User Experience 110 posts

  • 7 March 2016
  • 29 February 2016

    Posted by Frank Garofalo | Topic: User Experience

    Kickstarter project: PatternsLibrary

    Today I launched a Kickstarter project for PatternsLibary, a funding effort to create a cloud-based application for managing a design and branding library for your organization.

    Back the project for a little as $10.00 at:

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  • 28 January 2016

    Posted by Frank Garofalo | Topic: User Experience

    A Jump Start into Agile/Scrum - Part 1

    In Fall 2015, I worked with several colleagues to create our own version of a agile/scrum description for our team members working on digital (web & apps) for Marketing-centric efforts.


    An Adaptation of the Manifesto for Agile:

    • Individuals and interactions
      MORE THAN processes and tools
    • Iteratively functional solutions
      MORE THAN comprehensive documentation
    • Colleague Collaboration
      MORE THAN project negotiation and "lobbing a brick"
    • Responding to change
      MORE THAN following a rigid plan
    • Focused effort
      MORE THAN divide and conquer

    'Product' Backlog

    "Product" Backlog

    Players: Stakeholders, Scrum Product Owner (PO), & List/Backlog.

    • List of all the requested work on the project, a.k.a. the requirements list.
    • Each item within the list, PBI (product backlog item), should be written to describe value to the end-users of the project, referred to as "User Stories" and “Epics” (longer/larger User Stories).
    • The PO should try to decompose User Stories into the smallest possible description of value to the end-users.
    • The list should be compiled, ordered and prioritized by the PO.
    • No timeline or schedule should be associated to the Product Backlog or PBIs.

    Backlog Grooming

    Backlog Grooming

    Players: Scrum Product Owner (PO), Scrum Master (SM), Scrum Team Members, & List/Backlog.

    • Re-prioritize for the start of each iteration to adapt to changes in business needs and/or scope, referred to as "Backlog Grooming."
    • Backlog Grooming should occur regularly. A best practice is to do once per week as a pre-Iteration Planning activity.
    • Scrum Team Members can use Story Points (a.k.a. Planning Poker) to determine both the perceived level of difficulty for a given User Story, and the perceived volume of work to achieve the given User Story. Values of Story Points should not be a measure of estimated hours.
    • Story Point values for each User Story are relative to the other User Stories, and the goal is for the Scrum Team Members to gain an understanding of each others' work for the Sprint. The Fibonacci number scale can be used for the Story Points.

    Iteration Planning

    Iteration Planning

    Players: Scrum Team Members, Scrum Master (SM), & Scrum Product Owner (PO).

    • User Stories should be prepared in advance of the Iteration Planning meeting/conversations.
    • Scrum Team members select User Stories from the prioritized Product Backlog to commit to achieving by the end of the Iteration time duration.
    • User Stories can be deconstructed into actionable tasks and sub-tasks. A technique called User Story Mapping can be used to help deconstruct User Stories.
    • Story Points can provide an estimate of Scrum Team's potential bandwidth thru-put for the Iteration, referred to as "Iteration Velocity." From past Iterations, actual velocities can be used to inform the team’s achieved bandwidth thru-put.



    Players: Scrum Team Members, Scrum Master (SM), & List

    • User Stories as well as related tasks and sub-tasks are tracked throughout the duration of the Iteration, as progress is made towards completion.
    • Common categories for tracking progress are:
      • Not Started - team has committed to achieving this user story or task during the current Iteration, but no one has begun work towards this item.
      • Work In Progress - one of the team members has begun work on this item.
      • Done - this item is 100% completed, tested, and ready for deployment.
    • A visual display of all User Stories, tasks, and sub-tasks can help all team members stay informed on their collective progress. For example, color coding elements can assist in the visual display:
      • Planned user stories - Green
      • Tasks/sub-tasks - White
      • Unplanned user stories - Yellow
      • Bugs - Blue
      • Impediments - Red
    • The team’s actual velocity can be tracked during a Iteration as well as Iteration-to-Iteration.

    A Jump Start to Agile/Scrum

    To note, while this isn't anything revolutionary, we did this as an exercise to establish a common definition and description for our team members.

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  • 26 November 2015

    Posted by Frank Garofalo | Topic: User Experience

    Journey Canvas: a business-oriented group brainstorming

    Originally posted at:


    Let me start off with some background context. This past Summer I was introduced to two brainstorming / ideation techniques.

    First was SCIPAB, which is an acronym for "situation, complication, implication, position, action, and benefit." It was created by Mandel Communications as a 6-step method to help people communicate in a more impactful manner. (For more information: )

    Second was a new technique for group brainstorming called the Business Model Canvas. It is a visual chart template initially proposed by Alexander Osterwalder for creating new, or re-evaluating existing, business goals ad value propositions for a product, system, or service. Additionally it is a technique recommended in the Gamestorming: A Playbook for Innovators, Rulebreakers, and Changemakers ;book by David Gray, James Macanufo, and Sunni Brown ;(For more information: ).

    As I was beginning to understand how each of these two techniques were intended to be used in a professional setting, I noticed a few similarities to other goal-setting and idea-generating methods in which I was already familiar. These other techniques include: SWOT analysis (strengths, weaknesses, opportunities, and threats); Problem-Solution-Benefit model, SMART Objectives (Specific, measurable, actionable, relevant, and time-bound). ;On the flip-side, there were also some unique, differentiating elements to each of these methods.

    I had been asked to facilitate a brainstorming/ideation session in late summer, so I decided to create a new model which combined elements from several of these other methods and models.

    At the beginning stages of a project, or even a new phase of an existing project, there are ;many challenges. Often one of those challenges is reaching an agreement on the goal or vision for the effort, in other words establishing a common direction. Once a ;common direction in place, then an additional hurdle can be ;communicating it out to all the project team members, stakeholders, managers, and others. Furthermore, for the individuals who will be contributing to the project, the next obstacle might be ;forming a shared alignment. In other words, once the direction has been established (the over used metaphor of the flag at the top of the mountain to ascend to the summit), next is to verify all the project team members are coordinated and synchronized in their work towards the common direction (to use the mountain metaphor, are they all pointing towards the flag with a level of awareness of all the other team members and the path they will take to ascend the mountain). ;

    My goal for creating a new model was to focus on a tool to help project team members and stakeholders achieve a consensus for the direction/vision of a project and begin to establish the shared alignment towards that direction. For a technology product, one key element of this is to identify who the primary target audience is for the product. Notice this reference to target audience is singular. Sure a product can have multiple target audiences, but there should be one specific and primary target audience identified.

    I introduce to you the "Journey Canvas."

    The goals when using the Journey Canvas may include:

    • Describing the purpose of the project as a single statement, and keeping it aligned to the organization's purpose.
    • Describing the high-level "current state" circumstances
    • Identify the complications and implications
    • What are your key strengths and value propositions?
    • Who are the key target audience members?
    • How does the project team (or organization) interact with the target audience members?
    • What are the key objectives and metrics to gauge success?
    • What drives your budget (cost and revenue)?


    Sections of the Journey Canvas:

    1) Frame - a one line statement for the purpose of the product/project. In other words, stating a motto of the project team. This should be aligned with the organization's purpose and vision.
    2) Situation - Top 3 "Current State" circumstances
    3) Strengths - Top 3 Business/Project strengths; what are we really good at doing?
    4) Complications - Top 3 Changes/Pressures/Demands, which are creating problems, challenges, or opportunities?
    5) Implications - Top 3 consequences of failing to act... to address the challenges, or seek the opportunities. What is the opportunity cost?
    6) Solutions - Top 3 capabilities; begin to generate solution-oriented ideas

    7) Unique Value Proposition - Clear, compelling message that states why this project/product are different and worth investment
    8) Benefits - Top 3 results (what's in it for the business, stakeholders, target audience/end-users, etc.); what would they say about the solutions (listed within ;section 6 of the Journey Canvas)?
    9) Target Audience - Key personas/Users/Stakeholders
    10) Channels - Paths to the Target Audience; this can be if validation is needed of ideas, to conduct user research, and/or to solicit feedback from prototypes

    11) Key Objectives / Metrics - Specific, Measurable, Attainable, Realistic, Time-bound. What does success look like? How do we know if we achieved success? Key Performance Indicators (KPIs) to measure?
    12) Unfair Advantage - Why can't the Solutions (from section 6) be easily replicated, copied, or replaced by competitors/threats? What gives us an upper-hand?
    13) Business Model (Costs & Revenue) - How will we make money, and what will be the costs we incur? Will this effort be a loss-leader?

    A recommended 3-step approach for using the Journey Canvas:

    1. Individual activity [part 1 of 2] - with each person writing their ideas (1 per sticky note) for the first five sections (approx. time to allocate for the activity 5 minutes)
    2. Individual activity [part 2 of 2] - with each person writing their ideas for the remaining six sections (approx. time 5 minutes)
      [note, this separation of the sections is based on feedback to guide participants through the activity and focus their attention on a few sections at a time].
    3. Group Activity - once each person has contributed their individual ideas, now the group can perform a card sort activity with the sticky notes in each of the sections. This will begin to help visualize if there are any emerging common themes as well as any distinctly unique concepts. (approx. time 10 minutes)


    Lastly, once the Journey Canvas has been completed by the project team, it can serve as a spring board into other activities to build upon and further refine the concepts generated.

    Template: Journey Canvas 8.5 x 11 PDF

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  • 29 April 2015

    Posted by Frank Garofalo | Topic: User Experience

    UX & UI Activities at 2015 Esri UC

    At this year's Esri User Conference we are adding several new UX & UI related activities, as part of the User Experience (UX) & User Interface (UI) Summit:
    • Interactive Research Lab - conducting ethnographic, usability research studies, with 2 research labs
    • User Experience (UX) & User Interface (UI) Hub - a series of 15-minute Lightning Talks, Hands-on Workshops, and Ask an Expert (peer reviews)
    • User Experience (UX) & User Interface (UI) Exchange - a co-hosted event with the San Diego Experience Design group.

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  • 7 March 2015

    Posted by Frank Garofalo | Topic: User Experience

    User Experience (UX) & User Interface (UI) Principles

    Seeking a deeper understanding and a more clearly articulated vision for crafting engaging and aesthetically pleasing user experience and user interface designs, were the goals for crafting this list. Over time this will be an evolving, living document as expectations of users change. An item to note, this shouldn’t be considered a magical checklist, but rather a set of guidelines or tenets.

    Read the full list at:

    In no particular order, the Esri 2015 User Experience (UX) & User Interface (UI) Principles:

    • Useful, Usable, Compelling
      Quite simply, simplify. Decrease confusion and increase productivity by providing useful capabilities that empower people to make and share their work.
    • Users First - Story centric
      Be a user advocate. Focus on common user expectations. Launch your design from stories based on real people and real goals. Make a good first impression.
    • Content Matters
      Demonstrate passion for your design by providing relevant content for the intended audience. In other words, do your homework now to avoid a fire drill later.
    • Increase Familiarity
    • Clarity
    • Empathy for Real People
    • Accessibility
    • Constant Evolution
    • Sustainability
    • Collaborative Partnerships
    • Validate User Expectations through Research
    • Continuously Improve
    • Problem Solving Focused on Tangible, Rapid Solutions

    Read the full list at:

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  • 26 November 2014

    Posted by Frank Garofalo | Topic: User Experience

    User Experience Team 2014 Objectives

    Over the past year, our UX Team objectives have been:

    • Foster and energize partnerships with cross-functional teams, especially Software Development and Web Operations, to continually establish trust and a positive rapport to serve as cross-functional peers.

    • Partner with Software Development to
      • establish an understanding of GIS fundamentals and of the Core conceptual model to further enhance a story-first approach (such as storyboards & workflow diagrams)
      • create flexible design patterns to harmonize our products and increase familiarity across the ArcGIS Platform
      • confidently participate to advance "conceptual-model design," "interaction design," "layout (IA) design," "visual design," and "comparative design"

    • Produce modern, innovative designs and engaging, user-centric experiences; utilizing research methods for continual validation and regularly observe usability studies

    • Stay current with latest trends and best practices to advocate forward thinking

    • Strengthen and enhance the synergy of team, emphasizing a combined collaborative effort with proactive, timely communication

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  • 24 July 2014

    Posted by Frank Garofalo | Topic: User Experience

    Terminology Definition Series - User Experience

    Originally posted at


    User Experience

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  • 24 July 2014

    Posted by Frank Garofalo | Topic: User Experience

    Terminology Definition Series: Usability

    Originally posted at


    As a side note, I figured I'd give a try to drafting a series of concise blog posts with definitions of terminology from the disciplines of UX, UCD, HCI (etc.)



    • Source:
      • Usability is the ease of use and learnability of a human-made object.
    • Source:
      • Usability is a quality attribute that assesses how easy user interfaces are to use. Usability is defined by 5 quality components:
        • Learnability: How easy is it for users to accomplish basic tasks the first time they encounter the design?
        • Efficiency: Once users have learned the design, how quickly can they perform tasks?
        • Memorability: When users return to the design after a period of not using it, how easily can they reestablish proficiency?
        • Errors: How many errors do users make, how severe are these errors, and how easily can they recover from the errors?
        • Satisfaction: How pleasant is it to use the design?
    • Source:
      • Usability (ISO 9241 definition): The effectiveness, efficiency and satisfaction with which specified users achieve specified goals in particular environments.
        • effectiveness: the accuracy and completeness with which specified users can achieve specified goals in particular environments
        • efficiency: the resources expended in relation to the accuracy and completeness of goals achieved
        • satisfaction: the comfort and acceptability of the work system to its users and other people affected by its use

    • Source: Usability glossary | Usability Body of Knowledge
      • Usability is the degree to which something - software, hardware or anything else - is easy to use and a good fit for the people who use it.

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  • 28 June 2014

    Posted by Frank Garofalo | Topic: User Experience

    UX: It's more than a buzz word

    Originally posted on:


    What is UX? I've heard some people refer to it in the context of the system or the interface. Are they correct? Or is it more than that?

    A definition that I keep going back to for User Experience (UX) is from the International Organization for Standardization (ISO; referenced as ISO 9241-210). They define it as:

    User Experience (n.) - a person's perceptions and responses that result from the use or anticipated use of a product system or service.

    So what does this really mean? It's a person's preconceived notions about the product, system, or service before they have even used the system. Perhaps based on information they have heard from other individuals, or based upon their past experiences from other products, systems, or services from the same organization. It's the emotions they bring with them before they've even started based upon their anticipation.

    Also, it is their responses as they are using the product, system or service. Is it providing them the information they expect, and when they expect it? Is the product or system doing things on their behalf, but they didn't directly as for it? Is the product or system presenting an error message, but it doesn't make sense? Are they running into points of confusion or frustration?

    Let's take a moment to look at user experience from a different perspective, from a software / product development perspective. I often hear that "we need to build the system for anyone to use." I jokingly refer to this as a chicken-little effect. Anyone in the whole world, all 7 billion of us, need to be able to "intuitively" be able to use this system.

    The challenge is when we build something for "anyone" to be able to use, you end up building it for no one. So who are we building it for?

    We're building it for... (queue the drum roll) ..."the user." ...the who? This mystical living thing often known as "the user."

    Sometimes I hear "the user" referred to as you, in first person. Once the system is created and launched into production, if you are the person who will be regularly using the system as well as paying to use the system, then great! If not, then you are not "the user."

    (Image 1 source:

    At other times, I hear "the user" referred to as your mom. (Hi mom!) Often in the context that the system needs to be so easy to use your mother can figure it out. Now if your mother will be using the system regularly as well as paying to use the system, then great! If not, then sorry mom but you are not "the user."

    (Image 2 source:

    I've also heard "the user" referred to as a variety of people with something in common.

    (Image 3 source:

    But what we need to keep in mind is that "the user" represents real people who need to accomplish real tasks. Another way to look at this is by identifying a specific target audience of people.

    This reminds me of a quote from Jim Henson, the creator of the Muppets:

    Good experiences are invisible... give the audience enough to work with and they will do the rest.

    On a side note, it's usually the bad experiences that we hear about. Just as with the infamous Kermit the Frog, people don't usually think about the puppeteer controlling Kermit behind the scenes, they think of Kermit. In parallel to technology, people don't usually think about all the server farms, load balancers, database schemas, and business logic layers; they just think about the interface they see displaying on the screen of their device. However, just as Kermit wouldn't come to life without the puppeteer, in most cases the interface would not come to life without all the programming and system architecture design. But it's the interface that people experience and have an emotional response.

    As I'm working on software / product development efforts, I try to keep four principles in mind for the identified target audience:

    • Minimize / decrease their confusion
    • Minimize / decrease their frustration

    • Maximize / increase their productivity
    • Maximize / increase a positive response

    To further elaborate, by "positive response" I'm referring to providing the given target audience with a compelling experience, aka a WOW factor.

    Throughout the process, trying to minimize opinionated feedback. It's not what my opinion that matters, or the personal opinion of any member of the project/product team, but rather what really matters is what is in the best interest of the identified target audience who will be using the product / system.

    Another quote that comes to mind is from RJ Owen, stating:

    Every project... starts with people.

    People who will pay for the project. People who will be on the project team. People who will draft the requirements and user stories. People who will design the database. People who will do the coding. People who will craft the user interface and user experience. People who will conduct the QA. And hopefully once that is all said and done, people who will use the product or system (and hopefully it doesn't just turn into an assumption of "if you build it, they will come").

    From the user experience discipline, we can validate what we are building with the real people who will be using the product or system. A group of people who belong to the identified target audience. And not to only validate the product or system with the stakeholders who are paying for it. We can achieve this validation by observing real people perform real scenarios and tasks (known as usability studies and ethnographic research) using a proof of concept, a prototype, or something already in production. Once again, doing all of this while trying to minimize opinionated feedback.

    It's an ongoing challenge to seek the balance between the needs of the business with your users' real needs. However as user experience practitioners, our goal should be to create extraordinary experiences for our identified target audience.

    And, this is why UX is more than just a buzz word.

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  • 9 June 2014

    Posted by Frank Garofalo | Topic: User Experience

    User Experience (UX) & User Interface (UI) Summit 2014

    On behalf of the User Experience and User Interface teams at Esri, we are excited to announce we will be hosting the User Experience & User Interface Summit at the Esri User Conference, on Thursday, July 17th from 10:00am to 4:00pm. This will be the 3rd year for having an event at the Esri UC focused on sharing best practices about user experience and user interface. An important item to note, attendees for the User Experience & User Interface Summit must also be registered attendees for the 2014 Esri User Conference.

    Explore the latest best practices and emerging trends in visual design, interaction, information architecture, and user experience. Discover how starting with a "people first" approach can benefit mapping applications and location-enabled apps. Presentations and demos will be offered for all levels, novice to expert, covering a variety of disciplines from developers to project managers.

    UX & UI Summit Schedule (Thursday, July 17th):

    • 10:00 a.m. - Noon – Workshop on GIS+Design
    • 1:00 p.m. - 4:00 p.m. – 15-min Lightning Talks, and Informal Discussion Topics
      • Lightning Talks (scheduled 15-min presentations from 1pm to 4pm)
        • Demystifying User Experience & User Interface
          • Frank Garofalo & Mark Harrower
          • 1:00 - 1:20pm
        • Designing Calm Technology
          • Amber Case
          • 1:30 - 1:50pm
        • Locationization
          • David Dodge & Sneha Khullar
          • 2:00 - 2:20pm
        • Designing for Mobile: First Considerations
          • Steven Nelson, Julio Ochoa, & Jenee Jernigan
          • 2:30 - 2:50pm
        • Common Misconceptions About User Experience Design
          • Heath Meyette & Kiefer Ipsen
          • 3:00 - 3:20pm
        • Backstage Look at Designing ArcGIS Pro
          • Cassidy Bishop, Richard Caballero, Kyle Heinemann, & Steve Frizzell
          • 3:30 - 3:50pm
      • Informal Discussion Topics (free-form discussions from 1pm to 4pm):
        • What is UX & UI?
        • User Research & Usability
        • UX, UI, & Agile / Scrum Development
        • Diagrams, Wireframes, Prototypes & more
        • Mobile & Apps
        • Web & Adaptive / Responsive
        • Visual, Graphics & Interactive Design
        • Icons & Symbology
        • Mapping & Cartography

    For more details, visit:

    We would also like to thank our Contributing Sponsors:

    • TEK Systems
    • Vitamin T


    Originally posted at

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  • 31 March 2014

    Posted by Frank Garofalo | Topic: User Experience

    Guided Tours and coachmarks are coming to ArcGIS Online

    Originally posted at: by Frank Garofalo and Andrew Stauffer on March 29, 2014


    The work that you do every day is important and we are looking for ways to help you be more productive and efficient (because we know your time is valuable).

    During your journey of using ArcGIS Online, we decided to spend some of our time to look at the starting point for that journey. What could we do to help you, our users and customers, to ease into using the product in a delightful and simplified process. Or even, for someone who has never used the product before, how could we help them to "quickly get up and running"?

    We decided to craft in-app Guided Tours with coach marks. To quickly define what we mean by coach marks (at least our interpretation at the present moment): small, visual boxes presented within the application containing informational or instructional content, which are unobtrusive and can be dismissed at any time. When we string together a series of coach marks, presented in a sequential manner, each can provide instructional information to complete a specific workflow in a guided tour format.

    The basic idea here is: continue to provide strong documentation (such as ) as well as continue to provide videos (such as ). When comparing these to the three learning modalities (, the written documentation targets the visual learning style and the videos target the auditory learning style. Now we are introducing a baseline with the Guided Tours which targets the tactile (kinesthetic) learning style. What we mean by this is, rather than A) read a document, then go to the product and follow the written document; and B) watch a video and maybe hit play / pause regularly) , then go to the product and follow what was displayed in the video; now, C) please lead me through how to use a specific capability within the product itself.

    n the previous paragraph we mentioned “we are introducing a baseline” and what we mean by this is, we see this as establishing a foundation for what else could potentially be achieved with coach marks and guided tours.

    A group of us (from Product Management team, Software Development team, and User Experience Team) have worked together to craft three Guided Tours, primarily targeted for an ArcGIS Online 101 audience:

    1. Make a Map
      • Walks you through a series of short steps to quickly build a map and save it, then be able to share with others.
    2. Style Your Map
      • Guides you through how to change the symbol for a point location on your map (in GIS terminology, a "feature"), then save the map.
    3. Explore ready-to-use Layers
      • Introduces how to add authoritative information and data to your map, then explore the information.

    With the addition of custom roles into the ArcGIS Platform (, the Guided Tours will take into consideration the permissions and privileges given to each user account by the Organization Administrator. In other words, some people may see more or less Guided Tour options, based on the privileges in which they have.

    The tours appear in the About panel when signed in with an organizational account that has privileges to create items. For the best experience, be sure to follow each step of the tour. Another point to note, with this initial baseline for the Guided Tours, we didn’t want to introduce an experience that would be obtrusive, so the Guided Tour options appear in the About panel without interfering with your use of ArcGIS Online. Therefore each person can choose to take one of the Guided Tours if they feel a particular tour is helpful.

    We hope to learn from this to further improve this baseline and see what other ideas come from these Guided Tours and coach marks. If you have any thoughts or suggestions, please share them in the comments below.


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  • 24 March 2014

    Posted by Frank Garofalo | Topic: User Experience

    Anatomy of Design Decisions - Jared Spool

    Revisiting Jared Spool’s Keynote Address at 2013 Esri DevSummit (watch the video recording at

    • Unintentional Design
      • When the design just happens on its own
      • Works great when:
        • Our users will put up with whatever we give them
        • We don’t care about support costs or pain from frustration
    • Self Design
      • When we design something for our own use
      • Works great when:
        • Our users are just like us
        • We regularly use it just like our users do
    • Genius Design
      • When we’ve previously learned what users need
      • Works great when:
        • We already know their knowledge, previous experiences, and contexts
        • We’re solving the same design problems repeatedly
    • Activity-Focused Design
      • When we’re designing for new activities unfamiliar to us
      • Works great when:
        • We can easily identify the users and their activities
        • We need to go beyond our own previous experiences
        • Innovations can come from removing complexity
    • Experience-Focused Design
      • When we’re designing for the entire experience
      • Works great when:
        • We want to improve our users’ complete experiences, in between the specic activities
        • We can be pro-active about the designs
        • Game-chaning innovations are the top priority

    Thanks to this list of design decision styles, we can use this as a common anatomy language during meetings and other conversations about design, user interface, information architecture, and user experience.

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  • 26 February 2014

    Posted by Frank Garofalo | Topic: User Experience

    User Experience & User Interface Summit

    At the 2014 Esri International Developer Summit (March 10 - 13th 2014 in Palm Springs, CA) we are delighted to be hosting the "User Experience (UX) & User Interface (UI) Summit" as a mini event on Wednesday, March 12th from 1:00pm to 6:00pm in San Jacinto/Santa Rosa rooms.

    The "User Experience (UX) & User Interface (UI) Summit" has two components:

    1) attendees at the Developer Summit can join us for informal discussion topics throughout the afternoon on March 12th covering topics from responsive web design, User Experience + Agile Development, Interface Design, User Research, Icon Design, and more. A full list of the discussion topics is provided below.

    2) we've pulled together some of our best designers and developers to present a series of 15-minute Lightning Talks (each starting on the hour and on the half-hour). A full list of presenters is below.

    We have hosted a User Experience Summit at the annual Esri International User Conference in San Diego for the past two years and we are pleased to be bringing to the Developer Summit for the first time. Here they will be able to explore the latest best practices and emerging trends in visual design, interaction, information architecture, and user experience. Discover how starting with a “people first” approach can benefit mapping applications and location-enabled apps. Presentations and demos will be offered for all levels, novice to expert, covering a variety of disciplines from developers to project managers. Connect with user experience experts, geek out geo-geek style, and live by the code.

    The Esri International Developer Summit is an annual event for the developer community. This year the keynote speaker, Chris Wanstrath, CEO and a cofounder of GitHub, will share his vision for social coding.

    Informal Discussion Topics:

    • What is UX?
    • User Research & Usability
    • UX & Agile / Scum Development
    • UX Deliverables - Diagrams, Wireframes, Prototypes & more
    • Mobile & Apps
    • Web & Adaptive / Responsive
    • Visual, Graphics & Interactive Design
    • Icons & Symbology

    Scheduled 15-minute Lightning Talks:

    • 1:00pm Development and Design Discussion
    • 1:30pm Developing in Context: A Case Study
    • 2:00pm Where design fell FLAT on its face
    • 2:30pm Building great user experieces for location based applications
    • 3:00pm Adding the WOW factor to your interfaces
    • 3:30pm Performance Metrics for End User Experience
    • 4:00pm Organizational Efficiency Using Model Based Design
    • 4:30pm So long sprites, front row fonts!
    • 5:00pm The Design Process: Staying ahead of developers with caffeine addictions
    • 5:30pm Developing User Experiences in ArcGIS Online

    Learn more about the event at:

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  • 15 February 2014

    Posted by Frank Garofalo | Topic: User Experience

    World IA Day 2014 - LA: Presentation & Participation

    On behalf of my colleagues at Esri, we were excited to be invited to participate in the World Information Architecture Day 2014 - Los Angeles.

    The event was held in Pasadena, CA at the Art Center College of Design - South Campus. Today's theme was "Making the World a Better Place" and the three topics/challenges to work towards finding solutions using information architecture were:

    • LA River Revitalization
    • Low-income Housing
    • LA Transportation Methods (alternatives to automobiles)

    Additionally, I was honored to have the opportunity to present and discuss how interactive maps with information from authoritative sources can help to "geo-enable" our discipline of Information Architecture and User Experience through the interfaces we help to design and create. Ultimately we can use the power of location-based information to help us find solutions for real-world issues.

    We provided 4 sample maps as a resource for the workgroup teams:

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  • 7 February 2014

    Posted by Frank Garofalo | Topic: User Experience

    Article - Move Over Product Design, UX Is The Future

    Today a member of our Product Management team (thanks Paul), shared with me an article from FastCompany (on The article, "Move Over Product Design, UX Is The Future," is by Rick Wise, CEO of Lippincott. Wise describes how "experience innovation" is emerging as the new "design imperative."


    Key sections of the article which stood out to me:

    "We believe that experience innovation will be a crucial component for companies seeking to remain relevant and retain customer loyalty in 2014"

    "Don’t ask customers what they need, but observe how they behave and what makes them happy or sad. Then assess what people could do. Think about what they will notice, and what they will remember. Look for the big moves--can you take entire steps out of the process, change the sequence, add new value in unexpected places?"

    Products are usually managed by one person, whereas an experience must be curated by several different owners with separate goals and metrics. Drawing on expertise across functions is essential to push thinking, discover what is possible, and forge connections across operational silos. And, before an experience will come across as real to the outside world, dozens, hundreds or thousands of employees need to be educated and empowered to deliver the vision.

    "’s about how we feel when we use the product or service."

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  • 5 February 2014

    Posted by Frank Garofalo | Topic: User Experience

    My blog on WIRED Innovation Insights

    Check out my new, simultaneous blog on WIRED Innovation Insights:

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  • 5 February 2014

    Posted by Frank Garofalo | Topic: User Experience

    World IA Day - Los Angeles 2014 & Esri

    On behalf of the User Experience Team at Esri, I'm excited to announce we will be participating at the World Information Architecture (IA) Day 2014 - Los Angeles.

    Additionally, I'll be presenting a lightning talk: "Mapping & GIS, along with IA and UX, to Solve Real-World Issues"

    Event Details:

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  • 15 January 2014

    Posted by Frank Garofalo | Topic: User Experience

    Job Opportunities: User Experience & User Interface

    Update from a previous post


    Esri (, world-wide leader in geographic information systems, is recruiting user interface designers and user experience (UX) architects

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  • 16 November 2013

    Posted by Frank Garofalo | Topic: User Experience

    The Design of Everyday Things, revised by Don Norman

    On November 15th I had the chance to attend a book tour event for Don Norman's newest book: The Design of Everyday Things, revised. The event was hosted by the LA UX Meetup group.

    Some of my notes from Don's speech:

    • Look at the whole system, and the story for how people use the whole system
    • It's okay if you need to be told once, but not if you need to be told each time
    • "signifiers", similar to affordances [Wikipedia article]
    • Solve fundamental problem, not the initial problem
    • "Design / creative thinking" = understanding the fundamental; ask questions; doesn't have to be that way
    • Build systems for people to: understand, love, appreciate, buy
    • Look at the whole system, and the story for how people use the whole system

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  • 15 August 2013

    Posted by Frank Garofalo | Topic: User Experience

    Shortfilm - Connecting

    Thanks to Nick Frunzi for sharing this with me.

    "Connecting" - A short film that explores trends in UI, Interaction, & Experience Design

    Connecting from Bassett & Partners on Vimeo.

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  • 6 August 2013

    Posted by Frank Garofalo | Topic: User Experience

    Collaborative Approach

    The 3 primary areas of focus for a user experience team includes: Design, Development, and Research

    An additional element, as a 4th focus area, to factor in is "business." This can range from product management to product marketing, and sales to strategy. In other words, the business stakeholders for the respective project/initiative.

    Our task as UX practitioners is to collaborate with all the stakeholders for each project and find a balance between:

    • needs of the person (customer) and needs of the business
    • what aesthetically looks pleasing (design) and what functionally works well (development)

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  • 17 July 2013

    Posted by Frank Garofalo | Topic: User Experience

    Recap - Esri International User Conference 2013

    The Esri International User Conference 2013 was July 8th - 12th in San Diego, CA. Throughout the week we had several user experience (UX) activities going on...

    User Experience / Usability Research
    We conducted various user experience / usability research studies ranging from prototypes, to new web sites, to mobile apps.

    For the studies related to the prototypes and new web sites, we had a mini-lab set-up in one of the main hallways. The UX Research Lab included a participant/facilitator room plus an additional observation room.

    The exterior of the research room.

    User Experience (UX) Summit
    During the afternoon of Wednesday, July 10th we hosted the 2nd annual User Experience (UX) Summit at the Esri UC. We had an excellent attendance of UC attendees. The event was hosted by the Esri User Experience Team and the Esri Developer Network.

    This year the format had 2 components: a) eight scheduled 20-min lightning talks from 1pm to 5pm, and b) informal discussion topics, ranging from development to design to cartography.

    Stickers with #esriUX

    Pillars with the 8 discussion topics:
    • What is UX?
    • UX Deliverables
    • Visual, Graphics & Interactive Design
    • UX Research & Usability
    • UX & Agile / Scrum Development
    • Web & Adaptive/Responsive
    • Mobile & Apps
    • Maps & Cartography

    Attendees participating in conversations about UX topics.

    One of the eight lightning talk presentations.

    We look forward to hosting the event at the Esri International User Conference 2014... and potentially an additional event at the Esri International Developer Summit (March 2014 in Palm Springs, CA)

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  • 25 June 2013

    Posted by Frank Garofalo | Topic: User Experience

    Interview with A VerySpatial Podcast: Episode 414

    Interview with A VerySpatial Podcast for Podcast Episode 414, discussing the User Experience (UX) Summit at the Esri User Conference 2013.

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  • 4 June 2013

    Posted by Frank Garofalo | Topic: User Experience

    Job Posting: User Experience Designers - Web & Mobile

    Update from a previous post


    Esri is hiring User Experience (UX) Designers (for Web & Mobile):

    Please contact me if you or someone you know is interested.


    Do you have a passion for creating websites and mobile applications that are intuitive, usable, and elegant? As a UX designer at Esri, you’ll work with developers and visual designers to map out and deliver well-defined user experiences. In addition, you’ll use your knowledge of research principles to conduct usability research and reviews.


    • Create information architecture diagrams, user experience workflow diagrams, wireframes, proof-of-concepts, and interactive prototypes
    • Create holistic design solutions that address business, brand, and user requirements
    • Effectively communicate conceptual ideas, design rationale, and the specifics of user centered design process
    • Foster collaboration and present cohesive interaction, design, and user experience approaches to a non-design audience
    • Ensure consistency between the various customer-facing platforms created by Esri
    • Work in partnership with business stakeholders, graphic designers, and developers to design end-to-end experiences using participatory and iterative design techniques
    • Act as a UX evangelist, ensuring others understand the value of UX activities and help develop and drive user experience strategy
    • Stay up to date with new technologies and trends in the web design space


    • Bachelor’s in human factors, interaction design, psychology, or a related field
    • A minimum of three years of related work experience in interaction design, user interface design, and user experience research
    • Experience working with cross-functional teams including business development, product management, and engineering
    • Strong ability to create information architecture diagrams, user experience workflow diagrams, wireframes, proof-of-concepts, and interactive prototypes
    • Familiarity with user interface guidelines and best practices for major platforms (iOS, Android, web) and an understanding of the limitations and tradeoffs of using various development technologies and standards (XHTML, CSS, JavaScript, jQuery, etc.)
    • Ability to create pixel-level mockups and/or clickable high fidelity prototypes based on an existing style guide, using tools such as Balsamiq, Fireworks, or Photoshop
    • Demonstrated ability to work as part of a highly collaborative team to listen effectively, to respect others’ perspectives and contributions, and to offer and accept feedback openly
    • Outstanding verbal and written presentation and facilitation skills, with the ability to quickly adapt the content to the audience
    • Organized, able to think beyond what is asked for, and able to juggle multiple projects and competing priorities in a fast-paced, often evolving environment

    Recommended Qualifications

    • Experience with internationalizing websites and mobile apps
    • Experience working in an agile product development environment

    Portfolio Submission
    Please include a link to your online portfolio or samples of recent work and a link to your blog. Samples must demonstrate design skills and a mix of low fidelity and high fidelity UX deliverables.

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  • 8 May 2013

    Posted by Frank Garofalo | Topic: User Experience, California

    Quoted on Esri Careers: LinkedIn page

    "At Esri, we are continuing to raise the bar by developing solutions with elegant designs and engaging experiences which empower people to solve real-world issues."

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  • 5 May 2013

    Posted by Frank Garofalo | Topic: User Experience

    Ideas for a team structure

    Recently had a few conversations about how to best structure a User Experience (UX) team. Below are some thoughts:
    • Experience Designer
      • Assist stakeholders with brainstorming sessions and to transform requirement lists into an interactive system
      • Generate workflow documents to map how a person would encounter and interact with the system
      • Draft iterations of wireframes with an emphasis of information architecture and consistent interface aspects
      • Assist with creating elements for proof-of-concepts and rapid-prototypes ;
      • Collaborate as a team

    • Experience Developer / Prototyper
      • Assist stakeholders with brainstorming sessions and to transform requirement lists into an interactive system
      • Build interactive proof-of-concepts and rapid-prototypes, leveraging technologies as needed (such as HTML, CSS, & JavaScript)
      • Collaborate as a team

    • Experience Researcher
      • Assist stakeholders with brainstorming sessions and to transform requirement lists into an interactive system
      • Plan, facilitate and report user research based on focused target audiences
      • Select most appropriate research methods based on project / task needs
      • Collaborate as a team

    • Experience Architect (Team Leader)
      • A combination of the previously mentioned skills
      • Having the ability to look at given tasks from multiple perspectives (visual design, functional interface development, server-side development, and user research)
      • Additionally provide leadership for the team and serve as a point-of-contact for specific initiatives
      • Collaborate as a team

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  • 3 May 2013

    Posted by Frank Garofalo | Topic: User Experience

    Job Posting: Interaction Designer (Web & Mobile)

    This was just posted: Interaction Designer (Web & Mobile):

    Please contact me ASAP if you or someone you know is interested.

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  • 23 April 2013

    Posted by Frank Garofalo | Topic: User Experience

    User Experience Summit

    User Experience (UX) Summit at the 2013 Esri International User Conference

    When: Wed, Jul 10, 1:00PM - 5:00PM
    Where: Room 33 B/C (San Diego Convention Center)

    Explore the latest best practices and emerging trends in visual design, interaction, information architecture, and user experience. Discover how starting with a “people first” approach can benefit mapping applications and location-enabled apps. Presentations and demos will be offered for all levels, novice to expert, covering a variety of disciplines from developers to project managers.

    More details:

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  • 29 March 2013

    Posted by Frank Garofalo | Topic: User Experience

    Jared Spool: Anatomy of Design Decisions Esri DevSummit

    Keynote by Jared Spool (Founder of User Interface Engineering) at the 2013 Esri International Developer Summit in Palm Springs, CA

    Picture with Jared, as I attentively listen to him answer my question

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  • 26 March 2013

    Posted by Frank Garofalo | Topic: User Experience

    UX: More than a Buzz Word

    Esri DevSummit SpeedGeeking

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  • 25 March 2013

    Posted by Frank Garofalo | Topic: User Experience

    UX Design for Developers

    Esri DevSummit Demo Theater:

    Presented by Jayson Ward and Frank Garofalo as a Demo Theater at the Esri DevSummit 2013. Presenting Virtual Port, a web-based application for the Port of Long Beach, built using ArcGIS API for Javascript.

    Selected code snippets:

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  • 23 February 2013

    Posted by Frank Garofalo | Topic: User Experience

    March 2013 - SXSW & Dev Summit

    This is going to be a busy month.
    • March 8th – 12th: SXSW Interactive in Austin, TX

    • March 25th: Esri International Developer Summit in Palm Springs, CA

      • Demo Theater Presentation: UX Design for Developers
      • SpeedGeeking: UX - more than a buzz term

    Follow me on Twitter for more updates: @fgarofalo

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  • 16 January 2013

    Posted by Frank Garofalo | Topic: User Experience

    New aspects to an interface? Give a tour

    Recently I was asked about providing two wizards for a system. One would be for existing users to highlight the updated aspects of the system's interface. The other would be to introduce new users to the system.

    However, a traditional wizard provides a separate experience from the system with a step-by-step sequence to complete a procedure. This doesn't help a person learn where elements are within the actual system.

    Another suggestion was to provide 2 how-to videos. While these are good additional resources to have, it can be frustrating to... watch a clip, then pause it, do an action in the system, press play on the video, then watch another clip, pause, do an action... etc.

    Currently a best-practice is to provide an optional tour of the interface elements within the system interface. This offers to lead a person through a guided walk-through of the interface itself. An example of this (done in JavaScript) can be found with the "Map Tour" on (

    Screen capture from, showing their Map Tour (step 1)

    Screen capture from, showing their Map Tour (step 2)

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  • 16 October 2012

    Posted by Frank Garofalo | Topic: User Experience

    Opportunity to think different

    This past weekend I was reading an article from the October 2012 issue of FastCompany magazine about the design changes for Microsoft Windows 8.

    The article was very interesting to see the new vision Microsoft is pursuing, and one quote in particular stood out to me:

    "It’s a risk to do something new, but it’s also a risk to sit where we are. There’s always an opportunity to think different."
    ~ Julie Larson-Green, VP of program management for Windows

    Read the article:

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  • 20 August 2012

    Posted by Frank Garofalo | Topic: User Experience

    Boyd's Law of Iteration

    Thanks to @MylesSutherland for sharing a link today.

    MSDN Article: A Better Path to Enterprise Architectures

    In the article, the author discusses using concepts from the 1950s, and the inquisitiveness of a Air Force Colonel named John Boyd to apply towards web/software development. A version of Boyd's sequence for web/software projects is called: OOPA (observe, orient, plan, act).

    Boyd's Law of Iteration:
    In analyzing complexity, fast iteration almost always produces better results than in-depth analysis.

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  • 13 August 2012

    Posted by Frank Garofalo | Topic: User Experience

    SXSW Interactive 2013 Presentation - Vote

    Allan Laframboise (Esri Developer Network) and I have submitted a presentation proposal for SXSW Interactive 2013. Details for our presentation are below.

    One part of the proposal process is an open vote (anyone can vote, please forward to others). However, you must create a user account with the SXSW Panel Picker to cast a vote.

    Vote by going to:

    Dev vs UX: Responsive Mapping Apps for All Devices

    Everybody loves mapping apps! Here’s the scenario: You’ve been asked to design and build a web-based mapping application that can work across multiple devices… desktops, tablets, and smartphones. So how do you build a single application that is responsive to all these devices and still provides a positive user experience (UX)? Allan Laframboise and Frank Garofalo from Esri, a global leader in mapping and geographic information systems (GIS), will discuss techniques and methods that both designers and developers can use to create mapping applications for multiple devices while having a positive user experience.

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  • 23 July 2012

    Posted by Frank Garofalo | Topic: User Experience

    UC 2012 Presentations

    Demo Theater, co-presented with Allan Laframboise - UX Considerations for Mapping Apps on Touch Devices

    UX Design Showcase - Lightning Talk: "It's a Mobile & Touch World"

    Speed Geeking - Lightning Talk: UX Ideation 6-8-5 Activity

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  • 10 July 2012

    Posted by Frank Garofalo | Topic: User Experience

    In the best interest of the person

    The other day I was asked by a co-worker (something similar to):
    When you're developing a system, how do you know when the user experience is good-enough rather than continually trying to improve it?

    My response was essentially:
    You can certainly get stuck in a trap of wanting to continually improve the system before you ever publish the system. But I try to use three main principals:

    • For the person who has to use the system, have we decreased any possible causes for confusion while using the system.
    • For the person who has to use the system, have we minimized any possible causes for frustration while using the system.
    • For the person who has to use the system, have we provided a solution to enable the person to be productive and efficient.

    If the project allows for an agile development process, after each sprint you can conduct a usability study. This can help to validate that the system doesn't cause confusion and frustration for the target user audience.

    Now from something that happened today... building a system that helps a person be productive and efficient, while minimizing confusion and frustration, often can pose a development challenge. I specifically chose the word "challenge" in that sentence. At times, what is in the best interest of the person who has to use the system may not necessarily be the easiest to programming, however at the end of the day it should provide a better end product.

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  • 23 June 2012

    Posted by Frank Garofalo | Topic: User Experience

    Anthropologist Technologist

    For this post, I've decided to link two scientific terms and show their relation... from a user experience point of view.

    As defined by Webster, Anthropology is "the science of human beings; especially : the study of human beings and their ancestors through time and space and in relation to physical character, environmental and social relations, and culture" (definition).

    One branch of Anthropology is called Ethnography. From a research perspective, ethnography is "the study and systematic recording of human cultures; also, a descriptive work produced from such research," according to Webster (definition). Another definition for it is, "a qualitative research design aimed at exploring cultural phenomena which reflect the knowledge and system of meanings guiding the life of a cultural group" (Wikipedia).

    Data collected from ethnographic research is usually by means of participant observation, interviews, and questionnaires. By observing an event occurring or the description of an event, in a scientific manor, is referred to as a phenomena. The study of phenomena is called Phenomenological Research (Wikipedia).

    Another way to describe the observation of people while interacting with technology is referred to as "usability studies" (also called "user testing").

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  • 30 May 2012

    Posted by Frank Garofalo | Topic: User Experience

    Can you lead a customer to an upgrade?

    In the May 2012 edition of Inc Magazine, there is an article from Jason Fried, co-founder of 37signals, a Chicago-based software company. In the article, titled "You Can Lead a Customer to an Upgrade but can you make him like it? Turns out, it's a bit trickier than we thought," Fried discusses the experience 37signals had as a software company when they encouraged their customers to upgrade to their new Basecamp product version.

    Basecamp is a web-based collaboration and project-management tool. As the article discusses, when 37signals released their new version of Basecamp everything went smoothly... for "the tens of thousands of new customers who signed up." However the problem arose when their existing customers were asked to migrate to the new version.

    "For them, new didn't mean better. It meant different. And different is always a challenge," Fried states.

    The lessons learned: "New ideas take time to get used to." Rather than asking people to transfer to the new Basecamp, they should have invited "existing customer to check out the new Basecamp without encouraging them to make a wholesale switch." Fried suggests for the "need to think as much about customer habits and expectations as they do about design, code, hardware, and the like."

    Eventually "with a little handholding, even the most baffled users were able to get the hang of the new software."

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  • 22 May 2012

    Posted by Frank Garofalo | Topic: User Experience

    Scientific Research Meme

    This was posted on a friend's Facebook wall and it's hilarious...

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  • 21 May 2012

    Posted by Frank Garofalo | Topic: RIAs, User Experience

    CSS3 Media-Queries and ArcGIS API for JavaScript

    I have put together an example of using CSS 3 Media-Queries with the ArcGIS API for JavaScript. Using CSS 3 Media-Queries allows for screen resolution detection. This provides the ability to manipulate HTML with CSS based upon the screen size of the device consuming your web content.

    View the example with a modern Internet browser (such as Google Chrome), then change the width of the Internet browser size. You will see the content of the app change based on "screen" size detection.

    The URL to the example is:

    Also to note, the JavaScript used in the example is based primarily upon the "Resize Map" (link) in the ArcGIS API for JavaScript Samples.

    The media-queries I used are:

    @media all and (max-width: 768px) and (orientation: portrait) {
    /* the default screen resolution for the iPad */

    @media all and (min-width: 321px) and (max-width: 768px) and (orientation: landscape) {
    /* the default screen resolution for the DROID2 */

    @media all and (min-width: 480px) and (max-width: 768px) and (orientation: landscape) {
    /* the default screen resolution for the iPad */

    @media all and (min-width: 321px) and (max-width: 480px) {
    /* Smartphone - Landscape */

    @media all and (max-width: 320px) {
    /* Smartphone - Portrait */

    @media all and (min-width: 780px) and (max-width: 980px) {
    /* the resolution to be used for all devices with a screen resolution larger than an iPad */

    @media all and (min-width: 981px) {
    /* the large desktop/laptop screens */

    Additionally setting the "meta viewport" is needed:

    <meta name="viewport" content="initial-scale=1, maximum-scale=1,user-scalable=no" />

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  • 12 May 2012

    Posted by Frank Garofalo | Topic: User Experience

    UX of the Whole System - hardware & software

    This morning I went for a cycling ride. I was excited because I went a new route, until I realized that my bike GPS was on "pause." Earlier on my ride I had paused it while I stopped for a water break. However, from my own user error I forgot to press "resume."

    For the user experience of the entire system... if one part of the system doesn't function as intended, the other parts that are dependent upon the first probably wont function either. In other words, since software is practically always dependent upon the hardware - if the hardware malfunctions or there is a user error with the software... this can result in a bad user experience with both the hardware and the software (...the whole system).

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  • 12 May 2012

    Posted by Frank Garofalo | Topic: User Experience

    UX & 2012 UC

    At the 2012 Esri User Conference:

    • UX Considerations for Mapping Apps on Touch Devices (link)
      • Tue, Jul 24, 9:00AM - 9:30AM
      • Frank Garofalo (Esri), Allan Laframboise (Esri)
    • UX Design: Understanding Our Users' World (formerly Design Bootcamp; link)
      • Tue, Jul 24, 12:30PM - 5:30PM

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  • 25 April 2012
  • 12 April 2012
  • 29 March 2012

    Posted by Frank Garofalo | Topic: User Experience

    User Experience vs User Interface: Cereal Infographic

    Saw this on but originally created by Ed Lea.

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  • 29 March 2012

    Posted by Frank Garofalo | Topic: User Experience

    Making strong moves

    In a March 2012 edition of Inc magazine there is an article about LivingSocial founder, Tim O'Shaughnessy. In the article there is a quote from O'Shaughnessy that I found very intriguing:

    "Make strong moves ...I truly believe that if you're not nervous about one or two decisions every day, you probably aren't trying hard enough."

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  • 29 March 2012

    Posted by Frank Garofalo | Topic: User Experience

    Empowering, possible, open, creative, courageous

    In a March 2012 edition of Fast Company, there is an article about Jack Dorsey (co-founder of Twitter and founder of Square). There are a few quotes I really like from Dorsey:

    "It's empowering to be asked to look at what's possible, not told how to do it."

    "Everything we do is about getting people to be more open, more creative, and more courageous."

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  • 23 March 2012
  • 20 March 2012

    Posted by Frank Garofalo | Topic: User Experience

    Location Intelligence

    Last week a heard of a new term, which I have decided to embrace: Location Intelligence

    On Wikipedia, Location Intelligence is described as:
    Location Intelligence is the capacity to organize and understand complex phenomena through the use of geographic relationships inherent in all information. By combining geographic- and location-related data with other business data, organizations can gain critical insights, make better decisions and optimize important processes and applications. Location Intelligence offers organizations opportunities to streamline their business processes and customer relationships to improve performance and results.

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  • 19 March 2012

    Posted by Frank Garofalo | Topic: User Experience

    Ideation 6-8-5 activity

    This presentation is based off a presentation by Brynn Evans (Google), Fred Beecher (Evantage), Krista Sanders (Google), and Russ Unger (UserGlue) at SXSW Interactive 2012.

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  • 9 March 2012

    Posted by Frank Garofalo | Topic: User Experience

    Esri User Conference

    July 23-27, 2012 in San Diego, CA. Register today at

    Add a Comment

  • 26 February 2012

    Posted by Frank Garofalo | Topic: User Experience

    DevSummit Demo Theater Presentation

    I will be attending the Esri DevSummit 2012 in Palm Springs, CA for the first time and giving a demo theater presentation titled "Strategic User Experience with Flex" on Tuesday, March 27th.

    Please join me for the demo theater where I will be covering a basic approach to strategic user experience for projects and I will share some examples from projects using Adobe Flex and the ArcGIS API for Flex.

    For more details about the Esri DevSummit, visit:

    Details about my session: Strategic UX Experience with Flex

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  • 26 February 2012

    Posted by Frank Garofalo | Topic: RIAs, User Experience, Miscellaneous, Multi-touch

    SXSW Interactive 2012

    I am excited to have the opportunity to attend SXSW Interactive 2012. Follow me on Twitter: @fgarofalo

    Last year was my first time attending where I was able to learn best-practices from others, network with others in the tech industry, and make some friends.

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  • 2 February 2012

    Posted by Frank Garofalo | Topic: User Experience

    Geographic Information Systems vs Maps

    Here is a description I've found myself using quite frequently in the past few weeks. Just to note, this is purely my view and option - this does not necessarily reflect those of my employer.


    My employer takes a geographic approach to problem solving to ensure better communication and collaboration for understanding our world. We are more than just a mapping company, we are a geographic information systems company. Sometimes this means viewing your data on a map, sometimes this means viewing your data in a table / data-grid, and sometimes this does mean a combination of the previous two.


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  • 2 February 2012

    Posted by Frank Garofalo | Topic: RIAs, User Experience

    Simplicity: Google, Apple, and Your Company

    I saw this on (Patrick Neeman's Blog) but it is originally from

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  • 30 January 2012
  • 25 January 2012

    Posted by Frank Garofalo | Topic: User Experience

    The Future of Government Online

    Today I came across a white paper on the web site for UX Magazine. The white paper was published by Modius Associates, a digital strategy and design firm, in December 2011.

    In the paper, titled "Yes We Can: The Future of Government Online" there are several excellent points made. One section in particular stood out to me, On Page 11, labeled "Law #4: Design around people, not technologies or Org Charts." Here the author discusses keeping a fundamental principal in mind when starting a project: "Know your users and plan everything with them in mind." The author goes on to state "... the single most important thing you can do to ensure the success of your web presence is to follow a user-centered design process."

    The primary difference is to not start by focusing on the technical aspects (databases, servers, algorithms). But, to "optimize the user experience around how people can, want, or need to work, rather than forcing users to change how they work to accommodate your system."

    The below diagram is from the white paper (pg 11):

    Read the white paper at:

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  • 17 January 2012

    Posted by Frank Garofalo | Topic: User Experience

    Thinking Aloud still No.1 Usability Tool after 19yrs

    In Jakob Nielsen's Alertbox published today he discusses how after 19 years the Thinking Aloud technique for usability testing still ranks #1, according to his research.

    Nielsen defines the thinking aloud technique as: "In a thinking aloud test, you ask test participants to use the system while continuously thinking out loud - that is, simply verbalizing their thoughts as they move through the user interface."

    Also in the article he discusses the pros and cons of the technique.

    Read Nielsen's full article at:

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  • 11 January 2012

    Posted by Frank Garofalo | Topic: User Experience

    User Experience and User Interface: Commonalities

    Today my team leader shared with us a diagram he found which depicts roles and skills for User Experience, User Interface, Application Developers, and Graphic Designers.

    The diagram was made by Ben Melbourne and he has a blog post about "The difference between a UX Designer and a UI Developer."

    I found both the diagram and Melbourne's article very interesting and very accurate.

    Below is my version of Melbourne's diagram:

    Read Melbourne's article at:

    Add a Comment

  • 17 December 2011

    Posted by Frank Garofalo | Topic: User Experience

    Project Management & User Experience

    At the end of the day, when "all is said and done," if a user experience practitioner is able and empowered to effectively do their job and add value to a project, the client should be happy and the project manager should look good. Now this doesn't always occur because the user experience practitioner, at times, is restrained by factors, such as: development, budget, schedule, and/or other various overriding opinions.

    The role of a user experience practitioner is to help project stakeholders visualize and understand the target end-users of the system they want to implement. This includes how the user will access, navigate, and interact with that system. The goal is to never make the user feel puzzled, frustrated, or confused, but rather confident, pleased, and accomplished. In this competitive world, the experience a user receives from a system should result in the user becoming an ambassador for your system - therefore telling others that they should also adopt and use your system.

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  • 15 December 2011

    Posted by Frank Garofalo | Topic: User Experience

    CSS Image Sprites & UX

    Using CSS Image Sprites can actually have an effect on the user experience. By properly using image sprites, there can be a decrease in the number of HTTP server requests for your web page. Therefore, the loading time for the web page can be decreased.

    Here is a simple example of an image sprite used on this website:

    The W3Schools has a good article:

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  • 15 December 2011

    Posted by Frank Garofalo | Topic: User Experience

    Futurama - Not Paid to Think

    I'd say I'm a fan of Futurama (although it's not a show I regularly/loyally watch).

    The poster below from Futurama makes me laugh:

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  • 15 December 2011

    Posted by Frank Garofalo | Topic: User Experience

    Live from Antarctica is launched

    The Esri Developer Network (EDN) has been working on an application to track Jordan Romero and his climb of Mt. Vinson in Antarctica this December. The web application was built using Adobe Flex and the ArcGIS API for Flex.

    I assisted the EDN team with aspects of the interface design and user experience.

    Currently just the Team Jordan tracking has been launched and the "7 Summits Challenge" - a fitness challenge - will be released soon.

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  • 10 December 2011

    Posted by Frank Garofalo | Topic: User Experience

    Workflow Process Indicators

    I've recently been working on a project where there is a specific process a new end-user of the system needs to follow to register with the system. There are three brief and sequential steps that the user must complete in order to use the full capabilities if the system.

    There is a previous blog post I've made related to this topic: Give Survey Participants a Progress Indicator.

    While the user is in this sequential, step-by-step workflow there is value in showing the user the number of steps and which step they are currently on. This helps to give visibility of the system through feedback to the user by communicating how long the process is and where they are in the process.

    This follows two items in Jakob Nielsen’s "Ten Usability Heuristics:" 1) Visibility of the system status and 2) Match between system and the real world. Additionally, this follows two items in Don Norman's "Design Principles:" 1) Visibility and 2) Feedback.

    Progress Indicator Examples: (shown are the three different steps, each highlighted once)

    The progress indicators should be hidden once the user has completed the workflow steps, if they are able to return to those same interface screens during the regular, re-occurring use of the system and not led through the entire workflow process. In this scenario, the progress indicators represent the sequential process and now during the on-going use the workflow process is no longer necessary.

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  • 8 December 2011

    Posted by Frank Garofalo | Topic: User Experience

    Don't Rely on ALT text & Tool Tips

    When trying to determine how to assist the target user to achieve the goal of the application/system, don't rely on an expectation for the user to read ALT text and/or tool tips.

    According to research from Jakob Nielsen, "[o]n the average Web page, users have time to read at most 28% of the words during an average visit; 20% is more likely." Source:

    ALT text and tooltips typically appear when the user moves the mouse cursor to hover over an interface element. These can be very helpful. In fact, for Section 508 Accessibility compliance, these are required.

    However, using ALT text and tooltips as a primary method to communicate a message to the user is a recipe for disaster.

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  • 7 December 2011

    Posted by Frank Garofalo | Topic: User Experience

    ArcGIS Viewer for Flex - Application Builder

    The "ArcGIS Viewer for Flex - Application Builder" was released recently. This was one of the first projects I've worked on since joining Esri. I was called in to help with the user experience of the Application Builder. Based on initial prototype that had already been developed, here is a rough outline of the steps we took:
    1) held a UX Storyboarding Workshop (thanks Bjorn for seeing the value in it);
    2) reviewed the protoype's UX / UI;
    3) took the prototype through a round of usability testing (thanks for your help Neal);
    4) drafted wireframes for all the interfaces;
    5) created color compositions for the new visual design;
    6) generated Flex component skins with Adobe Flash Catalyst

    Here are links to download the Application Builder (for free) and review the documentation:

    I sincerely enjoyed working with the Esri Flex Team - thanks to Bjorn, Derek, Sarthak, JC, Mehul, and Dasa.

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  • 30 November 2011

    Posted by Frank Garofalo | Topic: User Experience, RIAs

    The New Google Bar

    Tuesday Google announced a new menu bar as part of the larger redesign initiative. The classic navigation bar, black bar across the top with the most common links (Gmail, Web, Images, etc) is going way. Now each of those options will be nested in a compound drop-down menu under the Google logo.

    There are several pros and cons about compound drop-down menus. On, Jakob Nielsen has two articles about "mega menus."

    I'm looking forward to using the new Google menu bar to see how it works. Below are two articles about new the menu bar:

    ABC News: Google Scraps Classic Navigation Bar for Flashy Menu
    Official Google Blog: The next stage in our redesign

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  • 29 November 2011

    Posted by Frank Garofalo | Topic: User Experience

    When Maps Shouldn’t Be Maps

    I recently read an article by Matthew Ericson, Deputy Graphics Director at The New York Times, about using maps to communicate information regarding data that is geography based.

    Ericson uses two examples from the NY Times about how information presented on a map could cause more confusion that communication. One example is from the 2008 election and the other is from flooding in New Orleans from Hurricane Katrina.

    Overall, to effectively communicate information, in some situations, a map may not be enough and may need to be paired with a table, chart, and/or graph. This pairing can provide both spatial reference to the data as well as to analyze the data for patterns.

    Read Ericson's full article at:

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  • 29 September 2011
  • 22 September 2011

    Posted by Frank Garofalo | Topic: User Experience

    New Pandora Radio Interface

    Pandora has launched a new interface for their free user accounts (it was rolled out to the paid-accounts a couple of weeks ago).

    The album art is now displayed larger with two song album covers by default, however with a drag handle you can increase or decrease the size of the album for the current song and there show/hide album art from recently played songs.

    I also like the added option to select "I'm tired of this track" for a particular song, in addition to the standard like and dislike.

    For more details about Pandora's redesign, read their article at

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  • 15 September 2011

    Posted by Frank Garofalo | Topic: User Experience

    Interaction Design Association (IxDA)

    I've joined the Interaction Design Association (IxDA). Their self described mission is to improve the human condition by advancing the discipline of Interaction Design. They go on to define "interaction design" as the structure and behavior of interactive systems.

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  • 13 September 2011
  • 10 September 2011

    Posted by Frank Garofalo | Topic: User Experience

    Usability Professional's Association

    In August 2011 I joined the Usability Professional's Association (UPA), which "supports people who research, design, and evaluate the user experience of products and services."

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  • 24 August 2011
  • 11 August 2011
  • 11 August 2011

    Posted by Frank Garofalo | Topic: User Experience

    Users' Story: UX Storyboarding

    This presentation is based on a presentation at SxSW 2011 by:
    Joseph O’Sullivan, Intuit
    Rachel Evans, Intuit

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  • 3 August 2011

    Posted by Frank Garofalo | Topic: User Experience

    User-Centered Project Management

    First of all, I don't consider myself a project manager. However, I decided to make a blog post that combines typical project management life cycles with common user-centered design methods.

    Making use of these UCD Methods earlier in a project can help to uncover potential issues while still at the "blueprint stage" instead of finding potential issues during the "construction stage" (In other words, it's easier to add a door to a wall with a pencil and eraser while its on the drafting table, rather than once the wall has been built at the construction site).

    • Initiation
      • UX Storyboarding
      • Prototyping
      • Heuristic Evaluation
      • Card Sorting
    • Planning or development
      • UX Storyboarding
      • Prototyping
      • Usability Testing
      • Heuristic Evaluation
      • Card Sorting
      • Surveys
      • Focus Groups
      • Field Studies
    • Production or execution
      • Prototyping
      • Usability Testing
      • Heuristic Evaluation
    • Monitoring and controlling
      • n/a
    • Closing
      • Usability Testing
      • Heuristic Evaluation
      • Surveys
      • Focus Groups
      • Field Studies
      • Server Analysis
      • Search Analysis

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  • 3 August 2011

    Posted by Frank Garofalo | Topic: User Experience

    Usability Testing = User Acceptance Testing, right?

    I've commonly found that those outside the disciplines of UCD/UX occasionally confuse "usability testing" and "user acceptance testing." Below are the Wikipedia definitions for both:

    "Usability Testing is a technique used to evaluate a product by testing it on users. This can be seen as an irreplaceable usability practice, since it gives direct input on how real users use the system.1 This is in contrast with usability inspection methods where experts use different methods to evaluate a user interface without involving users. Usability testing focuses on measuring a human-made product's capacity to meet its intended purpose." Source

    "User Acceptance Testing (UAT) is a process to obtain confirmation that a system meets mutually agreed-upon requirements. A Subject Matter Expert (SME), preferably the owner or client of the object under test, provides such confirmation after trial or review. In software development, UAT is one of the final stages of a project and often occurs before a client or customer accepts the new system." Source. User Acceptance Testing is also referred to as Holistic Testing.

    In my opinion, there are two primary differences between these two processes. First, Usability Testing involves an expert facilitating actual end-users performing specific tasks with a system / application. Where as User Acceptance Testing involves a trial / review conducted by a subject-matter expert. Second, User Acceptance Testing typically occurs near the conclusion of a project. On the other hand, Usability Testing should occur as early as possible in a project. This can include performing a usability test on a paper prototype ("mock-up") and/or interactive prototype. However, Usability Testing can be conducted at any stage of a project, even after a project has concluded. In some of these instances, a usability test can be used to compare two versions of a system / application.

    The intention of this post is not to down-play User Acceptance Testing. There is a very specific purpose of User Acceptance Testing. Rather the goal is to highlight the differences between these processes.

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  • 26 July 2011

    Posted by Frank Garofalo | Topic: User Experience

    ROI of Usability

    The other day I took a look at Jakob Nielsen's Alertbox article from July 18th 2011, entitled "Intranet Portals: Personalization Hot, Mobile Weak, Governance Essential." The overall article was very interesting and I've come across some of the UI/UX issues when implementing personalization capabilities into a system.

    However, one paragraph of the article especially stood out to me. For quite some time now I've been looking for a way to justify usability improvements through a financial context. Now, thanks to Jakob, I can reference his article and the ROI for Usability formula.

    Nielsen describes the formula as "the annualized value of a design improvement that saves t minutes in time-on task." In other words, by reducing the time end-users (such as employees) spend on a task can save an organization money through increased productivity and efficiency.

    • T = minutes decreased completing a specific task
    • E = number of end-users who perform this task
    • N = number of times per year a typical end-user performs the task
    • S = average end-user salary / compensation per minute

    Now multiply: T x E x N x S = Dollar amount in potential savings through usability improvements.

    For example:

    • T = 10 minutes decreased completing a specific task
    • E = 1500 end-users who perform this task
    • N = 520 times per year a typical end-user performs the task (10 times per week)
    • S = $0.401 average end-user salary / compensation per minute (based on avg salary of $50k and 40-hr work week)

    Calculate: 10 x 1500 x 520 x $0.401 = $3,125,00.00 in potential savings through usability improvements.

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  • 12 May 2011

    Posted by Frank Garofalo | Topic: User Experience

    UX Specs - Capturing What You’re Not Implementing

    UPDATE: A version of this article by Frank was published in an online industry magazine, UX Magazine. Read the article at:

    The UX process is usually a creative, exploratory process as you and your fellow project team members go through brainstorming sessions. When iterating through the process, a variety of artifacts are typically created. As ideas and concepts are eliminated from a project, don’t discard those ideas or the related artifacts archive them instead. By archiving the various artifacts of each project, the ideas and concepts generated throughout the life of the project are not discarded and lost. The ideas can be retained and potentially reevaluated for use in future projects or as a starting point for further ideation in future projects.

    Early in a project, you and your team may start to exchange concepts through dry-erase board sketches and paper sketches. Capture those ideas and retain them as digital artifacts by taking digital pictures of the board sketches and making scans of the paper sketches. This also applies to any other artifact generated throughout the entire process that is not originally in a digital format.

    Most organizations have a method for documenting the UX specifications for a project. These documentation methods usually focus on what is to be included in the project. As you and your team continue to iterate on the specifications through the life of the project, some ideas will be removed. For example, an entire use-case description might be determined to not be significant enough to be accounted for in the project, so the concepts related to that use-case are “scoped out” of the project. However, don’t discard the related artifacts that have been already generated. Those ideas, though not implemented in the current project, could be a viable solution for another future project.

    Although, what is included can be equally as important as what has been considered and determine to not be included in the project. This documentation can be useful, perhaps as an appendix to the UX specifications, to highlight decisions made during the UX process with a brief description as to why it was not included in the project. If someone later asks why a design was made in a particular manner, you will have documentation to reference regarding the other concepts considered and the reasoning behind the decision made.

    An excellent tool for archiving these artifacts is a wiki ( Most wikis maintain a change log for content, and also have tagging and searching capabilities. Each artifact can be associated with the specific project within the wiki as well as tagged with common terminology across all projects. Digital scans of sketches and other documents can be tagged with, for example the project name as well as a “scoped-out” tag (certainly other tags could be created as well). These tags can then be used in searches within the wiki. This archiving process effectively generates a Knowledge Management Repository ( of both concepts used in projects and concepts eliminated from projects.

    From the lens of Knowledge Management, this method of capturing what has and may have not been implemented offers an organization the ability to collect the ideas, concepts, and knowledge of their employees into an organized format.

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  • 11 May 2011

    Posted by Frank Garofalo | Topic: User Experience

    UX: Don’t Hate, Participate

    Yesterday I read an article on the UX Magazine web site by Stephanie Arnold, Executive Director of User Experience Design at AT&T Interactive, titled, "UX: Don't Hate, Participate." Arnold shares her thoughts on how she has strived to establish relationships across different teams within AT&T Interactive. Several of the methods she describes also reflects several methods also promoted and recommended by presenters at SXSWi 2011 - including Steve Krug, author of "Don’t Make Me Think" and "Rocket Surgery Made Easy."

    Arnold starts off by describing the importance of establishing strong, trusting relationships between the UX team and other teams within the organization. She states “other teams will trust and depend on your team more when they understand your process and feel like they are participating.” This is an important aspect of the relationships between the teams. When members of the various cross-functional teams feel like they have contributed towards the end result of a project, plus receive credit for their contributions, then trust can begin to be built among the team members. She also highlights that including members of "other teams into the UX process allows you to ensure that your designs are built and reviewed with different lenses and perspectives."

    She pin points three primary cross-functional teams, in addition to UX: the executives, the product team, and the developers.

    The Executives

    • Usually have time/bandwidth constraints, so keep them involved at a high-level but don’t burden them with too many in-depth details.
    • Provide updates that reflect results and returns for the organization.
    • Data for a creative process can be provided through Usability Testing results. Arnold states: "We invite the entire executive team to weekly usability sessions… after the session are run, I share our high-level findings in a weekly readout, further, twice a month we review our most recent design comps with the CEO..."
      • One key item to point out, which I as well as other UX professionals agree with, is the method of conducting weekly user testing sessions and, as Steve Krug says, "make it a spectator sport" - get key stakeholders of the project to attend the sessions.
    • Arnold's summary for The Executives: "The trick with this group is to use their time efficiently. Get to the point. Show them data. Don’t inundate with details, but show progress. And definitely find a way to keep them informed and interested."

    The Product Team

    • These are the individuals usually in the trenches along side of you.
    • Build constructive participation from the product team into your UX design & research process through constant communication.
    • When starting a new project, hold kick-off meetings with the product team.
    • When brainstorming and iterating through ideas, wireframes and design comps - invite the product team to join in the discussions.
    • If a strong relationship can be established between the UX team and the product team, and members of both teams are comfortable with meeting informally to collaborate, then the need for formal, scheduled meetings may be able to decrease.
    • Invite and insist that the product team attends usability testing sessions. Furthermore, invite them to actively participate in the planning process for the usability testing to determine what is actually tested.
    • Invite them to participate in the testing debriefs to review the results of usability testing and make recommended action items.
    • Through all the active participation, product teams are able to observe firsthand the reasoning behind decisions made by the UX team to further fine-tune their product.
    • Arnold's summary for The Product Team: "Communicate regularly. Establish collaborative relationships. Invite them to take part in brainstorming. Give them a peek into what has motivated your design decisions (usability, outside research, competitive research, etc.). Treat them as a partner in UX, and not as an outside threat."

    The Developers

    • Just as with the product team, the relationship between the UX team and the development team is "most successful with a lot of communication and collaboration."
    • "Usability testing is valuable to the developers… it is one of the only times they are able to get insight into end users, and it allows them to see the product through a completely different lens than they are used to." The can see both the success of testing participants using the product as well as the issues where participants come across challenges and issues.
    • Invite them to attend the usability testing sessions, as well as the post-testing debriefs (same as with the product team).
    • Invite developers to brainstorming sessions (especially early in the process) and reviews of UX deliverables - this provides another perspective on the product design. By "involving them early in discussions allows you to explore new ideas as well as get a reading on the viability of your UX solutions." I would take Arnold’s statement a step further and say not only the viability of the UX solutions but also a timeline to have the potential solutions included into a release cycle for implementation.
    • Arnold’s summary for The Developers: "Communication. Show and tell. Collaboration and brainstorming. Involve them early and utilize them as a sounding board for potential ideas and solutions."

    Arnold goes on to discuss the common threads that runs throughout each of the teams.

    • "Hone in on the language that each team speaks when they view UX."
    • Determine which UX deliverables are most important to each team - research results, wireframes, comps, etc.
    • "Usability testing is invaluable for cross-collaboration. Urge participation from any and all groups fully appreciate the value that usability testing brings to the organization, it is imperative to watch it firsthand."
      • I couldn't agree more with Arnold's statement. Anyone and everyone involved with the project should make all possible attempts to attend usability testing for that project. Seeing challenges users may experience firsthand is more valuable than being told about the challenges. Plus, when the user has a positive experience, as Arnold suggests earlier in the article, provides a sense of accomplishment to the project members.
    • Overall the most important aspect of all of this, as Arnold concludes her article with, is relationship building. Collaborate with all the project members and strive to institute an environment of constructive participation where ideas, suggestions, and critiques can be freely shared. Work towards having all the project members feel like they have contributed to the project's design to hopefully generate buy-in for the solution from all involved.

    Read Stephanie Arnold's full article on UX Magazine at:

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  • 10 May 2011

    Posted by Frank Garofalo | Topic: User Experience

    Communication with Cross-Functional Teams

    As a user experience architect you typically find yourself working with other teams, such as executives, product managers, designers, content writers, and developers - just to name a few.

    Today my father sent me a picture that, I think, illustrates a metaphor for how the user experience can be negatively be effected when communication between cross-functional teams fails.

    The development team in a hypothetical organization is told that for a sign they need to build a horizontal arrow.

    The content writers are told that the sign needs to have a description telling the user to turn.

    If quality communication between the teams doesn't occur, the user experience can suffer - especially if conflicting information is communicated to the user.

    Furthermore, if this had gone through a round of user testing, hopefully challenges to the user could be discovered and acted upon.

    Now I know this is a very simple, and silly, example, but unfortunately communications break down between teams too frequently.

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  • 12 April 2011

    Posted by Frank Garofalo | Topic: User Experience

    Animated Tribute to UX Design by Lyle Alzaldo


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  • 30 March 2011

    Posted by Frank Garofalo | Topic: User Experience

    UX R&D

    A concept that I started thinking about today I'm calling "UX R&D." The principle behind that concept comes from the notion that user experience really is a "research and development" process. Some of the inspiration behind this concept came from Jeff Gothelf's presentation called "Lean UX" at the SXSW Interactive 2011 conference. I agree with Jeff's "Lean UX" concept, as I further share details of his presentation on another blog post.

    In Jeff's concept of "Lean UX," he defines it as "Inspired by Lean Startup and Agile development theories, it's the practice of bringing the true nature of our work to light faster, with less emphasis on deliverables and greater focus on the actual experience being designed." Jeff emphasizes "true nature" and "actual experience" - he states that these are really the same thing, the true nature of the work done by a UX professional is trying to determine the actual experience.

    With this "true nature" to determine the "actual experience" is very much a research and development process. The order of the words need to play the childhood game of leap frog and constantly swap order, as this is an iterative process to determine the actual experience. To expand on Jeff's Lean UX process here are some thoughts on a UX R&D process:
    1. Concept - research the actual problem of the customer, research how your solution will have the vision to solve the customers' problems,
    2. Prototype - develop wire frames, develop paper prototypes, develop coded/functional prototypes
    3. Validate Internally - research by talking to stakeholders, managers, dev team members, business analysts
      • User Testing
    4. Text Externally- research by testing individuals outside your organization
      • User Testing
    5. Learn from user behavior to develop improvements to the concept
    6. Iterate - for the same project, repeat the process
    I would like to hear your thoughts, contact me on Twitter: @fgarofalo Hash tag: #UXRD and Jeff Gothelf's hash tag for Lean UX is: #LeanUX

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  • 22 March 2011

    Posted by Frank Garofalo | Topic: User Experience

    Lean UX: Getting Out of the Deliverables Business

    Jeff Gothelf, Dir of User Experience at TheLadders, gave a presentation at the SXSW 2011 Interactive conference. Details of his presentation are at: and his presentation slides are available at:

    Jeff defines "Lean UX" as: "Inspired by Lean Startup and Agile development theories, it's the practice of bringing the true nature of our work to light faster, with less emphasis on deliverables and greater focus on the actual experience being designed." Jeff emphasizes "true nature" and "actual experience" - he states that these are really the same thing, the true nature of the work done by a UX professional is trying to determine the actual experience.

    The Lean UX process:

    1. Concept
    2. Prototype (wireframes, paper, coded, etc.)
    3. Validate Internally - talk to stakeholders, managers, dev team, business analysis
      • User Testing
    4. Text Externally
      • User Testing
    5. Learn from user behavior
    6. Iterate

    Get to the "just good enough" phase quickly and iterate on it. Post your concepts, wireframes, sketches in public where people can see it to get feedback.

    This diagram depicts the benefits feedback can provide to help achieve meeting the objectives of a project. (Image Source)

    Lean UX is not...

    • Lazy - "...the best part that the team is doing a xxxx-ton of UX. They document a ton of stuff explicitly on the walls and implicitly in shared understanding among team members." ~Austin Govella
    • The only thing being removed is waste.
    • This is NOT design-by-committee.

    Lean UX is...

    • Control - don't need "The Spec" to keep control; "Keeper of the Vision" to show work early and show work often
    • Momentum - Everyone's engaged, Everyone's motivated.
    • Quality - don't compromise; "Speed first. Aethetics second." ~Jason Fried,; Iteration means quality continually improves.
    • Feasibility - make sure it can be built (and built well); talk to the developers regularly and frequently; prototyping - focus on the core flow to focus on what the customer needs and what the business needs; validate it with your customers and demo it to your team; the prototype becomes the documentation (to minimize additional documentation)
    • Test Often, Test Frequently, Test Cheaply - show the prototype to your customers; schedule regular user testing sessions with about 3 people each week - keep it light and cheap; show them a sketch on a napkin, a prototype, etc.
    • Fill in the Gaps - What did you not think about? The more you talk about it the more you get critiqued to realize what is missing from the experience. Iterate forward.

    This document shows the different interpretations of information, however through having visual sketches and wire-frames drafted, shared, and iterated can help to reduce miss communications. (Image Source)

    Jeff goes on to describe how this model can be accomplished...

    Internal software/web design shop:
    "You are in the problem-solving business and you don't solve problems with design documentation. You solve them with elegant, efficient and sophisticated software.

    External agencies:
    Agencies are in the deliverables business.

    Collaborative Sketching:
    Get members of cross-functional teams to sketch together

    • Design studios
    • Cross-functional team, get everyone involved early
    • Everybody draws, presents and critques
    • Refine ideas through 3 rounds
    • Generate tons of raw ideas
    • Huge head-start for UX
    • Early team-wide alignment
    • Team-wide feeling of ownership & buy-in

    Lean UX is a team-based model - having transparency, building trust. Designers may be the largest obstacle. This is not a revolutionary concept, it's an evolution. Get back to the experience design business and out of the deliverables business.

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  • 11 March 2011

    Posted by Frank Garofalo | Topic: User Experience

    SXSW: Talk from Marissa Mayer, Google

    I attended a presentation from Google's Marissa Mayer on Fri, March 11. She showcased several new features / products / services / projects from Google - most of which are focused on location-based technologies especially for mobile. Here are a few:

    • Vector-based maps for Google Maps for Mobile
    • Traffic Avoidances for Google Navigation
    • Google Places "Hotpot"
    • Google Art Project
    • New Augmented Reality
    • Contextual Discovery
    • Combining data captured from location, calendar, weather, etc.

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  • 4 March 2011

    Posted by Frank Garofalo | Topic: User Experience

    South-by-Southwest 2011

    SxSW 2011

    Next Thursday I will be traveling to attend SxSW 2011 - Interactive. This is my first time to attend this conference and I'm looking forward to it. Throughout the conference will be posting to this blog and on Twitter (@fgarofalo). If you're going to SxSW, send me a tweet.

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  • 7 February 2011

    Posted by Frank Garofalo | Topic: User Experience

    Quote about Iteration and Understanding

    Quote from Aza Raskin: "You are iterating your solution as well as your understanding of the problem." In other words, through each iteration of a concept and a prototype you are able to better understand the challenge you are trying to solve.

    Related Blog Post: How to Prototype and Influence People

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  • 13 January 2011

    Posted by Frank Garofalo | Topic: User Experience

    Provide Confirmation Messages to the User

    A system, regardless of being desktop-based or web-based, needs to always provide the user with a sense of what the system is doing. Here are some example scenarios:

    Example 1
    If the system is loading information and the user needs to wait for that information to be loaded, provide a progress bar of the percentage complete. Providing a numerical or visual indication of the amount completed is better than just an arbitrary animation.

    Example 2
    If the device just changed data such as added data, updated data, or deleted data, inform the user that it was successfully completed.

    These concepts follow the six design rules from "The Design of Future Things" by Donald Norman:

    • Provide rich, complex and natural signals
    • Be predictable
    • Provide a good conceptual model
    • Make the output understandable
    • Provide continual awareness, without annoyance
    • Explicit natural mappings to make interaction understandable and effective

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  • 11 January 2011

    Posted by Frank Garofalo | Topic: User Experience

    Give Survey Participants a Progress Indicator

    This article is a combination of user testing and user experience. I don’t mind filling out surveys for companies wanting feedback. Being in the user experience industry and knowing the value of customer feedback, I’m willing to share my opinion. However, all too often when I’m completing a web-based survey an indication of my progress in the survey is not provided. This lack of information is an extremely frustrating experience. At times, I’ve exited out of a survey after completing page 10 of a survey and not knowing how many more pages exist.

    To solve this issue, communicate to the user with an indication of where they are in the process of completing the survey. This can be accomplished in a variety of formats, such as:

    • Dot Indicators

    • Progress Bar

    • Numerical / Percentages
      Simply state either “Page 3 of 10” or “30% Completed”

    These methods are easy to implement, from both a design perspective as well as a development perspective. To the user, this provides a sense of location of where they are in the process. If you are concerned with providing this information because of the length of your survey, then you may need to re-address your survey content.

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  • 7 January 2011

    Posted by Frank Garofalo | Topic: User Experience

    Why Your Form Buttons Should Never Say Submit

    A friend of mine and fellow web developer, David Auble (Twitter: @dauble), shared with me an article he found on titled "Why Your Form Buttons Should Never Say Submit."

    This article discusses how an interface appears more friendly to a user when the terminology labeling a button is more related to the action that occurs as part of the user's task instead of labeling the button simply as "Submit."

    I've been trying to do this more as I've been building interfaces.

    Read the article at: -say-submit

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  • 6 January 2011

    Posted by Frank Garofalo | Topic: User Experience

    Treating Users as Customers: Designing the end-to-end

    "Treating Users as Customers: Designing the end-to-end" (what a brilliant concept), is the title of an article by Steve Workman, a consultant at PA Consulting Group in London, UK. Workman begins his article with a discussion about how for web designers it is easy to divide elements of the user interface and/or the user experience into small parts. He states: "Breaking an experience into small parts allows the details to be worked through and perfected." This is true. However, only looking at the situation with a magnifying glass can miss details seen at the big picture level, as Workman describes: "It's rare that web designers think of the bigger picture - not just the end-to-end journey of a user, but the entirety of a customer's experience." The full span of the customer experience can take numerous weeks to occur, or "it can be as immediate as someone being told about an app, downloading it, playing with it for five minutes, and leaving a review." I strongly agree with Workman's point of: "...the need for designers to think big in order to deliver customer experience has never been so important."

    The path a customer takes to arrive to your user interface can greatly affect the expectations they will have of your interface/system. Workman breaks these path/expectation combinations into three categories, to quote:

    • Search gives the lowest expectation because relatively little information is contained within search results.
    • Advertising often paints a rosy picture of products or services so expectations are higher.
    • Social networks produce the most realistic expectations, as this is the only channel where both negative information and independent praise can be found.

    Trying to match what a customer is expecting with methods to develop the interface/system to meet those expectations, UX professionals usually turn to generating use cases. Workman states:

    Many designers simply view this touchpoint as a single use case, and attempt to group people into buckets to predict what they will do. If customers expect more than a use case can describe, it is entirely possible that they won't be happy with a product or service - their expectations won’t be met.

    With the increased number of web sites and mobile apps available on the web, customers' standards for customer support have also increased. I agree with Workman's thoughts on this:

    A few years ago, a frustrated customer would simply sigh and give up on a difficult product, or try to accomplish the same thing using another service. More recently, though, people have been treating web sites and "garage-made" apps as if they were products from multi-national corporations, expecting the same level of service from a one-man band as they would get from their electric company.

    This is now presenting one-man bands as well as companies of all sizes with several new challenges; "...expectations for support are also going up, often faster than the companies can keep up with," says Workman. He goes on to make the observation, which I agree with, of "...many companies, both large and small, are not providing the same quality of customer service that they provide for their core services as for their mobile apps... they make the mistake of assuming their application is good enough and their customers are technically savvy, so they don’t have to put much effort into customer support."

    Looking at the big picture there are several actions that can be taken to improve the full experience of interacting with a company. Workman describes this as:

    The customer's experience must be considered at all stages of UX design; the big picture should always affect in the design of the small picture, as each touchpoint in the ecosystem is crafted. Marketing teams must be involved in designing the customer experience, so that the holistic experience of using a service or interacting with a company conveys the right message every time.

    Once again, the discussion leads towards collaboration with user experience, information technology, marketing, operations, and customer support. Customers today are expecting an open dialogue with a company to resolve any issues they may encounter. Not only are customer support departments being called upon to help resolve these issues quickly, but information about the issues need to be communicated efficiently to the other departments within the company so that the company can learn from these issues and better respond to the customers' needs thus moving towards the continual goal of providing the best experiences.

    I'll wrap up this post with the last paragraph from Workman, which ties the idea together very well:

    Thinking of the customer experience, rather than just the user experience, leads to a more complete product, one where customers’ expectations are met before, during, and after their journeys. Thinking of the big picture leads to happier customers, not just happier users.

    Read Steve Workman's full article on UX Magazine at:

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  • 3 January 2011

    Posted by Frank Garofalo | Topic: User Experience

    I'm a User, I'll Improvise

    This past weekend I had the opportunity to see Disney's TRON: Legacy movie ( The storyline overall was good, however two quotes from the movie stood out to me (and even made me laugh):

    • "I'm a user, I'll improvise" ~Sam Flynn (Garrett Hedlund)
    • "I fight for the user" ~ Tron (Bruce Boxleitner)

    The first quote (as is the title of this blog post) especially stood out to me. As I've mentioned in other blog posts, one most recently "Information Architecture," users will come up with their own use cases for a product or a system. Just because a designer, developer, or UX professional planned for a product or system to be used in a particular manner, doesn't mean that once in the hands of the end-user, that is how they will actually use the system.

    What does this mean to a UX professional...

    • Plan for the unexpected
    • Give users options instead of making decisions for them
    • Collect data / feedback whenever possible about how they are using the system to better understand the end-user

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  • 3 January 2011

    Posted by Frank Garofalo | Topic: User Experience

    Making User & Customer Experience a Business Competency

    Harley Manning, Vice President Research Director for Customer Experience at Forrester Research, sat down with UX Magazine for an interview regarding "Making User & Customer Experience a Business Competency" found the thoughts Manning shared to be very interesting and quite accurate.

    Manning defines customer experience (CX) as "the perception that customers have of their interactions with your organization." In comparison to user experience, customer experience is the perception of the interaction your customers have with your organization from start to finish (product packaging, advertisements, customer support call centers, products, services, web site, etc.); whereas, user experience is the perception of the interaction your customers have with an interface your organization is associated with (such as a web site or a software device). According to Manning, companies are starting to see that marketing, IT, business, customer support and design are not separate silos on an organizational chart but rather are interconnected in the eyes of the customer.

    When assisting a current customer to resolve an issue, it is one thing to determine what happened to cause the issue. However, to dive in deeper it is another thing to ask how the customer perceived what happened. This is where underlying details can be captured about the customer’s opinion of not just their user experience, but rather their thoughts on your company’s brand as a whole.

    Watch and read Harley Manning’s full interview (and transcript) with UX Magazine at:

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  • 28 December 2010

    Posted by Frank Garofalo | Topic: User Experience

    Information Architecture

    Planning, designing, developing and building the user interface for a system has a plethora of parallels to constructing a house. Just as an architect for a house needs to plan the structural support for the house as well as the aesthetic design of the house, the same applies to planning the user interface for a system. Planning must occur for the functional development of the system, as well as for the aesthetic design of the system. But it isn't just that simple. There are business and consumer needs which factor into the equation, so the architect has to work within the threshold of the construction company's needs as well as meeting what the new home owner will want. Again, parallels exist from an architect for a house to planning a user interface. Considerations for the user interface need to be made for the business needs as well as the needs of the consumers. Overall, throughout the process there is a concept lying in the center trying to find this balance; that concept is called "information architecture."

    The two primary items on either side of the balancing act for information architecture are 1) creative design, and 2) functionality / interaction. The other smaller players in the game at varying levels can typically include, but are not limited to: marketing, software, engineering, language translations, copy writing, and upper-management.

    Planning for Information Architecture
    When building a house, there are usually blueprints, material lists, schedules/timelines, and budgets. The same documents need to be generated when building an interface. Each of these documents are very important to have listed and detailed. This allows the key stakeholders for the project, in addition to the individuals actually working on the project, to know exactly what needs to occur. Sounds like another field is involved here… called project management. However, for this discussion I'm not going to focus on project management in relation to user experience and/or information architecture. Let’s further dive into the process of drafting blueprints in regard to information architecture. To quote renowned architect Frank Lloyd Wright, "You can use an eraser on the drafting table or a sledge hammer on the construction site." Planning and concept development are essential, or perhaps you need to invest in a large quantity of sledge hammers (which from another aspect could result in a low morale among workers since now they are tearing apart what they just built).

    User Experience vs Information Architecture
    The two concepts of user experience and information architecture go hand-in-hand. However, if a "high-level" of one exists, that doesn't automatically mean that a "high-level" of the other will exist. I think Oliver Reichenstein, co-owner and manager of Information Architects (MA Philosophy; former senior brand consultant at Interbrand), describes this well in his following quote: "Architects design houses that lead to a spectrum of experiences, some foreseen, some not. But they do not design all possible experiences one can have in a house." In other words, an extravagant house can be designed and constructed; however, just because the architect designed for a room to be the dining room, the home owner could place a billiards table in that space instead of a dining room table.

    The same is true for user interfaces. A quality interface can be produced with excellent information architecture, however all the possible use cases that could occur when in the hands of a consumer are almost impossible to conjure up. Yes, I'm stating that in my opinion, even a leading user experience expert would be challenged to account for all possible use cases for a given product or system. Although, through user testing and observing individuals, better use cases can be generated. To further explain, just because a team of designers and developers define a list of use cases, this does not mean that the consumer will use the system exactly as the use cases had described. This introduces a whole other topic where I've observed numerous occurrences of users essentially forming "hacked" methods of using an interface or system to achieve what they want the system to really be able to do in comparison to what the designers and developers plan with the use cases.

    During the blueprint phase of planning, designing, developing, creating, and/or building a user interface, try to work out as many ideas and issues as possible. Build prototypes to test the concept and observe people interacting with the prototype. This is a cyclical, iterative process… make changes with a "pencil" and try to reduce/avoid the need for a "sledge hammer."

    Find a balancing between what is visually pleasing on the screen and what is a natural interaction… in other words a middle ground between creative design and functionality / interaction with the goal to achieve a strong information architecture.

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  • 22 December 2010

    Posted by Frank Garofalo | Topic: User Experience

    UX related Quotes

    • "You can use an eraser on the drafting table or a sledge hammer on the construction site"
      ~ Frank Lloyd Wright

    • "The joy of an early release lasts but a short time. The bitterness of an unusable system lasts for years."
      ~ Anonymous

    • "Although I firmly believe that there is no such thing as a stupid question, there can indeed be stupid answers"
      ~ Don Norman

    • "Studying and questioning users does no good if you tell them the answers"
      ~ Jakob Nielsen

    • "It's so simple, it just may never be implemented."
      ~ Jon Stewart

    • "Customers always know what’s wrong. They can't always tell you what they want, but they always can tell you what's wrong"
      ~ Carly Fiorina

    • " attention to what users do, not what they say"
      ~ Jakob Nielsen

    • "If the user can’t use it, it doesn't work"
      ~ Susan Dray

    • "Any darn fool can make something complex; it takes a genius to make something simple"
      ~ Albert Einstein

    • "I have not failed. I've just found 10,000 ways that won't work."
      ~ Thomas Edison

    • "To invent, you need a good imagination and a pile of junk."
      ~ Thomas Edison

    • "Solve the obvious problems others seem to ignore"
      ~ James Dyson

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  • 21 December 2010

    Posted by Frank Garofalo | Topic: User Experience

    The Psychologist’s View of UX Design

    Susan Weinschenk, a psychologist shared her thoughts on user experience design with UX Magazine in a November 2010 article. She started off by sharing the following story, which I think is worth sharing:

    A king brings six men into a dark building. They cannot see anything. The king says to them, "I have bought this animal from the wild lands to the East. It is called an elephant." "What is an elephant?" the men ask. The king says, "Feel the elephant and describe it to me." The man who feels a leg says the elephant is like a pillar, the one who feels the tail says the elephant is like a rope, the one who feels the trunk says the elephant is like a tree branch, the one who feels the ear says the elephant is like a hand fan, the one who feels the belly says the elephant is like a wall, and the one who feels the tusk says the elephant is like a solid pipe. "You are all correct", says the king, "You are each feeling just a part of the elephant."

    This story highlights how individuals will have different perspectives, even of the same shared experience. Weinschenk broke down her thoughts into the following points:

    1. People don’t want to work or think more than they have to
      For this point, I especially liked her discussion on: "Only provide the features that people really need. Don't rely on your opinion of what you think they need; do user research to actually find out. Giving people more than they need just clutters up the experience." Guessing what your user wants versus listening to what your user wants can provide two very differing solutions - I would wager that the "guess" would be the fastest to fail.

      Another point that stood out was: "Pay attention to the affordance ( of objects on the screen, page, or device you are designing. If something is clickable make sure it looks like it is clickable." To me this has a strong connection to information architecture ( and I'm a huge proponent.

    2. People have limitations
      Here is another point I enjoyed: "People prefer short line lengths, but they read better with longer ones! It's a conundrum, so decide whether preference or performance is more important in your case, but know that people are going to ask for things that actually aren’t the best for them.

    3. People make mistakes
      Weinschenk states: "Preventing errors from occurring is always better than helping people correct them once they occur. The best error message is no message at all." I could not agree with this more.

    4. Human Memory is complicated
      Here Weinschenk shares: "People reconstruct memories, which means they are always changing. You can trust what users say as the truth only a little bit. It is better to observe them in action than to take their word for it." I'm glad to see another expert who agrees that it is better to observe users rather than listen to them. I believe that people are fundamentally bad at communicating - expressing to others what they have and what they want.

    5. People are social
      "People look to others for guidance on what they should do, especially if they are uncertain. This is called social validation ( This is why, for example, ratings and reviews are so powerful on web sites," states Weinschenk . Hmmm... I wonder why Facebook and Twitter are so popular - it's all about seeing what others are doing and making decisions based upon that social interaction.

    6. Attention
      For this point, Weinschenk describes attention as one of the primary factors to "designing an engaging UI." She goes on to say: "Grabbing and holding onto attention, and not distracting someone when they are paying attention to something, are key concerns."

    7. People Crave information
      Here is another one of the points I enjoyed most: "People need feedback. The computer doesn't need to tell the human that it is loading the file. The human needs to know what is going on." I've heard others in the industry say something to the point of "well the user can wait" ...ok, tell the user why they are waiting, that we are processing something and will have it available to them in a moment. Then a response I've heard is "but then it might show the user that we are slow at doing the processing" ...I would counter that statement with "so you would rather have the user wait for the processing to complete without knowing why they are waiting?" Talk about frustrating your users.

      On this point, Weinschenk also states "People will often want more information than they can actually process. Having more information makes people feel that they have more choices. Having more choices makes people feel in control. Feeling in control makes people feel they will survive better." I totally agree with Weinschenk, while there is challenge to not overload the user with information, giving them choices is always preferred rather than picking something for them.

    8. Unconscious Processing
      "Most mental processing occurs unconsciously," states Weinschenk. "People's behavior is greatly affected by factors that they aren't even aware of ...called framing."

    9. People Create Mental Models
      "In order to create a positive UX, you can either match the conceptual model of your product or web site to the users' mental model, or you can figure out how to 'teach' the users to have a different mental model." I'm not usually a fan of teaching a user something new, unless it is a novel concept. To further explain myself, I've heard over and over again, well the user can learn what this "star" icon means - the symbol of a "star" is used throughout a variety of interfaces for a multitude of meaning and now you are wanting to add yet another meaning... I'm not a fan of that. Whenever possible, I agree with Weinschenk that it is better to map your product or web site to the users' mental model (how do you know what the users' mental model is you ask… through a thing called user research).

    10. Visual System
      This point simply highlights points about colors, fonts, and positioning. Weinschenk recommends, as I agree with, the use of "groupings to help focus where the eye should look ...things that are close together are believed to 'go' together."

    Read Susan Weinschenk's full article on UX Magazine at:

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  • 20 December 2010

    Posted by Frank Garofalo | Topic: User Experience

    How to Prototype and Influence People

    In an article by Aza Raskin (Creative Lead for Mozilla Firefox) on the UX Magazine web site, titled "How to Prototype and Influence People," Raskin shares some thoughts on prototyping that I found interesting.

    Raskin states: "The goal of a prototype is to sketch an idea and to inspire participation: you are creating a narrative."

    The Principals of Prototyping, as suggested by Raskin, are:

    1. Your first try will be wrong. Budget and design for it.
    2. Aim to finish a usable artifact in a day. This helps you focus and scope.
    3. You are making a touchable sketch. Do not fill in all the lines.
    4. You are iterating your solution as well as your understanding of the problem.
    5. Treat your code as throw-away, but be ready to refactor.
    6. Borrow liberally
    7. Tell a story with your prototype. It isn't just a set of features.

    From these principals, I enjoyed #1, #4, and #7. I especially enjoyed #4, when problem-solving with issues related to UX / UI / UCD, through each iteration of a concept and a prototype you are able to better understand the challenge you are trying to solve.

    Read Aza Raskin's full article on UX Magazine at:

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  • 20 December 2010

    Posted by Frank Garofalo | Topic: User Experience

    Evolved UX: Using Social Media to drive UX

    I recently came across an article on the UX Magazine web site by Alexander Negash titled, "The Evolved User Experience: Using social media technologies to drive UX design and product strategy." I found several points from Negash to be very valid.

    • Breaking traditional approaches
      He starts off by discussing how in today's market a product can fail just as quickly as it is released to the market. The failure to have a successful launch can be caused by the product being "either less than useful and engaging or isn't innovative enough." He goes on to suggest that the root of this problem for many companies appears to be inability to "break away from more traditional approaches to product design and development process... this often means they design complex features that are dependent on a single big launch, but consequentially companies can't predict and design for future changes in user behavior trends." It's to no surprise the number of companies who can't break out of the old mindset. My suggestion, which isn't novel, would be for companies to launch a product that can last for years with the built in capability to push software updates to it... sound like a familiar concept? (perhaps, among other products, just like software updates pushed to smartphones).

    • From listening to reacting
      Listening to your target audience on a day-to-day basis can certainly generate fresh ideas, as Negash highlights. One of the main benefits is the ability to capture changing user behaviors so that over time your organization can become better at predicting user behavior. I completely agree with Negash's statemen: "the difference today is that social technologies enable ongoing user interaction with the product in real time, allowing product designers to vet ideas with users, and learn from users' concerns and firsthand experiences."

    • Empowered users
      Negesh describes how social media has empowered users in ways unlike in the past with new avenues to "consume media, do business, and share information." In other words, the target audience of your brand no longer consists of "passive consumers," they now can take ownership in your brand and their experience of your brand… plus share it rather quickly with their friends, both the positive and the negative. Nagesh also suggests that UX teams need to collaborate with other divisions of their company that may already have established communication methods with social media technologies. Collaboration is always a good thing. However, from what I've seen the other divisions (most likely in this cause some combination of marketing, communications, and PR) seem to use social technologies to push out messages from the company. The UX team needs to use social technologies to at least listen, or better yet a two-way dialog.

    • Incorporating feedback into development cycle
      With the ability to capture feedback from your target audience and adapt to changing user behaviors, as Negash points out "social technologies can allow UX teams to quickly and iteratively inject fresh ideas throughout the development cycle, enabling them to move faster to match the more agile product development cycles." This is a very good point. I have seen several companies move towards adopting some of the more rapid development cycles, such as the Agile model. Therefore UX teams need to find ways to be compatible with these models. They are challenged to find the balance between what the user wants, what the business wants, and to make the concept become a reality within the timeline of the development cycle.

    • Showing a business value
      Proving the value and benefit of using social media technologies to the business can be challenging. One of the playing cards in your favor is that for the most part, social media technologies are free to use. I agree with Nagesh's statement: "UX teams need to evangelize the value of user insights to enhance the user experience and the business' success."

    • Intellectual property concerns
      There is one fundamental concern I have with UX teams using social media technologies which Nagesh doesn't address. This concern is regarding the ability to welcome feedback from users, or furthermore even throughout a topic for users to provide feedback. However, if the topic is sensitive intellectual property a challenge is presented with using social media technologies to have a dialog with your target audience without putting the idea in front of your competitors.

    Read Alexander Nagesh's full article on UX Magazine at:

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  • 8 December 2010

    Posted by Frank Garofalo | Topic: User Experience

    10 Common Misconceptions about User Experience

    I recently read an article titled "10 Most Common Misconceptions about User Experience Design," by Whitney Hess, an independent user experience designer, writer (authors the blog Pleasure and Pain) and consultant based in New York City.

    Here are my thoughts on her "10 Most" list:

    1. User experience design is NOT... User Interface Design
      I agree with Hess' statement that "UI is just one piece of the puzzle" ...and it usually is a complex puzzle.

    2. User experience design is NOT... A Step In the Process
      Creating something that offers a great experience to your user requires keeping the user in mind from start to finish. This doesn't mean to make assumptions on what the user would want, what it means is that a user-centered process is an iterative process: 1) You have an idea, 2) you build a prototype, 3) you test the idea, 4) you analyze the data from your test which should generate new ideas, 5) repeat from step 1. In this process, you can refine your ideas to generate an end-result that offers a great experience to your users.

      Hess states that we "need to keep listening and iterating" - I partially agree with this statement. My modification would be to keep observing and iterating. It is quite interesting to observe what a user will do when interacting with a product/system/software/device, and how they will describe what they did when they interacted with it - these two sets of data can be very different. I prefer to do both, observe and listen, however I place more emphasis on the observations.

    3. User experience design is NOT... About Technology
      I don't completely agree with Hess here. She describes that "user experience designers use technology to help people accomplish their goals. But the primary objective is to help people, not to make great technology."

      The Merriam-Webster Dictionary definition of technology is: "the practical application of knowledge especially in a particular area." Technology is usually a means to provide a solution to a challenge/problem. Through a user-centered design process, the UX professional can strive to provide a solution that the user can use and wants to use.

    4. User experience design is NOT... Just about usability
      I agree with Hess on this point. User experience is a balancing act between design, technical, and information to produce a result that the user is able to use as well as a result that the user wants to use.

    5. User experience design is NOT... Just about the User
      I also agree with this one too. To add to the balancing act, a UX professional must also take into consideration the business' needs.

    6. User experience design is NOT... Expensive
      Just as Hess describes, user experience doesn't have to be expensive. She quotes another UX professional in her article, who's quote I agree with "In reality the best designers have a toolbox of options, picking and choosing methods for each project what makes sense for that particular project." There isn't an end-all solution that magically solves all the problems (that could be expensive). The UX professional needs to select, for example, the appropriate testing technique for each project (see my article titled "Preliminary Exploration vs. User Testing").

    7. User experience design is NOT... Easy
      Honestly, what is easy in life? I agree with Hess' statement regarding "cutting corners on some important steps such as UCD is a recipe for disaster."
      Hess included a statement from Erin Malone, principle at Tangible UX. Malone states she "finds that both product managers and programmers believe they will create the experience as they build it. 'UX designers are caught in the middle of trying to speak the business language and the developer language to justify why we need to do our jobs and why it's important to success."
      Hess goes on to state that making assumptions about your users can be dangerous - that as a UX professional you need to get to know your users in a facilitated manner... again, observe them interacting with your product/system.

    8. User experience design is NOT... The Role of One Person or Department
      This is true - while there can be a team of dedicated individuals for user experience, it really needs to be a company-wide culture to be user-centered. However, I have seen cases where the interpretation of "user-centered" means to make assumptions of how various individuals working on a project think the user would interaction... don't make a guess, build a prototype and go test it to observe the user interacting with it - then you know!

    9. User experience design is NOT... A Single Discipline
      "User experience" as a discipline is in its infancy. Because of this it is difficult to define the role. When a company hires an accountant, they know what they are going to get. However, when a company hires a user experience designer / information architect / interaction designer / etc. it is a challenge for the company to know what they are going to get.
      Because of this it seems to lend very well to promote collaboration to utilize the skill sets of everyone on the team.

    10. User experience design is NOT... A Choice
      Definitely agree with Hess on this point. She quotes Jared Spool, founding principal and CEO at User Interface Engineering, which highlights the flaw most companies make: "good experience design is an add-on, not a basic requirement." If you start with the experience at the end, or near the end, then simply put you are setting yourself up for a potential path for failure.

    Read the full article on Mashable visit:

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  • 1 December 2010

    Posted by Frank Garofalo | Topic: User Experience

    Preliminary Exploration versus User Testing

    User Experience = Test Everyone?

    As a user experience professional, emphasis is always placed on determining whether or not your target user can successfully perform the intended tasks within an interface. I think Dr. Susan M. Dray, President of Dray & Associates, Inc. (an international consulting agency for interface design and usability), states it best, "If the user can't use it, it doesn't work." In other words, the system can have the very best backend data algorithms, cutting edge processing capabilities, etc; however, if the user cannot interact successfully with the interface of the system then everything else is of little or no value to the user. So how do you solve this?

    Numerous experts, from Jakob Nielsen to Don Norman, recommend that user testing needs to be performed as frequently as possible. So let's say a functional, or semi-functional, prototype is produced to allow you as a user experience professional to put the prototype in front of people and collect data. But when it comes to user testing, where do you start?

    Types of User Testing

    From my own experiences the term "user testing" is thrown around very loosely. Everyone needs to do user testing, but what actually is user testing? From what I have seen performed in some instances, user experience professionals will ask five to ten people for their opinions on a workflow process or a visual interface design. For example, placing either a paper prototype or software prototype in front of those five to ten people and ask them simply "What do you think?" The benefits of this are that it is cost effective and can be done relatively quickly. However, the underlying problem arises when user experience professionals attempt to make generalizations across a larger user population based upon the opinions of a few people, such as ten individuals. Furthermore, if the user experience professional is only asking the participant for their opinion, they are missing a key piece of information. To quote Henry Ford, founder of the Ford Motor Company, "if I had asked the public what they wanted, they would have said a faster horse." The user experience profession needs to give value to taking notes from their observations of the participant. " attention to what users do, not what they say," said Jakob Nielsen. To expand on Nielsen's statement, I find it interesting to compare what I've observed a participant do during a testing activity to what the participant tells me about what they did during the testing activity.

    Key Differences

    With that said, in my opinion and from my experiences in academia, there are really two forms of user testing: "Preliminary Exploration" and "Structured User Testing." Both forms can provide very valuable data. The key difference is the configuration, or methodology, for how the testing is conducted. On a side note, while I love working within Photoshop and Illustrator, the researcher in me prefers to use the "scientific" terminology. Let's break apart each form.

    Preliminary Exploration is simply asking a few people for their opinions. This can provide a sense of direction based upon the perspectives of those individuals but generalizations across a larger audience of users cannot be made with true certainty. I would consider this an alpha test, or even a pre-alpha test.

    Structured User Test should have a defined methodology. A series of questions can be generated for each participant to answer as part of a pre-test data collection process. Then for the test itself, a target audience in which the user experience professional is trying to collect data about needs to be chosen. Since it would be impractical to test the entire target audience, a sample population is selected from that audience. I will go into more depth about sample population with respect to qualitative research and quantitative research in the next section. Once the sample population is determined, a set of criteria to actually test needs to be selected. For example, if having the participants complete an activity, there should be tasks and goals establish for each task. This provides a methodology that is defined, and can be replicated and then verified by other researchers. Finally, a post-test set of questions should be generated. How the post-test questions are constructed again brings me back to quantitative research versus qualitative research methods.

    Quantitative versus Qualitative

    To break this down further, the sample population size depends on the type of research you are conducting, as well as the format for the questions you ask: 1) Quantitative, 2) Qualitative, or 3) a hybrid of quantitative and qualitative. Below is a table breakdown of the differences between Qualitative and Quantitative research methods:

    Qualitative Methods Quantitative Methods
    Methods include focus groups, in-depth interviews, and reviews Surveys
    Primarily inductive process used to formulate theory Primarily deductive process used to test pre-specified concepts, constructs, and hypotheses that make up a theory
    More subjective: describes a problem or condition from the point of view of those experiencing it More objective: provides observed effects (interpreted by researchers) of a program on a problem or condition
    Text-based (for example, open-ended questions) Number-based (for example, ranking scales)
    More in-depth information on few cases Less in-depth but more breadth of information across a large number of cases
    Unstructured or semi-structure response options* Fixed response options
    No statistical tests Statistical tests are used for analysis
    Can be valid and reliable: largely depends on skill and rigor of the researcher Can be valid and reliable: largely depends on the measurement device or instrument used
    Time expenditure lighter on the planning end and heavier during the analysis phase Time expenditure heavier on the planning phase and lighter on the analysis phase
    Less generalizable More generalizable

    Source: Oak Ridge Institute for Science and Education; Retrieved on 29 November 2010;

    * I wanted to clarify the terminology regarding "unstructured or semi-structured." This is stating that the user experience professional would ask open ended questions to the participant. This is not stating that the user testing study itself is "unstructured" or "semi-structured." Additionally, for qualitative research I prefer "semi-structure" - you have an initial set of questions, but you are also free to ask follow-up questions to the participant to dig deeper into their responses.

    To aide with determining what sample size should be selected if using a quantitative research method, there are tools available as sample population size calculators. Here is one example that I found with a quick Google search:

    The Application of User Testing

    Conducting research and user testing with a product release timeline can be challenging. There are plenty of situations where prototyping and user testing are cut from an overall project in order to meet release deadlines. "The joy of an early release lasts but a short time. The bitterness of an unusable system lasts for years," Author Unknown. As a user experience professional, a push to upper management needs to be made to strive to keep prototyping and user testing in the development life-cycle of projects.

    Testing individuals outside of your organization usually means that those individuals want to be compensated for their time - now there is an expense associated in addition to just your expense to the organization. I agree with other industry professionals that if you are going to test participants, the value of the data collected can be significantly more beneficial by testing the target audience you are striving to gain as new customers. However, now you need to justify the additional expense to upper management. In addition, now that you are testing individuals outside of your organization regarding experimental concepts there may be the need to use Non-Disclosure Agreements to protect your organization's interests.

    Pulling it All Together

    The role of a user experience professional has its challenges, just like any other profession. In this role we try to be advocates for the user / consumer. We do this by collecting data from the users, also known as user testing, rather than just making assumptions. User testing in and of itself has several possible processes that can be utilized, each with their own advantages and disadvantages. The proper method needs to be selected on a case by case basis, which is up to the user experience professional to determine.

    These are just my thoughts from my experiences, but I would love to have a dialogue to get perspectives from others.

    About the Author

    Frank Garofalo is an on-line and interactive architect living in Kansas City. Currently, he has two roles, one running his own company Cyber View, an online media and interactive solutions agency (, and second as a User Experience Designer for Garmin International ( He started designing and building web sites in 1999. Frank has a Master of Science in Computer Graphics Technology with a specialization in qualitative research for interactive multimedia from Purdue University. His passion lies in producing a quality experience for the user by combining creative designs and functional development to achieve a balance of information architecture. You can follow him on Twitter @fgarofalo

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  • 1 December 2010

    Posted by Frank Garofalo | Topic: User Experience

    Response to: Why Products Suck & Make Them Suck Less

    Originally posted at on 1 Dec 2010.

    I recently read an article on by David Barrett titled "Why Products Suck (And How To Make Them Suck Less)." In the article he discusses how making a product not suck (and to avoid the "tar pit" of sucking) is actually a complex challenge - if it was easier, more products would be on the market that didn't suck.

    Barrett's 5 key points are:
    1. It only takes one person to make your product suck
    From Barrett's discussion on this point, I liked the following statement: "Convey to your team and the world that not sucking is your primary goal."

    2. Nobody ever got fired for sucking
    In other words, hire intelligent people - Barrett shares the quotation: "A people hire A people, B people hire C people."

    3. It's easier to suck more than suck less
    This point made me laugh, especially when he elaborated and said: "Sucking is like a tar pit: once you step in, your struggles only pull you in deeper. After you make that one product compromise to satisfy some crazy customer, then you’ve got to support that setting." We certainly have run into that issue. Customer A wants specific features as a solution to their current challenges. But the feature is so specific to Customer A, now whenever you have to upgrade the system for all your other customers you have to upgrade these small plug-ins specific to Customer A. It causes such a headache...

    4. There are more ways to suck than to not suck
    Barrett's states for this point: "If sucking is like a tar pit, then building a product that doesn't suck is like walking a tightrope over La Brea ("

    5. Customers demand sucky products
    Ok so no offense to customers, but we all do it as customers without even realizing it. We want products to align exactly with our needs, but do those needs actually span across all the customers of the product? One strive we are taking towards remedying this situation is to make our web-based products more adaptive and anticipative to what the customer needs at the given moment. I certainly agree with the following statement made by Barrett: "…not all complaints are equal: complaints that you don't support feature X are far better than complaints about how feature Y sucks."

    Read Barrett's full article at: d-how-to-make-them-suck-less/

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  • 29 October 2010

    Posted by Frank Garofalo | Topic: User Experience

    "Design of Future Things" Part 2

    Donald Norman included in his book, "The Design of Future Things," six design rules (pg 152):
    1. Provide rich, complex and natural signals
    2. Be predictable
    3. Provide a good conceptual model
    4. Make the output understandable
    5. Provide continual awareness, without annoyance
    6. Explicit natural mappings to make interaction understandable and effective

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  • 23 October 2010

    Posted by Frank Garofalo | Topic: User Experience

    "Design of Future Things"

    NOTE: I originally posted this on the Cyber View Blog:

    Recently I've been reading a book by Donald Norman called "The Design of Future Things." I'm not one to do much pleasure reading often, however I have found this book to be: insightful, entertaining, and informative.

    On page 93 he discusses the interaction between humans and machines. Through the various interactions that occur between humans and machines, there are all sorts of indicators that machines have been designed to use to attempt to inform their user with some type of information. Now that last sentence may sound very vague - but think about it from beeps to buzzers, LED lights to digital displays - there are a variety of indicators. Norman refers to this in the book as the "human-machine social ecosystem." For example, on my Android phone the same LED light will illuminate green for a text message, voicemail message, and Gmail message. However that single LED light doesn't provide me with information to distinguish specifically what it is trying to bring to my attention - and honestly at times this is frustration. Norman expresses the point that with the design of devices today - some devices try to adapt to the user and on the flip side, the user usually has to adapt to the device. This can be a strong positive and a strong negative at times. To quote Norman, "Combining implicit communication with affordances is a powerful, very natural concept" (pg. 71). Norman goes on to suggest that a "symbiosis of machine and person" is a form of "human-machine interaction at it's best" (pg. 90).

    So from a user experience perspective, how can devices and interfaces be designed to benefit the user? Norman shares details regarding how devices today are trying to adapt to a user's behavior pattern to predict what the user will want. The primary goal to achieve is to not cause an annoyance or dangerous situation for the user, but rather to support the user. Predict and give the user suggestions. The device can then adapt and become better at predicting the suggestions to give the user without completely automating the process by making a selection for the user. To support the user information provided, according to Norman, must be "voluntary, friendly, and cooperative" (pg. 130). I certainly agree with Norman especially when he describes the concept of "informate," which he defines as "impact of increased access to information afforded by automation" (pg. 133).

    There is a challenge between making a device completely automated and making a device completely manually controlled. The middle ground, as Norman suggests, can be a very complex and potentially dangerous combination. However overall, devices and interfaces need to "provide a user with tools to work and live smarter" (pg. 128).

    Tweet with me @fgarofalo and let me know what you think.

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  • 1 October 2010

    Posted by Frank Garofalo | Topic: User Experience

    Pixar & Brainstorming

    I read an article be in late August about a brainstorming concept at Pixar Studios (owned by the Walt Disney Company). Although, now I can't seem to find that article.

    Anyways, the article discussed how at Pixar to promote creativity from all levels of the company, the truly utilize dry-erase boards. They do this by hanging dry-erase boards in the hallways. I believe the article mentioned that employees could still reserve the boards to hold meetings. just as if it was a conference. The benefit this offers, is that Pixar has established a culture were if anyone passing in the hallways hears or sees something on a dry-erase board there is an open invitation for them to contribute and offer suggestions/ideas.

    I found this concept to be very interesting. I can see how this promotes contribution and brainstorming from a community perspective. Along with the notion, that any idea can be considered. I guess taking this to another level, you could almost parallel this to the movie Good Will Hunting (1997) where Matt Damon's character, a janitor, helps to solve a Professor's math equation.

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  • 3 May 2010

    Posted by Frank Garofalo | Topic: User Experience

    Rollovers - a thing of the past?

    In a letter Steve Jobs released discussing Apple's "Flash distaste" (, he states the following:
    Flash was designed for PCs using mice, not for touch screens using fingers. For example, many Flash websites rely on "rollovers", which pop up menus or other elements when the mouse arrow hovers over a specific spot. Apple's revolutionary multi-touch interface doesn't use a mouse, and there is no concept of a rollover. Most Flash websites will need to be rewritten to support touch-based devices. If developers need to rewrite their Flash websites, why not use modern technologies like HTML5, CSS and JavaScript?

    Now as a designer / developer for multi-touch interfaces with the Adobe Flash Platform, I may be a bit biased here, but I disagree with his statement on several points. Most technologies were designed during the PC age, including Flash, the Web, HTML, and even several products from Apple. The mouse at the time was the most cost effective input device to replicate actually clicking and selecting items on a computer screen/display. Now with the continuing evolution of multi-touch devices, there are several new interface advantages and disadvantages emerging.

    "Rollovers" can still occur in a multi-touch interface to help indicate to the user what element of the UI the user has selected. While I do admit, with multi-touch there is a blurred line between a "rollover" and a "single-tag/touch," so depending on the interface these may need to be coded differently to acknowledge a touch vs a mouse click.

    As for the "modern technologies like HTML5" - we've seen time and time again with various Internet browsers slightly different implementations of web standards created by the W3C and I doubt HTML5 ( will be any different. The challenge with this to web designers / developers is creating a consistent user-experience across all Internet browsers and computer operating systems. At least with Flash, a consistent, engaging experience can be achieved.

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  • 29 April 2010

    Posted by Frank Garofalo | Topic: User Experience

    We are Living in Exponential Times

    I saw this a few years ago, but a friend of mine - Matthew Broadfoot - brought it up today and shared the link with me to the YouTube Video... it kind of puts things in an interesting perspective.

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