All posts tagged “Part”

Why you need to be part of the new breed of 21st century creatives

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As president of D&AD for 2015, I plan to celebrate a new breed of 21st century creatives. Today, we operate in an industry where the boundaries are blurred. Technology created the perfect conditions for this by providing the platform. The creative of the future will become ever more flexible, dexterous and in-demand. But it’s the people that will make it happen.

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Designing Digital Strategies, Part 2: Connected User Experiences

“A digital strategy is the who, what, when, and where of listening and responding to consumers, bridging brand experiences, iterating offerings, and collecting and activating consumer relationships in order to accomplish an actionable and measurable objective.”—Digital strategist Bud Caddell

Simply stated, a digital strategy is a plan for how to support business goals through the benefits of digital tools. Strategies guide us in major decisions by providing a sense of direction and cohesiveness to our work. Having a well defined and clear digital strategy ensures that decisions about digital channels are not made on impulse (“let’s make a new app”) or merely in response to available technology (“let’s use QR codes”) but rather as part of a coherent plan that enhances the user experience and maximizes business opportunities. However, we can only have a sense of direction after we have properly oriented ourselves—and this is where the ecosystem map helps.

Through ecosystem thinking, we can leverage business opportunities while at the same time providing better experiences for customers. The aim of this article series is to show how to apply ecosystem thinking in design projects. In the first article of this series, Digital Cartography, we discussed ecosystem thinking and how to draw ecosystem maps. In this second—and last—part we will look at how to use ecosystem maps as tools to guide us in designing digital strategies.

Digital strategy vs. business strategy

Before we get into building a digital strategy, it’s important to identify what this strategy is not.

A digital strategy is not a business strategy. A business strategy provides a long-term roadmap and budget forecasting. But technology moves too fast for a digital strategy to give an accurate 3-year plan or budget. Digital strategies are, therefore, less detailed than business strategies and they are more focused on creating a framework—consisting of policies, priorities, and people—for making strategic decisions.

Digital strategies should be based on what we know about the users from our user research and the business strategy of the company. To make sure that the intersection between user needs and business goals are taken in consideration during the design process we need a digital strategy that can guide the design and development team.

A digital strategy

Design a digital strategy, based on user needs and business goals, before you start developing new solutions.

The anatomy of a digital strategy

A clear digital strategy can ensure that we build profitable ecosystems, resulting in a cohesive user experience across multiple touchpoints. The ecosystem map shows at a high level who the users are and how we might address their needs. Next, as part of the digital strategy, we identify the specific path to reach our goals. A digital strategy should identify:

  • A digital vision and objectives. Rather than focusing on a single product or service, we should look at how we can meet the needs of users through several interconnected products and services. The company GOQii, for example, provides a wristband that monitors physical activity and sleep. They also have an app that tracks nutrition and lifestyle. In addition, they offer personal follow up advice from coaches; all of these products and services fit into an ecosystem designed for helping users achieve a healthier lifestyle.
  • The target audience. We began thinking about users when we drew the ecosystem map. In the strategy, however, we need to define our target audience much more precisely. This is also the time to prioritize the primary user: is it a working woman in her 40s, or is the product more suitable for teens?
  • Actions to reach the objective. Here, we are defining what we will do to reach our objectives: this will become the final ecosystem of products and services. We made assumptions when drawing the initial ecosystem map, and now we choose concrete paths, and identify when we aim to design and launch different products and services.
  • Success metrics. To track our progress, it is important to define measurable objectives. Key performance indicators (KPIs) should be measured continuously to track if our chosen strategy is working. Examples of KPIs include everything from the number of site visits, to the number of customer support calls (hopefully few!).
  • A delegation of roles and responsibilities. To ensure the digital strategy is implemented, it’s important to have a clear, shared understanding of who is responsible for what. Some clear guidelines, and even a full responsibility assignment matrix can save everyone involved a lot of frustration.

To help us reach decisions about these aspects and specify them in a strategy, it is useful to analyze the map from different angles.

Analyzing the ecosystem map

Let’s design an ecosystem map for a fictional online home-listings company. The company also provides mortgage calculators and links to online mortgage applications, as well as price statistics for listed areas. In the ecosystem map, the functions and services the company already provides are listed as “inside activities,” whereas the activities that users have to do are labeled as “outside activities.”

During the moving process, users make many decisions—where do we want to live? What is our price range?—and use a number of services—real estate agents, inspectors, movers, and so on. The steps are complex, and the timeframe can vary significantly. Our ecosystem map matches this, with no specific sequence of events, and no timeline. Nevertheless, the map presents the main elements of finding, buying and settling down in a new home.

One example of an ecosystem map

The company wants to expand their business by offering more services related to purchasing a new home and moving. Their target audience consists of private buyers, 30-60 years old, looking for a place to live (not professional real estate investors). When people move, their ultimate goal is not just to buy a house or to move physically, but to settle into a new home. The company has therefore decided that their digital vision should be “to help people find and settle into their new home.”

To take advantage of the many user insights we have illustrated in the ecosystem map and use those insights strategically, we need to analyze the map through multiple lenses:

  1. Pain points. The first thing to consider is troubles the users currently experience. Pain points represents business opportunities, since they show us where we can make a difference. But we also need to investigate the nature of the pain points: How often are they experienced, by how many people, and what emotions do they evoke?

    For example, home buyers are often concerned that their new neighborhood will be safe, and have easy access to services like parks and supermarkets. They can explore the area near open houses, but this is time consuming. Offering an overview of the area integrated in the online listing will ease this pain point.

    Another pain point is scheduling. It takes a lot of time and energy to visit open houses, and it can be frustrating to keep track of the different homes and remember their unique features. An app showing schedules for open homes and suggesting the best travel route between several would be a useful tool, particularly if the app made it easy to save personal notes and pictures from each house.

  2. Relevance. Which of the “outside activities” should our solution provide? We can analyze which features are essential, which would be nice to have, and which would add an insignificant value.

    There are myriad services and functionality that people could use in the process of finding and settling into a new home, but it can’t all be provided by a single company. For an app intended to track upcoming open houses, calendars and a map will be essential, neighborhood information for the listings can be nice to have, whereas a checklist of questions to ask is less significant. Such evaluations must be based on user research and not on own assumptions.

  3. Competition. We can learn a lot from our competition. What competing solutions are in use today? What needs do they fulfill, and where are they leaving gaps?

    There are a number of websites and apps available that help people find a new home. House Hunter and Open Houses, for example, help people keep track of and rate the open houses they have visited, complete with photos and notes. However, they don’t provide maps or help users plan to efficiently attend multiple open houses.

  4. Channels. Which channels do people use to share information and perform activities? How can we use these channels to our advantage?

    Social media is often used for gathering advice ranging from finding a good real estate agent to getting opinions on a nearby school. In our app, we might design a function for easily posting listings on Facebook, or allowing comments on pictures.

  5. Pathways. Orchestrating journeys through the ecosystem happens by way of interactions that allow the user to accomplish his goals while also supporting the business strategy. A journey through the ecosystem should ideally trigger another journey back through the service, or to another service, ideally one that our company also offers.

    An app for keeping track of visited and scheduled open homes might also include functions for getting quotes from home inspectors, carpenters, electricians, and plumbers.

    Service design vs. ecosystem thinking

    Service design vs. ecosystem thinking: In service design we map customer journeys to improve the touchpoints in one single service, whereas in ecosystem thinking we zoom out further and take a birds-eye view on how we can connect multiple services in profitable and meaningful ecosystems.

  6. Risk factors. What are the main factors that could make people drop out of our desired pathways? How can we create external and internal triggers that motivate use?

    Apps are often downloaded and installed, and then never used. To make sure that users become active users we have to motivate them to use our service. For example, we might send out notifications about open houses and bids.

These lenses challenge us to analyze our ecosystem from different angles. They provide a useful framework for thinking holistically, rather than designing isolated products and services.

Why bother making a map?

Visual ecosystem maps make it much easier to spot new opportunities as we design digital strategies. It also helps us to (literally) map our user research to prospective business opportunities. Moreover, an ecosystem map is an excellent tool for co-creating strategies with clients and users. The lenses can be applied and discussed together with stakeholders and users. The ecosystem map provides a reference for guiding these discussions and designing strategies in an iterative and collaborative manner.

Most importantly, ecosystem maps helps us connect our products and services. It makes us take into account the solutions of other companies that are part of our users’ ecosystem. Ultimately, ecosystem maps can assist us in making informed and coherent decisions both on a macro and micro level. While the map shows our endless opportunities, the strategy defines the selected path.

The UX Booth

Designing for Dyslexia (Part 2)

Swimming pool ladders are physically difficult to use. They require strong arms and steady feet, and as a result, elderly swimmers and children need alternate exits. The design is therefore not universal, or not usable to all. A ramp gradually leading into the pool, on the other hand, would be considered a universal design for entry and exit. Ramps allow easier entry and exit for those swimmers as well as others who could use a ladder or stairs with no difficult. Additionally, a new, hesitant swimmer may feel more at ease wading slowly into the water rather than stepping down into the water. In other words, this design considers the widest possible user base.

There are seven guiding principles that can help designers to make choices that will fit a broader audience, and five of them are applicable to the world of web applications and sites, where most readers (and myself) design. In part one of this article, I demonstrated that dyslexic users have been largely unaddressed as a user base despite their large numbers. I outlined the problems that many dyslexic users have in using digital interfaces. In this article, I will explain how, like in the swimming pool, we can create interfaces that appeal to the widest possible audience and this will not only improve designs for dyslexics, but for everyone.

Universal design principles

Universal design means creating a singular design that fits the widest possible audience. If a design is clear and usable enough for an eighty year old, it is likely that a twenty year old will be able to use it as well. The same principle applies for disabled users. If a design is usable and accessible enough for a user with motor difficulties, it is likely to be accessible for those without any barrier to motor skills. However, a design that is accessible is not necessarily universal. An accessible site is like a hearing aid: it won’t improve the hearing of a person without a hearing impairment; similarly, an accessible site will offer larger text options for people with poor sight, but it won’t improve the experience for a person with 20/20 vision. A universal design, however, will consider the entirety of experiences and offer a singular design that best fits everyone.

North Carolina State University’s Center for Universal Design offers seven guiding principles for universal design, of which five are readily applicable for web and mobile.* Since these principles were initially intended for designing physical spaces, two of the principles (low physical effort and size and space for approach and use) are less connected to the digital experience. The five principles that can be used as general guidelines for digital design will help designers to create better experiences for not only dyslexic users, but for everyone. These principles are as follows:

  1. Flexibility
  2. Simple and Intuitive
  3. Perceptible Information
  4. Tolerance for Error
  5. Equitable Use


Flexibility in universal design means offering multiple channels or pathways to reach the same goal. This is most easily identifiable in information hierarchies whereby the same information can be accessed via multiple user flows. The Internet Movie Database was cited often in my research as a website that offered a great experience for dyslexic users.

In Part One, I discussed how many different ways a deck of cards can be sorted and noted that a dyslexic user could see each card as unique rather than automatically grouping the cards. In the same way, just as a deck of cards, which can be categorized by color, suit, or number, IMDB’s information can be grouped and categorized in a variety of different ways. A user could search Tom Hanks, Woody, Pixar, or animated films from 1995 and still find the film “Toy Story”. Many UX designers and researchers use exercises such as card sorting to determine where a node of information is most likely to be found, but offering several pathways to the same node of information improves the site’s flexibility. This, in turn, improves the universality of a design.

Many dyslexics explained to me that their minds “connected the dots” in a different way than their peers, so it stands to reason that sites that offer a variety of options for locating specific content will be well designed for dyslexic users. Since organizational skills were considered an advantage of dyslexia, creating varying patterns of organization in terms of navigation and findability will improve a design for not only dyslexics but for everyone.

Simple and Intuitive

”The only intuitive interface is a nipple. After that it’s all learned.” Though the origin of the quote is debated, the words “simple” and “intuitive” are ubiquitous when discussing design—and not just universal design, but all design. Our goal when creating “intuitive” designs is to create an interface that can be quickly learned. Since dyslexia is a learning disability, it’s even more important to create information hierarchies that are clear and based on convention.

This gets to the purpose of hierarchies: they help show us what to do, so that we needn’t memorize the information. Ideally, an interface might be so simple that a first time user or a user with a poor memory could still move through the flow. In his famed “10 Heuristics for User Interface Design”, Jakob Nielson addresses one way to add this “simplicity.” He wrote that designs should, “minimize the user’s memory load by making objects, actions, and options visible.” Users have come to expect, for example, that a logo is a link to a website’s homepage. This goes beyond simple recall and moves into recognition—an action that requires minimal memory load.

Both and were cited by dyslexics in my study of sites they believed gave great experiences for dyslexics. In addition to the level of flexibility in finding information, both sites use clearly labelled layouts. The information is readily available and there is little to learn about how to use either site. Because of the clarity in labeling and creating different sections that follow a common formula, it is not difficult to find a specific news story on NPR, nor is it difficult to find an image gallery on Apartment Therapy.

The Apartment Therapy website

Additionally, information does not have to be in the form of text. For dyslexic users, seeing a product demo or having the option to interact with a product can help build trust.

Perceptible Information

Perceptible information refers to information that can be easily and quickly understood and digested. Since Attention Deficit Disorder (ADD) and Attention Deficit and Hyperactivity Disorder (ADHD) both have a high comorbidity rate with dyslexia, digital products with a high degree of signal compared to noise are the most beneficial. Signal, in this case refers to the important message of the a site, for example a call to action, while noise would be other aspects of a page that draw attention away from the signal. One of the primary features that separated the highly successful Nest Thermostat from other thermostat competitors was its ability to show users exactly the information they needed without any distractions. In the same vein, messy airline boarding passes can be incredibly confusing even to people who aren’t dyslexic. The application FlightCard for iPhone was created to combat messy, unclear boarding passes and make flight information more perceptible. Improving the ratio of signal to noise in digital products will improve their usability not only for dyslexics and suffers of ADD and ADHD, but for everyone.


Many landing pages have nailed the idea of perceptible information with single calls to action, clear, explanatory headlines, and images or films of their products. One way to consider how to make information more perceptible (as well as more simplistic), is to consider what I call the “foreign language test”. If this website were in a foreign language that the user did not understand, would he or she still be able to understand the basic tenants of the product? How clear would the calls to action be if they were written in a different language? Some information would obviously be “lost in translation,” but when considering both the signal-to-noise ratio and the clarity of the calls to action, this simple test can help to create designs that will improve usability.

In addition, there are many dyslexic-friendly fonts. One such font is Open Dyslexic.** These fonts are meant to improve readability for dyslexics. One way to create a more universal design and one that will be improve readability for dyslexics is to list a dyslexic font as the first font in a CSS document. Users who have dyslexia and have the font already will see a dyslexic-friendly font, while those without the font will view the website normally.

Tolerance for Error

Errors will occur for some users no matter how intuitive a design is created, so allowing errors to be reversed or minimized is a way of creating a more universal design. This is called “tolerance for error”. Understanding that users are prone to err will help create interfaces that do as much to abate error as possible. Dyslexics greatly benefit from spell check for obvious reasons. Much of my research was based on questionnaires made at Google Forms. User responses did not have spell check enabled automatically by Forms, and spelling mistakes were abundant. In fact, a few subjects were angry at me for not using spellcheck (this was not intentional, and successfully helped me visualize how dyslexia manifests). Dyslexics also pointed to Excel and other firms and field-based applications as a source of frustration, since these applications typically do not check spelling.

However, not every error alert is a positive experience. One of the more complex and controversial aspects of error tolerance is the popup warning message. This is a point of contention in the UX community. On the one hand, a warning or confirmation message gives a user the opportunity to correct a possible error, but on the other hand it can be obtrusive and, in fact, the source of poor user experience rather than a way to improve an experience.

There are plenty of examples of poor warning messages, (and since these are written messages they benefit many users, though not specifically dyslexic users), but one great example that can help everyone can be seen in Amazon’s purchase process. Once a purchase is made, a user can still cancel or change their order until it ships. The user thus has quite a while to make changes or cancel an order with no penalty or difficulty. Particularly for the dyslexics who told me they were scared to make purchases online for fear of making an incorrect order, this additional time to make changes can be the difference between a potential sale at an ecommerce site and an abandoned shopping cart.

Gmail allows users to undo sent messages.

Similarly to Amazon, Gmail allows users to undo sent messages.

Equitable Use

Finally, equitable use means simply that something works for everyone. This is, in essence, the cornerstone of universal design. Rather than dividing people into categories or personas, “blind”, “dyslexic”, “ideal user”, “male”, “able bodied”, we should instead view them as users, customers, and most of all, as people. We cannot rely on simply making a version that will work for the blind and a different version for everyone else. Instead, the goal from the outset should be to create a design that is as inclusive as possible. It’s a far broader guideline than the others, perhaps because it is so simple and so clear. Equitable use of a product means respect for an audience.

Designing for all

Designing for dyslexia is a unique challenge. It requires empathy, understanding, and the will to make design decisions that may not be based around what the majority of us, as non-dyslexics, might find to be ideal. Rather than ask the question, “Which user is best?”, we should ask the question “How can we reach everyone?” I believe that the crux of the issue lies in desire for inclusion and the courage to design for people who are unlike ourselves. I have almost never designed a product that I have ended up actually using, so it would thus be unhelpful for me to design based on my own intuition rather than what I know about others. The more equitable the design, the higher the likelihood that it will be adopted.

Designing for dyslexia is a call to action for designers. Universal design gives us a starting point for creating equitable, meaningful designs. For dyslexics, who are often overlooked in the design process, a more universal design can be the difference between usable and unusable, a great experience and a frustrating one.

*Author’s Note: Because Universal Design was created for designing physical spaces, this approach is being adopted for web only now and is still somewhat in its infancy. The remaining two guidelines deal with designing for physical spaces and for physical manipulation. While I do believe there is a place for these two principles of universal design in design for web and mobile, they are outside the scope of an article that focuses primarily on cognition rather than physical ability or disability.)

**Note: In full disclosure, Open Dyslexic was helpful in aiding me to find subjects to interview and also helped to publicize my questionnaire.

The UX Booth

Mercedes F015 : One part stage coach, one part Blade Runner—this concept car pushes the notion of Luxury in Motion

Mercedes F015

Tonight, in their International Consumer Electronics Show keynote, Mercedes presented a vision of future mobility. The F015 Luxury in Motion concept car addresses the idea that our most prized notions will be space and time. “The car grants access……

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Cool Hunting

Rand Paul is right about police brutality: our laws are a huge part of the problem

Protests for police reform are sweeping the United States following the deaths of Eric Garner, Michael Brown, Tamir Rice, and an untold number of other unarmed or innocent people of color. Amid the anger and sadness one thing is clear: policing in America is a huge and complex problem. It’s also a historical problem. As Tai-Nehisi Coates observed in The Atlantic, the insane incarceration rate of blacks in this country is part of a long tradition; “America’s entire history is marked by the state imposing unfreedom on a large swath of the African American population.”

That tradition is as deep and as old as our revered constitution. The condition of possibility of America’s existence was a racist compromise baked into our founding…

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The Verge – All Posts

JotForm Contest is Spinning the Wheels! Will You Take Part?

Read about the JotForm contest where you can win $ 7500 for best form design.

Redefining Wearable Tech at Decoded Fashion NYC: Exploring new relationships with technology as it becomes part of the daily lexicon for identity and self-expression

Redefining Wearable Tech at Decoded Fashion NYC

The NYC Decoded Fashion summit proved to be an especially good-looking tech conference. Not to say that the average tech conference is unattractive, but this crowd obviously cares as much about aesthetics and presentation as they do about software……

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Cool Hunting

Generating Customers’ Reviews (Part I) – Choosing a System

Choosing a proper reviews generating plugin. TemplateMonster shares its personal experience.

Watch the final trailer for ‘Hunger Games: Mockingjay Part 1’

With just under a month to go before the film is in theaters, the final trailer for The Hunger Games: Mockingjay Part 1 is being released to hold fans over. Mockingjay has done a remarkably good job with its teasers and trailers, generally touching more on the somber mood of the film than on wild plot points. That’s true here too: while we definitely see more of Mockingjay than in other trailers, this one is basically just a barrage of contextless explosions, which are totally great if you’re into that sort of thing. The film is in theaters November 21st.

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The Verge – All Posts

How to create an ebook (part 3)

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In part one and part two of this series, we looked at e-publishing options and techniques for new works. But what about the scores of out-of-print books that deserve a new life in the eBook space?

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