User Experience News

Here’s a collection of user interface news, as aggregated by AllTop. I take no responsibility for the content, but it’s usually very good.

More from on the role of ethnography and prototyping in policymaking

govukTwo inspiring posts by Dr. Lucy Kimbell, a visiting Arts and Humanities Research Council (AHRC) Fellow at the UK-based Policy Lab, an experimental policy innovation center within the Open Policy Making team of the UK Cabinet Office: Ethnography in policymaking: Barriers and opportunities The value of ethnography is not simply that it’s a method for […]

The post More from on the role of ethnography and prototyping in policymaking appeared first on Putting people first.

Instagram’s Endangered Ephemera

A photo from the Instagram account @matchbookdiaries.Over at The New Yorker, architecture and design writer Alexandra Lange writes about the phenomenon of Instagram accounts that capture design ephemera like matchbooks, clothing labels, postage stamps, machine badges and more. These examples of tiny graphic-design ephemera are brought to our full attention in obsessive, single-serving Instagram accounts. This is not the Instagram of…

On Our Radar: Self-Centered Edition

Okay, we admit it: it’s all about us. From steps to sleep to social activities, we’re counting every kind of personal data you can think of. But what’s all that data add up to? How could we look at it—and ourselves—differently? This week, we’re asking ourselves—and our self—the tough questions. 

My so-called lifelog

While waiting for an invite from, which promises to help me lead a healthier and happier life by harnessing my personal data, I started reading about life resource planning: the idea that we can administer every aspect of our lives using our timeline, our life feed, as a tool. LRP isn’t just the lifelogging data gathered by all the apps we use (health, finance, commuting, social graph, etc.). It’s about a user interface to make sense of it—a personal agent telling my story.

This has me thinking, how can I ever reinvent myself if my life feed becomes part of a documented history? The answer seems to lie in the notion of storytelling, becoming active autobiographers ourselves, using the same tools that tell our history, only to tell it better. When people are prompted to “tell a story” rather than state “what’s on their mind,” a character emerges—a qualified self (as opposed to the notion of the quantified self)—that may defy “big” data.

Michelle Kondou, developer

Mirror, mirror

A couple of days ago, I came across, a project by data visualization pros Giorgia Lupi and Stefanie Posavec. Instead of building digital charts and graphs, they’re documenting details of their lives onto handmade postcards—translating quiet moments of the everyday into colors and lines of self-awareness, and reinventing the rules each week. With a flickering edge of whimsy and objectivity, those moments are real life—through a filter.

What I love about Dear Data is that their conditions create new filters; they end up with a different view of themselves each week. Getting out of their usual medium and having to create new ways to tell each story is a tactic for hunting down catalysts. I also like how they went to something so square one: paper and colored pens, no expectations to be fancy, no need for neat lines.

Dear Data has me thinking about how we can all gain momentum from reimagining our digital selves every once in a while—from ditching our habitual means of describing and defining. How I can so easily show myself a new mirror and allow a situation to filter through me—I’d discover a different result each time. Those moments are grounding: they’re a sharp instant of humility, a moment of recognition that you’ll never see anything in the same way again.

Mica McPheeters, submissions and events manager

My birthday, my self

Ah, spring—that special time of year when a young developer’s fancy soon turns to thoughts of lexical scoping, and I’ve got ECMAScript 6 arrow functions on the brain.

Defining a function as usual introduces a new value for the this keyword, meaning we sometimes need to write code like the following:

function Wilto() {
	var self = this;
	self.age = 32;

	setInterval( function constantBirthdays() {
		console.log( "I am now " + self.age + " years old");
	}, 3000 );

Since the meaning of this is going to change inside the constantBirthdays function, we alias the enclosing function’s this value as the variable self—or sometimes as that, depending on your own preference.

Arrow functions will maintain the this value of the enclosing context, however, so we can do away with that variable altogether:

function Wilto() {
	this.age = 32;

	setInterval(() => {
		console.log( "I am now " + this.age + " years old");
	}, 3000 );

Thanks to ES6, we can finally start getting over our selfs.

Mat Marquis, technical editor

A gif about: self(ie) love

President Obama using a selfie stick
Haters gonna hate.

Transforming the Public Sector, One Experience at a Time

March 27, 2015

For a lot of parents in the U.S., the school choice process has just about wrapped up for the 2015/2016 school year. Depending on which state and district parents live in and what goals they have for their child’s education, this can be an extremely taxing ordeal.

Most parents strive to control the forces that will affect kids' their lives—in this case, which public school they will attend—but the process comes with very specific instructions and piles of confusing school report cards.

It’s precisely the kind of experience that gives the public sector a bad rap.

Political, budgetary, security, and compliance issues can quickly hamper noble intentions, making it hard to implement new ideas. This is unfortunate because the public sector is an area where truly great experiences can reach a broad user base and contribute to the betterment more
By Josh Tyson | UX Magazine


Animation, an April 2 Virtual Seminar with Rachel Nabors

Animation often gets a bad rap for being nothing more than decorative, sometimes in poor taste. But, it turns out that animation can add value to the digital world by making interactions more intuitive, interesting, and seductive. In Improve UX With Animation, Rachel Nabors, animation ambassador and founder of Tin Magpie, is excited to show you […]

Sharp methodological critiques on current Big Data practices

bigdataTwo methodological critiques on Big Data that caught our attention: In the Financial Times, economist and journalist Tim Harford points out that sampling bias and statistical errors are, if anything, magnified in Big Data research, and that theory-free analysis of mere correlations is inevitably fragile. “Recall big data’s four articles of faith. Uncanny accuracy is […]

The post Sharp methodological critiques on current Big Data practices appeared first on Putting people first.

Stories Not Screens

paper to pixel

It's no secret that web design has its roots in print. In the early days of the web, the influence of print on web design was pretty inescapable. Websites were essentially virtual brochures, static pages with little or no interactivity. Designers were still learning the potential of this new medium and the technology had to mature. Slowly but surely, the differences between print design and web design became evident. But many designers are still thinking of their designs in terms of screens and images.

At one of our recent Soapbox events, Braden Kowitz, Design Partner at Google Ventures summed it up perfectly:

When you look at how people use products, they don't look at the screen, they don't look at the feature. They take this pathway through all your screens and features' So what you really need to design is that experience and that story.

Thinking of themselves as storytellers might be a new concept for many designers, but it's a fitting analogy. Unlike print designs, which serve a singular purpose and are meant to be viewed, design work on the web is entirely interactive. Users take various pathways through websites and apps as they try to accomplish a variety of things. Designers gently guide their users around obstacles, shepherding them to desired outcomes.

Put Yourself in Your User's Shoes

In order to become a successful storyteller, designers need to develop empathy. Empathy is the ability to understand and share the feelings of others, to put yourself in their shoes. Designers need to know their users. They need to understand exactly what the user is trying to accomplish and care about their experience through the entire process. Even with the best planning, there will always be problems you didn't think of, interactions you didn't anticipate or things you didn't take into consideration. The only way to discover these issues is by trying a design yourself.

Braden and his team do this through sketches, a process he calls "story-centered design." He describes these mockups and their purpose like this:

Designers present every sentence the customer reads, every action they take, and every screen that system generates in response. The designs follow a customer from an initial trigger all the way through completing a goal, and they show how the design supports every step in that flow.

Like any good author, designers need to know exactly how their stories end so they can guide their users most effectively, knowing exactly which routes are available and designing the most pleasant experience.

Storytelling is in Our Blood

At ZURB, we've always thought of product design as storytelling, and we've been using Progressive Design to sharpen our storytelling skills and create amazing experiences. Our process has many steps that ensure we keep the user in mind at all times, because we design for people.


As with most anything at ZURB, it all starts with sketching. Like Braden and his team, we sketch out each screen and map out every workflow. Even at this very lo-fi level, we begin to define the paths users will take to achieve their goals. The next step is scanning these sketch sheets into clickable prototypes using Solidify. This tool in the Notable Platform helps us to interact with our designs as close to how the end user will as possible, exposing anything we left out and helping us refine our work.

The Progressive Design process involves constant iteration and feedback. We share our work with the rest of the team, inviting them to respond with any questions or concerns. If we're working with a client for our Studios business, we walk them through each workflow, using user personas to explain how different customers will interact with the product or website. If anything isn't working along the way, we step back, ideate more solutions, and test again. At times we use surveys to gather information about how real people interact with our work. This data helps us improve our stories.

Only when the workflows and paths within our products are complete do we focus on on polishing our visuals and refining our interactions. This user-centered approach helps us to eliminate problems early, prioritize the workflows and help our users accomplish their goals.

A Shared Story

It was great to hear how Braden and his team agree that designers need to be storytellers, a sentiment that many of our Soapbox guests have touched on as well. We'd like to thank Braden for taking time out and sharing his insights with us and our audience.

We're looking forward to our next event with Geoff Koops and Mike Towber of Rdio, amazing designers who have been telling some engaging stories with their users. We hope you can join us at the next Soapbox!

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Women of SCOTUS in LEGO

Women of SCOTUS in LEGOThis is a homebrewed proposal from editor Maia Weinstock for a set of LEGO toys based on the female justices of the U.S. Supreme Court: Sandra Day O’Connor, Ruth Bader Ginsburg, Sonia Sotomayor and Elena Kagan. Weinstock submitted the idea to LEGO, but it was rejected in accordance with the company’s rule against politics or…

Bus stop

Bus stop


via Giordano Poloni

Fire In The Sky

Fire In The Sky


via Conor MacNeill