People, not users.

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My thoughts on interaction design and user experience.

October 7, 2014 at 11:57am
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Why Behavior Change Apps Don’t Work

Freedom to choose as a key requirement for sustained motivation.

Fitocracy leverages the universal need for connection as an on-ramp to fitness, making new tools and features available to users as they develop new habits.

Soon, I began to feel obligated to confess my mealtime transgressions to my phone. […] I had chosen to install the app at first, but despite my best intentions, my motivation faded, and using the app became a chore.

Solution that is based on imposing yourself external motivation will work only in a short perspective. Changing a habit requires one to attach a new habit to an intrinsic positive motivational stimuli.

Perhaps part of the appeal of sneaking in a few minutes on Facebook or checking scores on is access to a moment of pure autonomy — an escape from being told what to do by bosses and coworkers.

Unfortunately, too many companies build their products betting users will do what they should or have to do, instead of what they want to do. They fail to change behaviors because they neglect to make their services enjoyable for its own sake, often asking users to learn new, unfamiliar actions instead of making old routines easier.

So, what if, for example instead of Left to Spend that is defined as an app that will “scare you in to sticking to your budget" you had "Saved so Far" which will encourage you to accumulating cash for a specific goal?

Let’s take it to the extreme and let’s call it “Scrooge McDuck” and let’s feed you virtual vault with gold and see how deep Scrooge can swim in it until reaching the bottom… 


"[P]roducts that successfully change behavior present users with an implicit choice between their old way of doing things and the new, more convenient solution to existing needs. By maintaining the user’s freedom to choose, products can facilitate the adoption of new habits and change behavior for good."

I guess this is what Strava does pretty well. It tells you only positive things about yourself and it never reminds you to do your things. You work out to see your progress, get kudos, and when you work out you race against segements timing. This is way too often treated too seriously by many, but still, it’s a positive incentive for change if you do not get too obsessed with it.

Original text: "Why Behavior Change Apps Don’t Work" by Nir Eyal

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littlebigdetails: nice set of switches, something that is not-another-checkbox yet usable. Plus a nice tabs workaround.source:

littlebigdetails: nice set of switches, something that is not-another-checkbox yet usable. Plus a nice tabs workaround.


February 26, 2014 at 7:52am
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The best you can get discussing ‘what is UX?’ #someta

Please treat this as a UX meta-joke.


If you feel that the UX business is eating it’s own tail, it’s also a good sign: it’s all about self-reflection. Like Ouroboros, the serpent eating its own body, it symbolizes  

self-reflexivity or cyclicality, especially in the sense of something constantly re-creating itself, the eternal return, and other things such as the phoenix which operate in cycles that begin anew as soon as they end. It can also represent the idea of primordial unity related to something existing in or persisting from the beginning with such force or qualities it cannot be extinguished.

…Hopefully :) 

October 20, 2013 at 10:19pm
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Sprzedawco, dobra konstrukcja oferty to Twoja odpowiedzialność.

Drodzy Sprzedawcy Komputerów i innych produktów o złożonej konfiguracji

Po ostatnich próbach poszukiwań komputerów dla rodziny dochodzę do wniosku że chciałbym, żeby wszyscy moi najbliżsi mogli po prostu kupić MacBooka (Pro albo Air).

Nie chcę kupować u sprzedawców którzy sprzedają pecety czy inne badziewie. Nie dlatego że są to złe komputery (sam mam Lenovo T510 od ponad dwóch lat). 

Ale nie chcę kupować u ludzi, którzy nie szanują mojego czasu. Chciałbym, żeby nie trzeba było doradzać wyboru komputera spośród 738 modeli i 32435 typów w 3462 porównywarkach cenowych z 82945 sklepów, w 59823 wariantach konfiguracji które za 2 lata i tak będą przestarzałe albo zepsute.

Drodzy sprzedawcy, zadanie jest proste (job to be done): Chcę mieć komputer, a nie wybierać jakieś gówna z korporacyjnych katalogów. Chcę go kupić i zapomnieć, a nie bawić się w łowcę promocji i specjalistę z forum “PC Lab” czy tam inny “Komputer Świat”.

Zmuszanie klienta by trwonił czas na długotrwałe i obarczone ryzykiem błędu procesy decyzyjne jest elementarnym brakiem szacunku dla jego pracy. 

Drodzy sprzedawcy, jeśli cokolwiek sprzedajecie, weźcie to pod uwagę budując swój katalog ofertowy. Dobre doświadczenie klienta, dobry User Experience, to zwykły szacunek dla ludzi i ich czasu.

Jeśli cokolwiek sprzedajecie, zacznijcie dbać o swoich klientów.

Sprzedawco, to TWOJA robota żeby dostarczyć ofertę dopasowaną do MOICH potrzeb. To ja Cię do tego zatrudniam. Za to Ci płacę. Ale oczywiście, dobry projekt czegokolwiek kosztuje. I mnie, i Ciebie.

Jako jeden z dowodów załączam zrzut z oferty Lenovo. Powodzenia w dokonywaniu racjonalnych decyzji. Czy te komputery w ogóle się czymś od siebie różnią??

Polecam porównanie z ofertą Apple: 

October 9, 2013 at 9:29am
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How Lync UI reminds me that good UX starts with good writing

Like many corporate workers I have to use Lync at work, which is a fact I can’t really discuss with. It’s interface, however, reminds me that a UX perspective an organization takes when creating software is visible through the style of writing. 

Take this screenshot from Lync (2010) settings: 

This is my educated guess, but hey, let’s go on with it: What this feature does is asking me to join a PROGRAM. 

First of all, a program sounds like a pretty big deal, so I’d rather think about it twice before I opt-in. 

The second thing is, a Customer Experience Improvement Program (CEIP? CuExImPro?) sounds like crap, it’s de-humanized (it’s a PROGRAM, not even an effort, or an initiative), it’s like anonymous corporate jargon straight from Windows 95, I ain’t going nowhere with it. 

My third point is, well, if you have a special Customer Experience Improvement PROGRAM, and it’s so detached and distinct thing that you have to give a Long Name That Is Complicated (and perhaps a sounding board too, with a dedicated leadership team) I doubt the conclusions comes to will ever end up in the product I’m actually using. 

Finally, even if I’m still willing to join I can’t BECAUSE IT’S DISABLED in my corporate context. WTF MS?

Conclusion? It’s not about my benefit, it’s all about the program.

But wait! Let’s take a look at how Google dealt with a very similar feature (Chrome v.30): 

What this tells me is the following: 

It’s a no-brainer: It’s gonna happen automatically

It’s not a big deal: It’s concise. It’s not an over-bloated program (even though there still might be a sounding board with leadership team behind it, but why would I care?).

It’s self-contained: There is a clickable icon that tells me why I can’t use this feature (and I’m fine with it).

Take a look:

Bottom line: It’s essentially the same feature, but it’s the writing that changes everything.

You can learn more about why this perspective matters from Dan Saffer's Microinteractions and 37Signals’ piece On Writing Interfaces Well.

October 5, 2013 at 10:01am
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"A big company is like a giant galley driven by a thousand rowers. Two things keep the speed of the galley down. One is that individual rowers don’t see any result from working harder. The other is that, in a group of a thousand people, the average rower is likely to be pretty average.

If you took ten people at random out of the big galley and put them in a boat by themselves, they could probably go faster. They would have both carrot and stick to motivate them. An energetic rower would be encouraged by the thought that he could have a visible effect on the speed of the boat. And if someone was lazy, the others would be more likely to notice and complain.

But the real advantage of the ten-man boat shows when you take the ten best rowers out of the big galley and put them in a boat together. They will have all the extra motivation that comes from being in a small group. But more importantly, by selecting that small a group you can get the best rowers. Each one will be in the top 1%. It’s a much better deal for them to average their work together with a small group of their peers than to average it with everyone.”

— Paul Graham on “How To Make Wealth”:

August 31, 2013 at 7:02am
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Aaron Walter talks at Yelp HQ on how product/service narrative shapes user experience. 

Bottom-line: If you do not pay attention to the story your products/services tell, your users and clients will feel like you don’t care about them either. 

But there’s more to this talk. Take a look. 

August 6, 2013 at 5:21pm
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[notes] Cheap and free under-the-radar alternatives to field visits

Quote: Solutions designed to the needs, goals and capabilities of specific users will be easier to use and more engaging to use.

Why people don’t do field research?

  1. Ideas are predictions, only contact with real users reveals the truth
  2. User research is not asking people what they want.
  3. User research may be a big thing.

Quote: Contextual insights give information beyond the product itself. They reveal it’s surrounding landscape and interplay with it.

Idea: Research can be cheaper.

Browse online forums about the product
Is there a common goal?
Do they make groups with different goals?
Do they complain about something specific they struggle with?

Make a diary study
Get some people’s emails.
Try to contact them in face or by phone.
Create a private blog for them to record their thoughts and experiences.
Kindly remind them by email and by phone.

Critical incidents
Ask users to write down what they were doing 5 minutes before and 5 minutes after a critical incident

Photo ethnography
Ask users to make a photo-diary of day of their experience

Mystery shopper
become a client / user of your client and see what happens

The whole article is User Focus blog, follow them for more practical tips.

July 9, 2013 at 9:22am
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Continuous Design [article notes]

I just read an article on smarter approach to product design found on Sidebar. Let’s take a look at key points:


  • Most of app design could be done outside of Photoshop, CSS3 should suffice.
  • Change is hard and slow in Photoshop. 
  • The legacy design process comes from digital agency mindset era.
  • Most design deliverables are just requirements and documentations. (And requirements are just assumptions! #uxlondon)
  • The Final Design at the end of this process tends to become the last iteration over a product. Design drives the process. 
  • Even experience Agile teams do design in a waterfall manner.
  • We need to pivot on design as much as we pivot on product features. Otherwise, wrong design becomes waste.
  • Design with change in mind. 

How to do that [example]?

  • Use sprint zero to create a buffer of prioritised features. 
  • Design first user story just as wireframes.
  • Adapt designs to the changing product: design in browser, use HTML and CSS.
  • Takeaway: Designer is building the product, not just projecting it.
  • UX overrides design deliverables because you put designs right in front of users and get feedback faster.
  • That’s difficult because there is no time to perfect the comps.
  • You will have troubles with clients. You have to prove to them by doing a project this way. 
  • Rhetorical question: If no one asks developers to code upfront, why do designers need to design upfront? 
  • Continuous Design will face the same mental struggles as Agile  Development (breaking the silos).
  • Agencies charge so much for design that you never re-engage with them. 
  • Having a designer embedded in the product allows to do the MInimum Viable Design.
  • You will need designers who can work faster.

My commentary: 

I will try this on a project and myself soon. It’s critical, though, to try this approach on a small scale first.

A proper dev team and a strong buy-in on the part of the client is indispensable.

Also, as a designer I will need to code again, which will force me to solidify my skillset.

Continuous Design is related to Effort Centered Design [presentation] where waste is reduced by balancing the business value and user needs. At UsabilityTools they are also experimenting with embedding the designer into the dev team. So far, they are the only people I know who operate lean and successfully. 

This is yet another reason why designer should code.

My concern is that the more a designer is involved in actual product development the less mental energy can be devoted to proper project management.

This obviously requires a different approach to product and project management.  And where is the actual designer in all that?

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January 28, 2013 at 6:37pm
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If you are a designer, you should read this.

Read it and memorize it. What you will read below is what makes a difference between a professional and “the guy who makes nice stuff*”

When you’re doing work for a client who needs this website to serve his profitability, you’re directly affecting the fortunes of every employee of that company. This is a serious responsibility and something to keep in mind during the design process. As I’ve mentioned in other articles, you do actually have to care about the client’s enterprise. Else you can’t do your best work for them.

We’re the design experts. We’re the ones who understand how to bring focus to an important message on a web page or how to consistently communicate certain values visually, page to page. We’re the ones who understand what sorts of interface elements or mechanisms facilitate online shopping or that engender user confidence. But to do this we have to discover what needs to happen according to the client’s business aims and marketing plan and customer service model and user habits and expectations. These, rather than design issues, are some of the things that clients can help with.

This pertains to all kind of professionals actually. You need to care about your client and their business.

* Replace with wireframes, code, photoshop comps or alike.

Andy Rutledge, on Design Professionalism and Design Questions. 

Read the whole article here