Posts about User experience


Bringing together personas, jobs to be done, and customer journey maps

Is this something you've been wanting to do? Here's how these three tools fit together, in one diagram (and some supporting paragraphs of text). 

I've tried to keep this as jargon-free as possible.

What's the difference?

Personas provide humanizing context. What kind of emotional experiences does the person want? What is their social and physical environment? 

Job to be done provides the functional steps toward the desired outcome, and how you know if the user has achieved their desired end goal. 

A journey map provides the framework that holds it all together, and allows you to view the human context and the functional desires over the timeline of your choice. 

As a reminder, all of these tools should be based firmly in qualitative (and, if you have it, quantitative) research. 

Do you need jobs, personas, AND journeys? 

It depends. 

Without personas, jobs bury emotional and social needs under a thick layer of functional analysis. Jobs quickly become cold, clinical, and divorced from the kind of humanity that inspires creativity. 

Without an anchor in the desired outcomes of jobs, personas can sway easily into the troubling realms of unrealistically specific, overly vague, biased, or just completely prejudiced. 

Without journeys, it's easy to get lost in details and lose sight of both the scope of experience you're focusing on, and the scope of experience you may have intentionally or unintentionally set aside.  

There are many other factors to consider, and this post is in no way exhaustive. 

So what?

As with all of design, there's no one true answer. Choose your poison carefully, and let us know how it goes! If you need help, we offer both public and private training on personas and journey mapping.

We hear a lot of confusion about "personas vs. jobs to be done" or "jobs to be done vs. journey maps." In this post, a potentially clarifying framework. 

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Reflection: The Pause That Gives Insight, Part One

Diagram hypnosis and analysis paralysis

Hannah du Plessis and Marc Rettig, Fit Associates


“Always make room for the unexpected in yourself.”

- Steve Martin


The fear of the blank whiteboard

We’re standing in a project room. Every inch of wall is covered with photographs from the field. Fat black arrows point to portrayals of key moments. Quotes on sticky notes form colorful clusters. Diagrams of space, ritual, and process complement the persona-faces looking back at us from the wall. And now it’s idea time. After the intensity of research and analysis comes the challenge of conceiving the right thing. How do we create concepts that are both good for business and responsible to the lives we have glimpsed through all this data?

We have all experienced that moment when the true complexity of life challenges the powers of our imagination. We are asked to translate complexity into concepts, but the complexity can be overwhelming and its patterns elusive. Together we turn to a blank whiteboard, we crack open a fresh pad of Post-Its, and feel the pressure to find The Answer.

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We have all experienced that moment when the true complexity of life challenges the powers of our imagination. We are asked to translate complexity into concepts, but the complexity can be overwhelming and its patterns elusive. Together we turn to a blank whiteboard, we crack open a fresh pad of Post-Its, and feel the pressure to find The Answer.

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A Public Display of Interface

Graphic Design from the Collection, May 14–October 23, 2016, SFMOMA, Floor 6

The last time I visited SFMOMA was 3 years ago, just before they closed for a major expansion of the museum. I worked on an interface that had just won an interaction design award several months prior to my visit and was on a designer’s high, daydreaming as I walked through the museum, wondering, would a modern art museum, like SFMOMA ever feature the design of something like an interface? Maybe I could be part of that history, contributing to an innovative interface or at least one little icon. 


Amused by the idea that one day there could be an exhibition detailing the mode of interface style throughout the years, I imagined the possible exhibits celebrating a functional, digital aesthetic.

Consenting Affordances: Web vs. Desktop and their Lovechild, Mobile

Wistful Analog: Skeuomorphism and the Rise of Flatland

Extravagant Limitations: Evolution of the Application Icon

Window Shopping: The Armors of Netscape, Explorer, Firefox, and Chrome


Could something like a 16x16 icon be on display in a modern art museum? Would something so tiny and digital be considered too silly and insignificant to rest under the same roof as a Rauschenberg, O'Keefe, or Warhol? With the awakening of a new SFMOMA, the interface daydreaming stopped and revealed a new reality: the recognition of an artform whose infancy rivals that of Pop Art but until now has yet to be collected, to tell a new story, found on floor 6 in the exhibit: Typeface to Interface.

Typeface to Interface.

I was reunited with those interface exhibition dreams during the opening of the overwhelmingly airy and far-too-much-to-see-in-a-day new SFMOMA. The 170,000 square feet of exhibition space turns the museum into one of the largest art museums in the United States (larger than the New York MOMA and The Getty Center in Los Angeles) making SFMOMA one of the largest museums in the world specifically focusing on modern and contemporary art. 

The exhibit takes selected work from the museum's permanent graphic design collection (spanning as far back as 1950) and joins it with examples of graphic design that has shaped the development of the interface – our modern day means of visual communication. Posters, visual communication systems, and annual reports are interwoven with a variety of technology platforms: the desktop interface, the stylus, and the mobile touchscreen – the tools and methods we’ve used to communicate via the interface. Underlying all of this are the foundations of visual design and as a result an understanding of human behavior.

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With the awakening of a new SFMOMA, the interface daydreaming stopped and revealed a new reality: the recognition of an artform whose infancy rivals that of Pop Art but until now has yet to be collected, to tell a new story, found on floor 6 in the exhibit: Typeface to Interface. 

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The Secret to Giving Away Secrets

There’s a baker in San Francisco named Josey. He owns a popular bakery and coffee shop called The Mill. Josey’s bread is really good, but it’s also not cheap. Loaves sell for $7 and up. And they sell toast — with toppings like almond butter, cream cheese or house-made jam—for $4 a slice. This is a lot of money for toast, but it’s so good that people line up down the block to buy it. It is that good. 

Josey also wrote a cookbook teaching people new to breadmaking about how to make bread. He writes in an approachable, un-intimidating style. Joseys’ basic message:making bread is easy.  

In the same way Josey sells bread, and teaches people how to make bread—we do the same thing at the design consultancy where I work, Cooper. We sell our design services to clients. And as part of those projects, we also teach clients about design and our design process.

That sounds crazy.  

Why teach people how to design (or bake bread)? If you teach everyone how to design (or bake bread), then no one will buy your design services (or your bread). Well, the opposite actually is true.

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How design consulting is becoming more about teaching design (especially to non-designers)

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Sound Design: From the Ears of a Motion Designer

...How do you communicate with a user when their eyes aren’t glued to their screen? As a motion designer, I firmly believe that motion design is a critical consideration in the world of experience design. As I’m learning more about sound design, I’m realizing that it is equally critical to a user’s experience.

A few months ago, I was inspired by Adi Robertson’s article, “Sound Decision” in which she covers the audio branding created by Skype. Sound is something I pay particular attention to; maybe it’s my love of music that influences my interest or that I am intrigued by experiences that touch on multiple senses. I really believe that sound is an area that should be explored and considered when creating unique experiences for people who are constantly bugged to look at their screens.

I’m not talking about pops and pings that demand your attention to the screen, I want blips and bloops that reinforce interactions I have made without picking up my phone to see that I “got it right.”

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A few months ago, I was inspired by Adi Robertson’s article, “Sound Decision” in which she covers the audio branding created by Skype. Sound is something I pay particular attention to; maybe it’s my love of music that influences my interest or that I am intrigued by experiences that touch on multiple senses. I really believe that sound is an area that should be explored and considered when creating unique experiences for people who are constantly bugged to look at their screens.  

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Classification and Design

Us | Taxonomy | The World 

I’ve been interested in classification and taxonomy for a long time. Categories are everywhere, and we use them intentionally or unintentionally to understand a lot of stuff. They’re also great at slithering away when you try to pin them down. In this short series of posts, I want to explore how classification manifests in design, what its relationship is to other popular design concepts like mental models, and what kind of new lens it can provide for understanding how people understand.

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In this article, I explore how thinking about design work explicitly through a lens of classification. We think in categories and so do the tools that we use, and they make suggestions about how we should classify the world. By paying attention to this process of classification, we gain a new tool to see how people understand the world and how our products can, for better or worse, change how they see the world.

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Against Infinite Scroll

I was recently part of a Cooper Slack conversation about infinite scrolling navigation.

"I hate infinite scroll," I said. 

"👆," several people responded. 

"But why?" asked someone else.

In my worldview, infinite scroll has three major failings. I’ve listed them here from least to most important. 

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A user experience critique of infinite scrolling as a navigation pattern, based on a Slack conversation with colleagues at Cooper. 

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Uncovering Service Design Opportunities: A Checklist

You understand your customer’s experience and your back of house service delivery processes. Maybe you’ve even created a service blueprint or a value chain map. You’re ready to take on the world! Or rather, the service system. Use this handy checklist to make sure you don’t miss any major opportunities. 

We’ve identified five primary categories of service design opportunity. The first three are the most obvious and the most essential, and the final two are what we recommend for organizations who are ready to tackle the future.  

The next time you're reviewing a customer journey map or service blueprint, use this list to help you think through all the types of potential improvements that might be possible.

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You understand your customer’s experience and your back of house service delivery processes. Maybe you’ve even created a service blueprint or a value chain map. You’re ready to take on the world! Or rather, the service system. Use this handy checklist to make sure you don’t miss any major opportunities. 

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Customer Journey Map or Service Blueprint?

If you have a hammer, everything is a nail. If you have a service blueprint, everything is a detail to be nailed down, even if those details don’t contribute to your ultimate goal. To design and deploy services, it’s crucial to have both journey maps and service blueprints in your tool kit. This post will help you determine which tool is right for the job. 

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To design and deploy services, it’s crucial to have both journey maps and service blueprints in your tool kit. This post will help you determine which tool is right for the job. 

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Visual Design for White Labelled Products

Designing a product with the intention of being “white labelled” means that you are creating a software for a client to incorporate into their existing (visual language) system. Every now and then design consultants are hired by another consultant to work on a third party’s existing system. This what you call a super white label. Here, you not only have to consider your client’s needs, but your client’s client’s needs, too. It can be easy to start designing with everyone’s goals in mind and eventually lose focus, leaving no one satisfied in the end. These are some basic tips I’ve found that to help start and manage a white labelled project. 


It can be easy to start designing with everyone’s goals in mind and eventually lose focus, leaving no one satisfied in the end.

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