“A good user experience isn’t necessarily that far removed from a poor user experience. It can be small, subtle differences that can have a huge impact.”
Nathanael Boehm

I hate HDMI

We’ve gone 19 years without subscribing to cable. Half that time without a TV. But after spending time in Canada and China where each place I lived came outfitted with large screen TV’s, I felt like something was missing upon returning to Taiwan.

So I bought a large screen TV. And an incredibly overpriced soundbar (Taiwan import tax).

It worked well for a while but yesterday I spent over an hour trying to find the reason for nothing but snow coming from the Apple TV, and no sound coming through the soundbar. And all those cables are in the back of the TV, making every change a chore. I now hate HDMI. I feel like I’ve gone back in time to when plug ’n’ play was marketing speak only.

It’s apparent that the incredibly overpriced soundbar that has failed, which will necessitate wasting some afternoon taking it back to where I bought only to be disappointed by their customer service.

“Nothing ever becomes real till it is experienced. Even a proverb is no proverb to you till your life has illustrated it.”
John Keats.

New shoes: Salomon S-Lab Sonic 2’s

The sports industry heavily promotes the notion that you should regularly replace your running shoes in an effort to avoid injury.

My Saucony’s recently reached the 1000km mark and as such I was due to for a replacement. Of all the running shoes I have had these past few years, my Salomon Fellraiser’s always seemed to have the best fit. I love how they grab my foot around the arches while still providing for a generous toe box. Salomon’s are a bit challenging to find, especially with road running not being their product focus, so each time I went to change shoes they were no where to be found. Luckily they opened a small specialty shop in Big City, so tried on and bought a pair of Salomon S-Lab Sonic 2’s. I’ve had them out for a few runs and they are working out well. I’m a hobbiest, and run as much for my mind as my body. With that in mind here a few impressions:


  • Beautiful looking shoe. Not a consideration but a nice bonus, especially when they are worn out and are relegated to casual wear.
  • Some reviews I read complained about the mesh wearing quickly. If they are half as solid as my Fellraiser’s I will be very pleased; they are a very solid shoe.
  • Good solid fit with good support in the heel. They are a lighter shoe and not as stiff as the Fellraiser.

  • Laces are very annoying. Standard knots will not do, as they easily come undone mid-run.
  • Feel minimalist and don’t offer a lot of cushioning. Coming from Hoka One One’s and my Saucony’s these take some getting used to over longer distances.
  • Products like this are always more expensive in Taiwan and seldom have markdowns but even without the Taiwan mark-up they are way too pricey.

This idea suggests a solution to the evolutionary paradox that is human childhood and adolescence. We humans have an exceptionally long childhood and prolonged adolescence. Why make human children so helpless for so long, and make human adults invest so much time and effort into caring for them?

The answer: Childhood and adolescence may, at least in part, be designed to resolve the tension between exploration and exploitation. Those periods of our life give us time to explore before we have to face the stern and earnest realities of grown-up life. Teenagers may no longer care all that much about how the physical world works. But they care a lot about exploring all the ways that the social world can be organized. And that may help each new generation change the world.
What Happens to Creativity as We Age?

6 photos from last week

A trip outside of of Hsinchu almost instantly changes your perspective of this place. The beautiful scenery no doubt plays a big part.

Sun moon lake – resting during bike a ride

Sun Moon Lake – at the end of a run around the lake.

合歡山 – no hiking but a drive over the top. Remarkable the change in temperature 3500m up.

Cross Island Highway

Near Hualian

If there was a gold rush it may be over. One in ten thousand mobile apps are considered a financial success.

Consumers are increasingly turning to recommendation engines, friends, social networking or advertising to discover mobile applications rather than sorting through the thousands of mobile apps available. As a consequence, Gartner, Inc. predicts that through 2018, less than 0.01 percent of consumer mobile apps will be considered a financial success by their developers.

“The vast number of mobile apps may imply that mobile is a new revenue stream that will bring riches to many,” said Ken Dulaney, vice president and distinguished analyst at Gartner. “However, our analysis shows that most mobile applications are not generating profits and that many mobile apps are not designed to generate revenue, but rather are used to build brand recognition and product awareness or are just for fun. Application designers who do not recognize this may find profits elusive.”
Gartner: Less Than 0.01 Percent of Consumer Mobile Apps Will Be Considered a Financial Success …

A key differentiator might be a solid UX strategy.

Only shuffle for you

The shuffle all button in iTunes

A confusing UI element in Apple’s iTunes.

  • Clicking the button will result in an action that works as advertised, it shuffles the playlist. This button includes 2 other actions as well which may lead to confusion for many. It also plays the song list, without any indication that this is an included action. The other action is skip. While the list is playing clicking the button again will result in the player skipping the currently playing song.
  • There is no indication that the shuffle function is active and no way to turn it off (no stop), except by going into a nested action inside the menu bar.

These little details matter when delivering a coherent user experience.

Apple Bluetooth Keyboard Hack

Apple’s Photos app crashed during export.

My old Apple bluetooth keyboard has been wonky for some time – I initially blamed some weird kind of wireless interference at my China office but realized when typing that either it or my desk was crooked. It wouldn’t be unheard of for wooden things to get all warped in my house in Taiwan, all my shelves are. It was the keyboard, which I guess got bent from my overstuffing my carryon, during one of my recent flights. While I would love to have a new Apple keyboard, the exorbitant prices make a little paper and tape hack far more acceptable.

Book section ‘fixed’

The last few times I casually visited my page of books, browsing the pages in your own website can only be the result of procrastination, I noticed how the display was more askew than normal. Quick looks at source gave no answers and I silently cursed myself for letting my web development skills fall into a state of uselessness. As it turns out, it had nothing to do with my quirky source but everything to do with a conflict with Pinterest’s Safari extension. Thanks Pinterest, and goodbye extension.

My books section is a curated list of books I have relied upon, read, referenced, used as a doorstop, in an effort to give myself a decent education into the field of user experience and design.

Of course, teen behavior is a product, at least in part, of parental attitudes. As a father myself, I recognized a number of widespread smartphone- and social media-oriented habits that I have internalized myself and inadvertently presented to my kids as acceptable behavior. These include, of course, an addictive propensity to check one’s smartphones, often at the expense of remaining present in real world situations; the habit of sleeping with a phone by one’s bedside or even with the phone in bed; and the reflex of looking at the phone before literally any other function upon waking up in the morning. These have all become normalized over the past decade, and it’s pretty clear they’re not doing much good for anybody.
Are Smartphones, Social Media—and Designers—Ruining Teenagers?

Creativity is hard work

Despite stories of lightning-bolt revelations, creativity often requires time and effort. We are all creative.

Psychologist Mihaly Csikszentmihalyi found that insight is only one step out of many that creatives move through before their idea can come to fruition. Ideas can only emerge after a foundation has been prepared and left to germinate for a while.

In order to get the best out of the process, it can be better to have a number of projects going simultaneously. This may allow all your ideas to have the necessary amount of time to develop while you work on others. Or after capturing your idea, leave it and come back to it at later date.

One common method which I have is to try to capture as many ideas each day as possible, most aren’t that good or that feasible, but later when I flip through my sketchbook, a solution to a problem might be found.

In an effort to speed up iterations and get prototypes in from of peoples eyes much sooner, I spent significant time this past year trying to convince the team to both pare down their documentation and form a studio approach to collaboration. I hadn’t realized that this strategy fell under the lean UX umbrella. But as I read through Lean UX by Jeff Gothelf it seems like a convenient label.

… the lean start-up method to product design, a strategy that implies fast-paced experimentation and validation. It works like this: Prototypes are turned out as fast as possible to test market assumptions early on. This early testing then generates feedback almost instantly, telling you what works and what doesn’t. This way, inaccurate assumptions and weak ideas can be scrapped with little effect, freeing up the resources for your best ideas to flourish.

… design processes normally involve a design team being briefed by someone else, and subsequently creating a product based on this secondhand information. If the design doesn’t work, it is then sent back for reworking, a process that can go on forever

Lean UX gets around this problem by putting designers to work with other employees right away, allowing the team to fix problems immediately and move the process along. Consider a designer and a developer going back and forth in an informal dialogue to design a dashboard. It takes them a few sketches and adjustments but they soon agree on a design. The designer is then free to iron out the specifics, while the developer writes the infrastructural code.

Apple Music’s Visual Mess

I can guess who Apple is trying to appeal to with using Emoji art to represent themes in the browse playlist section but it certain adds to what I can only describe as a visual mess; actually visual diarrhea might be a better term. A strong structure is undermined by lack of visual direction. I guess this is acceptable to the Snapchat generation?

Unrelated, why does Apple after having data of my musical tastes for so many years, still serve me music recommendations that I would never have any interest in?

6 points on mobile UX

Some key points from 15 Mobile UX Facts & Insights (2017), that are relevant to what I am working on lately.

  1. Cellphones are ubiquitous. A Pew Research report suggests that 95% of Americans own a cellphone; around 77% of U.S. adults own a smartphone, which is up from 68% from last year’s report. Smartphone ownership rate is highest in South Korea (88%) and lowest in Ethiopia (4%). This rate also varies by age, with 97-98% of millennials (18-34) owning a smartphone.
  2. Mobile applications are predominantly used for killing time, but a large percentage of online shopping now happen on mobile phones. Mobile commerce is expected to reach 45% of the e-commerce market or $284 billion by 2020.
  3. People use their phones around 80 times each day; 69% of digital time is spent on mobile, versus 31% on desktop.
  4. Mobile delays are worse than standing in line and are considered more stressful than watching horror movies!
  5. On average around 27 apps are used per month and around 6-10 are used in a week.  People spend, on average, about 40 hours a month on their mobile apps. Women spend, on average,about 42 hours a month, whereas men spend 39 hours a month. App usage also varies by age. Smartphone users, ages 18-24, access around 25 apps per month. 25-49 year olds access 28 apps, 50-60 year olds access 25 apps, and 65+ access an average of 21 apps per month.
  6. Though portrait orientation is slightly more preferred to landscape (60% versus 40%), users noted that how they hold their devices depends both on the device size and on the activity, such as watching videos, playing games, reading, or web browsing. This may be changing.