Julie's UX Blog


Fewer Opinions, More Expertise: Finding Drop Fudge

I grew up loving my Grandmother Young's fudge. It was basic: sugar, milk and butter with chocolate or peanut butter. But it was elevated by technique. She, like so many other grandmothers in my hometown, made drop fudge. You take the molten fudge, pour it onto plates or into bowls, let it cool, then beat the shine out of it with a spoon until it is nearly set, lifting it with air and making it smooth and melt-in-your-mouth creamy. Finally, you drop it by spoonfuls onto wax paper to set.

This I know.

What I don't know is proportions of ingredients, timing and temperatures. My grandmother is not only one of those no-written-recipe sorts, but her memory is in decline. At Christmas, I quizzed her, and didn't get much more than what I already knew. She promised to look for the recipe, but her short-term memory is such that I knew it was futile. So I sorted through the (rather random) indexes in my mom's local cookbooks: the Methodist Church (3 editions!), the PA Grange, the Girl Scout Council and so on, to no avail.

I looked to Google. Unsurprisingly, it let me down.

Click to read more ...


Better List Boxes through Styling

A while ago, I added the new(ish) NYU Poly website to my idea clip file for a rather elegant solution to the academic program page problem. They used an old-school list box, but made it great. 

If you're familiar with higher ed, you know that they all have a page that lists degree programs. A small-to-medium liberal arts school may be able to alphabetically list their 50 majors on one page. Larger schools present more problems: they may need to list programs ranging from associates to baccalaureate, graduate degrees, grad certificates, and so on, then may need to sort these all by location or another attribute.

Lately, I've been fond of using a tab treatment, but that does not help the user more specifically refine. NYU Poly uses two list boxes: one for degree and another for location that work in combination (or alone) to seamlessly present tailored results. 

NYU Poly's list box (a slow connection afforded me this view)

NYU Poly's coders made an otherwise drab (and somewhat unfamiliar) list box easier to use by styling it so that the user just had to click a label. They kept the results on page, with a beautiful transition so that users could clearly see that their data set had been modified. 

The list box properly rendered.

Nice replacement for list boxes or dropdowns, huh? 


Fun: Tetrix(TM) Finger Navigation

Tetrix Cream: Check out the navigation. This is how pharmaceutical companies have fun! Unfortunately, the fingers themselves are not clickable. 


Link: 10 Ways to Screw Up Your App

Remind me to compare my work to this handy list. 

10 Surefire Ways to Screw Up Your iPhone App


Link: UX: The Enemy Within

From UX: The Enemy Within by Karen McGrane

We need to embrace the idea that UX is necessarily multi-disciplinary—not just within different communities of practice, but within individual skill sets. People are surprised to hear that I speak at conferences about content strategy and yet still do interaction design work for clients. Why can’t I love them both? I loved them both when I called them information architecture.

So that’s why I hope that everyone working in this space feels like they have the potential to develop skills in multiple areas. You can be an interaction designer and a content strategist. You can be a user researcher and a visual designer too! You can even still be an information architect. 

Though I agree with this article, I still think that there are people who are more comfortable and who possibly do better work in certain parts of the discipline. People who are great at user research/testing, people who like to deal in content, people who like to deal in function, etc. In general, I think you excel more at what you like, and what you are more naturally inclined to do. But, someone who focuses on content is no less valuable than the person who does application design.


Interviewing & Research: A Pet Peeve

In my working life, I've attended tons of discovery sessions, conducted informational interviews and usability tests, listened to vendor demos and been in too many meetings to count. The thing that gets me the most are the questions. 

You have questions! This is good. What is not good is asking more than one at a time. You know the type. Those massive questions that stretch on and on, asking for 3 or 4 things, that include various other points as you go along. By the time the questioner has stopped talking, the answerer: 

  1. Doesn't remember any of what was asked.
  2. Only remembers the last question, or the first, or whichever one they managed to cull from the oratory.
  3. Only chooses to answer the easiest question.
  4. Ends up answering none satisfactory. 

 I remember being in journalism classes back in the day, when the rule was "if you want an answer, ask one direct question at a time." And to make it more fun, the question couldn't be answered with "yes" or "no." 

When you're conducting user research, or even trying to get to the bottom of an issue in a meeting, just ask one question at a time! And just ask the question: don't add fluffery, don't hedge and don't include your reasons for asking. You have a right to the answer to your question, so make your question easier to answer.

By the way, after you ask your question don't jump in to fill the uncomfortable silence (if any). The person is probably thinking. Thinking can cause answers. 


Obligatory Hello World! 

New blog! Who remembers the old blog? Interesting that I wrote quite well back then. Well, not any more! You are in for a treat! 

Anyway, this new blog will focus mainly on UX, research and web-writing topics. Yes, all about work. I'm sure the occasional side notes will sneak in, simply because I love telling stories.

I envision posts on this site being about my personal experiences as a user experience gal, pet peeves, triumphs, etc. I anticipate the majority of the posts will be my curated links. Stuff I've read and liked, or disliked, or want for future reference. Maybe if I'm proud of a recent project, I'll link to it too. But you never know, usually by the time something is out to launch, I am pretty sick of it (or can see every way I could've made it better).

I'm all paid up on my services for the next 2 years, so I'm not going anywhere! Get ready for new stuff. 

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