Tips & Advice

Adobe asked: what do I look for when hiring a designer?

While in Chicago speaking at HOW DESIGN LIVE recently, the good folks at Adobe cornered me and asked me to weigh in on what I looks for when hiring a designer, my number one rule for talking to clients about design, and considerations for designing for a diverse audience. I was completely honored, and I hope you find some value in what I had to say!


UI Design

Signal vs. Noise: Removing Visual Clutter in the UI


When I was a kid, terrestrial radio was pretty much our only option for listening to music on the go. Small, portable transistor radios (like the one you see in the picture) were essentially the blueprint for iPods and today’s smartphones.

And if you were a music fanatic like me, the hallmark of this traveling listening experience was the need to be ever vigilant — because at any moment the signal might grow weak and that favorite song you’d been waiting to hear


UI Design

Simplify UI Data Visualizations – in 7 Simple Steps


To give you some context as to the importance of designing effective data visualizations, I’d like to give you a scenario to consider.

Imagine that you’re standing in a room with 100 other people, all of whom are shouting at you at the very top of their lungs. Now imagine that you are expected to:

  1. hear every word of what each person is shouting,
  2. fully understand what each person is shouting, and
  3. recognize all the ways in which each person’s diatribe is related to all the others.

Impossible, right?

Of course


UI Design

The Right Way to Use Icons in Your UI

Back in 2005, a young man by the name of Jensen Harris was an intern program manager at Microsoft. During that summer, he says, he learned a key UX lesson — on the use of icons — that carried over into the DNA of the now-ubiquitous “Ribbon” toolbar.

In a post titled “The Importance of labels,” he explains a user issue that had come to the Outlook 98 team’s attention:

“Part of the user experience effort around Outlook 98 was improving the menu and toolbar structure.  One of the problems noticed again and again among non-expert users was that people


UI Design

The Power of Progressive Disclosure


Interactive design of any kind means walking a very fine line between not enough information and information overload. At the core of that balancing act is one of the most important principles of UX and Design: progressive disclosure.

Progressive disclosure means that everything in the User Interface should progress naturally, from simple to complex.

This mimics the natural way the brain processes information, successively; we build upon each subsequent step of experience and learning, adding to what we know.

In terms of the


Tips & Advice

We Need This ASAP: ending unrealistic deadlines

unrealistic deadlines

“We need this ASAP.”

There is no doubt in my mind you’ve heard this at least once, twice, or six hundred times. Your client, boss or other stakeholder says this has got to be done now, immediately. And in most cases, the team members just shrug their shoulders and roll with it.

But rolling with it is not only counterproductive, it’s dangerous.

You’re not doing anyone a favor by agreeing to something you know can’t be done — and you are most definitely


Tips & Advice

What’s the fastest way to evaluate e-commerce UX? (Tuesdays with Joe, Episode 08)

Not a week goes by where someone doesn’t ask me if there’s a “faster way” to find UX issues than by doing a UX Audit. Designers and developers are almost always operating under ridiculous time constraints imposed by people who have no idea how long it actually takes to do that work, so I completely get it.

Part of the panic inherent in the question, though, is based on an assumption. An assumption that conducting a UX Audit — and calling it that — means that this will automatically be a long-term


Tips & Advice

What Can I Do To Stop Scope Creep? (Tuesdays with Joe, Episode 07)

“Hey, can we squeeze one more thing into this sprint?”

If you recognize that statement, then today’s episode of Tuesdays with Joe is for you. Of all the topics I’m asked about on a weekly basis, scope creep is the one that never fails to show up — almost daily.

Organizations often approach project requirements and scoping as a “set it and forget it” proposition: we figured all this out, here’s the list of stuff we have to do and build, GO!

The expectation is that with the hard work of deciding


Tips & Advice

Aren’t Requirements and Specifications the SAME THING? (Tuesdays with Joe, Episode 06)

Here’s a question for you:

Would you build a house without first knowing how many rooms it should have?

Of course not.

Here’s another:

What would you do when, 3 months after construction starts, your spouse insists you need another bedroom?

You’d be stuck, of course.

You’d be scrambling to figure out a way to minimize the amount of work you have to undo (and redo). You’d be hoping for some miracle to give you the time, budget and people to take on the additional work.

And get it done on the


Tips & Advice

What do I ask users when my time with them is really short? (Tuesdays with Joe, Episode 05)

In a perfect world, you’d be able to spend a week or two with a large number of users, digging deep into their obstacles and challenges.

In a perfect world, you’d have the time to examine every facet of use and the contexts they operate in, leaving no stone unturned.

But you and I don’t live in a perfect world, do we?

What really happens is — if we do get any face time at all with users — the time we have to operate in is minimal. Of the questions


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