Big Data Only Tells Half the Story, If You’re Lucky.

We’re living in a world where our devices are tracking our every move. Google, Yahoo, Amazon, eBay, Facebook, Pinterest, Twitter and countless other services are collecting crazy amounts of data on us. All this information is analyzed to uncover patterns of behavior so they and those they share their information with can better target us at every turn.

Many articles and books have been written that offer advice on how to improve an experience through design changes based on this big data. In fact an entire industry, Conversion Rate Optimization (CRO), has sprung up around the idea that big data can improve site performance. Can big data (quantitative data) alone be enough to realize the full potential of any experience? Can we forego in-person user research (qualitative data) now that we have so much data on WHAT users are doing? No.

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The Non-Designer’s Guide to Working with Designers

Seems there are some folks out there that find designers difficult to work with. An old Quora discussion resurfaced recently that asked the question, “Why are designers harder to work with than engineers?” Speaking as a long-time designer, I don’t know what they’re talking about. I do just fine working with designers. What gives?

I hope this post will offer all non-designers (someone that has not been educated in design) the insight needed to make interacting with designers much less difficult. To be fair I’ll offer some advice to designers on how we can help the situation from our side. To begin I’ll need to dispel certain misconceptions non-designers have about what design is, what designers do and how we do it.

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Best Practice, Current Convention or Consensual Hallucination?

Given the pace at which things change in the realm of web, when is something a true best practice, merely a current or common convention, or are we all suffering from a “consensual hallucination” as Jeremy Keith says? What was a best practice yesterday may not be tomorrow, or even today for that matter.

Are things moving so fast that best practices don’t really exist any longer or does our use of the term need to change to reflect today’s reality? My goal here is to open up some discussion and thought on how and when we use these terms and how to avoid falling victim to hallucinations.

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7 Mobile First Mistakes to Avoid

There is more than a little written about mobile first design. The problem is that most of what’s written is focused on designing for devices and not the people that use them. Here are 7 common mistakes, or misconceptions, I hear people making when approaching web design from a mobile first perspective.

No. 7: Thinking Mobile First is a Design Pattern

Mobile first is way of thinking about design, development, content, usability and experience. Like I said, much has been written and it’s mostly about mobile first “design.” This often leads to the errant assumption that it’s only about the design. It’s not. It’s really a strategic and philosophical way of addressing the challenges we face in this always connected world we live in today.

The term “mobile first” isn’t helping out either. It seems as though the word mobile more often than not makes people think about mobile devices rather the mobile context. To think mobile first means to consider everything that could be at play for the user. Their device is just one small piece of the puzzle.

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Goals, Principles and Patterns, Oh My

A couple years ago I had the good fortune to hear Jeremy Keith give a talk at An Event Apart. During his talk he spoke about three important factors that make up our work – Goals, Principles and Patterns. Unfortunately it seems that all too often many of us only tend to the Goals and Patterns of our work. The WHAT we do and the HOW we do it.

What about Principles? The WHY to our HOW and WHAT. Why do principles seem to get overlooked, neglected or all together forgotten in the day to day of our work? Are they really just not important? Or, is it because they, can at times, make our work more difficult?

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Interviewed for Responsive Design for Web Apps

I was recently interviewed for an article on addressing multi-device strategies of web apps for Smartbear Software’s blog. Specifically, responsive design and how it can help deliver an app to the largest possible market. It’s a nice piece but I would like to further clarify my statements.

Article: Making Mobile Applications Alternate-Device Aware

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Creating a Brand Persona to Build Consumer Loyalty

Nailing down exactly what defines a brand can be tricky. Is it defined by fonts, colors, graphics and logos? Is it defined by the words and tone in the written and verbal messaging? What exactly does a brand represent anyway? A brand persona can help us define that and we’ll get to that in just a bit.

A brand is not unlike an individual’s personality. In its highest form a brand reflects the core beliefs of the company, person or products it represents much like our personality reflects our personal beliefs. The most enduring brands are the ones that have a clearly defined set of beliefs and values. In other words they are clear about what they stand for. More importantly it’s clear to their audience and this is where true brand loyalty comes from. Does your audience know what your brand stands for?

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Responsive Web Design: What Businesses and Clients Need to Know.

If you’ve looked into designing or redesigning a website recently you’ve likely heard the phrase responsive web design, or RWD for short, thrown about. Responsive has been receiving quite a bit of buzz these days and for very good reason. But do you really know what’s involved, how it can help you or why it’s such a hot topic? If not, you’re not alone.

Much has been written on the subject by experts and amateurs alike. Unfortunately many of the experts tend to focus on how to build a responsive site and the articles are heavy on techno-jargon. The amateurs who often try to explain RWD in layman’s terms mean well but often lack the deep understanding to properly communicate important details of the subject leading to confusion about how and when to use it. My goal here is to clear things up and arm you with the information you need to decide if responsive is your best option and how to find the right person or company to help you with it.

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