User Experience and User Interface

User Experience and User Interface

People commonly, mistakenly, consider UX (User Experience) and UI (User Interface) the same thing. Sure, they are related and they do work together. But lumping them together is the same thing as assuming your nephew with the Computer Science degree can automatically fix your printer. Trust me. I hate printers. So let’s clear it up a bit for you folks. Here’s a nice little graphic the sums it up very well. Read the full article to learn something new and make the design world a better place.


The Evolution of PlayStation.Blog

The Evolution of PlayStation.Blog

PlayStation.Blog.2015.TopWe’ve been blessed to work with the PlayStation team on the design and development of the PlayStation.Blog since it’s inception in 2007. If I were better at organizing, or perhaps slightly psychic, I would have kept better track of each design iteration. But fear not! One of my favorite sites/tools to play with is here to save the day. Enter the WayBack Machine.

As I pulled screenshots from the archives, I noticed more than just the evolution of the PlayStation.Blog. It was like I was also watching the growth of our team and the WordPress platform along with it. Starting with a fairly basic, but nice looking blog, the site has grown into flexible content and social media hub for one of the most notable brands in the world.

So take a trip back in time with me. I grabbed a screenshot from the launch back in 2007, and then one from the end of each year since. Like any evolution, changes are often small and incremental. Small header and footer changes are common. But when you’re done, compare the original to the current site to see just how far it has come.

Some notable highlights:

  • 2008 shows a shift to much more media being included in posts
  • In 2009, you see the PlayStation Network integration get added to the header
  • In 2010, the site switched to a ‘white’ theme for a period
  • 2011 shows the switch back to black, but also targeted background takeovers
  • 2011 takes a drastic change away from a typical blog layout and breaks into 2 columns of ‘cards’
  • 2012 shows a color scheme shift from red to blue

Now, back to designing the next iteration!

CDC Learning Tool: Doing good work for a good cause

CDC Learning Tool: Doing good work for a good cause

CDC Watch Me! Learning Tool

As an early care and education provider, you play a critical role in the health and wellbeing of children. You are also very well positioned to help identify children who might need extra help in their development. This FREE, online training course, Watch Me! Celebrating Milestones and Sharing Concerns, helps you fulfill this role by providing tools and best practices for monitoring the development of children in your care and talking about it with their parents.

We’re proud to announce that our recent work with the CDC has launched! A few months ago we were presented with a challenging opportunity. The goal was to create an engaging, interactive experience aimed at educating early care providers about important developmental markers for children. The result: Watch Me! Celebrating Milestones and Sharing Concerns

The amount of information we needed to integrate was massive. We ended up splitting it into 4 distinct learning modules, each with its own quiz to test how much you learned.

Screen Shot 2014-10-14 at 9.10.22 AM

In addition to segmenting it out into more user-friendly chunks, we knew we had to make it interactive to keep the user engaged. Videos and large imagery were just the start, though. To make the user feel like they were truly involved, we used their scrolling as a way to activate certain elements. Scrolling up or down kicks off some subtle animations and really draws the user in.

Click to see scroll-based animation

Click to see scroll-based animation

IMG_3969We also made it responsive, to ensure that this content can be accessible almost anywhere. So grab your tablet and find a relaxing position on the couch. Continuing Education credit can be earned with this fun tool! Learn more about Celebrating Milestones and Sharing Concerns.

The UX Certification Debate

The UX Certification Debate

This past June, in London, an unassuming conference-goer attended a UX workshop and days later became the first person to be UX Certified by the Nielsen Norman Group (NNG). Sounds pretty cool, right? The lucky guy, Ian Thompson, responded “The courses give the knowledge to work with and challenge our delivery partners and the Certification will allow me to achieve credibility in these endeavors.” So who wouldn’t want a certification from one of the most respected User Experience, Research and Training groups? And could this be a bad thing?

Apparently some people thought so, at least initially. Soon after the first certification was handed out, events like The UX Certification Debate popped up. Unfortunately I was unable to find any talking points or recap from this event so it got me wondering what complaints people could have. Honestly, I couldn’t come up with much and here it is:

It’s just a money grab by NNG

futurama_moneyThe argument here would be that NNG has created these certifications as a way to boost their Training attendance. While I can see the argument that it’s a pure business move, I just don’t think that was their goal. I think the goal of the certifications is to standardize our industry a bit more. I don’t think it’s a bad thing and I think NNG’s reputation will certainly give it some clout. While they wouldn’t be the first legitimate group to do this (Human Factors International has had their certifications for a few years already), I could see this developing more traction.

The UX field evolves so rapidly, today’s certification will be meaningless soon

NNG-CertsTo me, this has absolutely no validity. I’ve attended a number of events over the years and I don’t look back at any of that time and money invested as being useless now. First, it made me better at my job at the time. Whether it was new techniques I was learning or validation that I was already doing many things correctly, all of it helped me at the time. Second, it expanded my experience. On top of that, most events are a great place to network. A certification curriculum would be a great place to meet other like-minded peers that are passionate about what we do.

Certifications will automatically advance my career

I think the less experienced you are, the more the certification would actually help you. Like most conferences, I think they would be a great way for inexperienced people to dive in and very quickly vastly expand their knowledge. Still though, I think they could have value for even the most experienced. Anybody that goes to a conference and says they didn’t learn a single thing either didn’t pay attention or has a serious case of denial.

I can forego higher education and just get a certification

belushi-animal-houseEven though I think these courses could be very effective for beginners, I don’t think they could completely replace a degree in the field. I’m not saying that a degree is absolutely mandatory, but I think it builds a strong base. While the conference material may be more dynamic and fast-paced, you’re likely missing out on some key principles that couldn’t get covered in just a few days. You’re also not getting the repetition and depth of principles that a sustained curriculum offers. When I’m looking at resumes, a degree will almost always trump a certification. Now a certification on top of quality field experience is a different story. Could a certification tip the scale between two similar resumes? Sure, but it’s certainly no guarantee.

If nothing else, having a certification will show that you are dedicated to furthering your development. I’d like to make it to one of their UX Weeks soon so I can follow up on this article with my experience. Until then I’d love for someone that has been certified to provide their take on the process. Let us know what you thought!

SEO is a Team Game: System Administrator

SEO is a Team Game: System Administrator

“The difference between a domain that’s six months old versus one year old is really not that big at all.”
– Matt Cutts

This seems like something minor, but what other details aren’t you thinking about? Oftentimes we excel at the things we know about but are hurt by things we haven’t even considered. For example, are you considering snapping up one of the new TLDs that are arriving almost daily? You may want to reconsider. Here are a few other things to keep in mind when setting up your site.

Country TLD extension: Having a Country Code Top Level Domain (.cn, .pt, .ca) helps the site rank for that particular country… but limits the site’s ability to rank globally


Site Uptime: Lots of downtime from site maintenance or server issues may hurt your ranking (and can even result in deindexing if not corrected)

Server Location: Server location may influence where your site ranks in different geographical regions. Especially important for geo-specific searches

Domain registration length: A Google patent states: “Valuable (legitimate) domains are often paid for several years in advance, while doorway (illegitimate) domains rarely are used for more than a year. Therefore, the date when a domain expires in the future can be used as a factor in predicting the legitimacy of a domain.”

Keyword As First Word in Domain: Moz’s 2011 Search Engine Ranking Factors panelists agreed that a domain that starts with their target keyword has an edge over sites that either don’t have the keyword in their domain or have the keyword in the middle or end of their domain


Keyword in Subdomain Name: Moz’s panel also agreed that a keyword appearing in the subdomain boosts rank

Public vs. Private WhoIs: Private WhoIs information may be a sign of “something to hide”. Matt Cutts was quoted back in 2006 – “…When I checked the whois on them, they all had “whois privacy protection service” on them. That’s relatively unusual. Having whois privacy turned on isn’t automatically bad, but once you get several of these factors all together, you’re often talking about a very different type of webmaster than the fellow who just has a single site or so.”

In this series: