Tag Archives: UX

MIT Enterprise Forum of NYC

Billion-Dollar UX:
How UX Has Become Key to Massive Product Valuations & Exits

I went to this MITEF¬†hosted event last night to learn more about how UX has become key to startups with billion dollar valuations (or close to a billion). There were no surprise case studies here: UBER, Google Now, Nest, Foursquare, AirBnB, SquareSpace, FitBit, Warby Parker, and General Assembly. Since I’m new to the start up world, I was hoping to glean some¬†information about UX strategies for startups. I didn’t get much insight on UX strategies for startups but there were a few takeaways from the distinguished panelists. Please find my rough notes below.

Tomer Sharon
Senior User Experience Researcher at Google Search

  • Fall in love with the problem not the solution.
  • Not only the “problem” but “how much do we care about the problem”. For example, Nest found a problem that people really care about, safety.
  • Focus on 3 things:
      What do people need?
      What do people want? (different from need)
        Can they use it? (product)

Karen Kranack
Global Executive Director of User Experience
Estee Lauder Online

  • Are we on the cusp of a bubble?
  • Need to look for more “correct” design solutions
  • There is an increase crossover between real world and digital world (e.g. UBER)
  • Disrupt existing models
  • Offer convenient, fast services (e.g. dropbox)
  • Mobile is critical so Mobile First!
  • Focus on images because users do not read
  • Social is an imperative. Your content has to be shareable
    (e.g. Tango and WeChat)
  • “set it and forget it” attitude

Scott McDonald
Founder Modus Associates

  • “put it up fast and then iterate” – we really can’t do this anymore. Why? Because companies are coming to market with more refined products so there is less forgiveness by users right now.

Turi McKinley
Participatory Design Director at frog design, Inc.

  • designers are learning from enterprise
  • be more humble
  • we are redefining what “good” means
  • you can improve UX over time (iterations)





NYCUPA: UX Research at Google in NYC: Methods and Case Studies

I was looking forward to a discussion of research processes by Google’s User Experience team members. The promise was they were sharing recent case studies where designs were influenced by some unique work with metaphors. Sounds good, right?
Wrong! The presenters weren’t able to give details of the case studies – making the use of metaphors seem inappropriate. Without knowing specifics it was hard to follow the metaphors.

If you want to compare seemingly unrelated subjects it is necessary to define the subjects.

Domain metaphors are not Design metaphors.

Google Design principles:
1. Focus on the user and all will follow
2. Every millisecond counts.
3. Simplicity is powerful.
4. Engage beginners and attract experts.
5. Dare to innovate.
6. Design for the world.
7. Plan for today’s and tomorrow’s business.
8. Delight the eye without distracting the mind.
9. Be worthy of people’s trust.
10. Add a human touch.

NN/g Usability In Practice: 3-Day Intensive Camp

Three Days of Usability at the The Roosevelt Hotel, NYC.

The entire 3 days were fantastic. I gained an understanding of the fundamental principles and methods of usability from each speaker: Jakob Nielsen, Kara Pernice, and Amy Schade.

Conference details

paper prototype

Paper prototypes rule! The task was to watch a video of a usability test with a teenage girl and then redesign an online diary for teenage girls centering on the promotion of the Britney Spears movie, CrossRoads. After our group did the redesign we conducted a usability test with our new paper prototype and 3 people: user, facilitator and computer. I played the “computer” role and had to make the interface responses to the user’s pen “clicks”. As the “computer” I was instructed to be quiet and neutral. If the “user” clicked on a page that we had not designed I would put a post it with an hourglass on the page – to show “under construction”- and quickly I could sketch out the requested page.


The last day we did a user profile project, where we watched a video of a real estate agent, Theresa, going about an average day at work. As a group, we took notes so we could compile a user profile poster of Theresa. The poster summarized the data while keeping it visual. Our data included a description of Theresa, photos, artifacts, quotes, task list, core competencies and data visualizations.

I enjoyed the event but… I have a negative comment with regards to Jakob Nielsen’s discussion of the relationship between design and usability.
First he discussed user centered design and dimensions of usability as a quality criterion. He then went on to talk about issues that can arise due to domain expertise. He asserted, “the audience will dictate the design” and cautioned the designers to avoid user vs. design team pitfalls. He added that an in house design team can look at a site 8 hours a day maybe for 3-20 years and might think- A fresh design is needed! while users might think- the design is okay, we like it. So designers, “know too much.” Ummm, I had a slight problem with this statement but thought there is a bit of truth to becoming too familiar with a site.

Next he likened web design to furniture design – design is problem solving- working within restrictions and constraints. design has to work – while art doesn’t. Okay, good so far. I am listening. He then broached the topic “Does usability kill creativity in design.” This is where he lost me. Maybe I misunderstood his example but he said – the laws of nature are like the laws of psychology. He associated laws of nature- like gravity to laws of psychology- such as user behaviors. This is where things went south for me. My thought is that unlike gravity – user behaviors are not fixed or constant. I realize there are conventions and patterns that may be used in web design that are based on current user behaviors – but I sensed that Mr. Nielsen doesn’t accept that user behaviors can change and adapt. With all due respect – users do more then scroll and are adapting newer conventions day by day (even my 85 year old grandmother).

Wow. So on day one there was a bit of an antidesign feeling in the room which paved the way for an audience member to comment on day two that he thought “most designers are big on attitude.” So my recommendation would be to drop the us vs them attitude. So much of web design and web usability overlap and the best solution is working together to improve the overall experience.

Wayfinding: Real world signage system & its implications for online design

Speaker: Sylvia Harris
Topic: Wayfinding – a real world signage system & its implications for online design
Sponsor: UPA / New York Chapter
Rating: Sylvia’s presentation was darn good.

Last night she focused on four projects ranging from the early 1970s to the present: CitiBank, 2000 National Census, ACLU and the New York Presbyterian Hospital.

She also shared some things she has learned along the way…
1) Be Humble
2) Never make assumptions about what users understand
3) Always test your assumptions with real people under real circumstances
4) Understanding is the responsibility of the sender not the receiver.
5) Users prefer straight talk
6) Build on what users already know

Innovation has a time and a place. Not every client is ready. It is essential to have political and financial will for a successful innovation process.