Blog: UX Matters & Design Thinking

Excellent Survey Example - Keep It Simple

CT Shirts Update: A recent follow-up survey that I received is on brand, and very easy to complete (except the text was not easy to read.). The survey stayed on-brand in many ways: 1) visually, and 2) trademark ease of use - it was easier to complete than ordering a shirt. If only other companies understood their customers enough to understand the 2-3 questions to ask a specific customer regarding one particular recent transaction. 

Unfortunately many large companies often ask a customer to take a 7-15-page generic survey - which negatively affects the customer’s perception of the company. CT’s ONE-PAGE survey, on the other hand, captures the most critical metrics required to assure the success of the company, based on that single most recent interaction. I would not mind taking another survey from them in the future. Would you? Companies who understood what metrics they need know how to keep it simple probably.

More Micro, Less Animation

Interaction Design and Micro Animation

In my experience designing for both television and interactive applications, the animation needs to have depth, complexity, and simplicity that allows for discovery upon multiple views over time. In web and application design, desktop and mobile, the less animation the better. Especially so in apps where the user sees the animation over and over again. In fact, if the user does not acknowledge the animations existence the first time, or even for a month, I believe that’s a great animation. Then upon discovering the animation if the user appreciates the simplicity and nuances that can be the furthering of a relationship. 

Think Paul Rand and how he designed logos; there was often a “hidden smile” for the user to discover and appreciate, even after having experienced the service for a long time. The “seeing” of something previously overlooked takes the relationship further, personalizing it. Then if perhaps the user forgets about that animation, and takes it for granted, even better. Remember, the micro-animation can subliminally enhance the experience, not dominate our shout out it’s existence. The less noticed, and the more more imperceptible it enhances the experience and the more it’s appreciated.

Less is more.


In the end, I had a positive CX experience ordering shirts online from Tyrwhitt First time order. The only issue I had was getting the extra discount using the code printed on the back of the brochure they sent me in the mail. They also provided a unique custom printed customer code next to the discount code. The prices looked unbelievably low for the offer, and I figured they wanted to earn me as a first time customer, so I went online shopping and found some quality shirts.
But the offer seemed like it included a CX test. When I went to check out, the offer code was not accepted online, but the online prices were already severely discounted, so good in fact that I ordered anyhow. Then I needed to confirm that I ordered the correct fit, which I had not, and they fixed the order over the phone very quickly. They understand their product. Then when I asked, customer service about it, they happily fulfilled on the discount code and provided the discount online. There was no hesitation, they almost expected it.
Then I agreed to take their survey (I had also allowed them to track my online experience) and completed both, online and on the phone. In the online version, it asked whether I had trouble getting the discount code at checkout. That’s was when the light went on and set me to thinking that this could be a CX test. Discount codes tend to get circulated and abused online, so pinpointing them to specific customers might be the ultimate goal. Confirming on the phone might be a way to weed out online code abuse until it can online. Phone reps smoothed out the issue in stride.
I think when it comes to UX/CX in the future if the retailer sends out a flyer with a Discount code, customer number, and address, an online match of all three could confirm the discount to the pinpointed customer. Otherwise, the experience at Charles Tyrwhitt was good (enough for me to bother writing about it); customer service reps are sharp and helpful, I ordered four quality shirts, received the additional discount, all with a pleasant English accent. Expecting delivery via well-done follow-up email with my order details.
Waiting to see how their online order followup goes as my order is shipped. Then, of course, the email drip campaign. Ahhh, the simple pleasures of modern customer experiences.

Time to Fix Mobile Video Advertising.

Innovation: Interactive Interrupt

A company asked me to review some IP they had recently submitted for international patent protection. They wanted me to evaluate their current product plan for what they called an Interactive Interrupt for Mobile Video advertising with the goal of finding better and more practical applications. 

As their IP was originally conceived, a video clip playing on a mobile device is paused, or “interrupted”, and the viewer presented with continuance options, e.g., video-A, video-B or the original path. Optional paths allowed users to receive additional relevant information. For example, interrupting an automobile video to ask if the user prefers highway or off-road driving. Either response allowed the viewer to continue with a highway or off-road video clip of the vehicle. 

Having had rich media advertising and video production experience myself, my biggest concerns with this approach were 1) costs and 2) complexities associated with having to produce related or seamless complex video sequences. To address these shortcomings I searched for other ways in which the IP could be used more freely and less expensively.

Check out the solution now. Better yet, read on and see it in the end where it may make more sense. (Solution: Click Through:

1) Advertising Solution

First I researched mobile video apps including Vimeo and YouTube to see if there was anything like it being used. The only interrupts I could find were actual video ads. Upon further research I discovered there was actually very little innovation the area of advertising in the YouTube app. The traditional :10, :20, :30 and even :60-second TV-type commercial was still being used. Even worse, preloading these ads on mobile devices increased the interrupt time up to :10 seconds in many cases prior to the ad even starting. This was frustrating, and in many cases while observing users when receiving preroll mobile ads it lead to abandonment. YouTube’s biggest visible innovation in the area of video advertising was to offer a :05-second countdown timer tab that morphs into a “Skip Ad” button. 

The “Skip Ad” button seems to alleviate the issue of abandonment but has a negative effect for the advertiser and viewer. The :05-second countdown to a “Skip Ad” button suddenly becomes the primary focus of the user - not the ad. Viewers tend to disengage from the ad completely while waiting for the skip button to appear. Most ads hardly start in the first :05 seconds, giving no chance for the advertiser to engage the viewer, while at the same time annoying the viewer, effectively wasting everyone’s time.  

This discovery presented the opportunity I was looking for. We could use this “wasted time” to engage the viewer by asking for their input and in responding would effectively “skip” the traditional preroll ad altogether. I hypothesized that if viewers are willing to wait :05 seconds to skip a video ad, we can use that time to ask a :02-second question only requesting a :01-second click, flowing the viewer back to their preferred video, but not before providing a valued engagement for the advertiser. 

As long as the user can quickly clicks through to the next video there is no reason to abandon the app. This solution also solved the issue of costly and complex video production, increased potential ad iteration, reduced preload time, and might positively “engage” ad viewers. Now advertisers have a captive audience from which to gain valuable input in many ways. It could result in a new video ad unit. 

Example: Question appears at the top of the screen with two tap-able photos of cars. Question: “Do you like the blue or red 2017 Camaro?”. The user taps either car image button to continue.
Format: Question along top. Two buttons (left and right) with different colored cars displayed on either side of the screen.

2) Education 

Further research led to a solution for professional certification and educational videos. Because is ready, the cost of transferring into an Interactive Interrupt system would be small. The added value benefit could be large by helping to enforce compliance. Acceptable error thresholds can also be set to force users to re-watch video segments and re-take questions until correct. Also multiple questions could be asked within the context of a single long video clip or “chapter”.

Example: a 10-minute narrated training video with ten questions showing a loud, and clearly drunk, customer demands to be served alcohol. At interactive interrupt question 1: “What would you do here? Answers: A) Give him the drinks so he will quiet down, B) Explain that you can not serve intoxicated customers, C) Ask to see his photo ID, or D) Sing his favorite song.”

Format: A responsive grid of two to six text answers can be presented inside round rectangle buttons stacked or side by side depending on content.

3) Polling Solution

Further research showed that we might also use this same technology for political polling advertising to gauge user comprehension or agreement with issues.
Example: Question: “Due to the drought, is it fair for water fees to increase?” Answers: A) Definitely, B) Maybe, C) A little, D) No.

Format: A responsive grid of two to six text answers can be presented inside round rectangle buttons stacked or side by side depending on content.

4) Cumulative Questions Solution

Answers to a question can lead to different future questions creating a potential loop that creates a better and holistic response from the viewer, like a survey, but more entertaining.


My initial advertising proposal was very well received. I named the service and acquired the domain, designed wireframes, created user flows, mocked up UI and created final user interface elements for handoff to the development team. I worked with the product manager to the point of delivering an advanced MVP for market testing in overseas markets. 

Soon after education-related opportunities appeared, the company decided to pivot, and I was asked to create new UX designs for this targeted market with a product we called TappnED. TappnED borrows and extends TappnGO’s underlying technology for the education market. TappnED has already been successfully tested with teachers working with primary school students. Compliance testing examples are also in active testing with government agencies.

Solution click through - my argument for TappnGO. End Dinosaur Video Advertising in Mobile Apps:

Punching the Clock Affects Creative Momentum that Leads to Conviction. 

Anyone who works in the UX and creative industry understands, designers have “ideas” during the “day” and often realize them to their ultimate and obvious conclusion - the trash heap or the hero - into after hours. Though we might prefer to imagine otherwise and tell ourselves we can “have a life” in the early problem solving phase …but when in the deepest stretches of problem solving, punching the clock on time could kill your momentum.

Finding great solutions requires research and experimentation in order to demonstrate or disprove value. Ideas in development can lead to better ideas that then end up being the right solution. Exploration is like writing a book, and each exploration a chapter. Leaving a chapter incomplete just because the bell rings not might make the most sense.

The exploratory research aspect of design is often an incredibly mundane and rather monotonous experience. It also requires deep immersion into problems nobody else is aware of or even understands. So when designers get stuck, there are not many places to turn. So you have to research some more until you are confident in your solutions.

Great article on the subject / enjoy :)

Working ahead of the Sprint, or in the Sprint? That is the question. A big question for Experience professionals. 

Designing ahead of the Sprint allows more time for research and iteration giving UX a better grasp of a unique problem. But sometimes understanding the problem outside the context of what the rest of the team is working on may not always be best. It comes down to “context”.

How does UX stay in sync with the Scrum team, and take advantage team knowledge, and do design research to find the best best possible solution? It means working more Inside the Sprint with the scrum team. But then again who doesn’t like designing the “perfect solution” on our own with no limitations?

I always worry about dropping a “well thought” feature on the dev team without them having an opportunity to provide input. Doing that without input can cheat the process, and shortcut what should be a richer working relationship. But how best to do that effectively while serving the end product and the user?

For this very reason, I try to work within the current sprint while simultaneously researching (and wire framing) features for future sprints. This means juggling more sooner for a better result. Staying present in the current sprint keeps the intent on the rails while increasing understanding. Redressing past features is one of the biggest impacts to cost and schedules. 

I found a great article on this subject. Hope you enjoy!

UK - UX Lesson Learned: “Brexit” Unistall and Restore? How does this work??

As UX Professionals and software developers, might we take a lesson or two from the Euroland Project?

(tongue-in-cheek account)

Yesterday Britain decided their home grown product, British Homeland v10 (or BH-X), was somehow preferred by it’s citizens to the newer Euroland solution. Though loved by younger users and some in business, the solution which was in perpetual beta, had a dizzying array of features older British citizens were unable to comprehend. Possibly this is what led to widespread user dissatisfaction. Unlike on the iPhone, where individual users can delete an application themselves, Euroland did not have an individual delete option. Eurland was considered an Embedded-System solution that could only be removed universally and democratically.

So what’s next? Could the Italians, the Scotts, the French, and other nations, still relying on the Euroland solution now seriously consider it’s erasure? The producers of Euroland have used FUD (Fear Uncertainty and Doubt) through various outlets over the years to prevent this very kind of sentiment against the product. Will threats of possible continental “Halt and Catch Fire” scenarios drive back the unsettled masses in these other countries? 

Some have said inserting Armageddon-like sequences into a system for people is not democratic. Only those who wrote the code know what will really happen. Others say, like the Libor and US Mortgage-Securitization systems, Britain will need to hire the original Euroland creators, and pay them massive bonuses to help uninstall it completely. Some ask can it truly be fully removed if done piece meal? In response, many say it may require a complete image-reinstall. Oh boy.

Update: 25 June 2016:  BH-X (British Homeland v10.0) Golden master reinstall images to be made available January 2018.

Starved for Communication, or Connection?

With all eyes glued to our phones… it’s no wonder people are starved for real honest human linguistically-appropriate communication. It is possible, via these devices - and most importantly applications, to communicate in honest, real and relevant ways. I fact even apps do not need to be a bunch or organized page titles, text and menu structure. Use conversational tones to get action from your viewers, and in surveys. 

Today, users want to feel like they are interacting with a human, like a concierge ( or other like-minded approaches. in fact this approach can work with just about any kind of on screen experience. We just need to start using this methodology more to find out how successful it is for winning the hearts and minds of our users (and readers of conversational apps).

The following is an article on a survey submitted by the brilliant UX-minded team at Quartz will inspire. Check it out! If it doesn’t inspire you, then …well, oh boy, let me know…

Title: Getting real survey answers out of smart, busy people

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Text Line Texture by Thomas Hallgren

My first book on design thinking for children was published in 2015. It's on Amazon, the link is below. Hope you enjoy reading it to your children and grandchildren.
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When confronted out of the blue by a thin red Line, our main character, Text, sets out on a fun path of self discovery. A path that leads to a new friendship along the way. For parents who love to read to their children, Text Line Texture is the perfect introduction into the world of text-only books. Children’s Book. Age range: 4-10.