Killer UX – Go For The Gasp!

Over the years, I’ve grown into an evidence-based designer. While I wish I could ‘cowboy’ along and just design on the fly, I know that the best designs are a result of extremely focused, dedicated, and iterative work.

…and this image is not only filled with evidence, it floods me with emotion:


Not only because it’s my daughter, but because it is evidence of hundreds, or most likely thousands of iterations to refine her ability to do this leap. I’ve seen her in pain, bleeding, so worn out she could barely walk to her bed, but her passion for showing her most excellent work pushes her to do the best she can…and do it with a smile.

I’ve seen her practice, and even seen her perform this live, but I audibly gasped when I saw this photo.

…which makes me think: What would it mean to our users…how filled with emotion would our users be if they audibly gasped when they saw our designs?

I imagine they would be filled with emotion, loyalty, and some may even be aware of the effort it took to craft a user experience like the one they are seeing.

I guess it comes down to this: Are we passionate enough about our craft to refine and iterate our design until it floods our users with emotion?

I hope so. I’m certainly going to make a run for it in 2014.

How about you?

User Experience is the Daily Renewal of Enthusiasm

“Sales is Simply the Transferral of Enthusiasm”

That’s what I heard at the recent IBM PureSystems event I demo’d and spoke at. It resonated with me because, while I’m not a sales guy, I do spent a lot of my time transferring my enthusiasm for IBM Flex System Manager to those that use it and sell it. In fact, my recent trip to Shanghai and Dubai was solely because I have a way to successfully transfer enthusiasm through demonstrating and speaking about Flex System Manager that makes both end users and sellers excited about the product.

However, what I am discovering is that regardless of how successful I am at transferring my enthusiasm to others, their new-found enthusiasm will fade fade quickly if it is not continually renewed.

How is enthusiasm for a product best renewed?

Through its user experience.

I am finding with our latest release of FSM that our new user experience is being very well received by both users and sellers alike. It is this new user experience that is renewing their enthusiasm every day, not the memory of a well-executed demonstration.

Think about it: How many times have you seen an online video or in-store demo of a product and you get so excited to use it you quickly part ways with your money so you can bring it home…only to discover that the product is far too difficult to set up and use for your particular needs? I know I have … especially with music software. The bullet points are exactly what I need to accomplish my goals, but the interface is so confusing I end up uninstalling and wishing I had not been suckered in by the flashy demo.

Maybe that is the ultimate litmus test for a product…for the user experiences I own: Can the level of enthusiasm I transfer to sellers and end users during the initial demo be constantly renewed by the user experience they interact with every day after?

What do you think?

Tell A Story With Our Designs – For A Better Future?

I love to write songs.

My best songs are story-based…you know, in verse one we meet the character, the bridge describes what their struggle is, and the first chorus what they’re feeling. Verse two brings in detail or a new wrinkle to the story, followed by a slightly altered chorus that applies to the situation. Of course after that is a killer guitar solo, and then verse three or a B-section brings a surprising twist…that not only makes the song memorable, but by the end of the final chorus makes the listener think about how it applies to their life in hopes that they will become a little bit better person.

I’m starting to wonder: should our user experience designs tell a compelling story, too?

In this case, instead of the story being about a character we hope the listener likes, the story told by our designs would be about the users data, or their systems, or even the users status updates, photos, and chats. We know these are things our users are already passionate about and they are rooting for to win!

…so why do some of my designs seem like a documentary? “Hmm, your system is this, that, the other thing. You data takes up this much space.” …Distant…sterile…


In these standard designs, there is nothing to connect our user emotionally to their data/systems…nothing to draw them in so they WANT to invest their time helping the story along.

Instead, what if I told a story? What if I introduce their systems as characters in a story…knowing that there are challenges ahead, relationships to nearby networks and storage that deepen the story? What if I make the user interface react to what the characters want instead of asking what the humans that use the product want?

For example, I currently define a target user (persona) along with what goals they have. I then design the software to help the human accomplish their humans goals. What if I turned it around and defined my central character as the users data or the systems they are managing, and then showed in the UI what the characters need?

I know the first push-back would the classic rule saying that I shouldn’t personify a non-living object…

…but what if this is what our next-generation of IT professionals need?

Maybe our future IT professionals need software that help them relate to the datacenter systems…help them connect on some emotional level so they will want follow the systems status, help the system through struggles, and feel empowered and feel some deep satisfaction when their systems succeed and thrive.

Stories have been powerful tools to help motivate and capture human attention for centuries…maybe it’s time we start telling stories with our software?

What do you think?

What if we started our software experience with, “Once upon a time…”?

Worst Intro EVER – How NOT To Communicate Your Message

I was just in Las Vegas speaking at a trade show. I peeked into a 300 seat room the day before my session and heard:

“I really don’t like these after-lunch time slots…I like mornings when I have a captive audience”


That was his opening line! In one swift statement, this speaker communicated to the 75+ in the audience:

“I don’t want to be here”
He obviously wanted to speak in a morning session. Stupid. If the audience is sitting in front of you, you have a rare opportunity to communicate your message to those specific humans. Who knows where each of these human connections will lead…other contacts, more sales, a better understanding of your product, even unique feedback on your product’s user experience. There are a thousand ways to blow a speaking session, but this is the most dumb.

“I don’t want you here”
He insulted his audience by assuming they would be inattentive. It’s like he said, “All of you in this audience are not who I had in mind. Even though you chose his topic over the 5 other concurrent topics, you are bound to be inattentive. After all, the success of this session is really up to you, the audience. If only you people were different, you would make the session more compelling”. Stupid speaker.

“I’m not really that good”
On the surface it sounds like he’s so proud of his message that he doesn’t want to ‘waste’ it on the 78 people in the audience. I think he’s just not that good: To lay blame on a lame session…before it even starts…on the audience, the time slot, the lunch, tells me he’s accepted a disastrous outcome and does not want to be responsible for its failure. Heaven forbid he work on his delivery, add some passion, and communicate concepts clearly so it’s interesting to the audience … even during an after-lunch session.


If I’ve learned anything from my 18 years of speaking about technology is that whether you have 1 or 1,501 in attendance (I’ve had both), they are there because they want to learn what you know…they already chose you over many other options (including exploring the host city). It’s your responsibility to focus, deliver with passion, use stories and personal experience to make it interesting…and make them thrilled they spent that hour with you because it might just change how they run their business.

How about you? What is the worst speaker intro you’ve ever heard?


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