About disciullo77

I'm a designer of innovative business solutions employing a blend of insightful user research methodologies, creative visual design, and meaningful success metrics.

What is Great Design?

Recently a director of mine popped into my office unexpectedly and asked “What do you consider to be great design.” I’m pretty sure he was expecting an immediate response, but honestly, I was caught a bit off guard. I was actually disappointed in myself that I just couldn’t rattle off a few killer examples that would prove my design prowess … but in reality, it made my head spin, there’s just so much out there.

Where do I start?

Vandalized_stop_sign_-_start_and_stopTo me, design encompasses a very broad range of ever-evolving topics, so of course it’s going to be challenging to nail down “great design” to just one or two single examples. Design can be in the form of architecture, products, experiences, systems, services, branding, digital, print, etc. Great design can also be described in simple abstract concepts such as easy to use, engaging, usable, accessible, universal, relate-able. This list goes on. There’s an overwhelming amount of great stuff out there, it’s no wonder my head was swirling with design overload.

Steve Jobs explains design as the following:

“In most people’s vocabularies, design means veneer. It’s interior decorating. It’s the fabric of the curtains of the sofa. But to me, nothing could be further from the meaning of design. Design is the fundamental soul of a human-made creation that ends up expressing itself in successive outer layers of the product or service.”

I tend to agree. To me, design is much more then just pretty objects, it’s about well-thought out ideas that are crafted into products and services that are useful, usable, and meaningful.

After taking some time to reflect upon the question, I took the opportunity to compile and share a few examples and design sources that come to mind from various categories the reflect my view of “great design.” Of course this will evolve over time, but I figure this can serve as a first installment in an ongoing series to have available in case I’m blindsided again in a dark row of cubicles by someone seeking examples of great design.

So, here we go…

ARCHITECTURE

Architecture encompasses so many elements of design. It takes creativity, planning, coordination, and careful consideration to the human aspect of the design. When done right, great architectural design creates something that is far more then the sum of it’s parts. It creates an experience. That experience can be engaging, uplifting, inspiring  exciting and/or calming. To me, architecture stands out from the other design categories, for those reasons.

Guggenheim

The Guggenheim Museum, New York City
The design and circular flow of the building makes for an incredible experience when viewing the exhibits. Designed by Frank Lloyd Wright, the building is the perfect complement to the exhibits inside. There’s very few places where you can be immersed in so much art and design all in one place.

Learn more: http://www.guggenheim.org/new-york/visit

MOMA

MOMA Museum of Modern Art
The MOMA is not as “flowing” as the Guggenheim, but the building has a great vibe that perfectly complements the works on display. The architectural design blends nicely behind exhibits without calling too much attention to itself. What’s cool about this place is it can be a great escape for you and your significant other, as well as a wonderful place to bring the kids.

Learn more: http://www.moma.org/

St Aloysius Jackson, NJ

The Church of St. Aloysius – Jackson, NJ:
On a more spiritual note, places of worship can often times be overlooked for their architectural value, yet there are so many amazing examples of magnificent contemporary designs that evoke an experience beyond your typical public spaces. Similar to museums, the designs of these spaces need to play second fiddle to their intended purpose. Whether to immerse oneself in a work of art or to immerse oneself in prayer, the building needs to provide a unique experience that will not overpower that intended purpose, but at the same time complement it.

Here I’m providing an example that’s local to me, St Aloysius Church in Jackson NJ. The building has garnered several awards for its unique, environmentally conscious design. It also has a very powerful, yet pleasing feel to the interior spaces. The best thing about it is my kids don’t usually go kicking and screaming when my wife and I tell them it’s time to go to church. I think they too are subconsciously intrigued by the architecture, and consider it a really cool place to go to….we’ll milk that for as long as we possibly can!

Learn more: http://www.archdaily.com/296093/the-church-of-st-aloysius-erdy-mchenry-architecture/

Architectual Digest

RESOURCE: Architectural Digest:
A great source of ideas and inspiration. Some designs presented are often times a bit over the top, but you’ll also find a great deal of practical architectural design concepts that can be easily applied to your home or office. It’s a great barometer for upcoming design trends.

Learn more: http://www.architecturaldigest.com/

PRODUCT / INDUSTRIAL DESIGN

When it comes to product design, I typically subscribe to a similar philosophy as Don Norman the author of “The Design of Everyday Things.” He states in his book, “products that are useful and appeal to both cognition and emotion…just work better” here’s a few products that I believe align to that school of thought…. SleepTOO

SleepTOO
Have you ever had to spend time with a loved one in a hospital setting? Do you feel yourself just as uncomfortable as the one you are there to comfort? I’m sure you being akward and uncomfortable doesn’t help with the healing process for the patient, yet there’s research to prove that the constant presence of caring visitors can greatly improve patient outcomes. A company called Wieland has created virtual family rooms for healthcare facilities (hospitals)  These innovative modular furniture designs leveraged evidence based design to help provide a more comfortable hospital setting, vastly improving the overall family visit experience.

Learn more: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=B1Odj0LkF3E

FORD iosis MAX concept

Ford Motor Company – Kinetic Design
On a whole, US auto makers have been consistently receiving a bad rap during the past few decades due to poor manufacturing performance, lack-luster sales, and boring designs. But Ford continues to plug along. When you take a closer look, they come out as the leader when it comes to innovation and design.

The problem is that when Ford creates an bold new design approach for their line of cars, they usually met with skepticism initially. But then due to high sales volume, they rapidly become “mainstream” which leads to other car manufacturers copying many elements of their designs.

Ford Taurus

Take the Ford Taurus in the 90’s. It’s design lacked any body lines. It basically looked like a pill. I recall friends calling it the Ford “Turd.” But to this day, that streamlined, curvaceous design concept still lives in many car manufacturers designs globally…albeit in much more evolved and exciting ways,

Fords current take on innovation is the “Kinetic” Ford Verve Concept Car design approach. You can see it in the latest version of the line up domestically and abroad. The concept originated out of their European design team, under Martin Smith who explains Kinetic Design as the following

“The design language is communicated through bold, dynamic lines and full surfaces. When you look at Kinetic Design, you can see that it visualizes energy in motion.” It’s this ‘energy in motion’ that expresses the design language. That’s why with just a glimpse, the cars look like they’re moving even when they’re standing still.”

OXO Grip

OXO Good Grips Kitchen Tools
A $1.99 vegetable peeler revolutionized the way products were designed for the kitchen and the home. OXO pioneered bringing user centered design of products to the mass market.

Learn more: http://smartdesignworldwide.com/work/project.php?id=102

ID MAG

RESOURCE: I.D. – Fresh works from Leading Creative Professionals
There’s a continually updating gallery of great product concepts and designs here. I can look at this site all day.

Learn more: http://www.id-mag.com/

BRANDING

Branding, when done right, can exude a more playful and expressive aspect of design. Branding is more then just marketing, it’s about communication, identification, and charactor. Branding helps differenciate products and services from their competitors. It’s a way to appeal to the emotional side of a target audience and allow them to attach unique personal values to objects.  VW Fender Guitar Volkswagen Fender Edition Beetle

These types of branding mash-ups are brilliant. VWVW Beetle created a Beetle “Fender” edition which blends two very iconic brands which are known for their timeless design. …and yes, you can actually plug a guitar into the car and use it as an amplifier! VW maintains a great brand experience throughout all their channels, online, offline, media, web and mobile.

Learn more: http://web.vw.com/coupe/beetle/fender-edition/

SERVICE DESIGN
Service Design is a exciting, emerging field. It is defined in the book titled “This is Service Design Thinking” by Marc Stickdorn and Jakob Schneider (2011), as “Being all about making the service you deliver useful usable, efficient, effective and desirable.”

Consciously designed services are very empathetic to their target audience’s needs and, when done well, results in much higher satisfaction (happy customers) and more successful business results (mo’ money). Here are some examples:

Zip Car

ZIP Car
A very innovative approach to car rental that’s changing the paradigm for the entire industry.  The heart of their service revolves around a mobile app that, based on your location and preferences, helps you pick the right car, guides the user through the reservation process, and even honks the car’s horn to help you locate it in the lot.

At the time of writing this blog post, AVIS announced it’s intentions to buy ZIP Car. We’ll see how that goes, but obviously they’re seeing the potential in Zip Car’s evolutionary service. Hopefully they won’t screw it up!

Learn more: http://www.zipcar.com/

GE User Experience Strategy

GE User Experience Center of Excellence (FROG DESIGN)
GE took a world-class enterprise approach to it’s UX service offering throughout their four main business areas. The award winning service was developed in partnership with Frog Design and was comprised of a broad range of tools (including the playbook in the photo above) and activities that engaged stakeholders throughout the organization. It helps them create superior software interfaces and (other) services that result in increased productivity, improved efficiency and increased employee satisfaction…wow, a service that helps design other services! That’s cool.

Learn more: http://idsa.org/ge-user-experience-strategy-and-capacity-building

SACRED CARE FOR ST. JOSEPH HEALTH

Sacred Care for St. Joseph Health (IDEO)
St. Joseph Health and IDEO identified a huge opportunity to improve the patient experience within their healthcare system. They coined their approach “Spotlighting” and it’s making a marked improvement on patient outcomes. They identified many patient interactions that health-care providers perform on routine basis throughout the system and provided a unique “patient centric” set of guidelines for how they should be conducted. They approach these interactions as “sacred encounters” and enable the health-care providers to follow through with innovative, compassionate acts of care.

Learn more: http://www.ideo.com/work/sacred-care

Wegman's Interior Design

Wegmans
A great suburban shopping experience from both an aesthetics and customer service perspective! Unlike your typical grocery shopping experience, Wegman stores have a warm, welcoming feel…if you get there when it’s not too overly crowded. There’s major consideration for the entire shopping experience. They have incorporated many innovative in-store conveniences such as a fantastic eat-in cafe overlooking the entire retail space, quaint coffee shop, and a nursery (as a parent, this is huge when it comes to the quality of your shopping experience!) to name a few. They also have the services you would expect such as a bakery, meats, pharmacy, gifts, florist, etc, but each area’s attention to the customer experience sets Wegman’s apart from the competition. As far as pricing goes, I have found them to be well within the range of comparable to your typical grocery store. Honestly, I don’t mind paying a few cents more for certain items if I know my experience is going to be enjoyable. You only have so many hours on the weekends, might as well make them enjoyable!

Corinne Chiogna headed Wegmans’ design team’s effort. In an article from MerchandisingMatters.com  she explains “As you approach the store, there’s a rooster-themed weathervane atop a cupola in the center of a gabled roof. It’s a reminder of food’s roots in agriculture. The stonework on the face of the building, the diagonal bracing, and soft neutral colors with red accents on the roof make you think of a barn in the countryside. We chose traditional rather than trendy themes because we wanted everyone to feel comfortable in this space.”

Rural landscapes are echoed indoors, too, but with light, fun touches. As one enters the store, a hand-painted mural over the Coffee Bar is a rendering of Wegmans’ Organic Farm located on the edge of Canandaigua Lake, in the heart of New York’s Finger Lakes region.

It’s the experience that makes the difference at Wegmans.

Learn more… http://images.businessweek.com/ss/10/02/0218_customer_service_champs/13.htm

DIGITAL DESIGN:
The digital world has finally starting to capitalize on the value of great user-centered design. Still, there are very few organizations that are doing it right. Apple is usually who comes to mind when thinking of great design within the digital realm, but one of their biggest competitors is coming very close to beating them at their own game.

image of googles products and servicesGoogle

Google get’s a lot of things right when blending technology with the user experience. As a huge Apple fan, I can’t help but be cognizant of the spirited rivalry between Apple and Google. I do have to admit though, Google has been stepping up their game and helping to raise the bar for both organizations. For most folks, Google is all about Search, but behind the scenes, they’ve been churning out an entire ecosystem of products.

Here are a few examples of why Google is a force to be reckoned with when it comes to great design.

Image of Google Design Philosophy

The Google Design Philosophy

Focus on the user and all else will follow…Google’s design philosophy is what enables great innovative digital products to be created. It’s worth a read. It’s a refreshing approach to typical corporate mantras.

Learn More: http://www.google.com/about/company/philosophy/

Image of the Google Mobile Playbook

The Google Mobile Playbook

When you have a great idea you want to share it. The more Google shares the more it benefits everyone, including them. Google took the time to detail out guidelines in the form of a playbook that provide insights on the importance of creating a great mobile experience. The guidelines provide practical tips to consider in your mobile design and show clear case studies illustrating the benefits to users and the resulting business benefits too. For designers, developer and users this is a win-win for everyone.

Learn more: http://www.themobileplaybook.com/en-us/
(Link works best in Google Chrome)

YouTube PlayBook image
The Google Video Creators Playbook

Video is an area of great interest to me. And yes, design is of paramount importance here too. A great video experience is about having a story and being able to present (design) it in a compelling and engaging way. Google knows this. So they created a Video Creators Playbook for YouTube (a Google Product) They know that by sharing the secrets to creating a great video will benefit not only the directors and viewers, it totally makes great business sense. Making the on-line video medium more useful and meaningful, has benefits all around. Google’s monitization model encourages directors and videographers to create great content, which generates revenue for the video creators, as well as adds tremendous value to Google/YouTube Search results.

Learn more: http://www.youtube.com/yt/playbook/index.html

Google Plus ImageGoogle+

I believe that Google Plus has tons of potential. It’s a Logo for Google Plusrevolutionary concept to what is generally consider to be “social media.” Often times compared to Facebook, Google+ is a much different animal. Internationally recognized Social Media thought leader and speaker David Armano states, Google Plus Isn’t A Social Network, It’s A Social Layer. It’s not meant to be a Facebook killer, but a way for  in a promising social experience which lets users broadcast more broadly in public or share and connect selectively, but taking the
best (familiar) parts of Facebook, Twitter, RSS, Tumblr (to name a few) and creating an experience that effectively ties together search and social.

image of TEDtalks Search ExampleTEDtalks
I think they have the best example of search I’ve ever experienced. Aside from the typical categories you would expect to find on a video content site (newest releases, most viewed, technology, science, global issues, etc.) They have a section titled “Not sure what to watch?” that allows you to find videos based on how much time you have to watch as well as by qualities such as jaw-dropping, persuasive, courageous, ingenious, fascinating, inspiring, beautiful, funny, informative. Simple, but totally effective/useful.

Learn more: http://www.ted.com/

VISUAL DESIGN

Tufte - Napoleon's March

Edward Tufte
No one compares to what Tufte has brought to the table in regards to data visualization. His books Envisioning Information, Visual Explanations and the Visual Display of Quantitative Information opened many minds to the power of good data visualization (as well as the danger of BAD data visualization)

Learn more: http://www.edwardtufte.com/tufte/

FiveThirtyEight - New York Times

New York Times – Five Thirty Eight
I don’t always dig what they are saying, but in this section of the NY Times site, the information was presented well, it was accurate and it was visually appealing. A ton of rich content, very interactive, and all easy to read and comprehend.

Learn more: http://fivethirtyeight.blogs.nytimes.com/ 

Extra Credit:

For those of you who are movie buffs, here is a trilogy of great design related documentries by director Gary Hustwit. These documentaries are totally worth checking out. They provide a great way to gain a deeper appreciation for design in several different applications (graphic design, product design, urban planning.)

Helvetica Image  

Helvetica
This is way more than a story about the font, it’s about the importance of visual design, and why we need clean, clear and easily accessible design for public spaces for survival within our modern “global visual culture.

Learn more: https://itunes.apple.com/us/movie/helvetica/id284740710

Objectified Image

Objectified
Insightful look into the design process behind some the most influential products. Jonathon Ives from Apple and other folks who “take design seriously” go into detail about the creative process and the user attitudes/behaviors that must be considered when designing modern products.

Learn more: https://itunes.apple.com/us/movie/objectified/id321244909

Urbanized Image

Urbanized
Urbanized focuses on the design of cities, and features some of the world’s foremost architects, planners, policymakers, and thinkers, including extraordinary citizens who have changed their cities. Who is allowed to shape our cities, and how do they do it? And how does the design of our cities affect our lives? Urbanized frames a global discussion on the future of cities.

Learn more: https://itunes.apple.com/us/movie/urbanized/id481863360

What’s your take?

I know I’m barely scratching the surface here. Do you agree/disagree with the examples provided here? What would you add to this list? What would you remove?  

10 Essential Principles for UX Leadership

Featured

Follow Me!– By MARK DISCIULLO  
“The tactics of leadership are easy.  The art is the
difficult part.
- Seth Godin, from the book “Tribes”

As User Experience (UX) teams are becoming more and more common within organizations, the UX profession is becoming more and more in need of strong and effective leadership at the helm to realize the full potential of their teams and to ensure that the UX vision and strategy is being embraced at the proper levels within the organization. This leadership could be in the form of a UX Manager, Senior UX Strategist, Executive Director, etc. whoever has the key responsibility for UX and the team(s) that support it.

Often times, great practitioners are pulled out of the ranks and placed into leadership roles solely based on the quality of their deliverables. Not having the right leadership skills and leadership mindset can greatly diminish the team’s standing within an organization. Not to mention, poor leadership skills will have disastrous results from a personnel morale perspective. The UX industry as a whole deserves the same focus on leadership principles and values that other industries and practices place on it. Effective leadership will be a key driver to ensuring UX realizes it’s fullest potential within all industries and has the attention it deserves to make better products, applications, and experiences. Besides, our audiences, end-users, customers, audiences, clients, etc are counting on us too!

Follow the Leader

I’ve been lucky enough to have had the opportunity to lead numerous UX and Creative Design teams as well been under the direction of some very influential leaders within the UX profession. I’ve found that it requires the proper skills and mindset that can properly and successfully lead a UX team. One that’s always keeping an open mind to new ways of doing things, while also knowing when to effectively draw from “old school” leadership wisdom. Of utmost importance, UX Leaders must be able to clearly articulate the UX story and be able to connect the dots back to how UX positively impacts the organization’s bottom line and/or business goals.  UX leaders must also be an attentive listener to their team. Leadership is a gift provided by those who follow you.

Follow the Leader

Below are a few observations from my own experiences that I have found to be essential to the role of a UX leader…

  1. Help the overall organization realize the value of UX.  A UX leader must be the team’s biggest advocate. Just because an organization has a UX practice, doesn’t mean they know how to leverage it’s full potential. A strong UX leader will seek every opportunity to “tell the UX story” by sharing successes, case studies and making the right introductions for the team.
  2. Start the UX conversation as early in the process as possible. Nothing is more frustrating and limiting to the value a UX designer brings to the table then arriving at a project “after the train has left the station” Effective UX leaders insert themselves into the appropriate conversations early in the process so that even before any design begins, the opportunity for preliminary UX lead research efforts can happen. This results in the UX team having less of a constant uphill battle throughout the duration of the project, which in-turn increase overall project success. It also, greatly reduces employee turn-over!
  3. Establish success criteria. There needs to be solid articulation of the UX project goals and what will define success. This is best illustrated by defining Key Performance Indicators (KPIs) that help baseline the current design state and measure “post-launch” performance. UX teams and their clients will understand what to focus their efforts on and outside teams will see the impact the UX process (or lack of a process) has had on the project goals and the business bottom line. This is powerful stuff, yet very underutilized method for conveying the value of UX.
  4. Provide the UX team with the know-how for navigating the political landscape.  For a “UX’er” within an organization, or even for a consultant, insights on what they should say and not to say to particular folks they’ll be working with is of ultimate value to any team member. UX leaders and their teams know the value of this type of guidance. Political faux paas are just as equally damaging to the team and the leaders reputation as is a poor design presentation or deliverable.
  5. Help the UX team articulate the value they provide in a manner that translates across the organization. UX team members are often immersed deep into their discipline. An effective UX leader knows how to direct the team member on what is the real point or message that needs to be made. Whether it’s a presentation, a UX story, a report, or face-to-face meeting with a difficult client. An effective UX leader knows how to cut to the point with stories that resonate with the intended audience.
  6. Attract and retain talent. The best UX leaders are most passionate about two stories: 1) Why their organization is the best organization to be working for, and 2) What is the overall vision for the team. To attract talent, a UX leader should always be in scouting mode and have his/her stories in their back pocket. Leaders can further extend this scouting responsibility by providing the proper tools for his/her own team to also seek out the right talent. (Allow employees time to participate and/or teach a related course, attend a professional networking events, etc.)  To retain great talent comes down to two things, a clear vision and team trust. To endure through those tough days, team members need to clearly know their purpose and feel they are enabled to succeed within the organization on their own terms without having to validate every decision.
  7. Be the team cheerleader. “People don’t leave a company, they leave their manager.” An effective UX leader must be engaged enough to keep a finger on the pulse of the team so he or she can proactively head off any negativity (at a team and/or an individual level). But more importantly, they must be well versed in the art of reminding each team member of their unique strengths and the value they provide. This goes a LONG way. Being appreciated is a key factor in employee satisfaction and long term dedication. In my experience, UX practitioners know how to handle complements better then any other professionals!
  8. Remind the team when to stick to the process. When working with multidisciplinary teams on projects, there are always opportunities for other team members to challenge the UX process. “Do we really need to perform user research?” “does it really take that long?” “can’t we just skip wireframes and go directly from prototype to full-color comps?”…the list goes on. A strong leader knows when and why the UX team member should NOT back down from their proven process. The leader also provides the proper points to arm them with so the process does not get squashed.
  9. Remind the team when it’s safe to drop the process.  UX professionals tend to be very passionate about their processes and methodologies. The best ones can clearly envision and articulate the perfect approach for a particular project. Sometimes, for reasons beyond the realm of control, that ideal approach may not be the right fit for the a particular project and/or business needs (I know, it’s hard to imagine!). A skillful and experienced leader can help the team make the right decisions on how to “gracefully scale down.” Some flexibility can always be found, but an effective leader will know how to limit the UX team’s exposure to risk and safely position the UX team to convey what the trade-offs will be to the larger team and their stakeholders on what they will be giving up by not following the ideal UX approach.
  10. Remind the team why they entered this field in the first place. A great leader, in any profession, can always bring his/her team back to the reasons why they love what they do. Nothing makes a more powerful connection with people then this. Shared experiences, and passion can resonate in the toughest of times helping a team endure the most challenging situations, while at the same time, enabling teams to reach the highest levels of potential.

BONUS Principle: I recently read Seth Godin’s book Tribes. The one point he made the resonated the most with me was,

“The secret to leadership is simple:  Do what you believe in.”

Nothing will make your leadership abilities surface more naturally then this. Find what it is you believe in, and you will naturally lead others there. Hopefully what you believe in is UX!

There are many more principles out there. I’m sure I’m just scratching the surface. UX Leadership is an evolving process, and so is the process of learning it. I plan to document more principles as I come across them in future articles.

As a UX leader yourself, what makes a good UX leader great? As a UX practitioner, what leadership principles have you found to be most effective? 

6 Steps for Measuring Success on UX Projects

– By MARK DISCIULLO 

The tepid economy is putting pressure on everyone from executives to User Experience (UX) teams to show direct, measurable results. So, I’m often surprised to hear of the many projects that include a UX component to them, yet there isn’t any true, quantifiable success criteria defined for UX. Even more rare, are efforts to baseline the current design experience of an interface or product prior to a relaunch so any newly “defined” success criteria has some context. This is critical information to know so you can quantify whether or not your new designs have truly made improvements compared to past designs. Anything that is done as an organization should have justification – otherwise, why do it?

Measuring the User Experience

UX is still being treated as though it’s a very subjective topic to measure. It’s unfortunate that in many cases, success is simply summed up with statements such as “it’s now easier to use”, “it’s better then before” or…my favorite…”we tested 5-7 users and they all said it was more user-friendly.”

“This is not acceptable. Not having a measurement strategy is what keeps UX as a “nice to have” as opposed to being an influential driving force within an organization.”

Without credible UX success measurements, we all risk not being able to quantify our success.  Without credible UX success measurements, we are unable to align our efforts to an organization’s business objectives and desired outcomes. This often results in UX efforts becoming very unfocused, undefined and easily changed on a whim. Basically, you’re left having to tell a very subjective story of your UX success or failures, which unfortunately, could lead to you and your team being very exposed.

Why are we not measuring our UX efforts?

Often times stakeholders or clients don’t realize that UX can be quantified and measured. As UX professionals need to take the lead and show them how to connect the dots between how UX (or lack there of) is impacting the bottom-line and how it ties back to the organizations core mission.

We need to be backing our UX efforts with quantifiable stories such as, “We decreased shopping cart abandonment by 30% which lead to 10% higher sales”, “We increased intranet adoption by 55% .”, “We increased overall user satisfaction by 30%.” The list goes on. We need more answers to the “so what” question. The questions that quantify “why” we are conducting any UX efforts in the first place.

Measuring the User Experience (UX)

So how do we do this? 

Imagine if you could clearly define measureable goals for your UX efforts? What if you could clearly connect the dots from your UX efforts to your project’s bottom line metrics or desired business outcomes? What if you could align UX to your organizations primary mission statement? What if along the way you could also glean actionable insights that could be used for continuously evolving the design of your product, website, or application? Talk about maximizing your UX investments! There is a simple methodology for doing this. It really only requires that you commit to it and ensure the results are made available for the stakeholders and team members to make informed UX decisions.

STEP 1 – Decide What to Measure

A sound measurement strategy includes a mix of both qualitative and quantitative metrics. These metrics are gathered over time so that they aren’t presented as snapshots of a single point in time but presented as trends. (see examples below!)

The measurements or KPI’s (key performance indicators) can be derived from a variety of sources such as user research (usability testing, surveys, structured interviews, heuristic evaluations, card sorting, etc) and/or analytics (i.e. data from your Webtrends, Google Analytics, Coremetrics, etc), But again, since this is not only limited to measuring user interfaces and websites, also consider sales data, lead generation stats, social media metrics, etc…basically any user touchpoint that can be considered a measurement of a “desired outcome that aligns to a business goal.”

Marko Hurst has modeled an excellent approach for aligning business goals to desired UX outcomes.  In fact, he’s created a useful “Goals-to-Outcomes” worksheet that helps facilitate this. I’ve followed this approach with much success. It involves defining and mapping the following “Business Goals>User Goals>Tactics>Desired Outcomes.” This approach yields very focus and accurate results for defining specific Key Performance Indicators (KPIs) for UX efforts.

When specifically measuring the performance of a user interface, the process involves designing a test that defines representational tasks users are most likely performing, and/or tasks that the business or client would desire them to be performing. The foundational set of metrics (with examples below showing trending) to measure the “usability” of a product or website are typically:

Success Rate – The number of participants that successfully completed a task
UX Task Success Example

Time-on-Task – The average amount of time it took for participants to complete a task
UX Time on Task Example

# of Errors – The average number of times an error occurred, per participant, while performing a particular task
UX Errors Example

Motion Failure Rate –  I prefer to establish an ideal or “happy path” and compare the participants actual results against that. This is more specifically defined as the average amount of clicks, motions, or gestures (basically any deviations from a predefined “happy path” or process) that were errors. This is more insightful then the typical “# of Click” metric used by many UX practitioners. I emphasis this because high numbers in this area are not always a bad thing from a user perspective, as long as they are successfully following the most optimized path and achieving their goals.
UX Motion Failure Example

Satisfaction – Measuring satisfaction is often overlooked, yet is very simple to measure, and extremely important in terms of UX. There are various methods available to gather this rating, but the one I most prefer is using a simple three (3) question post-task survey. The participant is asked to complete this immediately following each task being tested. It’s made up of three components (or questions) that gather user ratings for overall ease of use, satisfaction, and “perceived” amount of time. The three (3) ratings are then averaged to create a combined score.
UX Satisfaction Rate Example

When reporting our UX findings, I find it very useful to segment the behaviors and findings of the top most satisfied participants and comparing that to the bottom least satisfied.

Measuring “Usefulness”

In addition to establishing metrics that mainly measure “usability” consider inlcuding metrics that also measure “usefulness.” Jeff Sauro outline a straight-forward approach to consider for going beyond standard usability metrics in his blog titled “Measuring Usefulness” He mentions incorporating metrics that gather insights from users `that measure how useful this product is for accomplishing their goals. This is very important, since no matter how usable something is, if it’s not of any real value to the user…this is all a moot point!


Measuring Social Media

In regards to social media products and applications, this has brought whole new layer of things to measure such as amplification, awareness, conversation, engagement, reach, participation, etc. Before getting caught up in the fire hose of social media metrics, again, make sure you first established clear goals and desired outcomes. (As mentioned earlier using the “Goals to  Outcomes” worksheet.) Map these to your business bottom-line. What you truly need to measure will reveal itself.

I have found the following blog post from the well respected web analytics guru, Avinash Kaushik, to be a great place to provide perspective on how you should approach measuring your Social Media efforts: Best Social Media Metrics: Conversation, Amplification, Applause, Economic Value

But again, at the core of any UX research, always plan to talk with to your intended audience to gain insights on the user satisfaction, usability and usefulness of your current or planned social media experience.


STEP 2 – Design your measurement test approach –
Make it repeatable

Once you have defined what needs to be measured, you will need to design your test protocol. Often times called a “moderators script” or “approach brief,” this maps out the details of what you will be measuring, the participants you plan to recruit, the activities and the tasks you will have them perform (user tests) as well as establishes the duration and pace of the study. One hour sessions are most ideal, but I’ve conducted successful 1/2 and 90 minute sessions with equal amounts of success depending on the context of the study. Always make sure you secure a well-versed moderator who can run a successful “structured” study. A lot is riding on the moderator being able to conduct these sessions properly…and still keep the participants focused and engaged.

Also, ensure your test approach can be repeatable! Your test approach can not be considered a one time testing effort. You should always be focused on establishing a measurement “strategy” as opposed to a measurement “snapshot.”

STEP 3 – Baseline the Current Experience

Start measuring now! Measure what you can now to start gathering intel on your current experience. If you are performing an redesign and seeking baseline metrics to later compare your post launch efforts, ensure what you measure now will be available to measure again in your newly redesigned experience.

STEP 4 – Measure the New Experience

After the launch of your product, follow up with the same study and data gathering methods you employed during the baseline exercise. Pay special attention to having you or your team recreate the baseline tests in the same manner as originally implemented. New questions, tasks, and data often times need to be added into the mix to account for new features that didn’t exist in the baselined design. If possible, and only if you can create a meaningful story, map this new information to previous measures. Otherwise, this new information has to be called out in your report as “newly acquired” and these new metrics will be used to define new baselines for future measurement efforts.

STEP 5 – Plan How You Will Visualize Your Data – Consider the story you’ll be telling over time

I’ll admit, I am terrible with numbers, but has not hindered the success I’ve had employing measurement strategies.  I’m a visual person, and this has helped more then I could imagine in this areas of UX and measurement. Executives have become numb to copious amounts of data. What actually provides meaning and drives change is the ability to share a story. Using metrics support a story and provides credibility.  Thoughtful visualizations maximizes the impact of the data.

User Experience KPI Dashboard

Example: User Experience KPI Dashboard

So, at the early parts of any measurement efforts, it’s also wise to consider how this information will be visually represented. It’s a key part of how the story will be told. If I’m collecting tons of data that can’t be distilled down to simple visual representations, this is usually a key indicator that there isn’t a story here worth reporting on.

Finally when it comes to reporting, don’t plan to report your metrics as a single set. Different metrics serve the needs of different audiences. Executives need a very different scorecard than the UX team. Typically there are three types of scorecards: the strategic, the operational, and one with daily task-based reporting.

STEP 6 – Establish a Continuous Improvement Program

Use the learning from this initial cycle to tweak the process and refine it so you can repeat it on an established  regular basis (monthly, quarterly, per release, annually, etc) whatever is most feasibile for your website or application. Assign UX resources to manage this and report back findings and recommendations on a regular basis.

Why all this effort? User experience trends are constantly evolving. How will you ensure that your product, website or application is keeping up and providing the best experience? If you don’t design your approach to be a continuous process, all you are really doing is creating a measurement “snapshot” a one time view of your UX in a single point in time. Always think trends over time, that is were the real insights reveal themselves.

User Experience Continuous Improvement Program

Example: User Experience Continuous Improvement Program

Too much to handle? – Then start with small tightly controlled experiments

If this is sounding very grandiose and requiring tons of effort, it doesn’t have to be. It can be very easy to start. If it’s not possible to fully dive in to an overall measurement strategy, It is highly recommended that you begin with small incremental “tightly controlled experiments” to get into the measurement mindset. Yo will be surprised how far you get with just a simple structured study, a few credible measurements, and a good story.

Again, Avinash Kaushik, provides valuable details on this topic in his blog post “Controlled Experiments – Measuring Incrementally

The Final Measure:

When the C-Level folks gather at the table to talk business, they aren’t judging success and making decisions because “it just feels like we made an improvement” (or at least the smart ones!) No…they’re discussing important bottom-line metrics, and credible facts to base their decisions and future strategies on. It’s their language. UX needs to be part of that discussion. UX needs to distill their story that speaks that same language and also resonates at that level.

Having a solid UX measurement strategy in place gives UX the credibility to sit at the “big table” and be recognized as a core part of any business.

Gen UX: Raising the Next Generation of User Experience Designers

Little Designer Handprints– By MARK DISCIULLO 

After recently re-reading Daniel Pink’s book – A Whole New Mind – I found myself inspired much differently then the first time I read it. Yes, the notion of how the conceptual age is now upon us and that right brain thinking will rule the future, once again made me feel very secure in my choice of profession as a designer, but a lot has changed since the first time I read it. I now have three small children, which I didn’t have when I first read it, so reading the book this time around had an entirely different meaning to me. This time it was speaking to me as a father. I felt It was providing clues about how to navigate the future for my children.  It was helping me define the type of direction I should be providing to my young family in order for them to have the best chances of thriving in the future and finding happiness, meaning, and fulfillment in the conceptual age.

Young girl user experience designer hand painting wall

No experience required…

I’m a designer. More specifically, I’m a user experience (UX) designer. I ensure products and digital interfaces are easy to use by their intended audience…humans! But you don’t have to be a UX professional to introduce your children to human centered design. It simply requires an appreciation of, or even simply an awareness, of, products or websites that work well, stories that move you, a curiosity of what makes something meanful, empathy for those around you, and the desire to have fun.

Mentoring the next generations to understand user centered design, whether these folks are our own children or not, has far reaching benefits. Design thinking helps solve important problems and improves the quality of life for all types of people. Why would we NOT want more of these people around?

I’m not saying you must demand your children pursue careers as designers, I’m suggesting that you should help foster a deep appreciation for design with your children, so what ever career path they pursue, design becomes a foundation for all they do and achieve. THIS will help them differentiate themselves and thrive in the future economy.

Why does this matter? In the “conceptual age”, as mentioned in the book “A Whole New Mind,” experience, service, and good design will be the key differentiator for any product, service…or career. The design and creation of that experience, cannot be off-shored, commoditize, automated or reduced to several lines of code. It has such a uniquely human aspect to it. We’re already seeing this happening today. Designing for everyday human needs and helping an audience to achieve specific goals is not something that your order from half-way around the world or automatically cranked out of a computer. So most likely during your child’s career they find themselves “designing experiences” or “branding a product” or “conceptualizing solutions” or “visualizing data”…well you get the idea. This is a far cry from what today’s education prepares them for.

Below are a few principles I follow to fill the gaps and help my children experience and appreciate “all things design.”

1) Point stuff out…create awareness of good and bad experiences and product designs

As you may know, there is design in the everyday things around us. it doesn’t only reside in museums or the big city…It’s very accessible. From the layout of a playground to the sleek lines of a cool looking car, even many of the items on the shelf at Target, there’s amazing design within reach. Look for it and share!

Other examples of how you can build awareness for design with your child, would be to point out signs that helped lead the way to your destination. Point out the signs that didn’t…and point out why. Watch your children using a website, ask them what was easy about it, what was hard, and why. Ask your children to offer up their thoughts on how to improve things that appear to be problematical….you’ll be surprised what you’ll hear!

A great book to prime YOU on this topic is the perennial favorite book for all designers “The Design Of Everyday Things” by Don Norman. This will provide you the perspective that you don’t necessarily have to be a designer or artist to know how to differentiate between good and bad design. It will also provide you with insights on how to evaluate and even improve upon the supposedly bad designs. You will also understand the phycology behind why certain designs work and why some don’t.

Whether you’ve read the book or not, just simply be aware of what is happening around you. Make a point to call it out to your “mini-me” when something just felt like a great “experience” verses a not so great “experience” or when something caught your eye as a great design verses a poorly thought out product design. Then, take the time to explain this to your children. It will be a great exercise for both of you.

2) Drop the computer and pick up the pencil!

Children naturally draw from the right side of the brain. They draw to express not to perfect. Don’t let them loose this ability. Encourage children to remain comfortable visualizing and sketching – don’t discourage drawing outside of the lines. Help them make the connection from their ideas to the tip of their pencil as natural of a flow as possible.

Encouraging them to draw will provide them an incredibly valuable tool for expressing ideas to others. I’ve seen designers and (more importantly) non-designers persuade many tough audiences to agree with a concept simply because they had “0” fear of grabbing  a marker and sketching out a rough idea on a whiteboard in front of a group of people. It’s powerful stuff.

To see some of this in practice check out the book Visual Meetings by David Sibbet.  You can also explore examples of visual note taking here. There is also the classic book on the topic of “Drawing on the Right Side of the Brain” by Dr. Betty Edwards. These resources will help you rethink about the power of drawing and how it can help tap into a more intuitive side of your conscious for expressing ideas.  

O.K. back to the kids….Always keep pencils and paper handy around the house. Make it extremely easy to steal a few moments and grab some paper to draw mindlessly with your children. Even use it to express YOUR thoughts and ideas to your children. Watch how they respond. They may even pay more attention to what you have to say!

If your children are still very young, pull out the crayons and share some quiet time with them coloring in their favorite coloring book. I personally have found this to be very therapeutic for me as well as providing some of the best quality time you can get with your children.

3) Introduce children to the arts and music as early as possible

I’m amazed at the quality of art and performance programs that are available to this generation these day…locally. It’s becoming very accessible. If you look hard enough, you may find that just miles from your home are quality art, theater, and music programs that were either non-existant or only available in the “big city.” If your town doesn’t provide anything, go to the next town over. Seek it out and get your children involved.

Help your child find and get involved in programs that would maximize their talents. But as always, be ever attentive to your child’s interest level. The very second you sense they’re not interested, find out why. If what you’ve signed your child up for is just not for them, then move on. This is very important. A child can be unintentionally turned off…forever…simply by a bad experience at a young age. (i.e. think of all the missed opportunities from those overly strict piano lessons, or art lessons delivered by an uninspiring teacher)

Make it fun, if it’s not, then stop.

4) Support the arts and music in your child’s school

I’m not suggesting that you make huge donations to your school district, what I’m stressing is to be there for any recital, performance or art show you can possibly make for your child. I’ve taken extreamely important conference calls from the parking lot of my children’s school just so I could arrange to attend and share in the experience of my child’s performance. Cheer them on. Make them always see a familiar face in the audience. Share your thoughts of the performance. Make it a fun experience for them. This will help them to overcome any nervousness they may have, but more importantly it will allow you and your child to have a good conversation about the performance or show. Always be supportive. But try to ask them their thoughts on what could have been improved upon (if any) You might find they have some interesting ideas tossing around in their heads.

5) Balance Art, Music and Dance with sporting activities

Balance Music, Art and Sports

Creative activities will prepare your child for future careers equally as much as athletic activities. Balance the sports with the arts. Both you and your child’s lives will be even more enriched for doing so. For every sporting event you coordinate for your child, balance it with equal amounts of cultural events. (concerts, recitals, museums, going to that artsy funky hip store in town and pointing out the cool stuff) Make it fun and BE ENGAGED with them. Schools and communities place so much emphasis on sports and cheer on the athletes, yet so much future potential is just sitting at home drawing pictures, playing an instrument, making things, etc…all with very little support or fanfare.

Again, I’m stressing a balance. Sports teach you a lot about socializing, teamwork, networking and just being healthy. Very important concepts for designers too!

6) Talk to your children about “Brands”

I was surprised how well children can grasp the concept of “brands” and what differentiates one from another. Think Disney verus Nick Jr. I find this idea has dual purposes. They learn to understand “brand” from an experience perspective, but they also learn to understand brand from a persuasion perspective. We all want our children to be smart and aware of the power of persuasion and not to get sucked into it.

But still, we have fun with our children just simply pointing out logos with the kids and discussing their meaning, the colors shapes, and letters. This then leads to conversations around what makes one logo different from another, and in ture, what makes one “brand” different from another.

7) Play video games with your children.

A key principle in Daniel Pink’s book A Whole New Mind, was “Play.” Believe it or not, this concept will be very important in the workplace of the future. I’m not talking ping-pong tables in the break room, but in the design of products that require “engagement.” Having a good grasp on what “play” is comes in quite handy as a designer. It’s surprising that today, there are still so many designers who just don’t get it. It’s as though they were never allowed to truly be a “kid” in their lifetime. This is what often leads to those overly complex, unintuitive, boring products or experiences that are forced upon you to use.

Play is of ultimate importance when raising ANY child regardless of who or what you want them to be when they grow up. Although, to many well intentioned parents chagrin, video and computer games have become the main source of that fun… for both boys and girls.

As parents we need to relax our concerns about video and computer games and begin to embrace many aspects of it. We fear they’re just sitting there doing nothing, when in fact there’s some deep analysis going on. Analysis of story, creative problem solving, and spacial and social relationships. These are all skills that are, and will be, incredibly important in any career field your child may want to pursue.  And forget about the anti-social aspect of video games. Seems like every time I attend a family function, there’s always a room full of nieces and nephews hovered around a game console where, regardless of age, physical size, and social abilities, they are all interacting, coaching, mentoring, and creatively solving problems together (oh yeah…and just out right laughing…does anyone remember laughter?)

There’s an interesting blog post regarding the Many Benefits, for Kids, For Playing Video Games from research professor of Phycology at Boston College, Peter Gray. He points to research that refutes the frightening myths about the harmful effects of video games and how they, in fact, have many far reaching benefits on increasing brain power. He also expands upon the huge social benefits of Massively Multiplayer Online Role Playing Games (MMORPGs), such as World of Warcraft.

8) Make stuff with your children


So you if you’re someone who consider yourself a creative person and If you’re even a half way decent job at parenting, it’s probably safe to say you fall into the category of “frustrated artist.” Seems parenting puts all those “self-indulgent” creative tendencies on the back burner in favor of soccer practices, dance classes, feeding, clothing, and providing for your child’s well being.

What do you do with all that pent up marketing savvy, Photoshop skills, business acumen and love of modern art? For the meantime, channel it. Just take time to make stuff with your kids. Don’t just give them a project to do and then check back a week later, but think of things that would involve your children in the process. Let them see how a graphic is designed or a short animation is produced, or a song is written. Create projects that leverage, and exercise, your skills but bring your children into the process. The only rule is it HAS to be fun….otherwise stop, drop and roll on!

9) Teach empathy – Show your children what it’s like to walk in someone else’s shoes. This is the core to being a great user experience professional. Show them that there are other perspectives, feelings and levels of capabilities to consider. Children seem to “get it” easiest when explaining situations from another person’s point of view. “What if your sister took this toy from you how would YOU feel?”

10) Be creative about college – OK, so you now succeeded in keeping their interest up all the way through high school and now your children are thinking about collage. How do they find education that will prepare them for this new conceptual age? Just sent them to art school? That can be risky, since in my opinion it won’t fully prepare the student for the full reality of the future design workforce. So sometimes parents and students have to get “creative” about their college education.

I highly recommend considering balancing a Fine Arts major (specialized in Art, Music, Design, etc) with either a Phycology or Business minor…or vice versa. This holistic approach to education is your best bet preparing your child to put design into practice. The phycology will help the young designer understand what drives human behaviors, what motivates people and why. It will also prepare the designer to incorporate research into their design methodology. The business aspect will provide the foundation to make their passion a reality and successfully earn a living doing what they love to do!

The Final Sketch…

So you’ll see, it’s nothing beyond the realm of typical parenting, it’s all just in how you do it, and what you call attention to…or should I say, it’s the experience that’s the differentiator! But before you get all gung ho about career choices for you children, please make sure to love your children with all your heart. What they need more then anything is attention, closeness and praise. Provide them hope and faith in themselves and the future.
Being a parent and designer I’m always learning and I’m always looking for ideas for fun ways to be creative with my kids. What have you found to be helpful in inspiring your future designers? 
Little Designer Flowers

Reducing Complexity by Design: 3 Key Tips for Managing Edge Cases

– By MARK DISCIULLO

Wikipedia: An edge case is a problem or situation
that occurs only at an extreme maximum or minimum
operating parameter.
This post originally published at the MISI Company XD Blog

The most satisfying and memorable interactions are often the simplest. Life is complicated enough, and…surprise…most people don’t want to spend any more time interacting with your company’s call center, sales team, application or website than they absolutely need to. So why are so many interactions between companies and their target audiences so complex? Often complexity is the result of trying to design interactions for everyone, which inevitably leads to interactions designed for no one.

One of the culprits in this drive to satisfy everyone is the edge case. Also referred to as the “Corner case”, the “Outlier” or the “Exception,” these are interaction scenarios that are not typically part of the main set of use cases for a given experience. These scenarios rarely happen, yet unwary design teams can be drawn into spending a disproportionate amount of time and effort addressing them. The solutions typically result in layering complexity on what should have been a simple, streamlined process.

When dealing with edge cases, the stakes can be high. They range from driving up the cost of product/process/system/service design, to the creation of poor employee or customer experiences that jeopardize the achievement of your business goals. The following tips can help businesses and experience designers get the edge on edge cases.
TIP #1 – First Get the Facts:
Research actual usage to understand actual impact

Arm yourself with evidence. Gather available information and/or data to validate that the particular scenario needs to be addressed. Understand the problem from the audience’s perspective and confirm that addressing the scenario as outlined truly is the best way to meet the audience’s need.

If you don’t have evidence you require to make an informed design decision, go get it. Most likely the people insisting the case needs to be addressed have a business case to justify the cost and effort. Ask to see that information. If there is no such business case, insist on doing at least a modicum of quick, primary research with the target audience to make sure the solution has value.

Audience insights are becoming easier and easier to obtain through surveys, remote user testing, field studies, customer reviews, etc. Companies are even using Facebook and Twitter to pose questions and get quick insights for decision making. Of course, the real expertise is in the interpretation of the insights into meaningful stories that will impact business decision-making. If you reach out to a solid representative mix of your target audience, you will start to surface relevant insights to the best way to meet their needs as well as the goals of your business.

Armed with evidence, you can make an informed design decision.

TIP #2 – Reduce Business Complexity:
A complex customer experience is often the result of a business process or product offering that needs to be simplified

Overly complex and convoluted interactions typically reflect organizations and/or processes that are by design overly complex and convoluted. It never hurts to turn the analytical lens on the business and work out the complexity. I’m often surprised how open companies are to a little reflection on their own processes. You can approach the subject by saying something like, “You are asking us to design the experience within the context of the overly complex way in which you currently do business. I’m suggesting we take this opportunity to look into the redesign of the service/process to see if there are ways we can address the root of the problem.”

A good example is Sprint’s recent overhaul of their phone service options. Research into their target audience revealed that they could reduce the number of plan offers to just three (3) and meet the needs of the vast majority of their potential customers. Rather than continuing to add more services in a shot-gun attempt to satisfy a wider base of customers, they re-thought their entire strategy and streamlined their offerings.  They lowered the effort required for a potential customer to choose to do business with them AND they simplified the job of supporting their service options. Win win.

TIP #3 –  Create and Use Relevant Personas:
Use data to link audience priorities to business priorities

If your organization hasn’t created personas that truly reflect your audience segments, create them and use them. Personas provide a constant reminder of who you are designing for and what their priorities are. Many organizations we work with already have personas in some form, but they typically aren’t complete and are rarely being used effectively.

Detail of Persona segmentation data

Detail of Persona segmentation data

Effective personas include quantifiable segmentation data on the current customers represented by each persona. To help manage edge cases, add an additional layer that displays what your organization’s desired percent audience make up is for each persona. This information helps identify those edge cases that affect highly valued audience segments and, therefore, might be worth addressing.

Final Thoughts:

Not every edge case is evil. Sometimes they are the thoughtful details we strive to have in place to make an exceptional experience. Sometimes, when a recognizable pattern starts to appear, they can lead to the creation of innovative new audience segmentations, services, or product offerings. If that’s the case, then run with it!

I worked with a client in the financial services industry who had a situation where 5-10% of a particular customer segment was bringing in 85-90% of the revenue for a particular niche.  In this scenario, what might have been perceived as the edge cases with regard to the flagship product offering were actually the foundation for the creating of a new audience segment that required a separate experience all together. Rather then going down the path of  a “one-size-fits-all” retrofitted experience, we took those edge cases and used them to inform a custom tailored experience, with its own online tools, its own call center reps, all without jeopardizing the primary brand experience.

A well-designed experience needs to be diligently tended and defended. A design can be well implemented originally, but can be denigrated over time by the retrofitting of ad-hoc business requirements based on edge cases that draw people’s attention from the business’s and its target audience’s main goals. Be on the lookout and be ever vigilant to your design. Your audience will applaud your efforts. Your competitors will wish they thought of it first.