My conversion from Mac to Windows last fall had an unexpected bonus: by shifting from Mac to Windows conventions, I was forced to rethink many aspects of the desktop experience. As a result, I’m now inspired more by desktop UX concepts than mobile ones. I’m not surprised if some might think this quaint, or worse, accuse me of being an old Luddite unwilling to embrace the new order. It’s so easy to say the “Desktop is dead”, just ignore it and move on. Continue reading

The Internet of Things (IoT) is going through a rough patch. High-profile products like Nest home devices, Amazon Echo, and even Google Home are getting mainstream attention, yet a string of security failures (such as Wink and WebCam) is worrying many potential customers. To make matters worse, those who actually try to set up a smart home usually run into numerous problems, ending up with a patchwork quilt of incompatible devices from various vendors and phone apps as well as siloed server accounts. The vision of the IoT burns bright for many of us, but it’s getting off to a rocky start. Continue reading

This is my second post about moving from Mac to Windows. I originally was just going to focus on the OS differences but was amazed to find out that while I loved the Surface Book, I hated the Yoga.
Keep in mind that my target audience here isn’t Windows users but Mac users who are considering switching. Continue reading

Yes, I’m ‘doing it’. I’m putting my money where my mouth is. If I’m going to rant on twitter about the inadequacies of the new MacBook Pro, I should back it up with action. After 30 years(😱) of using Macs (and even working for Apple for 8 years) I’m moving to Windows. My colleagues consider me a masochist, politely implying I’m overreacting.  Continue reading

It’s appears a bit ironic that as I prepare for my foray into Windows that my wife decided to upgrade to a MacBook Pro. However, It’s not ironic at all: I’ve never claimed the new Mac’s aren’t great consumer devices. However, setting up this new machine has exposed a weakness I’ve long suspected.

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There is an almost mythic belief that macOS is far better than Windows. So much so that most Mac users feel it’s not even worth trying. I’ve been on Macs for over 30 years, I’m part of this cult but it’s time to test the theory. I’m going to make the switch to Windows. I’ve already had a few colleagues gasp in horror but some things give me hope.

First, I spend most of my time on the web (e.g. right now) so as long as I have a good browser, I should be fine..

Second, much of what I need is well covered on windows (Sublime, VLC, Google Drive, Dropbox, even bash!)

Third, the two hero applications I need, Sketch and Keynote, have alternatives I’m willing to try: Figma and PowerPoint. I’ll admit, I’m most nervous here as I’m entrenched into these communities. This part will likely hurt.

I’m quite sure many will claim I’m overreacting but honestly, I don’t see how I can loose. If things go well, I’m free of a company that no longer makes hardware that reflects my needs. If it’s a disaster, I at least tried something new and will certainly gain some perspective in the process.

I’m “thinking different”. I’ll be blogging here as I start the process and move over.

My wife was recently using her tablet and I asked if she’d replied to an important email. She promptly put down the tablet and reached for her laptop. “Why not your tablet?” I quizzed. She gave me her best “Are you kidding?” face, saying in total deadpan, “I have work to do here”. My wife loves her tablet and uses it nearly every day but she clearly reaches for her laptop for ‘serious tasks’. While most of us can likely agree that mobile is the future of computing, something very interesting is happening here. In a world where new technologies usurp the old nearly every year, many of us are reaching for our old school laptops surprisingly often. This isn’t just nostalgia, there is something deeply inadequate about mobile. This post is about figuring out how to fix it. Continue reading

We all acknowledge that the web is full of click bait headlines. But what amazes me is that it isn’t just dystopian headlines such as “Robot crushes factory worker to death”. We’re seeing overly positive positions as well “Soon you’ll be able to 3D print a new iPhone!”. People are grabbing onto some new technology demo and then spinning out extremes, posting a derogatory (or delirious) story depending on their mood. I used to believe in this quote:

Any sufficiently advanced technology is indistinguishable from magic.
 — Arthur C Clark

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There is a classic “Smart Home” scenario that you’ve all likely heard: my calendar talks to my alarm clock, allowing me to sleep in an extra 30 minutes. When I finally do get up, the alarm clock starts the coffee maker so as I walk into the kitchen, I’m greeted by fresh brewed coffee.

I hate this scenario with the heat of a thousand suns.
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If I’m ever asked what’s most important in UX design, I always reply “empathy”. It’s the core meta attribute, the driver that motivates everything else. Empathy encourages you to understand who uses your product, forces you ask deeper questions and motivates the many redesigns you go through to get a product right.

But empathy is a vague concept that isn’t strongly appreciated by others. There have been times when talking to product managers, my empathy driven fix-it list will get “We appreciate that Scott, but we have so much to get done on the product, we don’t have time to tweak things like that right now”. Never do you feel so put in your place when someone says that your job is ‘tweaking’.

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I am very excited so many are getting involved with the Physical Web. Nearly 3500 people have starred the github, with many active collaborators finding bugs and adding features. In addition, several companies are selling beacons that broadcast URLs (using the URIBeacon standard). While it’s still early days for this technology, it’s encouraging to see so many people supporting this open approach to extend the web into the physical world.

Since the ecosystem is still evolving, it’s understandable to see some generalizations popping up. Some have compared the Physical Web to iBeacon for the simple reason that they both use Bluetooth Low energy beacons. It’s a bit like saying two products both use wifi and therefore they must be after the same market.  Let’s get beyond the underlying technology and discuss the three core things the Physical Web is trying to do and what sets it apart. Continue reading

I just returned from CES and it was filled with discussion about who is going to win the standards war when it comes to the internet of things (IoT). The technology world tends to have a long history of perceived winner-take-all horse races, some definitive (VHS vs Beta) and some perennial (Android vs Apple). It’s not surprising that many think an IoT standard will be similar. That type of thinking is old fashioned and lazy. We need to think about this problem more broadly.

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Using Bluetooth beacons in a way that protects privacy

Juliet’s lament is often mistakenly thought of as ‘where are you Romeo?’ when it actually means, ‘Why must you be a Montague?’ It is Romeo’s family and their struggle against the Capulets that keeps these two star crossed lovers apart.

Beacons, like Romeo, also have a bit of a name– a heritage– that seems to set them apart from the mainstream. In fact, the term ‘beacon’ has grown into such an odd mishmash of apprehension and potential, it creates as much confusion as it inspires. Several Capulet tech articles brand beacons as a Montague technology, a rival family that is out to get us: watch out, don’t trust, be afraid. Continue reading

In doing product design for nearly 30 years, I’ve  witnessed  several waves of innovation. Some were obviously successful like personal computers and the internet. But others were much less so, such as MultiMedia CDROMs, and open document formats.

What people don’t appreciate is that great ideas, before they are great, tend to look remarkably similar to stupid ones. Few are willing to take a chance on a new, seemingly crazy product idea. This is why the technology industry tends to be so incremental. Most companies, truth be told, wait for others to make the mistakes. Continue reading

The level of hype around the “Internet of Things” (or IoT) is getting a bit out of control. It may be the technology that crashes into Gartner’s trough of disillusionment faster than any other. But that doesn’t mean we can’t  figure things out. Quite the contrary, as the trade press collectively loses its mind over the IoT, I’m spurred on further to delve deeper. In my mind, the biggest barrier we have to making the IoT work comes from us. We are being naive as our overly simplistic understanding of  how we control the IoT is likely going to fail and generate a huge consumer backlash. Continue reading

Deconstructing IoT Part 2UXGrid_small
In a previous post, I had a modest goal of introducing a simple functional vocabulary for smart devices. Too many journalists were discussing science fiction scenarios about swarms of devices without realizing that there were much simpler, yet very valuable alternatives. This post moves into user experience, proposing a simple grid of types. There are of course, many ways to break things down, this is just one that I’m finding useful. I hope this prompts a discussion of other approaches. If you have any suggestions, please let me know. Continue reading