Skip to main content

Cognition

User Experience

The mysterious (and frequently debated) intersection of design, interaction, usability, information architecture, and that secret special sauce that combine to make something greater than the sum of its parts.

We’ve written 9 blog posts about User Experience. View all topics »

  1. Discontent

    Have you ever had to fit three lead stories onto a web page that was designed for only one? Ever needed to hastily rework a design because nobody realized that a product description might run to more than 200 characters until after you delivered the templates? Ever found yourself slapping big yellow alert banners and screaming headlines onto an otherwise tastefully designed home page because the layout actually distracted your users from the site’s most important content? (And why did the layout distract them? Not because it was elegantly designed, but because it was designed before the client figured out the content strategy.)

  2. The Importance of Conventions

    Flashback to the mid 90s. You are rocking your Prodigy dial-up, excited to play the six degrees of Kevin Bacon game. You click a link to the game, wait 5 minutes for the page to load, and are confused when you are staring at bright green fluorescent text telling you to “Invest $100k” instead of calculating Leondardo DiCaprio’s Bacon number.

  3. On Forgotten Alumni and Cold Pleas for Cash

    Like many of you, I’m a busy person, yet it’s important that I find time for the occasional phone call to Mom and Dad. A typical phone conversation with my Mom starts like this:

    Me: “Hi Mom, it’s me. How are you doing?”

  4. Stepping Out of Line

    Years ago, I was presenting comps on a scheduled call to a key stakeholder of my then-agency’s flagship account. It was my first call with him in months. He was unfortunately on vacation and without his laptop. That should have been the end of it.

    Instead, he asked me to paint him a picture.

  5. A Music Nerd Needs a Taxonomy

    Last year, I set up a modest but awesome home theater system with the help of my boyfriend Matt. I was thrilled because I could finally experience my music collection from my living room and kitchenette. I could use a remote to browse by artist or genre via my TV screen. What music nerd wouldn’t want that? However, my excitement gradually waned as I realized just how disorganized my 23,000 song music collection was. Browsing for music was a nightmare. Scrolling through long lists of misspelled, mislabeled, and duplicated artists, albums, and genres was enough to drive one berserk. Ironically, I was beginning to feel like a frustrated user.

  6. Jared Spool: The Cognition Interview

    Jared Spool is one of the most influential design research professionals working in the field of user experience design today. I first saw Jared speak about his work at the SXSW Interactive conference five years ago, and I haven’t thought about my work the same way since. I’ve seen him speak at dozens of events and I find myself rapt with attention every single time. His brilliant insights have transformed the way many think about designing digital experiences and his ideas always seem to occupy a jovial environment that balances sound research with a sharp wit. He is a one of a kind mix of entertainer, academic, and pragmatist. I’m incredibly grateful for his contributions to the field and consider myself very fortunate to enjoy his company from time to time.

  7. Illustration by Kevin Sharon

    Designers are From Mars

    Prior to my days at Happy Cog, I worked on a team tasked with creating an online promotion for our client’s new high-end candy. The candy was delicious, but each small box sold for approximately $4, so conveying its quality was important. The product’s target market was women in their 20’s and 30’s, so my team decided to take the high-maintenance diva approach to the design. When all was said and done, we launched a microsite full of glamour and glitz, sparkles, stilettos, and lipstick tips. Users could take a quiz to determine just how “fabulous” they were. At the time, I was in my twenties, and I’ve always liked candy, so I considered myself a member of the target audience. But there was a problem: I couldn’t relate to this content at all. I liked to be girly from time to time, but sparkles and stilettos were not my thing and they never will be. I also couldn’t see any of my female friends connecting with this. To be fair, the tone of the site was tongue-in-cheek and it wasn’t taking itself too seriously, but I just didn’t feel right about it. It didn’t feel right to reduce our target audience to stereotypes. Had I known then what I know now, I probably would have spoken up and advocated for a better understanding of our audience. Were these women really into makeup and expensive clothes and nights out in Manhattan? Or were we completely off the mark?

  8. Raw Taste Brokerage Power

    The summer of 1991 was fast approaching. I needed a source of income to pay my rent over the summer or I’d have to live at home with my parents and little brother. No self respecting college sophomore would willingly choose to do this. I had worked in a chain record store in high school, so I figured I’d go down to my favorite independent record store and see if I could get a job. As “luck” would have it, they needed a janitor-slash-lackey. Thus began my romance with the nearly extinct species of business known as the independent music retailer.

  9. Tweets!

    Is This Thing On?

    They laughed when I sat down at the HTML editor. But they cried when I began to make web pages. That was 1995. This is 2010, and we’re still doing it. Web design is no longer an occult activity for a small circle of initiates, and we’ve gotten a bit better at it over the years. The technology has changed (you’re welcome!) but the basics are still good design, great content, and an interface that makes reading or shopping or sharing a pleasure.