audible are both using gamification techniques to encourage specific behaviors (buy more books). So why is Kobo getting me to change my behavior and Audible isn’t?

  1. Audible has a bug and isn’t pulling in any of my hundred of stories I’ve bought over the past few years. So the feedback loop that might encourage me to “level up” isn’t working because the data is bad (I’m not an AppNewbie).
  2. Kobo started me off with some badges already earned (good for me!), Audible has me at 0 out of 15 (lame-o).
  3. The stats in both apps stay up to date to reflect my reading/listening patterns. Audbile only has one stat, listening time, whereas Kobo offers lots of interesting information.
  4. Most importantly: Kobo tapped into not only how I read (pages per hour), but how reading is a part of my life. I’m in a book club, I share my favorite titles and authors with friends, I read out loud to my kids, my mom and I bond over books. With Kobo’s “Reading Life” I can now easily share what I’m reading with my circle of friends and family.

Please share other example of apps using gamification and feedback loops effectively, or examples of ones that failed.

Comments (4)

Interesting Moments Grid in the Wild – Zurb Bounce App

In our book and often in our talks we discuss a technique for thinking through and documenting detailed interactions in a user experience. Just arrange the interesting moments in a grid. List the “actors” (user interface elements) vertically and the events horizontally. The cells in the grid become the interesting moments.

With the classic example from the of drag and drop there are at least 96 interesting moments (6 actors X 16 events = 96 interesting moments).

BounceApp Annotation Interaction

About a month back I gave a talk at Zurb, a northern California design firm, in which I discussed this technique. On Friday I was pleasantly surprised to see they had already taken the idea and used it in a new product they announced last week — BounceApp — which was featured on TechCrunch.

Check out their article on 110 Interactions for Editing Annotations on

Nice application of the grid.

Comments (3)

28 Rich Data Visualization Tools- Sneak Peek

Look for the upcoming post (Thursday, Dec 10) in about 28 Rich Data Visualization Tools. I’ve included the first three to whet your appetite. Platform is a pure javascript application framework for creating real-time collaborative applications that run in the browser.



AnyChart is a flexible Flash based solution that allows you to create interactive and great looking flash charts.


Axiis is a Data Visualization Framework for Flex. It has been designed to be a concise, expressive, and modular framework that let developers and designers create compelling data visualization solutions.

Also, take a look at the nice window-in-window design on the saturnboy blog.

Comments (3)

Practical Prototyping Tips

I saw Todd Warfel speak in August at DELVE UI. I was so inspired by his approach that I changed the way we work. We have now moved away from large decks of wireframes and interaction notes- and embraced the 70% rule. We design 70% then build a prototype. There are a number of examples in my talk Designers vs Developers: Coming together to build the best RIAs. But the point is, if you are designing Rich Internet Applications, RIAs, prototyping is essential.

Check out Todd’s talk on prototyping:

And consider getting his new book, Prototyping: A Practitioner’s Guide to Prototyping, Rosenfeld Media, November 2009. It is full of practical advice and detailed examples, not philosophical musings. If you are like me- a busy consultant who is not a great programmer, but needs to get interactive mock-ups in front of stakeholders as fast as possible- there are a number of great ideas in here.

Comments (11)

Designing for Interesting Moments Talk

I posted this on my personal blog and according to slideshare it is the top tweeted presentation from their site today (9/20/09). Been meaning to post it here for those who don’t follow my blog. The material contains some new examples but tracks with the book’s six principles.

I recently gave this talk at Microsoft for their UX team, at the Ruby Meetup Group at the CMU campus in the bay area and most recently at the Ajax Experience in Boston. Next time I will be giving this talk is in December at the Rich Web Experience (first week of December) in Orlando, Florida.

Comments (1)

Excellent Roundup of Pattern Resources (Smashing Magazine)

Smashing Magazine Article

Smashing Magazine did an excellent roundup of pattern & screenshot gallery resources.

Check out their article 40+ Helpful Resources On User Interface Design Patterns.

One missing as of this writing is The Design of Sites book site. If you don’t have the book The Design of Sites I recommend it.

Comments off

Two Anti-Patterns: Geek Speak & Needless Fanfare

Over on my other blog (looksgoodworkswell) I posted two examples of Anti-Patterns that relate to our book.

The first is Geek Speak. Presenting the user with jargon they will not understand (usually when something goes wrong deep in the bowels of the software). This example is from Facebook.

facebook-database-error (by Designing Web Interfaces)

The second is an example of Needless Fanfare (which we write about in the book). Unnecessary animation/transitions that instead of reinforcing communication needlessly distract from the job at hand. Turbo Tax weighs in with their version of the Biggest Loser scale when they recalculate your taxes on the fly.

Needless Fanfare - Turbo Tax Suspenseful Recalculation (SloMo) Read the full discussion on Geek Speak and Needless Fanfare over on my blog.

Comments (10)

6 Tips for a Great Flex UX: Part 5

By Theresa Neil

Since the book focuses on rich interactions, I want to spend some time on Adobe Flex/AIR.

These tips are based on the best Flex resources I have found, and how you can use them to craft a great user experience. This is part 5 of 6:

* Play With It: 10 Explorers & Galleries
* Learn From the Best: 10 Great Flex Apps
* Learn From the Rest: 10 Great RIAs
* Stock Your Toolbox: 40+ Custom Flex Controls
* Review Usability Best Practices
* Avoid Common Mistakes: 10 Anti-Patterns

Review Usability Best Practices

Don’t forget the usability basics. Jakob Nielsen’s Ten Usability Heuristics are as relevant now as they were in 1999. I stress this because I looked at the Flex showcase recently, and it looks like many of the applications are not built with these best practices in mind.

1. Visibility of system status (Feedback)

The system should always keep users informed about what is going on, through appropriate feedback within reasonable time.
1.0 BaseCamp by 37signals
The upload button is enabled, until clicked. Then it is replaced with a progress indicator until the file has finished uploading

1.1 Picnik
Progress message and indicator shows while the application loads

1.2 Tick
A feedback message is displayed when an action is performed

1.3 Windows Live Account
Password strength is shown as the password is entered

2. Match between system and the real world (METAPHOR)

The system should speak the users’ language, with words, phrases and concepts familiar to the user, rather than system-oriented terms. Follow real-world conventions, making information appear in a natural and logical order.
2.0 iTunes
Organized as a library that contains your media library: music, movies, shows, audibooks. Beneath the Library is the Store where you can buy more media to put in your Library.

2.1 Mindomo
The branches and hierarchy of a mind map can be easily reorganized visually in a non-linear manner. An outline would never work, but this matches the paradigm exactly.

3. User control and freedom (NAVIGATION)

Users often choose system functions by mistake and will need a clearly marked “emergency exit” to leave the unwanted state without having to go through an extended dialogue. Supports undo and redo and a clear way to navigate.
3.0 CollabFinder
Search is easy to open, enter info, execute or cancel.

3.1 Wufoo
Clearly marks where the person is and where they can go by showing the selection in each menu

3.2 Pages (Apple’s Word Processing Product)
Cell editing shows row and column ids, and the cells used in the equation. The equation can be saved or canceled.

3.3 Balsamiq
Undo and Redo buttons are available in the toolbar, and can also be accessed with the standard keyboard shortcuts

4. Consistency and standards (CONSISTENCY)

Users should not have to wonder whether different words, situations, or actions mean the same thing. Follow platform conventions.

4.0 Gmail
When Gmail was designed, they based the organizational folders on the same ones used in client email applications: Inbox, Drafts, Sent Mail.

4.1 Microsoft Office
Word, Excel, and PowerPoint all use the same style toolbar with the same primary menu options: Home, Insert, Page Layout… Consistency results in efficiency and perceived intuitiveness.

5. Error prevention (PREVENTION)

Even better than good error messages is a careful design, which prevents a problem from occurring in the first place.

5.0 Yammer
Disables the update button after it is clicked, so the person cannot update the post twice by accident

5.1 Example from “Web form Design:Filling in the Blanks” by Luke W.
Make the primary action prominent with a larger click area. Cancel and secondary actions are just shown as links

5.2 Google Auto Recommend
The auto recommend feature cuts down on mis-spellings

5.2 Wikpedia
Auto focus on input prevents a common source of frustration, typing only to realize nothing is displayed because the field did not have focus

6. Recognition rather than recall (MEMORY)

Minimize the user’s memory load. Make objects, actions, and options visible. The user should not have to remember information from one part of the dialogue to another. Instructions for use of the system should be visible or easily retrievable whenever appropriate.

6.0 Quanta IDE
Type ahead for coding in a development environment

6.1 Keynote
Previews the fonts you can pick from, instead of just the font name

7. Flexibility and efficiency of use (EFFICIENCY)

Accelerators — unseen by the novice user — may often speed up the interaction for the expert user such that the system can cater to both inexperienced and experienced users. Allow users to tailor frequent actions.

7.0 OmniFocus
List of keyboard shortcuts and accelerators

7.1 Numbers- Apple’s Spreadsheet product
Previews common function results on the left when a column is selected, more efficient that clicking on an action in the toolbar

8. Aesthetic and minimalist design (DESIGN)

Dialogues should not contain information, which is irrelevant or rarely needed. Every extra unit of information in a dialogue competes with the relevant units of information and diminishes their relative visibility. Visual layout should respect the principles of contrast, repetition, alignment, and proximity.

8.0 Kontain
Kontain’ search menu exemplifies the four principles of visual design:
Contrast: bold text is used for the two labels in the search
Repetition: the orange, blue, and green text match the media types
Alignment : strong left alignment of text, right aligned drop down
Proximity: a light rule is used to separate tags from the other options

8.1 Harvest
Sufficient padding and spacing keep this timesheet from being a visual nightmare. Header and footer rows, as well as the summary column use subtly different colors to indicate they are distinct from the content

9. Help users recognize, diagnose, and recover from errors (RECOVERY)

Error messages should be expressed in plain language (no codes), precisely indicate the problem, and constructively suggest a solution.

9.0 Digg
Provides immediate feedback with specific instructions

9.1 Humorous ‘ Page Not Found’ Error
Uses a funny image and copy, but provides viable alternatives (article listings and blog link) and a course of action (report it)

10. Help and documentation (Help)

Even though it is better if the system can be used without documentation, it may be necessary to provide help and documentation. Any such information should be easy to search, focused on the user’s task, list concrete steps to be carried out, and not be too large.

10.0 Picnik
Contextual help (this is an example of help in the ‘Collages’ module) tips in Picnik are clear and easy to navigate

10.1 GoodBarry
Embedded videos can be used to showcase features as well as get people started using the product

10.2 Zenoss
Help tips are displayed on hover, answering the most likely questions about a field or instructions

10.3 BaseCamp by 37signals
Help opens a new browser window/tab with a full set of help resources: search, FAQ, video tutorials, customer forums

Comments (18)