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Landing Page: Fictional Beverage

Lucy Dotson

I started DesignLab's design 101 course last Friday.  The course focuses on visual fundamentals, something I don't get to practice on the job as much as I'd like.  For the first assignment, we worked from a creative brief for a fictional SF market (ahem--Bi-Rite). 

I designed a landing page for a made-up line of beverages offered at the made-up store.  I had some fun blending together and shaping the "splash" in Photoshop.  I also went straight for the bright colors and photos--just call me color starved.  It was a fun exercise, and I'm excited for the rest of the course. 

Noble Brewer: Setting Up an A/B Test

Lucy Dotson

Noble Brewer, a subscription beer service, brings the best craft beers to your door every three months. Sourcing and vetting award-winning recipes from talented homebrewers, Noble Brewer creates artisan beer in large batches. For craft beer enthusiasts, it's the best way to discover new and rare flavors. 

The company launched its inaugural batch in April of this year. Currently, it's optimizing for conversion. Working together with Susan Baittle, I developed an A/B test for the Noble Brewer pricing page (as of April 2015). 

The Product

Here's what the pricing page looked like as of mid-April (designed by the branding agency Noble Brewer hired):


Taking a look at the current pricing page, we made a few hypotheses. We believed that:

  1. Reducing the amount of copy for the three tiers of service will increase conversion. 
  2. Improving the CTA on the buttons will increase conversion. 
  3. Removing references to "quarters" (and speaking in terms of months instead) will increase conversion. 
  4. Removing the FAQ from the bottom will increase conversion for the newsletter sign up. 

We can't accurately test all of these hypotheses at once. However, based on our knowledge of good design principles, we felt compelled to make several of these changes without testing them. For this reason, instead of just creating an alternate page, we created two new pages. Both would (hopefully) benefit from the bulk of the changes, while just one would feature the hypothesis being tested. 

The Process

Before designing the test page, we took a look at how other subscription services were presenting their pricing plans. This research informed our design choices. 


I sketched out how we imagined the base for the new pricing pages:


Then, I chose which hypothesis I wanted to test. I decided that hypothesis number three was the riskiest. Would replacing the word "quarter" with more commonplace subscription language increase conversion?

We designed the pages in Photoshop: 



Test (Changes in Red)

Next Steps

Next, we will A/B test our page against the original, and iterate based on our findings. 

Prevent by Omada Health: A Hand-Coded Landing Page

Lucy Dotson

Omada Health is pioneering cutting-edge, scientifically supported digital therapeutics. Their cornerstone product, Prevent, is an ultra-effective translation of the Diabetes Prevention Program (DPP).

The Product

Omada offers its product to three audiences: individuals, employers and health insurance providers. Employers and insurance providers can add Prevent to their current benefits package; individuals can purchase Prevent themselves. The two sites are geared to these audiences:

   The Prevent website speaks mainly to  individuals  who might want to purchase access to the Prevent program on their own.    


The Prevent website speaks mainly to individuals who might want to purchase access to the Prevent program on their own. 


   The Omada Heath website speaks mainly to   employers &     health insurance providers  who want to provide Prevent (and future services) as part of a larger benefits package.     


The Omada Heath website speaks mainly to employers & health insurance providers who want to provide Prevent (and future services) as part of a larger benefits package. 



Both sites are clean, beautiful and a pleasure to browse. However, for employers and health insurance providers, the next action isn't clear. On the Prevent site, individuals benefit from the "Apply Now" button in several places; no such CTAs exist on the Omada Health site. 

The Process

I started with user research. I looked into the daily tasks of a head of HR and created a provisional persona:


In learning about Omada Health and Prevent, Kate could potentially land on either website. For this reason, I believe the Prevent website should include a landing page that's tailored to her needs.  

The Proposed Landing Page

I propose a landing page on the Prevent website that speaks directly to employers and HR professionals like Kate. This page can link to the Omada Health page if the user wants more information. 


Mocking it up in HTML & CSS

Borrowing the Prevent code and Bootstrap frameworks, I mocked up the landing page for employers. I wrote the HTML pulling from three layers of CSS documents: the Bootstrap CSS, the Prevent site CSS, and my own document. That way, I could pull in aspects of Bootstrap without having to radically rebuild the current website. I modified existing elements on the page, and added my own using icons from a UI8 icon set

I geared the copy toward employees, highlighting the benefits of Prevent at the organizational level. I kept the content emotive and aspirational for two reasons: 1) to fit within the current tone of the website and 2) because individuals may come across the copy, and I want it to appeal to them too. 


Detailed view of the animated cards:

Next Steps

Next, I'll be taking a deeper dive into HTML and CSS, moving from hacking stuff together to building it on my own. 

* I am not affiliated with Omada Health or Prevent in any way. I'm just a fan of the work they do. 

Bright & Easy UI Kit

Lucy Dotson

The Challenge

Create a style tile inspired by one of my (many shifting) personal aesthetics, then use it to build a UI kit. 

I wanted to use some of my own writing as the lorem ipsum. So I channeled a breezy European vacation, with lots of coffee, food and poems.


Font pairing is an art. I played around with several combinations, and decided on Ubuntu and Libre Baskerville. I thought the poems would look great in Libre and that the chunky sans-serif Ubuntu offered a nice contrast.


I selected an image that inspired me, and used it to build a color palette. The result was a triad palette of greens, yellows and pinks--bright, cheeky and verging on garish. 

I layered in some textures to temper the garishness:

UI Kit

Using the Thethr iOS UI kit as a resource, I developed a mini iOS UI kit. 


I learned a lot about how early decisions impact later ones; how the image I selected impacted the color palette, and how that in turn impacted the hover states of buttons, links, etc. 

Designers Say: Unique Considerations When Designing for New Hardware

Lucy Dotson

What’s it like designing for new IoT and/or hardware products? I asked five designers.

IoT (Internet of Things) is the acronym on everyone’s lips. The potential applications are vast and promising: whether we’re planning a city, building a new medical device, or counting our calories, IoT evangelists believe we can do it better, faster, and smarter through advanced connectivity systems.

From a sleek learning thermostat to a sensor-studded assembly line,  IoT devices are a motley crew. They share much more with their not-so-smart counterparts than they do with each other.

One thing all IoT devices share is the T: a new hardware element that must find its way into the lives of users. And because building hardware takes time, a hardware designer can’t always bang out a quick MVP and run it by users (although the experience can be crudely approximated, as in the case of the Apple Watch). For many IoT companies, user testing doesn’t start until after the hardware is more or less decided upon.

An “Apple 1” prototype computer circa 1976. Today, new hardware includes wearables, smart medical devices, and basically anything with a sensor in it that's hooked up to WiFi or Bluetooth. Photo courtesy of Christie’s Auction House.

An “Apple 1” prototype computer circa 1976. Today, new hardware includes wearables, smart medical devices, and basically anything with a sensor in it that's hooked up to WiFi or Bluetooth. Photo courtesy of Christie’s Auction House.

I reached out to designers working on different IoT devices to learn how they approach hardware, the collaborative process, user testing, and the overall user experience. I spoke with designers in the medical industry, luxury consumer goods, and restaurant supply. Here’s what I learned about designing a product with a unique hardware element:

There’s a little wiggle room with the hardware--but not much.

For these designers working in the IoT space, improving the user experience means improving the delivery, packaging, customization, and supporting software of a pre-existing piece of hardware.

Liz Cormack, Experience Designer at Grove Labs (maker of an in-home aquaponic ecosystem for growing fresh foods)

“The Grove Labs installation process is really important--it’s our users’ first experience with us. Our hardware is rooted in biology: aquaponics ecosystems involve human users, plants, bacteria and the fish in the fish tank. We ultimately have to design around the constraints of natural processes, which sometimes means more work for the user than I'd like.”

Martin Baladon, Design Manager at E La Carte (maker of the Presto tablet, an on-table tablet and POS for restaurants)

“We’re not going to tweak the hardware a lot—we have a solid platform on which to build. It can take a year or more to develop a piece of hardware. Presto has a camera, lights, wifi… there’s a lot of versatility built in. This will give us a larger playground to work with later on.”

Tom Gurka, Vice President of Design at Zuli (maker of consumer smartplugs)

“When it comes to what we can do with the design, packaging and presentation of the Zuli Smartplug, there are my hopes and dreams, the tech limitations of what’s possible, and then what actually happens. It’s always strange to have an element that you don’t have control over. It takes a lot of attention to detail, creative thinking and tons of revisions to get everything to the design standard you are aiming to achieve.”

Danielle Cojuangco, Head of Product Design at Proteus Digital Health (maker of Helius, a patch and sensor pair that tracks medication adherence)

“Over its first few years of existence, Proteus developed a truly novel technology, a sensor as small as a grain of sand that when swallowed in a pill, sends information to a body-worn patch. The next critical phase was achieving regulatory clearance for an unprecedented medical device.

“Today, with a technology that fundamentally works, and an offering that is cleared for use in the US and EU, we are well-positioned to release a great offering and demonstrate that we can impact health outcomes. The user experience team is a core part of defining and exploring the many ways patients and healthcare providers use the Proteus offering to improve lives.”  

Understanding users’ needs involves defining product goals.

The designers I spoke to took a few different approaches in understanding their users’ needs. For some products, the goal is to create an entirely new and engaging user experience. For others, the goal is to imitate a user experience that already exists.

Liz Cormack, Grove Labs

“We watch our early adopters install the system in their homes, and see how they feel about the experience. Our current system is less automated [than future versions]; it requires a good amount of work from the users. It's a very conscious choice we make. Our early adopters are gardeners or aspiring gardeners, and still want to be part of the plant growing process.”

Josh Stein, CEO & design-minded Co-Founder of AdhereTech (smart pill bottles)

“At AdhereTech, our goal is to have our product be as much like a traditional pill bottle as possible. When in doubt, we ask ourselves, ‘what does a normal pill bottle do?’ In the next year plus, we’re going to stay consistent with our bottles, and focus on expanding our software.”

Danielle Cojuangco, Proteus Digital Health

“Proteus’ user experience team is well-balanced between research and design. One of my favorite research activities we’ve done to date is how we refined the initial in-clinic interaction. Employees who are not part of the product team signed up to play the roles of patient and the physician. We watched them use our prototypes and run through the experience start to finish. What worked and what was broken emerged really quickly. A diverse set of people participated, from engineers to clinicians, and we had very productive discussions ranging from minor bug fixes, to higher level product goals. Research like this has pointed to a need to craft very simple experiences that focus on the benefits to the users, not the underlying novel technology. Users really need to have a clear picture of what’s in it for them.”

Owning the experience is even more vital for IoT designers.

All of the designers I interviewed believe that they share responsibility for getting a device into people’s hands easily and ensuring that his or her experience is fantastic from that moment on.

Liz Cormack, Grove Labs

“I have the opportunity to own the customer experience from start to finish. That means the software, yes, but also the packaging, print marketing, instructions, and content. As we grow, I won’t always own this stuff. At Grove Labs, we’re blessed with a lot of great design minds.”

Josh Stein, AdhereTech

“Because it’s a physical product, we have to really think about distribution. How will our bottles get into the patients’ hands? We’re not just thinking about the patient experience, but also about the the person who gives [our bottle] to the patient. We ask ourselves, ‘how can we make it the least disruptive as possible for everyone along the line?’”

Danielle Cojuangco, Proteus Digital Health

“At Proteus, the word UX  is understood as an overarching discipline: it’s about framing what the product is and whom it is for, crafting an emotional experience at every stage, and ensuring satisfaction for all users.

For these reasons, a member of the broader UX team is present at almost every product and service discussion that happens at Proteus, and is responsible for advocating for a cohesive design.  From the industrial designers evolving the patch, the graphic designers working on packaging, collateral and brand strategy, service designers developing our clinical training materials, the researchers building our user personas to the interaction designers crafting our apps, the UX team contributes to an evolving strategy around what we should be building.”

This is just the beginning.

There’s something exciting about working IoT--designers are on the crest of a wave. Here’s what the designers I spoke with are most excited about:

Martin Baladon, E La Carte

“I’m very interested in how 3D printing will impact hardware design. All of this new technology has helped create a faster turnaround. You get an idea, get it printed, and you have a prototype in your hand. You don’t have to be a mechanical engineer--any tinkerer can do it.”

Tom Gurka, Zuli

I really like that the bigger players are starting to get involved and that products that can maybe do one or two cool things without any interconnectivity with other products in this space are shrinking. Zuli recently announced integrations with Nest and Logitech. The design challenges of facing similar and easy-to-understand user experiences when working with other, well-established companies is an incredibly rewarding journey. I’m really excited about the emerging patterns and standardization, particularly the Apple home kit. Up until recently, new IoT companies have been putting layers on top of layers.”

Josh Stein, AdhereTech

“I’m most excited about the access to new data points offered by IoT. All of these things that our body gives off that aren’t measured can now be measured--and we’re starting to do that. We’re asking questions: how does one’s heart rate, blood content, medication adherence, etc. contribute to their overall health? Over the next 50 years we’ll collect enough data to make actionable suggestions based on these biological outputs.”

Danielle Cojuangco, Proteus Digital Health

“I believe we need to get serious about actually moving the needle on improving health. The Digital Health industry can and should do more than passively measure anything and everything with new IoT gadgets. I’m most excited about Proteus’ commitment to build evidence that what we have built actually works. We’re investing  in measuring the impact of our product offering on our patients’ health outcomes, and on healthcare providers’ ability collaborate with patients.”

Are you a designer working at a hardware and software company? Email me at

Groupon: Demonstrating Long-Term Value

Lucy Dotson

Groupon is the pioneer of the group deals market. 

Groupon users range from the casual consumer to the deal devotee. Given the large number of users that browse the site every day, Groupon's user tools are surprisingly spare. I took a stab at improving them. 

The Product

On the Groupon desktop site, there's a section called "My Groupons," where users can view and manage their purchases. 


Once a user clicks, more tabs appear. I suspect that this area is under construction--no problem. 

But I still wanted to learn two things:

  1. Do Groupon users know about this section of the site?
  2. Do they care about the information presented here? Why?

The Process

Provisional Persona

To ensure that I was asking the right users the right questions, I developed a persona to guide me. 

Greg epitomizes the user I am designing for. With my persona in hand, I was able to do two things:

  1. Find users who fit my profile.
  2. Hone in on my hypotheses. 


  1. I believe that if users can view their total savings, Groupon history, and stats about their past activities, they will be more engaged with Groupon. I will know this when Groupon purchases increase by 10% over 3 months. 

  2. I believe that if users can filter and sort their different types of Groupon purchases on the same page, they will be less likely to unintentionally let Groupons expire. I will know this when the Groupon expiration rate drops 25% over 3 months.

  3. I believe that if users can plan out when to use their Groupons on a calendar, they will be more likely to use Groupons quickly and eventually purchase more. I will know this when redemption time decreases by 10% over 30 days



Before doing any testing, I sketched out some rough ideas based on my hypotheses. 


I recruited participants using a Craigslist post, a SurveyMonkey screener, and a $20 incentive.

User Testing  

I talked to my users about their habits and understanding of this section of the Groupon site. My goal was to assess their Groupon experience, learn what issues they have as frequent users, validate or invalidate my hypotheses, and brainstorm new ideas to increase Groupon engagement.  



User notes pre-dump and sort. Each color indicates a distinct user, each note a distinct thought, behavior, or challenge. 

Users reported using Groupon to discover new businesses as well as save big money. Both of these suggest possible metrics for the dashboard.  


I asked my users to look at each tab of the "My Groupons"/ "My Stuff" section, and sorted their responses. Most users had not actually engaged with this area of the site. 

I asked my users if they ever look back on their past Groupons. For most, the answer was no. 


I wanted to make sure that my users were actually using the Groupon website, not just the app. 

I asked users about how they plan out using their Groupons, and if they've ever had a Groupon expire. All users had had a Groupon expire, and most users used a calendar (digital or analog) to track their use. 



None of the users had used this page. When directed to it, some users felt it was redundant.  


None of the users had seen this page, either. Most felt that "My Food" was vague, and wanted to see a CTA that told them what to do. 


Some users had seen this page, knew what it was for, and had used it at least once. However, they were surprised by the lack of copy. 


None of the users had used this page. When directed to it, some users felt it was redundant. 


Revised Hypotheses

  1. I believe that if users can easily view their total savings, Groupon history, and stats about their past activities, they will purchase more Groupons. I will know this when Groupon purchases increase by 10% over 3 months. 

  2. I believe that if users can filter and sort their different types of Groupon purchases on the same page, they will be less likely to unintentionally let Groupons expire. I will know this when the Groupon expiration rate drops 25% over 3 months.

  3. I believe that if users can plan out when to use their Groupons on a calendar, they will be more likely to purchase more Groupons at a time without risking expiration. I will know this when redemption time decreases by 10% over 30 days. 


I compiled my design recommendations into a couple of mockups that addressed users' issues and my hypotheses.

Screen One: My Groupons

This screen combined all three hypotheses, allowing users to see how much they've saved, view all Groupon types on one screen, and add Groupons to their calendar of choice. 

Screen Two: My History

 This screen takes a deeper dive into user statistics, providing more nuanced insights into user savings. The graphs and accompanying copy are designed to make the user feel good about herself, her activities, and her spending. Each ends with a CTA that invites the user to browse her favorite Groupon categories. 

Takeaways & Next Steps

User research is a helpful way to identify assumptions early on. My original ideas about Groupon users and their behaviors were not aligned with my actual findings; those findings made their way into my designs. 

The next steps will be to build out a prototype and test the designs (and their corresponding hypotheses) with Groupon users.

* I'm not affiliated with Groupon. 

NationBuilder: an IA Study & Mobile Mockup

Lucy Dotson

* I am not affiliated with NationBuilder in any way. I'm just a fan of the work they do. 

NationBuilder is the antidote to community organizers' woes. Popular with political candidates and nonprofits, it's a Community Organizing System-- think Salesforce meets Wordpress for community organizing.

While it's been around since 2009, NationBuilder doesn't have a mobile app. Its highly customizable suite of tools is difficult to fit in your pocket. I decided to take a stab anyway. 


I assessed the content structure of NationBuilder, reorganized the subpages, and build a clickable wireframe prototype to illustrate the first two layers of navigation.


  • Card sort 
  • Sketching
  • Wireframing (Sketch)

Revisiting the NationBuilder Information Architecture (IA)

Closed Card Sort

Susan, mid sort. 

Susan, mid sort. 

In this provisional card sort, I gave my user five main categories to work within: Communication, Main Dashboard, People, General Settings, and Website. My goal was to understand where cards within the main categories could be grouped, combined, or eliminated. 


I compiled the new card sort navigation, adjusting it in a few areas where my sorter misunderstood the card meaning. Post-adjustments, I noticed a few things:

  1. On the web version, there are multiple routes to access the same content across categories. This doesn't need to be the case for mobile.  
  2. Within each main category, subcategories exist that could be merged or nested together rather than presented as a flat hierarchy. 

To keep things simple, I focused on the core features of NationBuilder, ignoring add-ons. I developed a new navigation structure that minimized duplications and grouped like things together. 

Original IA

New IA

Designing the App


 My goal was to create quick-view states for all information that could be useful on the go, and provide more robust functionality on lower screen levels. I hypothesized that users on the go might want to:

  1. View supporter activity in real time (use case: supporters tweeting live at an event)
  2. View their assigned followups due that day (use case: remind themselves of tasks while OOO)
  3. View a data visualization of their organization's growth (use case: to be able to quickly reference growth figures in a networking scenario)
  4. View and search supporters and point people (use case: to brush up on your top supporters' info prior to a fundraiser)
  5. Add/edit posts and events to your website (use case: posting a photo or video live from your event)
  6. Tweet at your followers and view their social activity (use case: live-tweeting an event)

I applied my navigation structure to five different screens.


Based on my hypotheses, I developed five screens that showcase the most vital information first. At every stage, the user is able to take an action on the top right corner; whether they taking note of an interaction with a supporter, adding a quick blog post, or reminding themselves to follow up with a prospect. 

People & Organizations screen

People & Organizations screen

Communications screen. 

Communications screen. 

Main Dashboard. 

Main Dashboard. 

Website screen. 

Website screen. 

Settings screen. 

Settings screen. 

Next Steps

Test the prototype with several NationBuilder users, and revise accordingly. 

ZocDoc: Persona to Prototype


* I am not affiliated with ZocDoc in any way. I'm just a fan of the work they do. 

Last week, I tested the basic functionality of ZocDoc, and made a few “quick-fix” suggestions. This week, I’m taking a closer look at a specific feature that all of my test subjects struggled with: the ZocDoc search form. All of the users I interviewed last week either labored over or skipped the scrolling lists on the search form. So I suggested a search feature for both lists--particularly for the insurance list. However, I wanted to know if this would actually help users, or if there’s a better way to assist them.

Preliminary Research

I ran a series of micro-tests with users who fit my original persona (young, busy and more or less healthy). I assigned my users one task: find your insurance plan using the current ZocDoc system. Out of seven users, three found their carrier but not their plan, three couldn’t find their carrier or their plan, and only one was able to find both easily.

When trying to find their plans, users took a couple of different routes. Some of them considered which state they got their insurance in; others knew they had a PPO, but weren’t sure which one. Still others had enough information to actually find their plan, but scrolled past it because of naming inconsistencies within the ZocDoc system.

The bottom line? People within my persona often have limited information about their coverage, and a name search feature may not help. I decided to develop a way for them them to narrow their options.

IA and Getting Organized

The ZocDoc search form features over 400 health care providers, each with up to 10 plans. Users can only scroll alphabetically through providers and plans.

My first step involved cleaning up and reorganizing the insurance provider list. I proceeded according to the information that my users had about their insurance:

2015-03-22 16.12.11
  1. All of my users knew the state in which they got their insurance.
  2. Half of my users knew whether they had a PPO, an HMO, a POS, or an EPO.
  3. A couple of my users knew the difference between a managed care plan, a medical discount plan, and medical insurance.

To get the information organized, I needed a little help. I hired Dawn from ODesk to research the states in which each insurance provider is available. Dawn delivered an excel sheet outlining what’s available where--a key piece in my project.

Sketching User Flows and UI

Ultimately, I wanted to allow users leverage what they do know to figure out what they don’t know--the specific name of their plan. I started with the state in which my users’ insurance was issued, with the intention to dive deeper later on.

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I developed two concepts: the first is a series of dynamic dropdowns, including the state issued. The second is a series of filters that narrow in on the insurance plan.

Wireframes & Prototypes

Using Dawn’s data, I created two types of prototypes: a functional (but unsexy) dynamic dropdown (states and providers only--not plans), and a clickable (but limited) wireframe.

Rough Working Prototype (download and view in Excel)

The purpose of this prototype is to test of users have an easier time finding their insurance provider if they can narrow their options by state first.

Screen Shot 2015-03-22 at 5.07.25 PM
Screen Shot 2015-03-22 at 5.07.42 PM

Wireframe Prototype (view in browser)

The purpose of this prototype is to give users the actual click-through experience necessitated by this new information architecture.


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2015-03-22 17.10.28


1: Home
2: Search New Doc
3: Insurance Not Selected
4: Browse States copy

Testing & Next Steps

I ran a few informal tests with each prototype. I noticed some of things:

  • Users with large insurance providers such as Blue Cross Blue Shield and Kaiser were able to find their providers faster when using the Excel prototype (versus ZocDoc’s current system).
  • Users expressed neutrality about the increased number of clicks required by the clickable prototype.
  • Even with the added state filter, users struggled to find their plans.

Based on my findings, I have a clear path going forward. The state filter helped some people; other filters could potentially help the rest. In the next installment, I’ll play around with a new iteration of my prototype, featuring a full array of filters.

Putting ZocDoc To The Test: A Usability Study



The Product

There’s a lot to love about ZocDoc. It takes a system that’s rife with human error, and offers a frictionless, digital alternative.

In general, the ZocDoc mobile app delivers on its promise. However, a handful of user tests reveals a few areas for improvement.

The Process

My goal was to identify usability issues within the primary functions of the ZocDoc mobile app.


I recruited a handful of users in their 20’s (mainly in parks and cafes) to test out various tasks on the mobile app. None of them had used the app before. Tasks included:

  1. Booking an appointment through ZocDoc.
  2. Rescheduling their existing appointment.
  3. Contacting the office prior to an appointment.
  4. Task 3 Alternate: Leaving feedback about a previous visit.*

I gave my users specific medical scenarios that called for each task. That way, they could focus on the app instead of coming up with a backstory.

* The alternate task resulted from switching from using my personal ZocDoc account (which has previous appointment data) to a dummy account with no previous appointments. I made the switch following the first two tests. Since the remaining users easily found the doctor’s contact information, this change did not impact my conclusions.


During and after the interviews, I amassed a collection of pain points, quotes, and user attributes.


My initial notes were stream of consciousness.


I eliminated duplicates and zeroed in on each user’s key problem areas. I sorted these two ways:


Pain points sorted by issue.


Pain points sorted by task.


I’ve listed three key pain points in order of priority:

  1. HIGH INITIAL ASK. (4 out of 5 users)

“Hmmm… I’ll just pay by myself.”

This pain point involves the complex ZocDoc input form. Users must choose from long, non-searchable, multi-level lists of insurance providers, specialists and illnesses. Some users scrolled past their insurance providers, while others waffled over what to call their specific injury.

Recommendation: Make all form lists searchable and ask for injury details later on in the workflow.

2. DECEPTIVE HEADERS. (3 out of 5 users)

“I wasn’t sure where I was supposed to click.”

ZocDoc designates clickable items with flat green buttons. However, confusing CTA’s drew users’ eyes away. Some users attempted to click non-clickable headers based on their labeling.

Recommendations: Replace deceptive CTAs with more accurate word choice.

3. UNAVAILABLE DOCTORS. (3 out of 5 users)

“There are no appointments available… so I’ll have to use the next [doctor].”

For most searches, more than half of the listed doctors were not available on the day requested. Some users did not notice this right away, and invested time in reading their bios and ratings. This lead to disappointment and hasty decision making later on.

Recommendations: Remove unavailable doctors from search results, or use a more noticeable visual marker to indicate that they are not available.


Fortunately, many of the problems above are quick fixes. Users want to search for doctors more easily, find a doctor who is available, and click on the right spot to make an appointment. I took the path of least resistance with my designs:

Design 1: Searchable Lists.






Adding a search bar to the top of long, nested lists cuts down on a first-time user’s initial investment.


Design 2: Renaming Headers.






Renaming the active “Book Appointment” to the more passive “Available Appointments” makes it clear that it is a header and not a CTA button.

Design 3: Changing Text Color.






Red text attracts the eye, immediately letting users know that if they want this doctor, they will have to wait for an appointment. I suspect ZocDoc has a user-driven reason for including unavailable doctors in the results list, so I’ve left them in.

Next Steps

This usability test was based on a specific persona: the busy, young, metropolitan person who has not used ZocDoc before. As an avid ZocDoc user, I’m also curious about those who use the app regularly — what their needs are, and if they are being fully met.

Note: I do not work for or represent ZocDoc, and the above is an unsolicited usability study. I study Product Design under Zac Halbert and Kate Rutter @Tradecraft.

*Cross-posted on Medium.

Things I Like and Love List [TILLL]


Wanting to work in tech is like wanting to live in Texas. It's a big place. So I'm getting a little bit closer to my street address. Here's my TILLL:

1) Companies you admire.

List 5-10 of them and WHY you admire them. Be specific.

  1. Pinterest. Pinterest brought mood boards and image curation to the mainstream. I admire the scrappy early days of the company, the continuous release of features, and the way the product enables users to take personal projects into their own hands.
  2. AirBnB. In my experience, using AirBnB is an absolute pleasure. With the right timing and right execution, the company built a trustworthy brand that achieved what other companies have been trying to do for ten years.
  3. FitBit. Personally, I don't use FitBit--but damn, do I respect the company. Like AirBnB, FitBit is poised on the crest of a wave of wearables. FitBit harnesses people's desire to grow, improve, and measure their success.
  4. DropBox. Here's another player that come out on top in the midst of a market brawl. Dropbox succeeded based on execution and clever referral marketing. By adopting standard file practices, DropBox reduces friction.
  5. Twitter. I love the future-gazing vision behind Twitter. It's still manifesting itself. It's also a great example of a really good, easy to execute idea that took off.

2) Digital products you use a lot

  1. Facebook. I use Facebook to keep tabs on everyone I know, find out about people I don't know, and share articles. It's the standard, and the only place where I can find everyone at once. Mobile, laptop. 
  2. Instagram. I open Instagram every day, and take a couple of pictures a week. I use it to follow fashion designers, editors, and bloggers to get ideas for what to wear. Mobile.
  3. Mint. Mint gives me a complete view of my finances, and I check it every day. It allows me to keep track of small expenses and card charges that I might otherwise forget. Now, if only it could stop me from spending money... Mobile.
  4. Gmail. I rely on Gmail for a huge chunk of my daily communication. While I could use another provider, none have the power of Google's network effect. Mobile, laptop. 
  5. Netflix. I'm a bit of a TV junkie. I love cartoons, 90's sitcoms, and new shows. I use Netflix to stream them all to my TV at home. Mobile, smartTV.
  6. Trello. I use Trello every day for task management. I chose Trello more for what it doesn't let me do: fall down the rabbit hole of customization. Mobile, laptop.  

    3) Digital products you admire or like (whether or not you use them a lot) List 5-7 of them and what they do for you that you can't do without them. Note the name, the company that makes it and the platform(s) you use it on.

  1. Feedly. I just started using Feedly to read Angellist and Crunchbase. Like Trello, it helps me stay focused and on task by offering fewer distractions that other content curation apps. Mobile, laptop.
  2. ZocDoc. I go to the doctor more than most, but still that's only about once a month. The ZocDoc experience is great across the board--from booking to customer service. I love being able to book an appointment when I think of it, even if that's after hours or during a movie. Mobile.
  3. Twitter. I can't wait to love Twitter. When I first made my account, I followed my friends. Bored, I ditched the app. However, there's no doubt that Twitter is a powerful tool. I'm excited to use it to stay up to date on the industry and reach out to potential mentors. Mobile.
  4. Slack. Slack completely transformed the workflow at my last job, and allowed our remote team to successfully collaborate on a series of large projects. Since I was acting project manager, it made my life easier in a way that no other PM program did. Mobile, laptop. 
  5. IFTTT: I read about this, downloaded it, and forgot about it. "If This Then That" is a really cool app that allows you to "program" automated processes on your phone. For example, if I add an article to my bookmarks, then Twitter will automatically send off a corresponding Tweet. Mobile. 

4) Topics or ideas you're really interested in.

I get super excited about "power to the people" products that allow users to bypass the middleman. I love bringing order to chaos and making processes simpler.

  • Healthcare (personal health, quantified self,
  • IoT (quantified self, manufacturing & logistics)
  • Business Analytics
  • Politics and Campaigning
  • Innovations in Digital Entertainment
  • Targeted Marketing Tools
  • Government/Social/Environmental Innovation
  • Knowledge Management


The Human Element: Day Two at Tradecraft


I can have a hard time communicating. I think it's what draws me to writing: I can try on words until my thoughts unmuddle themselves. In daily conversation, it's a struggle. My desire to be prepared and get things right gets in the way of my receptivity. I get nervous. I tend to make things all about moi. Being a navel-gazer, I know all this stuff already--but what do I do about it?

Fortunately, Tradecraft is designed especially for me.

Okay, not really. But that how it feels. Here personal and professional development isn't a side dish: it's an entire course.

Last week, I jotted down some of my favorite excerpts from the TIARA networking framework. Today, TC13 talked about networking and development strategies in depth. Today, Career Dev expert Brett Hunter covered overarching truisms about human relationships, as well as some brass tacks methods. Here's what I learned:

It's not all about you. Guess what? Most people are afraid of rejection. Consequently, they struggle to network effectively. Do a little work at it, and you'll be better than most.

Specificity is vital. Networking is like hitch-hiking. There's no guarantee that it will take you where you want to go, but it's best to have an address in mind.

Build consultative relationships. Connect over shared passions and genuine interest--not your desire to have your contact's job title.

Don't obsess about your goals. But make some, and be ready to explain why you chose them. This will allow you to cast a broad networking net.

Do a research project. Compile your contacts' perspectives into an ebook or blog series. It shows initiative and is a great excuse to interview people.

Make others look good. Ask a small favor, then get to work. Show gratitude and initiative. Ask your contact open-ended questions where he or she will shine.

Fine tune talking points. A coffee invite is amorphous. A discussion of a certain industry trend is much more appealing.

Tailor your approach. Here's the time to be different things to different people. Tell your contacts your story in language they'll understand.

Reciprocate. You've got something to offer too. Identify what relationships, skills, attention, or information may make your contact's life easier, and avail yourself.

Start now. The faster you start, the faster you fail, the better you get. Start with the people who you think could be most helpful--the goal is to build an ongoing rapport.

Now, I'm going to take my own advice and start finding my people.



Reading: 50 Pounds of Clay


Or: getting it perfect on the first try, and other impossibilities. Tradecraft gives us lots of cool things to read. This blog about effort and perfectionism is probably one of my favorites. It even quotes Anne Lamott, who, in my opinion, has got writing and living down.

Here’s the gist: There’s a story from Art and Fear about a teacher who grades one half of his class on the quantity of the work produced, and one half on its quality. At the end of the semester, the highest caliber work came from the quantity students, not the quality students.

Quantity over quality yields quality… every single time. Mistakes aren’t just “no big deal”—they are the necessary steps toward success.

I love this distinction. Too often, supervisors and teachers extract apologies for or “forgive” draft-quality work. Too often, failures are taken personally—viewed as an affront or lack of effort. And too often we are expected to “grow out of” mistake-making as we gain mastery of a discipline.

Here’s the thing. Once the mistakes stop, the learning stops. So punishing yourself or others for mistakes, transforming them into something undesirable, promoting a culture of perfection—all of this halts growth.

Placing perfection over effort early on can be a fatal blow. Children who are taught to value the speed and ease of their “natural talent” are less likely to take on more difficult challenges. Children who are taught to value learning as a process are more willing to try problems outside of their comfort zone. Guess which group enjoys long-term success?

In yourself and others, reward effort, quantity, and persistence. Speed and quality will eventually follow—although never perfection. After all, “sucking at something is the first step in being really good at something!”

Reading: The Restaurant and the Kitchen


The restaurant versus the kitchen is a potent education metaphor. The restaurant (or the U.S. education system) is a safe bet. It offers those in charge—and those who attend—control and consistency. By serving up a set menu, the restaurant assumes that permanent slots within society exist, and that we can tailor our young people to fill them. A place for every person, and every person in her place.

The kitchen is something else. It’s fluid; it makes growth possible for both the individual and the entire community. In exchange for predictability, the kitchen offers unfettered potential. The ones cooking are also the ones eating: they can cook off menu and eat when and what they want, with explosive results. There are lower lows and higher highs in the test kitchen than in any five-star restaurant.

Like the author of this blog, I spent a lot of time in schools that are restaurants. In the beginning, I failed classes for not following the rules. That didn’t feel so good, so I mastered a few recipes for success. I occasionally went off menu—sometimes by choice, and sometimes because of a forward-thinking professor. But for the most part, I got really good at following instructions, even if those instructions were to think for myself.

In the Medium article, the author notes his own progression from restaurant-style to kitchen-style: “I’ve grown to understand that instead of trying to adjust my career path to fit a set degree or attempting to gain mastery in a subject based on the curriculum outlined in a syllabus, it’s essential to start with the simple question: what do I want to learn?”

This is a vital question, and I’ve come to it at my own speed. In high school and college, I learned first, asked questions later. I invested effort to succeed in areas I later discovered were not for me. Even after college, I valued outside recognition over personal satisfaction. I didn’t always trust my instincts. However, these experiences brought me to where I am today. I tend to think nothing is wasted.

So, what do I want to learn? What would I like to whip up in Tradecraft’s test kitchen? Here’s a list of skills I want to develop or sharpen:

  • How to lead and work with others effectively.
  • How to be successful without an outside barometer for success.
  • How to recognize opportunities (and issues) that fall outside of tradition.
  • How to envision, develop, and test custom solutions to the above.
  • How to use traditional learning as a springboard for further growth.
  • How to learn from mentors experiences without over identifying.
  • How to listen for the unexpected.
  • How to fail gracefully, pick up the pieces, and salvage a lesson.
  • How to communicate clearly to a broad audience.
  • How to recognize what tools are right for the job.
  • How to get others excited about the things that excite me.
  • How to exercise creative ownership of an idea.

For all of the above, Tradecraft will hopefully be the ultimate training ground. I expect a practice arena; there’s less at stake (no one wins, no one gets fired), but the game is very real.

Reading: The Responsible Party


Ray Dalio says in Principles, "...the inevitable responsible party is the person who bears the consequences of what is done." On his blog, Sebastian Marshall refines with an example: “If you’re sick, you might choose to delegate the responsibility of figuring out what do to about it to a doctor. However, it is your responsibility to pick the right doctor because you will bear the consequences of that decision.”

Marshall’s comments brought up some thoughts and questions for me.

First, the personal. I learned early on that I was responsible for my own academic success and physical wellbeing. Parents could be misguided. Teachers could be misinformed. Doctors don’t have all the answers. As a high-achieving kid with Crohn’s disease, I learned to be resourceful. If my doctor wasn’t listening, I’d ask for someone else. If my schoolbooks weren’t cutting it, I’d find new ones.

But when it comes to relationships and specific goals, things are different. I develop codependences; I worry about what others are thinking. I’ve tried to shoulder the others’ responsibilities, often at my own expense, so that I can avoid my own. In the past, I’ve sought out successful people and made myself indispensible to them. As an achiever who thrives on praise, I can become overinvested in others’ lives and underinvested in my own.

So, reading Marshall’s post got me thinking:

  • What does it mean to “bear the consequences”? For instance, if an employee makes a serious error and is fired for it, does he bear the consequences, or does the business?
  • Is it possible to be fully or partially responsible for something that belongs to someone else—or to another person? Are we only responsible for ourselves and our own ideas?
  • Is professional responsibility different from personal responsibility? In the world of startups, where’s the line?
  • What happens when there are multiple sets of consequences for different players? Who bears the brunt?
  • Are any responsibilities truly shared? How about parenthood? Co-founding?
  • Is it possible to shoulder the responsibilities of others, and say, “I’ll take it from here”? (Spoiler: I don’t think so).
  • As a follow-up, is there something inherently unwise about attempting to take on the responsibilities of others? If so, what?
  • How does investment play into responsibility? How about the idea of “owing” a person or organization?
  • How does one walk the line, keeping their side of the street clean while involving themselves in projects with others?

In the context of Tradecraft, this article acts as a friendly warning. It says to me: don’t confuse the Tradecraft mission, or a mentor’s mission, with my own personal beliefs. Make goals, and keep them in sight. Take pleasure in praise, but do not seek it as an end. Develop my own methods for measuring personal and professional success.

As an achiever (my StengthsFinder score says so), I’ll need to be vigilant. I am motivated by praise, grades, recognition. However, I’m drawn to work where official accolades don’t yet exist. In these spaces, an ideal student does not always make a great leader. My parents, teachers, employers, and mentors have a stake in my future as a leader, sure—but only I can make the leap.

The TIARA Framework: Quotes from "The 2-Hour Job Search"


Early on, I developed a distaste for what I thought was networking. I loathed reciting my pitch and selling my product (or myself). I thought networking meant rote memorization, making deals, and sucking up. It all seemed exhausting and unpleasant.

Luckily for me, I was misinformed. Instead of a means to a selfish end, networking is a mutually beneficial way of approaching professional relationships.

The more I read about successful networking techniques, the easier and more pleasurable the process becomes. Here are some takeaways from Steve Dalton's TIARA Framework, outlined in his book, "The 2-Hour Job Search."

The Informational Interview

The TIARA framework is a suggested protocol for what Dalton calls "informational interviews" or "informationals." “The purpose of the informational interview is to both form a rapport and gain usable information” (165).

“The TIARA Framework… breaks the informational interview into three distinct phases: (1) small talk, (2) questions and answers, and (3) next steps” (165).

The framework is rooted in the Ben Franklin Effect, which suggests that "Allowing someone to do you a favor is an incredibly powerful way to gain her loyalty”(167).

“In an informational interview, you are asking someone for a small favor of time and information. By not returning this favor immediately (as Ben Franklin pointedly refrained from doing), you increase the amount your contact likes you, as well as the likelihood he will help you again in the future!” (167).

1. Good Small Talk

  • Take a genuine interest in the other person.
  • Give the person a chance to talk about whatever he or she wants to talk about—especially initially.
  • “Follow the energy.” If your contact becomes more energetic in response to a questions, stay with it for a follow-up question or two. If not, just move on to the next one.
  • Mirror the topics and demeanor of your contact. If they are casual, be casual, too. If they talk about hobbies, mention your own.

For instance:

  • How is your day going so far? (opportunity to assess demeanor, demonstrate listening)
  • What projects are you working on right now? (opportunity to gauge passion, demonstrate interest in the type of work)
  • Can you tell me about your background and how you can to work for your employer? (opportunity to assess demeanor, demonstrate personal/professional interest)

“Whether it’s bonding over rescue dogs, being raised in a large family, or the Chicago Cubs’ awful odds of winning the World Series yet again this year, follow the energy (170).

“This algorithm for small talk is not foolproof, but it gives those of us to whom small talk does not come naturally a structure for systematically attempting to break the ice and establish rapport!” (170).

2. Questions and Answers

This section is where the TIARA Framework gets its name. TIARA stands for:

  • Trends
  • Insights
  • Advice
  • Resources
  • Assignments

“Knowing what questions to ask and the preferred order will dramatically improve your ability to turn informationals into job interviews. Furthermore, knowing you know that information will greatly reduce your anxiety about this step of the process” (171).

The order avoids abruptness and presumption: “In short, the job-seeker’s request is too abrupt. He’s made only a cursory attempt to get to know you, so you in turn are likely to make only a cursory attempt to help him” (173).

“Just as you wouldn’t trust someone offering to buy your car sight unseen, you certainly wouldn’t trust a job seeker who asks for your advice without kicking your tires first!” (174).

“Your contact, if treated properly, may offer you assistance without helping you find a job, but that is her prerogative and shouldn’t be requested (at least not in this conversation, anyway)” (174).

“The ideal questions for TIARA are ones that allow the contact to talk about whatever he wants to talk about. These are open-ended questions that engage the contact creatively, and they’re generic enough to be durable over multiple conversations" (174).

2.A. Trends

  • What trends are impacting your business right now?

“It’s much more fun as an interview subject to discuss what trends you think are most impacting your business than it is to describe the corporate culture. People enjoy talking about themselves more than they enjoy talking about their employers” (176).

2.B. Insights

  • What surprises you most about your job/your employer?
  • What’s the best lesson you’ve learned on the job?
  • What’s been your most valuable experience at your employer so far, and why?
  • If you had to attribute your success at your employer to one skill or trait, what would it be? Follow-up: Is that trait shared by many across the firm, or is it unique and you’ve adapted it to your advantage?

“Insight questions are very similar to Trend questions, but they start to become slightly more personal, rather than strictly business-related. We want the contact to gradually become more comfortable disclosing personal information to us, and that starts with getting him to share his personal feelings” (177).

“These answers [to Insight questions] are also useful during future interviews, both informationals and job interviews…the ability to source information is incredibly powerful for establishing credibility” (178).

2.C. Advice

  • What can I be doing right now to prepare myself for a career in this field?
  • If I got hired, what should I be sure to do within the first 30 days to ensure I get off to the fastest start possible?
  • What do you know now that you wish you’d known when you were my age or in my position?
  • If you were me, what would you be doing right now to maximize your chance of breaking into this industry or function?

“Mentors take a long-term interest in the welfare of their mentees, whereas experts may feel their work is ‘done’ once they’ve imparted their wisdom to you. The onus is on the job seeker to convert the expert into a mentor, because advocates’ benefits are not usually imparted immediately” (180).

“In this part of the conversation, we are actively trying to get our contacts to put themselves in our shoes, convincing them to give us not just vague advice for what we should do next, but the actual steps they would take if they were in our position right now (180).

“The biggest mistake job seekers make in the informational interview process is thinking that the conversation is about themselves, when it is really about the contact" (180).

“The ideal outcome of an informational is that your contact begins to view your job search success (or lack thereof) as a reflection of her own ability to give good guidance and/or be a good mentor” (180).

2.D. Resources

  • What resources should I be sure to look into next?
  • What next steps would you recommend for someone in my situation?

“Resource questions are designed to elicit where your contacts go when they need or want information about their industry, function, or business. These can be people, places, or things” (182).

“Regardless of how long Trends, Insights, and Advice questions occupy your informational interview, it is essential that you make it to the pivot question [Resources question] before the conversation ends. This question is what allows you to determine how to wrap up the conversation” (182).

If that resource is a person, you've hit the jackpot. Your contact is likely a booster, more willing to help you than the average contact. When a referral is offered, commit and schedule follow-up. “Boosters will usually be willing to do more for you than you yourself would ask, so it is better to defer to their expertise for how to proceed if Wendy [their contact] is unavailable, rather than ask them for a specific action—like to check in with her on your behalf” (185).

“Boosters may want to offer you a contact but feel similarly protective of their network, given that they’ve known these people far longer than they’ve known you. If your contact doesn’t offer you a referral contact immediately, don’t ask for one—this gives you a second chance to ask for one later” (187).

“So what do I do in the ‘non-jackpot scenario,’ when my interview asks me specifically what kind of resources I’m looking for? You deflect the conversation toward nonhuman resources” like websites, books, or magazines. (186).

2.E. Assignments

  • What project(s) have you done that you felt added the most value?
  • Have any projects increased in popularity recently at your organization?
  • Have you had interns or contractors in the past? If so, what sort of projects have they done?

“The answers you get will help you build your mental toolbox of the types of projects that are increasingly in demand and importance at your targeted employers” (189).

“It’s much easier to critique someone else’s ideas than it is to create them from scratch, so relieve your potential employer of that burden by instead suggesting roles for yourself and engaging the employer in why or why not such a role may be feasible. This increases their likelihood of coming up with alternative, which are far easier to brainstorm than entirely new ideas” (189).

 3. Next Steps

If you don’t get the contact you are looking for, make a small, low-risk request for more of their time.

That is how you get Obligates who agree to give you an informational interview to help you. You leverage their fear of awkwardness and bad manners to get them to make a tiny initial commitment, even if they don’t really want to. Once they do that, they have further obligated themselves to be available in the future if you decide this is something you want to pursue” (193).

 “Go into every informational interview assuming it’s going to be a two-part informational—with follow-up required to get a useful contact. If you ask for a contact during an initial informational and fail to get one, you’ve hit a dead end with that contact—it’s awful to lose a Booster simply because you put the person on the spot” (194).

Always thank them for their time and insights and send a follow-up note.

Forces to Reckon With: Girl Geeks Meet Salesforce


IMG_2880 Originally posted on the Bay Area Girl Geek Dinners blog

Last Wednesday night, Salesforce brought a little star power to the Girl Geek Dinners—presenting demos, dropping knowledge, and getting the crowd going with an original song.

It’s no secret that we’re big Salesforce fans. Sukrutha Bhadouria, our Managing Director, is a Quality Engineer on the Salesforce1 Platform team, and the Cloud Computing wunderkind is our recurring and gracious host.

This year, Girl Geeks nibbled on Hawaiian barbeque, mingled in the Salesforce café, and compared notes on lightning talks by some very talented women. The talks focused on the how and why of successful Salesforce products and processes, yielding insight and inspiration.

“Drinking Our Own Champagne,” and Other Trust-Builders

VP of Engineering for Search Cathy Polinsky kicked off the lightning talks, exploring how Salesforce improves with the help of—well—Salesforce.

The Salesforce platform can be used to manage virtually anything, with the right amount of tweaking. Salesforce teams rely on the company’s own product to track bugs, manage development, develop SCRUM apps and more. The platform provides big-picture perspective, so that deadlines are met and performance improves.

By “drinking its own champagne,” Salesforce improves internal performance and fosters customer confidence. Maintaining an API-first system, Salesforce writes tests and automations for every line of code. “Our customers are trusting their sensitive corporate data and contacts to us,” says Cathy. “Security is our priority, right from the get-go.”

When it comes to addressing issues, Salesforce is forthright. “We like to over-communicate, and do root cause analysis to formulate a plan,” Cathy says.

Serving Up Customer Needs: Wave, the Salesforce Analytics Cloud

Next up, a demo from Qingqing Liu, Salesforce Software Architect. Qingqing led with the user research driving the creation of Wave. As businesspeople, “our users don’t know about data mining—they just want their data when they need it, without hiring million-dollar consultants,” says Qingqing.

Salesforce set out to design a valuable experience prioritizing speed, mobility, and customization. The team focused on fine-tuning the right features, as well as overall ease and pleasure of use. They turned to the user to help iterate and reiterate the design, creating a clean and customizable application. Want to see for yourself? Download an unlicensed version to your phone to play around with a set of sample data.

Why Functional Prototypes Are Rad: Salesforce Lightning App Builder

According to Salesforce Senior Accessibility Specialist Cordelia Dillon, functional prototypes are more than rad. They are also very important to the design process.

On the spectrum of napkin-sketch to full-fledged program, a functional prototype trends to the right, somewhere past clickable linear prototype. Some projects don’t require functional prototypes; however, for customizable products, only a functional prototype will do.

Take the Salesforce Lightning App Builder, for example. The application allows users to build pages by dragging and dropping components. “We don’t know what users are going to do with the app,” says Cordelia. “So a clickable linear prototype doesn’t quite work.” By simulating the finished program, the functional prototype allowed for stronger user feedback. It also can serve as interaction specs for developers, simplifying complex written ideas into visuals.

Done well, functional prototypes can serve as demos, too. “Salesforce actually demoed the Lightning App Builder prototype at Dreamforce,” says Cordelia.

Bringing Down The House

The final act of the evening, Anjali Ashok put the “performance” in Performance Engineer with a couple of original songs about work and the joys of coffee. Check out more of her vocal stylings here.

Reading: Lessons from The Elements of User Experience


IMG_2922 "Designing products with the user experience as an explicit outcome means looking beyond the functional or the aesthetic."

"The user experience design process is all about ensuring that no aspect of the user's experience with your product happens without your conscious, explicit intent." 

Tradecraft 13 starts up March 2nd. For those of us in the UX track, Jesse James Garrett's The Elements of User Experience will be a staple in our diet. That's why I'm revisiting it now.

The book defines the five elements, or planes, of the user experience design process. Garrett emphasizes a strong, methodical process combined with a clearly delineated, user-focused strategy.

The book is rich, and difficult to summarize. Instead, here are three takeaways that have stuck with me in the months after my first read:

1. Strategy First. 

"The more clearly we can articulate exactly what we want, and exactly what others want from us, the more precisely we can adjust our choices to meet these goals." 

I once worked with a couple of guys building a mobile app. The idea was to match up roommates and act as a rent escrow service. Logically, the concept worked--but did people really need it? And what would bring users back?

Startup culture prioritizes leanness and speed--and in the process, may sacrifice clear vision. However, a sound strategy sets the stage for long-term success. According to Garrett, developing strategy means considering two vital questions: "What do we want to get out of this product?" and "What do our users want to get out of it?" By defining values and desired outcomes, you give your team a vision to rally around.

Building a strong strategy also means determining if your problem is real or imagined, pressing or benign, practical or inconvenient. This requires rigorous honesty--and it may mean killing some of your most darling ideas. However, it will benefit you in the long run.

As for the roommate matching app, it never took off. Despite investing months into the project, the founders refused to look critically at their concept. Unable to raise funding, they moved on.

2. Iterate and Reiterate.

"Requiring work on each plane to finish before work on the next can start leads to unsatisfactory results for you and your users... a better approach is to have work on each plane finish before work on the next can finish."

Each stage in the UX design process impacts the options you have in the next one. Your entire product hinges on the correct execution of each successive stage--so there's no time to play it fast and loose.

According to Garrett, you don't have to finish each plane before you start the next. But, you should absolutely finish each one before finishing the next. To do otherwise is to compromise your guiding strategy.

By building flexibility into the design process, you can keep desired outcomes in sight at each stage while remaining open to modifications--within reason.

3. You Can't Be All Things. 

"We can't meet both sets of user needs with a single solution. Our options at this point are to focus on one user segment to the exclusion of the other, or two provide two separate for users to approach the same task." 

Early on, you're going to have to focus on who you want to help--to the exclusion of everyone else. Trying to be all things to all people is a greater risk than choosing a narrow segment--do so, and you're likely to spread yourself too thin and flop.

Choosing your target segment will relate to the problem that you are attempting to solve. Consider the problem: is it too broad? Are you offering multiple solutions? If so, how will these solutions be presented? How will you manage different user needs and perspectives? Time and again, return to user research for insight. "Creating user segments is just a means to the end of uncovering user needs. You really only need as many different segments as you have different sets of user needs."

Stay tuned for a second look at The Elements of User Experience. 

Tradecraft Happy Hour: Whitney Bouck


I attended a Tradecraft happy hour last week. It was my first time at Tradecraft since getting accepted, and a preliminary toe in the pool. I met some great people, got some tips from veteran UX-trackers, and thoroughly enjoyed the programming. The event launched with a conversation with Whitney Bouck, former VP of Documentum and present-day GM of Enterprise and SVP of Global Marketing at Box.

First Whitney led us through Documentum's growth, leveraging the model developed in Geoffrey Moore's "Crossing the Chasm" (Moore uses Documentum as an example throughout the text). Then, she offered insights into Box, which deviates from the model.

Documentum targeted a valuable headpin from the get-go: pharmaceutical companies. Then, with the right marketing and early adopters in place, the company brought several other core industries into the fold.

In contrast, Box started out with organic growth. Four college students, the founders of Box created the product for their own use. It wasn't until Box saw moderate success that leadership asked itself, "how can we focus?" By marketing to a few core industries and partnering with big names within those categories, Box developed its vertical depth without changing its product.

When the floor opened up, so did the conversation. Whitney addressed everything from marketing to sales to hiring the right people. Here's what I got:


  • Finding the right early adopters is essential to mainstream success. Have a target market, but be flexible. Then, find forward thinkers in that market.
  • When identifying key markets, consider: "Who will want to adopt our product the most?," "Who will be willing to pay the most?" and "Where are we most likely to leverage new use cases?"
  • Once you've identified and wooed your targets ("headpins"), foster a domino/bowling pin effect with your secondary markets.
  • Make a product that you and your customers will love. "When your customers love your product, they want to talk about it... with their peers, their coworkers, and on their social networks."
  • If your product isn't remarkable, make your customer service remarkable instead.


  • Leverage your partnerships as much as possible. "Take what you can get--but you gotta ask."
  • The growth cycle is a lot shorter today, and creating a minimum viable product takes less time and fewer resources.
  • Time management is a choice. Pick the most strategic things for you to do in a week and then make sure you spend some time on them every day.
  • Good communication is essential, no matter what role you are filling. The flat communication structure of early stage companies requires clarity and speed.

I'm looking forward to the next Tradecraft happy hour!