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Previous Essays 2005
- #49 – How to make a difference - How do you know you’re adding value to the things that matter?
- #48 – Good, evil and technology – Are you a good person? How do you know? Can you apply similiar critieria to what you make?
- #47 – Teams and stars – Can you balance star egos with the needs of a team? What makes good teams work and how do stars fit?
- #46 – Why software sucks (and what to do about it) – Why is so much of what’s made so bad? Here’s some fun opinions and advice.
- #45 – Work vs. Progress – They are not the same thing. Find out why and what to do about it.
- #44 – How to learn from your mistakes – If some mistakes are unavoidable, the smart learn everything they can from them.
- #43 – How to survive a bad manager – What to do when you work for someone who doesn’t know what they’re doing.
- #42 – Why you must lead or follow – The way teams work, you must know where you stand.
- #41 – Why I left Microsoft – A personal essay on why I left Microsoft after nearly a decade working there.
- #40 – Why smart people defend bad ideas – I’ve catalogued many of the ways this happens, including advice on prevention.
- #39 – How to interview and hire people – An approach for getting the most out of a 60 minute interview.
- #38 – How to pitch an idea – Here’s a short primer on how to pitch ideas and concepts to other people.
Previous Essays 2004
- #37 – How to build a better web browser – Thoughts on how to improve on the current generation of web browsers.
- #36 – The mistakes of version 1.0 – How to avoid common management and psychological mistakes of version 1.0 projects.
- #35 – How to give and receive criticism – Here’s a short guide on both sides of feedback.
- #34 – How to run a brainstorming meeting – The most important thing about a brainstorming session is what happens after it ends.
- #33 – How to survive creative burnout – Here’s advice on accepting, dealing with, and working through toasty days.
- #31/32 – What they didn’t teach me – part 1 / part 2 – Ten years ago I graduated from CMU – here’s some of what I wish I’d been taught about UI work.
- #30 Programmers, designers and the Brooklyn Bridge – The engineering of web sites and software has bred a hubris that anything older than a few years can’t possibly be relevant, and I think it’s a mistake.
- #29 – The problem with training (and what to do about it) – Advice on running training events.
- #28 – How to manage smart people -There are some basic concepts behind what good managers do, especially when they’re managing smart people.
- #27 – The art of usability benchmarking – Usability benchmarking is one way to get a longer term view of how easy to use things are.
- #26 The myth of discoverability – Design is a zero sum game, and you have to carefully choose which elements should take priority at a given time
- #25 Notes for job seekers – Some good advice for those seeking employment, particularly college grads.
- #24 – How to get the most out of conferences – Conferences are what you make of them. If you’re not sure why you’re going, or what you want to get out of the experience, you’re unlikely to get it.
- #23 – How to run a design critique – Critique meetings are one way to make sure teammates are involved, while maintaining a high level of design dialogue and quality idea discussion.
- #22: The long list of reasons ease of use doesn’t happen – I’ve compiled a list of the most common reasons engineering projects don’t result in something that’s easy to use. It covers diverse topics such as customer confusion, the impact of code architecture, the spinal tap commemorative reason, and more.
- #21: Designing on both sides of your brain- There is every reason to use logical and creative approaches when working on any kind of design problem. The best designers know how to switch between approaches, and bring together both kinds of thinking into a process for discovering and crafting the best ideas.
- #20: Strategic Usability: Partnering business, engineering, and ease of use – It’s easy to fall into working in response to how things are going, instead of using usability engineering as a way to help lead a team in the right direction. Thinking strategically about the connections between business goals, and engineering practices can can help.
- #19: Leadership in Collaboration: film making and interaction design – There are useful parallels between making films and making web sites or software products. We’d be wise to study how they manage creativity, and how our divisions of effort, and means of collaboration, compare and contrast.
- Essay: The role of project managers in design This describes the role that I played as program manager for IE5.0, and the basic process we used (the essay is derived from an old post to chiweb). It’s a good anecdote as to how one team managed the cross discipline work of design and usability, with the engineering and development process
- #18: Strategies of influence in interaction design: Unless you have the power to make business and development decisions for your project, some of your energy will be spent influencing those that do. It’s the smartest and most effective designers that work to understand the principles of influence, and how it effects the decision making process.
- Best of chi-web and sigia: Summary posts from the last two years of the chi-web discussion list, plus some from sigia. Covers topics range from usability strategies to web design and information architecture techniques.
- #17: The myth of optimal web design: You can’t make anything that’s perfect – or at least that’s what I argue in this essay about the conflicting goals and practices of web design.
- Interactionary Design Competition Summary / Resources: Descriptions of past competitions, FAQ, and guidebook for anyone that wants to run their own. Includes pictures, design problems, and other materials from CHI 2000 and CHI 2001.
- #16: Critical thinking in design part 3: project management: Designs must be realized to change the world. How does project management intersects with the challenges of design? How can a manager enable great designs to reach the customer?
- #15: Critical thinking in design part 2: idea generation ;: How do you cultivate good ideas? What process do you use? This issue discusses part two of critical thinking, and how it relates to generating and managing good ideas in design.
- Interactionary 2001: A live UI Design competition
At CHI 2001 we did our second competition format. Teams of usability engineers and designers from IBM, Cooper Design, and Trilogy solved design problems live on stage in front of an audience.
- #14: Critical thinking in design
At the heart of design and engineering is critical thinking. The ability to separate what is worthwhile from what isn’t is the hallmark of the best in many fields, from film directors to project managers, programmers to designers.
- The role of flow in web design
How can a design make your web pages feel natural for users? How do you achieve flow in site navigation and design structure?
- The art of UI prototyping
It takes a certain craft to know how and when to build prototypes of web designs or software designs. This primer of prototyping explains when and how to build them.
- Why great technologies don’t make great designs
This essay explains why so many technologies fail to solve people’s problems, and offers a business and engineering philosophy for creating better technologies.
- The web shouldn’t be a comedy of errors
Web designers create as many bad error messages as software designers – read this primer on how to review and improve your site’s error messages.
- Fitts’s UI law applied to the web
The basics of HCI and usability apply to the web, and Fitts’s law is a good place to start.
- Why good design comes from bad design
Ever wonder why design is hard? This explains a personal philosophy on approaching design problems.
- UI that Kills: swords, craft, and user interfaces
What can we learn about web design and software design from swords? Intimacy and desirability are key elements for all forms of interaction design.
1999 / 98
- The power of the usability lab
This is the core argument for why usability labs offer a strategic advantage to anyone that invests in them. This is a good primer for usability engineers or designers to give to their teams.
- How to avoid foolish consistency
Consistency can be useful or destructive, depending on how it’s applied. This essay explains when it’s useful, and how to be smart in its application.
- The Importance of Simplicity
How can simplicity be achieved in web design and software design? What is the argument for designing for simplicity?
- The essential bookshelf for Web & Interface design
The basic starting set for those new to web design or software design.
- Making usable websites and designs: informal process
For those working alone and with short schedules, here is an informal process for building design and usability into any project.
- Three insights into good design
Why do we make so many poorly designed technologies?