Business


I go on road trips from time to time. There is a 100% chance that my PayPal debit Mastercard will be shut off, even if I call them first and say I’m road tripping. Evidently buying gas over and over triggers their fraud system.

When PayPal’s card fraud system is triggered, my card is shut off. I’m not emailed, I might be called tomorrow to please let them know if this is fraud or not. But nothing I can do in the moment other than stop the motorcycle road trip to call them, which is not worth my time.

So I pull out my Discover card, the other card I keep in the pocket of my moto jacket. I’ll run that until they suspect fraud. But when they do, I get a text asking if I am making these gas purchases. I text back YES and they reply that they will keep my card on.

Thank you. YOU get the gas business.

American Express has started doing something like that when it suspects my purchases. I get an email (which I may not look at while on a moto road trip) asking if tried to make a certain purchase or not. I then have to tap a “yes” or “no,” which loads up a webpage. That’s fun when I’m in a bad service area. My Amex is skimmed 2 or 3 times a year so they are getting more careful with my card. I’m getting mountains of notifications now.

I think the text messaging is a great way to go. Immediate, something I might look at even when not looking at email, text back a quick reply, you might even get the SMS where your data connection is weak or non existent.

Consider your users and multiple use cases. How do we quickly confirm if this is fraud or not, keep a card on when the customer would want it on, shut it off if it’s really stolen or skimmed, and let our customer keep going?

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I learned a weird lesson recently. Learn from my mistake!

I have been travelling a lot more lately (hence a quiet blog in 2017) so I wanted to get a dual SIM phone. Drop my American SIM in, drop in a European SIM, everybody can call me on one phone. To be cheap, I chose a 2017 Samsung Galaxy J7 Pro because I’m an Android fangirl. A used, completely unlocked one on Amazon was about $320. Not bad.

The listing advertised “USA and Latin American LTE.” OK this should work. And completely unlocked.

Things went badly when the phone started prompting me to set up Samsung Pay. Yes, I will happily set that up! I love it! Every time I went to set it up, it said the network couldn’t be reached and to try again later.

After days of that, I contacted Samsung Support via Facebook chat. Why isn’t this working? Long story short, it’s not working because of the “origin” of the phone. My used phone was originally sold in some other country. What country? I have no idea. Doesn’t matter to me. I can set up Android in USA English and I’m good, right?

Not so fast. Samsung made the odd decision that this phone cannot activate Samsung Pay because of where it was first sold, wherever that was.

But I’m in the USA and using it here.

Which makes more sense? Telling people they can’t use Samsung Pay on that phone ever OR letting people use it when they are in countries that accept it and blocking it when they are in countries that do not accept it? You know what country I’m in by GPS, towers, and what network I’m on.

I assume that if this can be done with Samsung Pay, it can be done with other apps or software. That made me return the phone. In the future, I won’t buy a used phone unless I’m cool with whatever the country of origin is. Evidently this can matter!

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A press release went out recently saying that the UNO card game is finally available in a colour blind friendly way. How did they address this? They used a language of symbols in place of colours. Let’s take a look.

This immediately strikes me as a tough user experience.

I can see the logic someone went for. Triangle is red. Slash is yellow. Triangle plus slash is orange. But it falls apart when you have to remember which way a triangle is facing to know which colour this is.

With these soft, rounded rectangles, can you tell which way it’s pointing at a distance? Make this small enough or far away enough and it probably looks like an amorphous blob.

Remember this is a game where someone gets to change the colour at some point. They might yell out RED. You will have to consult the legend OR remember which-direction-facing triangle that is.

Based on this legend, there are LOTS of colours you might need to know about. Triangles, slashes, squares grouped in various ways. I often warn that if you go just past critical mass with icons, you are now in hieroglyphics. You have a language people need to remember.

This isn’t totally UNO’s fault.

They are using ColorAdd’s Color Alphabet. Someone else designed this to solve the problem of visually communicating colours to the colour blind. I am not sure this “standard” has ever taken off. I travel a lot and haven’t seen it anywhere. Perhaps because it’s flawed and hard to remember. The ColorAdd website says copyright 2010 so it’s been around a while… yet I have never seen it anywhere before.

The press release says this deck is in partnership with ColorAdd. It also says the decks are “backordered.” Perhaps they are not producing them until they see what the real demand is.

We can’t blame UNO for how this Color Language is designed but we can wag a finger at them for choosing it (or choosing to partner with ColorAdd).

Now look at the size and placement of these hieroglyphics.

This part is also UNO’s fault. Sorry, UNO.

Did you spot it? The little triangle next to the small number on the card? The soft, rounded triangle. UNO cards aren’t that big so this is probably a pretty small icon.

And did you notice that this icon appears right side up at the top and upside down at the bottom (like the number)? That’s especially tough in a symbol language where shapes are mirror images. Red and blue are mirror images. So at a quick glance, what colour is this? Will someone who is also dyslexic also struggle with these symbols?

How else can UNO solve this?

A co-worker sent me this after I opened up a discussion on this deck.

On the left, the most common form of colour blindness. On the right, non colour blind vision. So yes, UNO has a colour blindness problem but how is this best solved?

Two suggestions.

Create their own symbol language. Use a silhouette shape of an animal to represent colours. I’d run tests with kids to see what colours they associate with which animals (and also test colour blind kids). But for fun how about Red Rhino, Yellow Bird, Green Frog, and Blue Butterfly.

Change how they do their character cards. UNO sells many different decks. Here is a pic I found on Google Images of the Disney Princesses deck.

They also have Toy Story, Cars, Hello Kitty, and many others. But take a look at this image. This deck can’t be used by the colour blind because all the green cards don’t have the same princesses on them. They’re not even characters from the same era. I can’t group them in any way. So they need to improve upon that.

Snow White can be yellow, Tiana can be green, Cinderella is blue, and Jasmine can be red. All the green cards would get Tiana, not just some of them. If you’re establishing a code or language, you need that consistency.

At least UNO tried.

You have to give UNO points for trying to come out with something for colour blind people, even after 40ish years. However, they probably have missed the mark by using a probably-unfamiliar, potentially-confusing symbolic language and then printing it small and in various orientations (when orientation matters).

To UNO I say “go fish.”

And ColorAdd

UNO really only needs 4 colours from what I remember. They are obviously plugging ColorAdd by including two cards explaining the colours and how you combine them to make colours.

ColorAdd goes beyond that to try to describe colours further. Here is their “code.” My ongoing thoughts include:

  • I still can’t imagine this works at any sort of decent distance (the way it’s intended) including for traffic lights and walk/do not walk signs.
  • Is it important to know shades of a colour you can’t see? Would that change safety or an experience to know something is dark red vs red?
  • If nearly all colour blindness has to do with red and green, why not work on super clear symbols that cover red and green? Why try to create symbols for a huge palette including gold and silver?

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People who want to learn Axure often message us and ask what is the fastest and easiest way to book our live, remote training by the hour? This training is done webinar-style (screen sharing and dial-in) but is completely private. It’s one-on-one if there’s one of you… or we can train your team.

Use our online appointment scheduling system

Our online calendar is a super-smart system that knows when our free time is and what types of appointments you can drop into that time.

You can also buy a block of time by clicking on View Products/Packages at the top left of the calendar page. That will let you pre-pay for a certain number of hours. Pay once, then just use your package code to schedule each time.

If you just want to book a single block of time for any reason, just choose it. The system will charge you accordingly during checkout.

Step 1: Choose the type of appointment you want

Listed right there on the page are different types of appointments, their duration, and the cost.

Book phone consultation time (free), individual Axure training (for one person), or team Axure training. The list is longer than the above screen shot.

As soon as you make that choice, our system checks for dates and times when we can handle that appointment. Be sure to adjust things for your time zone so that there are no appointment surprises later!

Step 2: Book lots of times at once

Want one appointment? Choose “continue” after selecting your time.

Want to book lots of appointment times? Choose “recurring.” You’ll then get to pick a recurring time (like every Monday at 6:30pm) or you can pick any other time to add to your basket.

Step 3: Pay for your time

Did you previously buy a package? Redeem the time you pre-paid by entering the code you were given when you bought the package.

Or pay as you go. We take credit cards.

It’s easy!

It’s probably easier than we made it look here but why not walk through it so you know your options. 🙂

Our system will remind you 2 hours before the appointment. Both your confirmation and reminder emails will have links to change your appointment if you need to pick another time.

With our appointment system, you can handle the booking without us going back and forth with “when are you free” “oh I can’t make it then” “how about this time” “well how about this time.” Pick any time you see open.

Thanks and train ya soon!

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It has been nearly a year since my blog post about my awful experience in Kent State’s “MS of UX Design” program. I wanted to update you on what’s happened since then, in no particular order.

People have come out of the woodwork to thank me. Many people told me they had similar experiences, which is sad but validating, not that I needed validation.

One guy tried to belittle and minimize me while telling me he was empathetic and also wasn’t so sure about the program. OK, weirdo.

I get emails like this.

Just saw your post on Kent State – I had a similar horrible experience. I wish I had seen this post before taking the introductory courses – what a waste of my and my employer’s money!

I just started that program myself, and am definitely experiencing some of the things you had mentioned. I was curious on your advice for someone looking to completely switch careers into UX. I’m currently in the [non-UX] field and was excited about this program, but definitely am feeling like the fundamentals are lacking thus far and feel a little lost with some of the assignments because of it. I want to make sure that at the end of the program I am prepared for and capable of obtaining a job in UX.

Heartbreaking. People expect a certain level of quality not only from a known, accredited university but also from a Masters degree.

I was told that there were some staffing changes there and they are changing the program, but based on the full set of updates I received, I would continue to have no faith in this program or department at all. That’s my opinion. Yours may vary.

How can I tell if a degree will get me what I want?

Many of the people writing to me are transitioning into UX. They want to learn all the fundamentals, core concepts, approaches, and certainly everything they’d need to get that entry level job. They want to graduate with a strong and impressive portfolio.

1. How many classes are spent on actual design that will end up in your portfolio? Last I checked, the Kent State Masters degree was going to spend a few weeks on design out of a 2-year degree. That is NOT ENOUGH to learn about design or build a strong portfolio.

Remember that (good) UX job interviews will ask you to explain the thinking, approach, and methods behind portfolio pieces. You don’t just show them. You explain if not defend them. I have even been in interviews where someone looked at an old portfolio piece and asked if I would do that project differently now and what I would do differently.

2. What core fundamentals are you being taught? Will you be taught User-Centered Design (UCD)? Gestalt Theories of Perception? Read job listings in UX. See what they are asking for. Does your program cover those well and deep enough that you can tell a potential employer you get it and do it?

3. Ask for detailed information about courses, especially intro courses. When I took the Kent State classes, the intro class was week 1, what are some jobs in UX. Week 2, let’s write up a proposal and plan to do research on a fake project. Wait, what? That’s not even step one of UCD. If it looks like an intro class is dumping you right into pseudo real life deliverables without fundamentals, concepts, and approaches, get out of there.

4. Who are the faculty and who designed the courses? At Kent, nearly everybody there was/is a UX researcher. So a bunch of researchers created a Masters in UX Design that has nearly no design and, guess what, LOTS of classes on research.

Also check if faculty are full time or not. At Kent State, I had trouble getting the attention of people in the department because they were also UX research consultants/practitioners and were sometimes unavailable to do that work. Sure, I want teachers who do (and don’t just teach), but I’d want them to be available and have teaching as a priority.

5. Mentoring and networking. I found that Kent State not only offered me no mentoring but when I offered to mentor my classmates, I was told that was inappropriate. I was told the department would consider administrative action against me if I tried to mentor my classmates. Beware of petty power struggles passed off as administrative rules. Look for schools with strong alum networks, good personal attention, and if you’re new to UX, a school that sets you up for mentoring right away.

Don’t be fooled by claims like, “Lots of our grads got good jobs after taking our degree,” or anything like that. Anybody can say that. That doesn’t tell us enough. Were those people already in UX? How much help did the school give in finding or securing that job?

Off the top of my head, those are just a few things I would suggest you dig deeply into.

Who do I recommend?

I continue to recommend General Assembly. It’s a sort of trade school in various cities plus some online programs. Their UX certificate takes just a few months. It’s not cheap. But I have seen many people get entry level jobs after taking that.

You end up with portfolio pieces and good foundational understanding of certain aspects of UX. While I like the idea of teaching at General Assembly, I don’t work there and gain nothing from suggesting them.

You do not need a 4 yr or grad degree unless you are looking to be a researcher. Most research managers I know like to see candidates have a Masters related to UX research or even an MBA. But if you are looking at other areas of UX including IA and interaction design, you may not need a university degree for that.

When I am interviewing candidates, I am looking more at their natural talent, approach, thinking, decisions, shifts, and ideas more than where they went to school.

Good luck to all of you no matter what path you choose or which certificate or degree you attempt to get!

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It’s experiment time! Roll up yer sleeves. Here I am again trying to make sense of Facebook.

Over on our glorious Ptype Facebook page, we post a few things now and then we hope will be of interest to UX practitioners. But we notice that Facebook rarely shows them to you.

As I’m writing this, our page has 219 fans aka Likes, but most of our posts are seen by 5 people. How can we get more of our posts seen?

Here is the experiment

I posted text only with a URL link about our upcoming Axure workshops. That post looked like this:

5 people saw it over the last 5 days since it was posted. Sad trombone.

Then I posted this one a couple of days later. Nearly identical text. No URL link. And a photo of Eve, my dearly departed cat. Sweetest funniest cat ever. My thinking? People love cat pictures!

But more importantly, will Facebook show this to more people because it has a photo?

YES. 64 people were shown this over the course of the 24 hours it’s been online.

That’s quite a difference. Thank you, Eve.

Yeah. 2.2% of my audience shown the post without the picture. 29.2% of my audience shown the same info with a picture.

Lesson learned: every post I hope people will see gets a picture.

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A LinkedIn connection shared a link to a site she thought was interesting. OK, I’ll bite. I head over to the site.

I can’t see any page without signing up or logging in. There is a popup blocking my every move. No matter how many times I reload the page or what page I click on in the half a second before it comes up, I get the overlay.

And it’s not your traditional lightbox… where clicking outside of it makes it go away. I was hoping for that because it has NO CLOSE BUTTON.

I am at a dead end. The message here is:

Sign Up Or Leave

Let’s take a look at that home page (click to enlarge).

I still see this from time to time. A marketing person (never a UX person) says, “If we give them no choice but to sign up, they’ll sign up!”

I just got here. I don’t know what your company does. You won’t let me find out. I can’t click any links. I can’t even get to “How It Works” because your overlay won’t go away. Does that mean the “How It Works” page is only for people who’ve already signed up? Do you imagine that people will go through those steps, agree to unread terms, and I bet end up on at least one email list without knowing what your company DOES?

Some might. I guess I could go get a temporary, burner email address and give you fake sign-ups.

I closed the browser window.

That doesn’t help marketing either.

Marketing doesn’t want fake sign-ups. They want real people they can market to.

Marketing also usually wants people who are interested. If you put 10,000 mostly-disinterested, forced-to-register people on the mailing list and 20 open the emails, you will appear to be failing. If you make 10,000 people sign up to your site and you sell 20 things, it will look like you are failing.

If 100 truly interested people sign up and join the mailing list and 20 of them open emails or buy something, now this looks like it could have legs. That’s 20%… because you marketed to truly interested people.

Bad data on home page bounces

This company might see a lot of home page bounces when they check their analytics. People come to the home page and then they leave right away without seeing other pages.

Will the people reading those analytics understand that it’s probably because we visitors had an obstacle? We COULDN’T get anywhere else without signing up and we decided not to make that level of commitment yet.

Will the people reading those analytics think that the home page just isn’t grabbing people enough? And send UX and UI people to keep redesigning it? I hope not. I honestly have no opinion on the home page yet because I couldn’t experience it. A popup blocked me the whole time.

Drop the fantasies of the big database

The big database of uninterested people won’t get your company very far, especially in a world where people want to hear about “adoption” and “conversion.”

If people don’t look at your individual offerings, if they don’t buy them, you’re going to know. People will wonder why you’re not converting, especially with all those people hitting your home page or signing up. They signed up… why aren’t they buying? Oh, we MADE them sign up.

Improve the UX

Give me a way to close that popup. Let me explore your site. If your offering is compelling, I will WANT to sign up. You won’t have to force me to do it. You won’t have to make it an obstacle. I’ll be looking in the header for a “SIGN UP” call to action button.

Make me want to sign up because you’re so great. Don’t make me sign up before I even know what you do.

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Clicking around nothing in particular recently, I found a list of something like 11 things Baristas want you to know. Here was number 7:

ScreenHunter_232 Apr. 22 11.46

It says, “If you asked for decaf, I gave you decaf. You don’t need to ask me repeatedly. I am not out to get you.”

And I’m not out to piss you off when I ask you repeatedly.

I have a caffeine allergy. It’s one of those allergies where I can have a little of something, but if I go above a certain threshold, that allergy is 100% ON. I can have about as much caffeine as you’d find in a can of Coke, about 40mg, in a day. Or I can have a little dark chocolate. Or some decaf coffee or espresso.

One thing I definitely can’t have would be regular coffee. Certainly not regular espresso. That will be very bad. That would be like 4x what I can handle and I won’t even see it coming.

If I go over my threshold, I get a basilar migraine for about 12 hours. Nothing cures it or makes it go away other than time. I have to wait it out. So it’s best to stay under that threshold. And since I was diagnosed in 1984, I’ve gotten very good at knowing where that line is.

I love decaf coffee. Love the taste of it. Don’t want to give it up because baristas have made me sick three times in 15 years.

You’re not out to get me, but you’re human. You might make a mistake.

I evidently DO need to ask repeatedly because in the last 15 years, Starbucks baristas have:

  • Given me caffeine 3 times no matter how many times I checked if it was decaf and told them I have an allergy. They deserve a special rung of hell.
  • Remade my drink (various baristas in various locations) because when I double-checked, they suddenly weren’t sure if they had pulled a decaf shot or not. Grateful to them!

I’m going to ask repeatedly. Please learn to not take that personally.

I once asked a barista in an airport if she were sure she was giving me decaf. She snidely said, “I CAN read.” OK, I bet you can read. But anybody can make a mistake.

Please work WITH me. Please be understanding. If I ask that much, it must be important to me. I know you’re not out to get me. But I also know that it’s human to grab the wrong thing. We’re all capable of it.

Thank you.

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I can’t believe this is still a thing. Based on the request to renew the license of my FTP software, it still is a thing.

ScreenHunter_214 Apr. 18 11.43

This email is coming from an unmonitored account or so says the copy. Yet when I hit reply, the email went to sales@.

That’s the right thing to do… though they do need to update their form email to say you can hit reply if you need help.

Every email you send should allow replies.

The reply doesn’t have to go to the same person, department, or mailing list that sent the email to the recipient. But if people naturally hit reply, let that email go SOMEWHERE where it gets attention.

Perhaps that reply generates a support ticket. Perhaps it goes to a real person or team. But it shouldn’t go nowhere.

And we shouldn’t even message people anything that sounds like they won’t be able to easily get service or support. Need help? Hit reply. Make it easy for them.

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When I do public speaking, a question I get nearly every time goes something like this:

I’m an entry/mid-level UX practitioner at a small/large/famous company. It looks like nobody outside of the UX team is thinking about our users and personas. How do I get the developers/artists/product managers to be more user-centered?

My standard answer isn’t good news, sorry.

First, I’m so sorry that you are working somewhere where you are seeing one or more teams literally not care about the user. Maybe they care only or heavily-primarily about business needs or just shipping it no matter how easy it is or isn’t to use.

Second, if you are entry or mid-level in the company, it’s not your job to get entire teams or departments on board with anything. Step 1, release yourself from the expectation that you can or should be able to get that buy-in.

It’s normally top down.

Someone a few levels above you decided that it’s more important to release software quickly. Or make it pretty on the assumption that well-visually-designed is really all it needs.

This is the job of the Head or Director of UX. If your company doesn’t have one of those, that’s also a sign that the company doesn’t really buy into UX… at least not as its own specialized thing. If lower level UX people answer to an artist, creative director (without a UX background), product manager, or engineer, this is a potential sign that UX isn’t really respected at this organization.

If there is a Head or Director, that person needs to be working with other teams and departments to make sure people understand what UX does, why it’s not something you circumvent, and why focusing on the users should be the top priority.

Again, this isn’t your job. There is no magic thing I can say that will make all the non-UX product managers stop thinking that UX research is a waste of time and money. This has to come from someone with the right level of authority who can command respect as a subject matter expert.

Perhaps a workplace mismatch?

That’s a tough environment in which to be someone whose entire job is to think of the user first. I find many UX practitioners give us and quit that environment. And if you choose that too, all of us in the UX world would understand.

There are companies out there who get UX, prize it, take it seriously, and don’t need convincing that UX is something special, meaningful, and worth the time and money. You might be happier working there.

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