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Showing posts from 2007

Living In The Moment on BART

I hate new years resolutions but one of my new years resolutions is to live more "in the moment". Yesterday I was on BART, when I caught myself stressing about something, again. Then I reminded myself that I needed to DO IT, you know, live in the moment. NOW!!!

So I took a deep breath and started paying attention to the now. Then, I noticed the slight smell of urine on BART. What were they thinking? Who upholsters public transit? A lot of other people on the train looked stressed somehow and there was a little empty bottle of bourbon on the floor of the train. Walking away from the BART station, I was more aware than usual of the guy dealing 'outfits' on the corner as I was, "in the moment". I noticed the homeless people begging, and the drunk guys that always hang out around 24th and Valencia, among other disgusting things.

Delightful! Its not even 2008 yet and I've already punched a hole in one of my resolutions.

Dad Rules

In honor of my dad's 70th I thought I'd post his "Rules" to my blog. They're pretty funny, and I think (sometimes) they can be applicable to interaction design . . .

Rule #1 People are stupid
OK, I know that sounds harsh but really, sometimes people are stupid.

Rule #2 Don't do anything stupid
This is just common sense here. If I have to explain it to you, read rule #1.

Rule #3 Time
As in, the solution to any problem is time. Got a problem? Not sure what t do about something? With a thoughtful application of time you will figure it out. Etc.

That's it! Rules to live by, thanks! Happy Birthday Dad!

eCommerce - Not User Experience

I didn't do much shopping this holiday season but when I did, I did it online. I'm frustrated by how poorly most e-commerce sites are designed especially when I know how good they could be. While I was waiting for YouTube to reject me for being too old, I was working on a project for a shopping dotcom, a search engine aggregator*. I realized something even more annoying about shopping online while on this project. This "web 2.0" company doesn't really do any user centered design at all. They dont do user testing or listening labs or any of that good user research stuff that actually makes a product nice. But they are successful nonetheless, I guess search enginges can constantly be 'tuned' so they work better. Perhaps that's OK, but their site could still be better. It's a cheap ass way to run a web business.

Then later I spoke to an Oldnavy.com designer about what it's like to design for that site. Basically any Gap website is designed to…

Dont Bother Interviewing at Google

I figure I spent several weeks worth of time this past year trying to interview for various jobs at Google. Recently, on a 3rd attempt I thought things were looking pretty good. Despite all the positive feedback from my interviews, I was shot down in the 11th hour because some VP (who I never actually met) decided that I am not "the right kind of designer". I really really want to know how having 13 years of experience, and a proven track record in silicon valley makes me "not the right kind of designer" but ... whatever. I get it now.

After all that work (over 120 hours of unbillable time total in 2007) I'm glad I tried. I really liked all the people who interviewed me and I am really disapointed that I wont be able to get to know them.

Origins of Web 2.0 Design, Debunked!

This piece is just cracking me up. I think every single client this year has fallen victim to the hype. I guess this means I cannot do reflections anymore. awe.

(It is very nice to see an old whetstone elementary school friend in this presentation)

| View | Upload your own

Reflections on a Blog

I started blogging in January as a bit of an experiment. I'm pretty happy with it so far. The more I post, the more I like it, and I guess this blog has accomplished what I wanted it to do.

I'm shocked that anybody actually reads my blog. What I like most about blogging is the unexpected social aspect. All the off-line conversations with friends and people about user experience.

What I don't like about my blog is I find it difficult to have anything truly interesting to say about "interaction design". Some projects are more interesting than others but overall ID is pretty esoteric and geeky.

I want to keep up writing in 2008, but I think I have to change my tagline. I wont be writing about web ux stuff so much anymore. I'm formulating a strategy now, I think it needs to be something completely different.

Solving Stress & Work in Silicon Valley

"Stress makes us depressed, fat, sick - and we do it to ourselves"

This is great news! Now that we KNOW what's hurting people we can DO something about it!

... oh wait, that is easier said than done.

In the UK people use this expression, "I can't be assed" which means, basically, "I cant be bothered". Imagine ever saying that in an office? I never hear this expression over here but I hear it all the time when I travel abroad. I think this says a lot about how we deal with stress vs. the English. You have to have a certain amount of personal pride to just state your limits out loud. I love to compare ourselves with the UK. They also have a national health system, four plus weeks of vacation, and an extensive network of pubs.

I've found that most of my stress is caused by money, or other people. Usually stress comes from a cascade of people influencing other people with money mixed in. Work seems to cultivate this like a petri dish especially sinc…

The Greenest Christmas is No Christmas

I'm one of those people who hates Christmas. It's not because I'm some heathen satanist or anything like that. Christmas just reminds of everything that's wrong with the world. All this useless commercialism invading my mind in the form of advertising. Stealing my time. Confusing and distracting people from what they really want or need.

As I skim the papers reading articles about "being green" this year I think that these green messages and products are too little and too late. Well, I guess it's a start, albeit a small one, hopefully it will catch on.

I'm not anti green, nor do I hate these holidays, I love the social aspects of all holidays. I'm just anti-bullshit. I think I'm going to boycott Christmas, dismiss the commercialism, say no to wasting money, relax and don't stress out. More importantly, I'm going to TALK about my attitude and ask my friends to tune out the holiday BS too.

Facebook Haters - Anti Social Networkers

I was having dinner last night with a bunch of my girlfriends, during conversation I mentioned something about Facebook. My friend, Cindy said, "I get emails all the time by people wanting to be friends on Facebook. I think it's stupid and I just delete them." "What is Facebook?" another friend asked. "I never do that stuff" declared a third friend tersely. Being an UX person I seized the opportunity for some impromptu user research, I pressed Cindy to explain why she feels so strongly about about hating facebook. "All these things, facebook, youtube, myspace, friendster, are just a waste of time. I just dont care about any of that stuff!" I could tell she was just irritated by all those little invitations, as if they were some form of corporate sponsored email harassment.

We all know people like Cindy. I know LOTS of people like her.

Another friend (who does a lot of work on the internet) said, "I'm busy, and I hate it that I have t…

Very Flattering, Another Studioroom

I was very surprised to login to LinkedIn today to discover "2 new colleagues from Studioroom" had joined LinkedIn. Wait, when did I hire two new people?

There is another Studioroom people, and it's in Italy. These guys have a rather groovy flash site which...I cant tell...may have some inappropriate content on it. Great. I hope people don't confuse them with me.

Clearly, this is a bug in LinkedIn. I wonder if I can just SAY I work at Google (in LinkedIn) without actually getting a job there?

Back to the Bay Area & Pretend Culture

Getting off the plane from New York City, back in San Francisco the other week, I felt a cold hard and fast end of summer. New York was more than warm, it is filled with more culture than Silicon Valley can point their mobile phone cameras at. Here, culture seems to revolve around facebook, tivo, and netflix. There, culture is a bar overflowing with music, style & conversation.

Going from coast to coast made me realize all the PRETEND culture here in Silicon Valley. We obsess over technology news. We build online profiles so we can network. We try to "manage" our RSS feeds so we can try to be on top of trends. Alas lets admit that this isn't actually culture, these are all solitary activities which don't require interacting directly with other human beings.

So I have to ask myself, is Silicon Valley the right place to practice user experience design? Shouldn't designers, move around and interact with real people to find out what real people need or want? How …

Silicon Valley vs. New York & the East Coast (a top 10 list)

I've been spending a lot of time on the east coast lately and there are some fascinating cultural differences between here and my home in Silicon Valley.

I thought I'd share these cultural differences with you!

1.
In Silicon Valley, the only thing that matters is the answer to this question "What comes after web 2.0.?"

In Washington D.C. nobody really knows what web 2.0 is.

2.
In Silicon Valley I am a "User Experience Designer".

On the east coast I am just an internet person who designs websites.

3.
In Silicon Valley a blog is an extension of who you are. If you don't have your own Blog or website there's something wrong with you.

In Washington D.C. blogs are how you spy on government officials. And in New York City, blogs are how you find the best shopping.

4.
In Silicon Valley most people use the web to chase "The Long Tail".

In Washington D.C. & Baltimore people just use the web to chase tail!
See article, Craigslist used in BWI prostitution arre…

Researching Web Usability - Web Heuristics for Web 2.0 & 3.0

Web Heuristics are guidelines for good web usability. Every company should have their own proprietary set of guidelines for product usability. But from what I've seen, most start up companies (in tech) focus more on rapid growth at the cost of actual usability.

I am working on developing my own set of web 3.0 heuristics which I intend to publish on this blog for the benefit of all. My new set of heuristics will take into account newer internet trends and interfaces which I don't think are addressed by previously published guidelines. Like aspects of community, user generated content, sharing, rich media, and Flash interactions.

I want to hear from you!
If you are a web designer/developer and have some recommendations for research materials, please leave a comment. Not a developer? Comment about what sites you think are easy to use and which ones you hate. Thank you!


Mini Review: Alexa.com

Alexa is this great software/service that gives you information about how people use the internet. Wanna see how many people read your blog? How much more popular is facebook(15)vs. hi5.com(14)or youtube(4)? I never really use Alexa. I'd like to, but I'm on a Mac.

Now this is just lame. On the internet of all places. I thought we grew out of "browser segregation" after web 2.0? I think this is a bad business decision. Now consider the popularity of Apple.com(89) vs. say Sony.com(913). Hmm... I wonder if I should install an alexa sidebar widget?

Back at The Kitchen Table

Happy July! It's great to be back at the kitchen table working independently for a number of clients. What are we up to now? A few logos. A presentation for Always On. A few interviews (of course), and a lot of search engine marketing work.

This weekend, despite the iphone, the news media got down on all of tech.

New York Times
The Cult of the Amateur
How Today’s Internet Is Killing Our Culture
By Andrew Keen
228 pages. Doubleday. $22.95.

Mr. Keen postulates (and I have to agree),

“What you may not realize is that what is free is actually costing us a fortune,” Mr. Keen writes. “The new winners — Google, YouTube, MySpace, Craigslist, and the hundreds of start-ups hungry for a piece of the Web 2.0 pie — are unlikely to fill the shoes of the industries they are helping to undermine, in terms of products produced, jobs created, revenue generated or benefits conferred. By stealing away our eyeballs, the blogs and wikis are decimating the publishing, music and news-gathering industries that c…

The New York Times is Wrong - Online Sales Are Slowing Due to Bad Design

This Sunday the New York Times reported that growth in online retail is slowing. They cited the usual vague business analysis of why ecommerce is expected to slow, while overlooking obvious design and user experience reasons as to why this is happening.

Read the article:
Online Sales Loose Steam

I would argue that the user experience of shopping online is stale and outdated.

Most online store 'templates' are much smaller than they need to be.
They look as if they we're designed 7 years ago and never updated to be targeted for newer, larger monitors.

Many top ecommerce sites really don't take advantage of todays high speed, broadband, connectivity in their UI.
For example, today we have the ability to offer consumers HD (high definition) photos of products, but we don't. In fact, I'm sure retailers already have HD product photos for use in print catalogs, so why can't they leave them in high resolution when they put them online?

And there's so m…

Competitive loans from real human beings. Prosper.com

I am currently consulting at Prosper.com and we just launched our referral program. I made all the spiffy buttons :)

Right now I'm loaning money to some folks using Prosper and I'm earning OVER 15% interest on those loans. I feel like a banker! If I could stomach more risk I could earn as much as 29%.

Now, if you become a lender (and I refer you) we both get a $25 referral bonus. So click on my button wontcha, and check out Prosper.com.

Prosper is an eBay like lending platform where people get a loan from other human beings. There are NO BANKS! Need a way to pay for that iPhone you've been coveting? Engagement ring? Car? Medical bill... Don’t pay 29% to you credit card, come to Prosper.


At Facebook f8

On Thursday May 24th I got to go to the facebook.com developer conference, f8 where facebook announced some major new features. Now anyone can develop an 'Application' and share it with the entire facebook network. These apps can be anything! Best of all, facebook will let you build a store, or use advertising to generate revenue through your app.

I designed a game for Prosper.com called Fantasy Banker. Go ahead, play amongst your friends.


Facebook has over 25 million users and expects that number to double in the next year. They rival google in web traffic, and they capture a young, internet savvy audience. I think they are successful because they have a truly personalized interface (that works, basically because it puts together and displays tons of dynamic, contextual, user information). The personalization creates a voyeuristic quality, and a wonderful user experience in facebook. I really enjoyed f8. I actually got interviewed!

Thank you Prosper for letting me design &am…

my ipod is sick...

... so I wrote it a poem

ipod o ipod
getting sick all the time
crashing on my five star songs
(even though you don't display the stars)

ipod o ipod
why do you play so many repeats?
are you sick of my music?

ipod o ipod
you hold so much more
than the same old songs
so why don't you work?
Better?

Who Wants Mail?

A very funny thing happened to me yesterday. A recruiter called me about a position he had, and it is literally my old job at AOL, The position is for mail.aol.com. Of course the recruiter asked if I could refer a friend to him. (And why would I want to give a free referral bonus to him when I personally know the hiring manager?) So if anybody reading this post desires to work on an email app then please leave your email address right here in a comment!But this begs the question(s), am I the only interaction designer who feels less than inspired by the thought of maintaining a UI for email? Is this type of work really appropriate for a senior designer? Did I get the feeling in my Google interviews that they were eager to fob off the mail-designer role too? I wonder if this is the same at Yahoo?

Starting At A Start-Up

I started a new job. I am very very pleased to be contracting at an exciting 'web 2.0' company. It's unlike any other place I've worked for. Their color palate consists of only 4 colors. Can you guess who it is? (no it's not google) It's very interesting to be back at a start up. First impressions?

I am the only designer out of over 50 employees90% of my coworkers are guysNo phone? no problemThe kitchen smells funnyEverybody can see/hear/smell everything I do
You can find me on the Yahoo! messenger whilst at this job.


Comparing Jobs & Cities on Craigslist

I thought it would be interesting to see how cities on Craigslist compare to each other when looking for jobs in the web design/information design category. Here's a side by side image made from last weeks Craigslist postings April 2nd-6th showing; San Francisco Bay Area, Washington DC Area, Seattle, Portland, New York City, & Los Angeles.

New York City has the most jobs...but who actually wants to live in a 400 square foot studio apartment or pay $4000/month in rent? Not me.

SF Bay Area is has the most per personThere's just more work here per capita. But who actually wants to live in a 800 square foot apartment that costs $2000 to rent? Sux.

Los Angeles competesLA really competes in 3rd place here, but you gotta love your car.

Washington DCWhat is UP with Washington? Hello! ever heard of Information Design? It's like, informational dark ages back there in our nations capital.

Seattle, PortlandSomething seems strangely light here. Why aren't there more web design and s…

BEWARE Work on the Web? Get Spammed!

The really sad thing is, I suspect I've been 'sold out' by a sub contractor I worked with last Fall. This person was found through a freelancing (outsourcing) website called rentacoder.com. It was my project manager's idea to use rentacoder.com, not mine. I suspect this sub contractor posted my gmail email address to a message board where con artists look for personal info. Thanks.

I get some very sophisticated spam, such as this email I just received:
- - -

Bernard Lee
show details Mar 24 (23 hours ago)

Dear Stephanie

I am Bernard Lee, a legal practitioner.Please be patient and absorb the contents of this email which I believe is a message that will be beneficial to the both of us.
I am the legal representative to Late Julius Sawchenko.who herein after shall be referred to as my late client.He died in March 2006 as a result of heart condition.

Basically,my aim of writing you is to assist me secure the funds left behind by my client before it is confiscated or declared unserv…

Design Inspiration

Check out this completely inspiring presentation by Shigeru Miyamota regarding game design and the new Nintendo Wii console. There's some lessons here for all kinds of designers and developers. I especially like how Miyamoto talks about designing games with the goal of eliciting joy from people, and ways he tries to achieve joydom. There are a couple thinly veiled barbs at Sony. Excellent presentation!

GDC 2007: Nintendo Keynote Video
Wii Media (Posted: Mar 8, 2007)
Miyamoto discusses his vision of future game development.

How to Get a Website on a Low Budget

Being a web designer I think I get asked this question almost every single day, "How can I get a website...on a low budget?" Hopefully this blog will answer this question for people.

The Easy Part
Starting a website is easy, you need to do these things:
1. Register a domain name. Go out and buy "www.mywebsitename.com" I like using godaddy.com.
2. Get web hosting. You have alot of choices here. Knowing what you're going to publish, first, will help you decide.
3. Publish your content, text and photos. Literally all you have to do is put files into your web hosting.

The Hard Part
The hard part is not publishing content to the net, the hard part is what to publish? And how to publish it? As a rule, know what you're publishing, FIRST. Get your idea for your website sketched out in a notebook, Word Doc, PowerPoint, or even a napkin. Yes napkins count as work.

Planning is the Key
I believe my job as a designer is essentially helping businesses figure out the what an…

Alternative Offices

I was telling folks about Ritual Roasters over a year ago. Its not a coffee house, it's an alternative workspace! It feels good to be validated by the SF Chronicle, check it out:

WHERE NEO-NOMADS' IDEAS PERCOLATE
New 'bedouins' transform a laptop, cell phone and coffeehouse into their office


There are just some huge limitations to working from home. I like going to cafes because I get bored with working on my kitchen table in my tiny apartment. I cant even bring clients here it's just that lame. Besides, the coffee at Ritual is fantastic.

I've actually observed users at Ritual Roasters. OK I worked on mail.aol.com and I did a little guerrilla style research in some cafes (just glancing over some shoulders). I observed allot of email and messaging. I have also witnessed (and been party to) a few client reviews and meetings there at Ritual Roasters. I wish there more Ritual-like cafes would spring up all over the place.

What is YOUR favorite 'alternative workspace…

The Google Interview

Steph's Secret is out! On Friday I had my in person interview for a Lead User Experience Designer position at Google. Wow what an experience that was and I hope I made a decent impression on the people there.

The whole interviewing process began around the holidays and is still going on. A lot of people have been inquiring about what I'm up to and now everybody knows why I've been so 'unavailable'. I sure hope I haven't put anybody off and all my hard work will pay off soon...

Thinking about Google
Starting last December I set out to reorganize my portfolio, read up on process, and research Internet trends in anticipation of talking to Google. After a short phone screen in mid January they granted me the golden ticket for an in person interview.

Getting Closer...
On Friday I went down to Mountain View to the fabled Googleplex. My day began at 8:45 and yes it was one of those all day, tag team style interviews that still makes me anxious just thinking about it. Oy …

What's the point of too early product releases?

The Christmas that Wasn't. It's been decades, literally, since I last experienced what happened this past Christmas. When was the last time you've been taunted by some toy (NintendoWii , PS3) that you couldn't even own? This past holiday season was riddled with the spectre of other very major products too, like Windows Vista, which was supposed to ship last Fall but got delayed. Rumors abounded about the iPhone, but after MacWorld (and CES ) we still have to wait months to get our hands on this tech fantasy item. What's the point? When did false expectations become normal communication? Is this a trend that will continue? Will consumers learn and copy this behavior? Will this become, normal?

Here's an example to illustrate why I think this way of communicating is bad. Imagine your friend Sally rang you up and you have this conversation:

Sally: "I have something really important to tell you!"
You: "What is it? What's going on?"
Sally: &q…

The Interaction of Blogging

I've been meaning to blog for over a year so I feel a sense of accomplishment posting my SECOND posting. Wow, two days in a row, so far so good. Since this is a blog about Interaction Design I want to talk about the interaction of blogging.

I realized you need a "just do it" approach to blogging. I don't want to spend all my time thinking about what my blog should be, or what to say, or even what it should look like. I just need to start communicating. Over the next few weeks I hope to test Blogger and to test myself. Do I actually have the discipline to keep this up? Is 'Interaction Design & Interactive Culture' too boring to blog about? Too specialized perhaps? Do I need more than one blog? Will anybody find my blog(s) and want to read it (them)? Well, there's only one way to find out!