Introducing Startup Series: A Day Long Event on the Product Process

Startup Series - Charming Robot

When I was 27 I moved to NYC to join my first start up. Want to know what our biggest mistake was? First, we tried to figure everything out on our own. Second, we didn’t launch soon enough. Third, our product was anything but “minimal”, I think we actually went for Maximum Viable Product! I know, I know, pretty crazy.

I’m glad I had that experience because it’s helped me have a lot of advice and stories for people as they build their startups and products. I’m super passionate about helping entrepreneurs, founders, designs, developers, and anyone who works at a startup avoid these mistakes. Hopefully, they end up doing a few more things right that we did, and in turn, give their products a greater chance of success.

My friends at Charming Robot, a leading UX Agency in New York City, share this passion for educating people about the product design process. They’ve created an amazing day long event, Startup Series, which will take place on Saturday, May 10 in New York City.Continue reading

Get Started In User Experience: The Case For Research

Anytime you get an idea, it’s easy to get married to that idea very quickly. This is definitely true of anyone who creates or designs. You like your clever solutions and you really want to see them make it into your product.

The problem is that a lot of times, people get married to these ideas before they’re ever considered in the context of the user. It’s easy to let excitement for a design or new bit of technology to drive the feature rather than the other way around.

I think a lot of people do this because they base the design on assumptions. And yes, when I first started out, I’m sure I made a lot of assumptions and justified a lot of things without talking to actual users (so bad, I know!!!).Continue reading

Getting Started In User Experience: A Usability Research Example

For people who are just getting started in user experience, I think one area that can seem daunting is usability research. To put it simply, usability research is the process of evaluating how people perceive and use a product — drawing insights from observing them interact with it.

It doesn’t have to be a overly complicated, time consuming, or expensive process. However, I don’t advocate the “coffee shop” method that some people talk about. Sitting in a Starbucks and asking random people what they think of your product is not taking into account the most important factor of all — who that person is and whether or not they are the intended type of person for your product.

Sure, if you want a quick gut reaction or a set of fresh eyes, I suppose the coffee shop method is good. But please, please, please consider the context of that feedback! I’ve seen a few bad ideas be validated or good ideas be ruined by this exercise!Continue reading

Getting Started In UX: Changing The Mindset Of UX Ownership

Almost two years ago I wrote a post called Why Everyone Can’t Be A User Experience Designer. The post came at a time when I was working internal at a company and was faced with a massive amount of input on how the product. Of course, input is always great — it’s much better than silence. The main problem was that the input was very, very specific and I was often asked to implement this input literally rather than drill down into the true ask behind the input. As a result, it felt like everyone was trying to be the user experience designer. The changing UX ownership made it challenging for me to do great work.

I recently read a post called User Experience Belongs To Everybody by Cap Watkins (@cap) who is a design lead at Etsy. In the post Cap writes, “lately, it has occurred to me that the user experience of a product actually doesn’t and shouldn’t belong solely to the designer.”

I have to agree with Cap. The user experience is not just about someone’s interaction with your website or app. The user experience goes beyond the screen. The user experience encapsulates every single interaction someone has with your brand. Given that today brands have many different touch-points (email, social media, customer service, printed material, etc) it’s seemingly impossible for one person to own the entire user experience.Continue reading

Get Started In UX & Some Plans For 2014

As we approach the end of the year (and yes, like you I’m thinking where exactly did the year go?), I’ve been doing a lot of planning for next year. One thing I know is that a lot of people want to know how to get started in UX.

One thing that I’m quite passionate about is teaching. In fact, my first teaching gig was teaching piano lessons to children when I was in high school.

A few years ago, I co-developed the curriculum for and taught the first 12 week course on user experience design for General Assembly. General Assembly’s had a lot of success with the long form courses and there are many more topics offered around the world. My experiencing the General Assembly course on user experience design was fantastic and I really loved interacting with the students and seeing them develop their own product ideas.

Shortly after that, I decided to go out on my own and work independently. Unsurprisingly, the hustle of working for myself didn’t leave much time to devote to teaching. But the good news is that in the last few months, I’ve been getting back into teaching!!

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Getting Started In User Experience Design: Consider Your Intentions

It’s no secret, the field of user experience is quite popular and demand for UX professionals is increasing as so many companies recognize the value of a good experience — and more importantly, the expectation that people have for a great experience.

But, before you decide that you want to get started in UX, you should consider your intentions.

Do you want to get into user experience because it’s popular? Or, are you considering a career in user experience because you think it’s a good match for you — your passions, interests, and strengths?Continue reading

Getting Started In User Experience Design: Tools of the trade

A lot of people ask me what tools they need to learn in order to get started in user experience design. The truth is, I really don’t like this question! There’s a misconception that knowing a tool will somehow elevate you in the job market.

It doesn’t matter how well you know how the tool. What matters is what you do with that tool. What matters is how you use that tool to communicate ideas, to rapidly test concepts, and to help create a story that everyone on your team can participate in and contribute to.

My career started when someone gave me an early copy of Dreamweaver and Photoshop and told me to make a website about something I was interested in. So, I made a website about a fake ski resort. Though seemingly a silly exercise, it was fundamental in my understanding of how design and technology must work together. In doing that little project, I remember being less intimidated by actuallyContinue reading

Getting Started In UX: On Becoming Technically Literate

A few years ago I developed and taught General Assembly’s first 12 week user experience course along with Dan Maccarone. One of the classes focused on development and in that class, I spoke about the need to become technically literate.

I started my career learning HTML, CSS, and Cold Fusion. In hindsight, I am so very thankful and thrilled that my career path involved getting technical. Through the process of learning to code, I realized some very important lessons and skills that I use every single day. Here are some of the things I learned as a result of becoming (and staying) technically literate. Continue reading

Getting Started In UX: What’s your one thing?

Jason Goldberg, founder of, wrote a great blog post about the only question your startup needs to answer, “what’s your one thing” (sorry, the blog post is no longer available) t online anymore). The premise of the post is that throughout his career as a serial entrepreneur, he’s realized that to be successful, you need to have a laser focus on one thing.

So why is it important to identify this one thing?

Without that focus, that thesis if you will, you risk not having some type of guiding principle or compass helping you navigate the twists and turns that come with product and business development. That one thing will help keep your team focused on that over-arching theme or goal and hopefully minimize the time that you can so easily spend being stuck in the weeds of features, pixels, and process.Continue reading