As I drove home from my weekly game night, I caught the tail-end of FutureWork airing on OPB radio. In the 10 or so minutes that I caught, my career decisions were validated. It feels nice. Here’s a transcript excerpt:

Robert Reich: Now let’s return to this idea of what exactly the workers of the future will be doing. Marina Gorbis, a noted futurist and executive director of the Institute for the Future in Silicon Valley. She says tomorrow’s workforce will need to be part artist and part technician.

Marina Gorbis: There’s still need to create the machines. There’s still need to create the software. So there’s a whole batch of jobs relating to designing, creating, coding, and working with these machines.

Susan Hassler: But it’s more than just designing the machines. We’ll need to become experts at understanding how machines interact with people.

Marina Gorbis: I think that it’s clear the kind of skills we’ll need and the kind of jobs we’ll have will require connections. We’ll need more and more people that we call transdisciplinary people. So they may have skills and expertise in one area, so psychology, but they may also need to understand computer science. It may be an artist but who also understands technology. So it’s being able to sort of transition and connect multiple disciplines and multiple understanding of different domains is what becomes critical.

Validating a UX Career

Rich web interaction mockups

I’ve talked before about how much I like Keynote. Although it’s somewhat ridiculous, this tool is a one-stop-shop for mockups. For my usage, it contains just the right balance of speed and fidelity. But I’ve struggled for a while to find a way to mockup interactions. Specifically animations as things became more complex and harder to grasp with a simple mockup or even a series of mockups.

More after the jump

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When to user test and when to A/B test

I sometimes see A/B testing and user testing being talked about interchangeably. These two types of testing are approached differently and at different times in a project lifecycle. Depending on what is being tested, their goals may be different.

Difference between A/B testing and user tests

User testing is really a specific method of usability testing. It implies a single user completing a series of steps provided by the tester. Although there are different techniques — moderated, un-moderated, speak-as-you-go, timed — the goal of the researcher is generally the same: we’re looking for things standing in the way of usability.

A/B and similar tests, such as multivariate testing is part of an optimization strategy. Researchers are looking to see if a specific variation can get more conversions — visitors moving toward a specific goal — than the original.

When to test

A/B testing requires traffic. All, or a portion, of the incoming traffic is randomly assigned to either the test (variation) or control (original) and we track the aggregate number of visitors in the test and control that perform the action the researchers are hoping to improve. Because it requires traffic, A/B testing can only happen on a site that is both live and is receiving sufficient traffic.

User testing, on the other hand, only requires some type of visual aid. Generally a functioning website is preferable, but user tests can be done on static comps or even a napkin drawing. Ever shown someone a quick sketch and ask “what do you think?” Try instead giving them a little background and ask them to describe how they’d accomplish a task. That is user testing — it can be done at any stage in a project.


Use Both

User testing is great for validating or testing a new feature. Ensuring that it’s discoverable and straightforward. A/B testing does no good if no one can even use it. Then, if it’s a feature that has a conversion aspect, A/B testing can be done to tweak the feature until it converts better.

User testing is better at giving a big picture: how all the elements work with one another. It provides a human insight that conversion numbers can’t. On the other hand, user testing is anecdotal and qualitative. A/B testing provides quantitative numbers.

On the other hand, keep in mind that A/B testing may favor pushy and aggressive UI. While you may optimize conversions, especially in the short-term, it’s just as easy to lose sight of a product that is a joy to use.

How to Use

I suggest user testing new features: anything significant enough to change how someone interacts with the product. Then A/B test any conversion funnel on the affected pages. If A/B testing seems to indicate better performance with more dramatic changes, I suggest making a very dramatic change in that direction, then user testing, then A/B testing the (significant) variation.

But that’s a perfect world with a very testing-centric organization. Personally, I find more value in user testing once there are in-browser comps to test against. Then, if the project includes an e-commerce component, A/B testing the purchase funnel. If the project is relying on pageviews, Google Analytic’s bounce rate and pages-per-session are effective metrics to look at.

Small image hero

So you want to create a really large hero component or call to action with a focus on images to perhaps add some visual interest to the area or break up an otherwise fairly boring sea of flat boxes.

One big challenge will be to get really large images, in the correct (very narrow) aspect ratio, that are art-directed so they don’t cause problems with your text. Once that’s done, now you’re going to need to contend with the large file (and thus download) sizes of that hero image.

Okay, so there are some challenges. Hit the jump to see how I solved it.

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Why running beta can be bad, even if you know what you’re doing.

A while ago—about the last post on this blog—I decided to start running Trunk. Since 3.6 was a few weeks away at that time and I wanted to know what was going on with Post Formats, I also modified the site to utilize some of the fun new functions.

Then the Post Format upgrades were pulled from trunk. Then I updated all the WordPress sites on my server to 3.5.2. Except the site running trunk updated to the latest trunk version. So now my theme is referencing functions that don’t exist…. and this happens:

from the_coding_love()
from the_coding_love()

This site is overdue for a new theme.


This theme on github

I just put this theme up on Github to make it easier for me to push and pull changes. It isn’t that exciting; the core of the theme is about 2 years old and frankly kind of scary. I just started updating it for use with 3.6’s post formats, however.


It’s got a weird name; apparently it was named after an Al Capone henchman. Nitti is the font that IA writer selected for their popular writing apps. It’s monospaced, beautiful, and I want to put it in my code editor. In fact, I’d be happy if pretty much everywhere I did writing had this font.

If anyone is feeling particularly like they’d love to buy me a license, I’d like, at least, the standard and web version of Nitti basic light, Nitti basic light italic, and Nitti basic light bold—six fonts total. Having on hand Nitti regular and Nitti regular italic would be nice to have. Pricing is in euros, so at the moment that doesn’t help.

Nitti Light in IA Writer
Nitti Light in IA Writer