April 1 meeting – user research: cheap, easy and agile

by: Michael Seidel | 2014

User research: cheap, easy and agile 

Presented by Kate Gomoll

When: April 1, 2014 6:30pm
Where: Braise (1101 S. 2nd Street, SECOND FLOOR)
Cost: FREE!
RSVP: Here (note: you are not required to RSVP to attend. Feel free to just show up!)


Kate Gomoll, president and founder of Gomoll Research & Design, is well known for her field research expertise. She has managed and conducted user research for many companies like Apple, GE Healthcare, Hewlett-Packard, Johnson Controls, and Yahoo!

In her mkeUX presentation, Kate will share what she’s learned in her 20+ years of conducting field user research. She’ll also give ideas about how you can integrate field research into your organization’s UX practice.

Read an interview with Kate about Field Research Fundamentals.

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ux book club milwaukee

by: Mike Kornacki | 2014

My good friend Angelina Cole (@amcole526) is rebooting the UX Book Club here in Milwaukee and wants to kick everything off on January 22nd. I can’t think of a better person to run this club than her!

Angelina was kind enough to write a blog post about the club and what she hopes to accomplish with it. So, here it is…

Since September I’d been looking for a way to become more integrated into the Milwaukee UX community. A friend of mine tipped me off to the MKEUX group and after hearing Mike talk about bringing UX culture to an organization, I was energized.


I searched for a book club in MKE to shore up gaps in my knowledge as it dawned on me that UX was something I was extremely and innately passionate about. To my dismay, the one that was listed in MKE was defunct both online and on LinkedIn. I wrote out a few emails and posted on the wall asking for details on the next meeting and heard nothing for quite some time.


In that time I spoke with some other connections in the industry. While talking to one of them over Skype, she suggested I hold myself and the community accountable in knowledge-sharing and start a book club of my very own. After we hung up the call I considered the concept for a good 30 minutes.


The more I thought about it, the more I couldn’t let go of the idea.


My own list of reading had grown over a foot tall so I rationalized that the best way to kick start that immense learning project was to seek a community to keep me accountable. In December, I started the book club on


You can join myself and 20 complete strangers at and on January 22 (location details coming soon) to discuss Tom and Dave Kelley’s Creative Confidence. We hope to see you there!

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6 questions about usability testing from a newbie

by: Michael Seidel | 2013

My friend Jamie is starting to head up usability testing efforts in her company. As part of her learning process, she asked me a few questions about how I test. So I decided to publish the answers here.

One thing that I’ll say is that I’m increasingly wary of relying on usability testing to “validate” designs. I truly believe that to get a project right, you need to involve end users in feedback sessions, starting at the wireframe stage. Basically, talk to people every week. Involve everyone in your project team in the research by encouraging them attend sessions and ask questions. Or show them recordings of the feedback sessions.

Usability testing is still a must when it gets to that stage. But many problems can be avoided if you involve users constantly in the design process.

That said, here are my answers to Jamie’s questions!

Who from the project should be involved in the process of deciding what to test?
I usually sit down with a Product Manager, a Business Analyst, members of the User Experience Team, and any other critical stakeholder to discuss research goals, objectives, and timing. After that meeting, I create and circulate a one page research plan to summarize/formalize what we’ve agreed on.

How do you determine what to test?
It all comes out of this the discussion with PMs, BAs, UX, and stakeholders. In my world, I’d say everything should be usability tested! It should be an ongoing cycle.

Is there a typical duration for a test, or at least a good standard for software testing? And what’s a good number of tasks to have someone complete during a test?
I lumped these two questions together because they’re related. This is definitely an area where a researcher can’t be rigid. There’s no right answer to either of these. As a rule of thumb, however, I’d suggest no more tha 1½ hr & two scenarios. But I’ve done longer sessions with four scenarios and shorter lasting 15 minutes with a single scenario.

If the project team decides there is a TON to test, I’d say two things:

  1. You should have done research much earlier in the process
  2. Consider splitting things up into multiple testing initiatives. Make each session more focused rather than trying to do everything in a single effort.

Is it better to put a time constraint on a task to determine if the user “failed” the task, or is it better to just let them keep working, no matter how long it takes?
In planning for research, every element should be roughly timeboxed. Meaning if you have two scenarios, each should have a timeframe associate with it, and you should also know how long your introduction and follow-up questionnaires will take. Not to say you have to follow these timeframes exactly. But they should frame the overall discussion. This is how you ensure that you don’t waste the user’s time and end up keeping them longer than they anticipated.

That said, sometimes users just flounder. Even if that happens, you should have “back up” questions that fill time and still extract value from the session. Facilitating gets easier the more you do it. At first, struggling users can make a session super difficult. But as you get more experienced, you learn more and more how to draw users out of funks.

The best feedback usually comes when things go off-script. So just be patient and ask good questions! On the rare occasion that the session becomes painful, don’t feel bad about wrapping up early. Just tell them you got through everything you needed to get through and they can have the rest of their morning/afternoon back to him or herself!

Have any tips on intervention to help a user along with a task if they’re stuck on something?
This is related to the above. But specifically, keep asking open-ended questions. If after a few tries, they can’t come up with an answer, by all means “give the answer away.” Especially if it’s a critical step in completing a process and you need feedback on the next step. Just have a discussion centered around the right answer. Ask what you could do to have made it more obvious or if they have other ideas that could make it easier to interact with.

If you do put a fail time on a task, where do you get that number from? Is there a rule of thumb, like, the amount of time it takes me (the SME) to do it, times 5 or something?
I honestly haven’t done much time on task testing. But I’m not sure that there’s a magic equation (though I could be wrong…any quantitative researchers want to correct me?). Especially one based on how long it takes a SME to do something versus an actual end user. I’d say that it also comes down to how familiar a user is with a design – are you testing enhancements to an existing design? Or something brand new? If a user is interacting with a design for the first time, it’ll obviously take more time than it will after they learn how to use it.

Thanks for asking these questions, Jamie!

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weekist links: week ending december 20

by: Mike Kornacki | 2013

A short roundup of good things we’ve read/watched/listened to in the last 7 days. Sometimes about UX, sometimes not. All things you can learn from.

photo: Brian Dettmer’s “Book Autopsies”

  1. How is your closure experience.
  2. Somm – This is a super entertaining documentary about wine sommeliers.
  3. Great videos on Agile user research.
  4. Merry Christmas from CGI Chuck Norris.
  5. Should the United States have 6 Californias?
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how we designed the new mkeUX

by: Michael Seidel | 2013

When we launched this site waaaay back in 2010, we had one goal: Simplicity

We understood most people were visiting the site to find out about our meetups. So we designed it around communicating info about meetings.

It looked like this:


As time passed, we started writing micro-posts about the upcoming presentations, so we had to link people off from the main page to the main blog page. This started to break the simplicity and cohesiveness of the design.

Also, as we move deeper into the two thousand teens, responsiveness and all that become more and more of an imperative. Our site wasn’t responsive. Add lack of responsiveness to lack of simplicity and you get REDESIGN.

So what you’re looking at today is that REDESIGN.

We’ve done the following:

  • Kept focus on upcoming meetings
  • Made the site responsive
  • Integrated the blog into the main page design

It’s nothing uber-fancy. But that’s what we’re going for: scaled back, cut and dry. As long as you can get info about meetings, we feel we’ve done our job.

We’d love to get your thoughts as a user of the site. Please leave feedback on this post and let us know how we did.

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october 22 meeting – mapping ux culture

by: Michael Seidel | 2013

Mapping UX Culture
Presented by Mike Kornacki

When: Tuesday, October 22, 2013 at 6:30pm
Where: Lighburn (325 East Chicago Street, SECOND FLOOR) Hey, here’s a map!
Cost: FREE!
RSVP: Here (note: you are not required to RSVP to attend. Feel free to just show up!)

Did you ever feel like you are the only one in your organization who “get’s it”? You’re not alone. The UX field is still pretty young and was born out of necessity. But how do you get the rest of your organization to drink the yummy UX goodness?

Let Mike Kornacki show you how he did it at Johnson Controls.

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september 17 meeting – transformation through design

by: Michael Seidel | 2013

Transformation through Design
Presented by Jeremy White and Katie Barnes

When: Tuesday, September 17, 2013 at 6:30pm
Where: Stone Creek Coffee Factory – 2nd floor tasting room  (422 N 5th Street, Milwaukee)
Cost: FREE! But you buy your own coffee/goodies
RSVP: Facebook

User experience is more than user flows and wireframes. It is an opportunity to become a design leader. Transform yourself from a technician into a problem solver, and transform your organization or team into a supportive environment that will help you engage your users. We’ll discuss a few topics that may help you with your transformation journey.


After the presentation, join us for a social hour drink at Burnhearts (2599 S Logan Ave) in Bay View.

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weekist links: week ending may 24th

by: Mike Kornacki | 2013


A short roundup of good things we’ve read/watched/listened to in the last 7 days. Sometimes about UX, sometimes not. All things you can learn from.

  1. Amazon’s new headquarter design is pretty amazing.
  2. Microsoft announced the Xbox One on Tuesday. Here’s what you need to know about it.
  3. Upping Your Type Game
  4. Two words – pantone underwear.
  5. Doodling – amazing.
  6. How about some Fresh Cut Grass Vodka?
  7. Biblioburro: The amazing story of a mobile library on the back of a donkey
  8. Like technology, politics, and culture? You MUST subscribe to the recently re-launched Benjamen Walker’s Theory of Everything
  9. The Midwest UX 2013 conference is accepting proposals for presentations. Takes place in October in Grand Rapids, MI. GO SUBMIT.
  10. If you have a toddler, buy them the Petting Zoo iPad app. It’s the best. Hell, as an adult, you’ll probably spend waaaaaaaay too much time having fun with it yourself.
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accessibility across mediums

by: Michael Seidel | 2013

Guest post by Steve Grobschmidt of

I’ve gotten a lot of mileage telling this accessibility-related story from a past job: I was in a meeting about incorporating CAPTCHA (those ridiculous riddles you’re forced to solve when filling out a web form so that the system knows you’re a real person) into all the web sites the company developed.

I was fresh into my accessibility days back then, but knew enough to caution that whatever flavor of CAPTCHA we used, it should have accessibility considerations like audio equivalents to the garbled codes.

One of the lead technical people scoffed and said, “Yeah, because blind people use the Web.” Yes, he was dead serious. To make things worse, a project manager in the room started pantomiming a blind person, giggling at himself in the process. Yes, he was an idiot.

Fast-forward a few years to when I started researching video game accessibility. I was reading an article about how many of the color palettes in the game Bioshock 2 posed significant problems for color blind gamers.

In one comment, someone bemoaned disabled people thinking “the rest of the world should cater to them.” Another gamer pointed out that there’s just some things that people with disabilities should accept they can’t do.

What’s lost in those narrow-minded rants is that people with disabilities don’t limit themselves to just “the things that only disabled people do.” Think about the hobbies you are passionate about. If you were suddenly to lose your sight, or hearing, or motor skills, you wouldn’t immediately lose your love for those activities.

Of course a person who can’t use their arms isn’t going to experience a video game the exact same way someone with full motor skills will. Listening to a movie isn’t the exact same experience as watching and listening to it.

But time and time again, creators of great user experiences find ways to open doors for the widest spectrum of people possible.

Web sites that are coded cleanly and organized, use color responsibly, have consistent navigation and concise, clear content can be fully enjoyable and useful to those with or without disabilities. The clean code and nav help screen reading devices correctly parlay the pages to blind users. The attention to color reduces obstacles for the color blind. People with cognitive disabilities have a much better shot understanding content that isn’t a convoluted mess.

Similarly, video games that have things like sub-titles, support for assistive controllers and devices, settings to brighten/darken the visuals, and mindful color contrasts at least open up avenues for disabled gamers to play, all without “watering down” the experience for everyone else. Don’t believe me? Check out this guy:

Apple and Microsoft consistently bolster the accessibility capabilities of their operating systems with each release. Amazon just announced enhancements to its Kindle iPhone app (and eventually for Kindles themselves) to make it easier for blind readers to enjoy their favorite literature through that medium.

The bottom line is that it’s much easier to make sweeping statements like, “Disabled people don’t use my product” than to take the extra time to figure out ways to enable them to get a rich user experience visiting your web site, using your application, or playing your game.

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ux job at Johnson Controls

by: Michael Seidel | 2013

Come work with mkeUX co-founders @lordshales & @michaelseidel!

Note: If you are an experienced UXer but don’t necessarily meet the listed criteria, please submit a resume anyway. We’re looking to talk to anyone UX-related, including IAs, User Researchers, UX Developers, etc! There may be an opportunity for you.

POSITION: UX Designer, Visual/Interaction Design (contract, with the potential for future hire as a permanent employee)

LOCATION: Johnson Controls, 507 E. Michigan St, Milwaukee


DUTIES: Work within a User Experience (UX) team to design interactive experiences for Web and/or mobile, meeting demanding quality standards and conforming to expected processes. Responsibilities may include:

  1. Under minimal guidance, develop innovative designs to meet requirements, including creating visual assets, screen mockups, behavioral/interaction design, and annotated wire frames.
  2. Document style guidelines and visual specifications.
  3. Provide input to design discussions; propose visual solutions and concepts.
  4. Provide work estimates for the creation of visual assets and related documentation.
  5. Present work to stakeholders for feedback and approval.
  6. Evaluate developed software for compliance to corresponding UX designs and visual specifications.
  7. Proactively report on progress and raise any issues affecting ability to complete work.
  8. Actively seek opportunities to engage with others and to take on additional tasks and responsibilities.

QUALIFICATIONS: Bachelor’s degree or equivalent experience in Graphic Design or related field of study. 5+ years of industry experience with visual problem solving as a web, interactive, software or product designer. Exceptional understanding of fundamental design principles (typography, layout, grid systems, hierarchy, color, composition) and an advanced level of expertise with Photoshop and other standard design tools. Experience in developing and communicating visual specifications. User-focused thinker who can proactively communicate and lead in creative, business, and technical discussions. Highly detail-oriented, self-motivated, highly organized, and able to work in a team environment that is fast-paced with multiple projects. Must exhibit a solid understanding of user-centered design methodologies and a high tolerance for ambiguity. Expertise in the following areas is highly desired: responsive web design, mobile design, creating interactive prototypes, information architecture, user testing, and Scrum (or other agile development methodology). Candidates must provide a portfolio demonstrating their capabilities (online preferred) and must be available for an in-person interview.

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