Secrets to emotional UX, from the past.

2c4a3f73626551c394be62ada2ce3208I had an interesting talk, last week, about emotion in design. I love talking about this topic but sometimes it can be quite difficult to accurately articulate. Emotion within UX can be seen as another box to tick off, or if your client has a low budget, perhaps not even focus on. For me, emotion is key. Get it right, and we have something so important, we cannot imagine a world without it. Get it wrong and we are left with an arbitrary piece of technology. For the most part, emotion can be used by the UX Pro to convey importance, connection or nostalgia.

Here is a point to remember, while we (well me in particular) love to focus on the future of UX, it is all to easy to forget some of the important fields that converged to create what we now know as User Experience, such as advertising (unusual choice I know but hear me out and see below clip). Emotional design has been around for a  very long time and the use of emotional design within technology is eloquently, and expertly, displayed from this classic scene from “Mad Men” which I think is a great TV series, and should be compulsory viewing for all UX professionals. Technology does not have to be boring or featureful instead make it relevant and important. This is why lean startup mentors encourage finding 100 happy users with just a single feature.

What do you think, is this video one of the best analogies for a “User Experience”? Comment below!

I just love the speech from “Don Draper”.

Technology is a glittering lure. But there is the rare occasion when the public can be engaged on a level beyond flash, if they have a sentimental bond with the product.

My first job, I was in house at a fur company with this old pro copywriter, Greek, named Teddy.

And Teddy told me the most important idea in advertising was ‘new.’ Creates an itch. You simply put your product in there as a kind of calamine lotion.

But he also talked about a deeper bond with the product: nostalgia. It’s delicate, but potent.

Teddy told me that in Greek nostalgia literally means ‘the pain from an old wound.’

It’s a twinge in your heart, far more powerful than memory alone.

This device isn’t a space ship. It’s a time machine. It goes backwards, forwards. Takes us to a place where we ache to go again.

It’s not called ‘The Wheel.’ It’s called ‘The Carousel.’

It lets us travel the way a child travels. Around and around and back home again to a place where we know we are loved.

The best UX portfolio the world has never seen!

For Video, and to avoid my discourse, skip to bottom of the article!


There are three things in the world of UX that causes confusion and endless debate. As sure as the sun rises and sets there will be arguments about:

  1. The difference between UI and UX  (UI is not UX)
  2. Whether UX Designers really exist (UI vs UX designers) and
  3. What the heck is a UX portfolio??

I haven’t spoken out about UX portfolios previously, basically, as I feel they are a bit of a wasted effort, and sometimes think they are dumbing down the profession (better explained by Tim Jaeger here). Let me qualify that. UX is a relatively new career choice and there is still some confusion around what it is or is not. I guess some believe that as it is sometimes viewed as a creative process you should be able to demonstrate creative output e.g. a portfolio and yes this is true, for the most part, but in fact such an approach falls quite far from the mark. There are plenty of UX strategies such as ethnography or A/B testing in which the results, thereof, would not really look exciting enough to include in a traditional portfolio. Many UX professional then show an end product, such as a screenshot or wireframe, and maybe later, at the interview, perhaps, discuss how testing led them to this, almost as if the validation is not as important as the design.

Great, but doing so, they continue the cycle and enable recruiters to request flash and shizzle over problem solving and process. As suggested by Jeff Gothelf, back in 2011, a UX portfolio tells you the owner can draw in straight lines, not entirely true but funny enough.

I’ll admit it, I have never had a User Experience portfolio. I’ve never needed one for a job interview, my degrees and publications usually speak about my ability. Most of my consulting work comes from referrals, which tends to speak about my expertise. However, lately I am seeing more and more UX professionals creating portfolios as a defacto standard, especially as I look for more exciting work myself. Candidates do it without thinking, they do it because they need to to  move on and get a job and a UX portfolio is just part of the process. I see this as a trend to continue and I myself am feeling pressured to create one.

So I thought long and hard about it… I thought about who the person viewing a portfolio would be; most likely a recruiter, potential employer or someone looking for project work. Even covertly profiled a few of them on Linkedin, checked what type of updates they post (I’m sure a few know who I mean 🙂 ). I figured out their age, type of job, location, probably salary, what websites they look at, how they pass their time, procrastinate  etc. Basically I considered them all as the users and the portfolio as the product. I looked at existing problems with current UX portfolios, sections  taken out of context, viewers bounce from wire frame to sketch and back. They pause, grab a coffee, have a chat and return later. UX-ers maybe put in too much projects or not enough, the viewer never knows what to expect but still is rarely surprised. I considered the context of use, laboriously scrolling through dozens of CV’s and portfolios doing their best to stay awake and remember one responsive design from the last. How much review work is done on a tablet, phablet or smartphone?

I decided the viewer needed to be held by the hand and taken through the project as if I was giving a presentation e.g. start to finish, no pauses. Video, therefore, would work better than a slideshow, YouTube could be better than Slideshare or Behance. I decided that the video should be engaging, stimulating, follow trends of casual timewasting (e.g. cat videos). Cool music, short text, fast content and a touch of humour were the main ingredients to the peripheral experience, a UX journey from problem to solution the content.

With an idea for a video portfolio I found myself at a loss for content; funnily enough. Most of my work is with government funded clients with NDA’s so I certainly couldn’t put them on YouTube. I decided to do a test run on my last mobile app startup “Closr” which unfortunately in now on indefinite “pause”. The video covers a range of UX methods I used, starting with a business objective and ending with a product and external validation. It actually took a couple of days to do, I really enjoyed the process and I am happy with the result. So much so I have started on a second one!!

I would really love if this type of UX portfolio takes off. I know I would love to grab a coffee and look at short 2-3 min videos of how other people approach UX problems. In fact, I think I would learn a lot! It would make our profession more transparent and less confusing to outsiders. Perhaps even make the process fun for recruiters as well. Let me know what you think and link back if you have a similar UX Video portfolio.

Here it is!! It is rough and ready, more of a ‘test the water’ piece to gauge reaction. And if you want to hire me, feel free!! 😉

UX vs UI (Designers)

We have spoken a lot at UXR about the differences between UI and UX. Another topic that comes up frequently is does a UX Designer actually exist? Generally you cannot “create” an experience in the same way as you can a interface. For example, an interface can be designed and several users may have differing experiences using it, it is kinda impossible to design an experience in the same manner.

Anyway, digression aside, the point of this post is to highlight an excellent visualization from Ana Harris about the differences between UX and UI designers. We think it is pretty cool 🙂051d3fbc-3b71-4301-b162-3bf93d72c029-original

Top UX myths; because sometimes it’s easier to explain what it’s not!

UX-MythsSometimes clients who are new to the magical and mysterious world of UX can be a little overwhelmed and confounded when we (UX professionals) try to explain it (UX). To get their head around such a massive multidisciplinary domain with involvement of interesting fields such as national culture, ethnography, economics and sociology as well as the more traditional fields of computing, psychology and design.

In fact sometimes, when a client is still struggling to figure it out or how it fits into their product roadmap or customer experience it helps to fall back on a few misconceptions and explain what exactly UX is not, and perhaps clear up a few myths.

Here is the happy list of such Myths which seems to be ever evolving, compiled by UX designer Zoltán Gócza

And here is the wonderful series of posters that were compiled to explain them from Alessandro Giammaria. For sure I have a few on my walls!

Some of my favourite:

  • UX is a step in a process
  • All the design myths
  • People use your product as you imagine them to
  • You are like your users
  • Millers magic number!