The other day I hopped the subway to the Soho Apple Store’s Genius Bar to get my dead iPhone fixed. Being suddenly phoneless is quite disorienting. Rather than folding myself over my little master as I normally would, I looked up and suddenly noticed… people! The sea of diversity you’d expect to see on a New York City subway. And as an old UXer, I was drawn to observe them, exercising dormant field research muscles.
That’s when I realized that I had a book with me: an advance copy of Steve Portigal’s new book, Doorbells, Danger, and Dead Batteries: User Research War Stories.
I couldn’t have had a better companion for the rest of that ride. I dipped into about a dozen of the 60+ field research war stories that make up the bulk of the book. The stories do what stories are supposed to do: engage. And the contributors have been through some experiences that will make you laugh, sweat with fear and discomfort, and—let’s face it—enjoy a bit of schadenfreude.
But it’s wrong to see Steve’s new book simply as a compilation of user research war stories. Let me explain why with a bit of my own publishing war story.
When Steve came to me with the idea for his new book a year or so ago, he was concerned that I wouldn’t want to publish it. After he explained the idea, I wasn’t sure either. I generally hate compilations, as they tend to drown out the main author or editor’s voice. And how useful could a book of user research war stories really be?
Then I thought some more. And I realized that some people have a knack for combing through ideas to arrive at a greater truth. Steve is one of those master synthesizers. I began to believe that if he dedicated the time to really digging into these stories, his sum would be greater than the parts.
In Doorbells, Danger, and Dead Batteries, Steve comes through: he delivers a broader framework that’s useful for making sense of user research—or, actually, situations with people. Eleven chapters deliver eleven principles that you must know if you’re doing any kind of research:
- Chapter 1: The Best Laid Plans
Expect your plan to never to go according to plan.
- Chapter 2: Those Exasperating Participants
Be prepared for people to surprise (and sometimes frustrate) you.
- Chapter 3: Control is an Illusion
Be prepared for research contexts to surprise (and sometimes frustrate) you.
- Chapter 4: Cracking The Code
Be prepared to be challenged by differences in language and culture.
- Chapter 5: Gross, Yet Strangely Compelling
If you feel disgust when observing people, counter it with empathy.
- Chapter 6: Not Safe For Work
Be prepared for research contexts that are unpleasant and occasionally morally challenging.
- Chapter 7: To Live Outside the Law You Must Be Honest
Know your ethics and your obligations before you begin.
- Chapter 8: The Perils of Fieldwork
Be prepared for the discomfort and even danger you may face in the field.
- Chapter 9: People Taking Care of People
Be prepared for people’s lives and situations to pull you from observation to participation.
- Chapter 10: Can’t Stop The Feeling
Like it or not, your emotions will impact your research.
- Chapter 11: The Myth of Objectivity
And, like it or not, observing and learning from people will inevitably change you.
So I’m glad to have my assumptions questioned about what books merit publication. Thanks for that, Steve—and, more importantly, for writing Doorbells, Danger, and Dead Batteries and opening up a greater truth about field research.
It’s been quite a year here at Rosenfeld Media HQ. Four successful events, two new book imprints, and today, we bring your our seventh title of 2016: Blind Spot: Illuminating the Hidden Value of Business (by Steve Diller, Nathan Shedroff, and Sean Sauber).
It’s fair to say that if you’re in any type of business, you and I continually struggle to gain and strengthen customer loyalty. It’s one of our biggest challenges. But despite decades of books and discussion, we haven’t seen a clear way forward. As with other intractable problems, the best approach is often to pause, step back, and reframe.
And this is where Blind Spot nails it: the authors move us from a mindset of mining our customers for loyalty (and money) to creating sustainable relationships that benefit us both.
Relationships with our customers go beyond traditional values of function and finance. In Blind Spot, you’ll learn to understand and develop premium types of value—emotional, identify, and meaningful—which offer far greater opportunities for creating better relationships.
You’ll also learn a new method for modeling these relationships called the waveline, that Bruce Nussbaum calls “the 21st century replacement for the consumer journey”. Finally, Blind Spot offers a 7-step approach to innovation built upon a foundation of strong and healthy relationships.
As always, I hope you’ll pick up a copy—either from the Two Waves site or Amazon. Blind Spot is, like all of our books, available in a lovely paperback edition, as well as four DRM-free digital formats (PDF, ePUB, MOBI, and DAISY). To your success!
Happy book launch day!
It took months of cajoling but I talked Laura Klein into writing Build Better Products: A Modern Approach to Building Successful User-Centered Products. And guess what–she delivered.
Build Better Products is a comprehensive handbook for anyone designing or managing products. It provides easy-to-follow exercises and methods to improve products in six critical areas:
- Goal: Defining the key business need
- Empathy: Understanding user behaviors and needs
- Creation: Designing a new user behavior to meet both business and user needs
- Validation: Identifying and testing assumptions
- Measurement: Measuring changes in user behavior
- Iteration: Doing it again and again–improving each time
This framework—and the advice it delivers—is hugely practical and applicable for just about any product. The more complex your product, the more you need this book. Laura addresses another key need: bringing together the best of product management and user experience design in one place.
And there are two other reasons to pick up a copy of Build Better Products:
- Tricks of the trade from a stellar lineup: Cindy Alvarez, Janice Fraser, Learie Hercules, Avinash Kaushik, Amy Jo Kim, Steve Krug, Dan Olsen, Steve Portigal, Chris Risdon, Kate Rutter, Teresa Torres, and Christina Wodtke.
- It’s funny. Really funny. That’s why I spent all those months cajoling her. You’re very welcome.
I’ve got two kids, 8 and 12 years old. With issues like race relations, income inequality, wars without end, and presidential politicking here in the US, it’s harder and harder to make sense of the world for them.
It’s hard to even explain it to myself. While I’m doubtful that the good old days were all that good (thank you, Steven Pinker), I do know that there are many, many factors—from where we choose to live, to (ahem) Facebook—that make me feel like we’re all busily locking, loading, and reinforcing our concrete bunkers. And doing everything we can to build walls between ourselves and the Other. Whoever Other is for us. Opportunities to interact with and understand people with different perspectives are disappearing as fast as the ice caps. It’s not a happy, much less tenable, situation.
That’s why launching Dave Gray’s new book, Liminal Thinking, is so meaningful for me.
Sure, it’s always exciting to publish something new. I like to think our UX books have, in some small way, made the world a better place for users.
But Liminal Thinking—the first in our Two Waves series—has the opportunity to make the world a better place for people. Not just for the ones who make and use products and services. But for anyone who understands the need to break down their walls of belief and connect with others.
Liminal Thinking is, if anything, a self-help book, and it’s quite practical. Six principles, nine practices, 184 pages, and lots of Dave’s deceptively simple illustrations. That’s it. You’ll read it in a couple hours, and it might just change your life. Seriously. See what others have shared in Amazon reviews so far.
A decade ago, there was no publishing house focused solely on user experience design, so I founded Rosenfeld Media. If the world needed better experiences, then UX practitioners needed more and better books to help them design those experiences.
We started out publishing books on highly practical UX methods, like card sorting, prototyping and mental models. Many twists and turns later, our recent and upcoming titles cover as much strategic topics—like product management—as UX. UX has evolved into its own field—and it’s not close to being “done”.
To make sure that the books we publish stay relevant to UX people, we need to make them relevant for other people too. Let me explain.
Many of the people who’ve been in UX the longest now lead teams, business units—even companies. As a design leader, you’re likely to be more focused on infrastructure, like design systems, than on design itself. You’ve had to learn how to lead organizational change, recruit and hire talent, influence and negotiate and master other “soft” skills. More and more, design leaders and changemakers have their fingers on the levers of strategy.
The senior UX people I’ve spoken with find themselves collaborating with people who are outside the UX tribe: founders, product managers, C-level and middle managers, IT and marketing people. These “others” share a common realization: UX delivers business value. It gives products and organizations a clear competitive advantage. “Traditional” business people are looking to UX to solve larger scale problems and tap business opportunities.
I love that these two waves are converging. But what do we call this bigger umbrella? Design thinking? Design strategy? Meh. I just want Rosenfeld Media to be there and, as a publisher, help guide this movement in a productive, positive way. That’s why we’re launching Two Waves Books.
Two Waves Books will cover a spectrum of creative leadership. We’re working with authors who’ve got experience surfing and navigating both waves. We’re leading off with Dave Gray’s Liminal Thinking (which is now available for pre-order), and Blind Spot, by Steve Diller, Nathan Shedroff, and Sean Sauber.
I’ll report more signings over the coming months; can’t wait to share these with you.And we’ve just signed Catherine Courage and Richard Dalton to write Design to Drive.
With Two Waves, our other new line Digital Reality Checks, and our continuing line of UX books for practitioners, I’m excited that Rosenfeld Media can help define another emerging field, and build bigger and better umbrellas.
I’m thrilled to let you know that our next virtual conference—User Research for Everyone—takes place October 11. If you have a team or colleagues (e.g., developers and product managers) that need to get familiar with the basics of user research, this is spot on. Or if you’re a new user researcher or just need to brush up your skills, you’ll definitely benefit from attending and learning from a fantastic lineup of speakers.
User Research for Everyone is a one-day affair that works well for a team ensconced in a conference room (don’t forget to order in). Or join in from home in the comfort of your slippers and PJs. If you have to get up and walk the dog, no worries—the entire day’s recordings are included with your registration.
Laura Klein and I are curating the event, and we did extensive user research to develop the program and speaker lineup (and if you helped: THANKS!). So we’re pretty confident that you’ll enjoy what we’ve come up with:
- Just Enough Research with Erika Hall
- The Right Research Method For Any Problem (And Budget) with Leah Buley
- How to Find and Recruit Amazing Participants for User Research with Nate Bolt
- Do-It-Yourself Usability Testing Discussion/Q&A Session with Steve Krug and Laura Klein
- Creating a Virtuous Cycle: The Research and Design Feedback Loop with Julie Stanford
- Making Sense of Research Findings with Abby Covert
- Infectious Research with Cindy Alvarez
One last note: the early bird registration deadline is September 13. Hope you’ll join us in October!
Want to join the Rosenfeld Media team?
This is a new position, and it’s a critical one—you’d be responsible for managing two major revenue streams: our corporate training (60+ courses that are taught onsite by our our 50+ experts) and sponsorships at our events (like Enterprise UX and virtual conferences like User Research for Everyone). It’s a full-time role, with benefits, a good base salary, and unlimited commissions. Position description below; apply here.
Corporate Sales Executive
Rosenfeld Media is well-known for publishing cutting edge and well-loved user experience (UX) books, producing successful conferences, and top tier on-site courses for many major corporate clients. We’re seeking a Corporate Sales Executive to create and grow relationships with corporate clients who sponsor our conferences and contract with us for corporate training.
As our Corporate Sales Executive, you’d be responsible for growing two critical aspects of our company:
- Our Corporate Training Business. We provide short (1-2 day) on-site courses on various facets of User Experience (UX) Design for a variety of corporate clients. Our 60+ courses are taught by what’s very likely the world’s leading roster of UX experts. You will reach out to existing and new contacts to set up corporate training programs.
- Our Conference Sponsorships. Our growing conference business includes the very popular Enterprise UX conference, as well as a variety of virtual conferences that reach thousands of attendees globally. You would craft and sell sponsorship packages for our events that align with our goals, our sponsors’ objectives, and our attendees’ needs.
The ideal candidate is able to:
- Generate new business. You already have great relationships with a network of potential buyers in corporate training and HR departments, or among IT and design groups. And you’re comfortable creating more through research and cold-calling.
- Grow our existing business. You’re the sort of professional we’d feel comfortable introducing to our network. That means you’re open to hearing about our experiences with our current clients, and then learning more from them directly.
- Pivot effortlessly. You’re comfortable with the fact that you can turn a corporate training lead into an event sponsor, and vice versa. And you can also introduce them to our other lines of business (e.g., registering for our conferences and purchasing our books).
- See things through. Your work doesn’t end once the sales process concludes; in fact, seeing the relationship through impresses our clients and provides you with more opportunities to learn from and sell to them.
This is a full-time position, located at our Brooklyn, NY office. We offer an attractive salary and an incentive package with no earnings limit. Generous benefits include health insurance and paid time off. You should also value the fact that we’re a small company that values transparency and takes pride in its informal, open, and honest culture.
Here are some things that we require. You:
- Have at least five years sales experience, with a proven track record in IT, HR, events or other relevant field
- Ae an organized self-starter who enjoys working independently
- Communicate really, really well—both verbally and in writing
- Have a bachelor’s degree in business or a related area
Want to apply? Send us:
- Your resume
- Your salary history
- A cover letter which indicates that you’ve spent at least a moment or two learning about our company
Please use this form to submit your resume and cover letter.
Big news today: Rosenfeld Media is launching a new line of books called Digital Reality Checks! They’re designed to help all kinds of digital professionals—not just from the UX tribe, but IT, marketing folks, and others—make sense of the expensive, often overhyped software tools that large organizations depend upon.
The first one in the series—Theresa Regli’s Digital and Marketing Asset Management—is now available for purchase. Oh my god: digital asset management has become a huge problem in almost every organizational setting, and I’m thrilled to help address it. Buy it in paperback or ebook from our store or Amazon.
Future Digital Reality Checks books will cover similar challenges, like web content management and marketing automation. Expect to see 6-8 of titles over the next couple years.
You might be scratching your head a bit. “Digital professionals” don’t necessarily sound like people focused on UX. Or you might find these topics a bit unfamiliar and technical.
But we’ve already noticed that you are changing. The kinds of people who read our books and attend our conferences are no longer purely UX folks by any stretch, and interests are bleeding together.
For example, one of the most popular themes at both Enterprise UX 2015 and 2016 conferences was design systems. People are clamoring for better tools to support creating better experiences that scale well in large organizations. In many cases, the outcome is dependent upon the efforts of all sorts of “digital professionals;” in other cases, those professionals are the beneficiaries of strong design systems. As Peter Morville would say, they’re all intertwingled.
This shouldn’t be surprising, and it’s nothing new: disparate tribes came under the UX umbrella years ago. We’re only going to see more convergence, bigger umbrellas, and the sunset of disciplinary tribalism. I’m not fan of tribes and priesthoods, so I find it thrilling!
And it’s exciting for me that Rosenfeld Media can play a small role in accelerating and strengthening those connections through our publishing and conference planning efforts, just as we have for UX. We’re so happy to help mix marketing and IT people into the pot. We’re stronger together.
I’m also thrilled to have a partner in all this: Tony Byrne and his team at Real Story Group, who are writing the Digital Reality Checks books. They’re a fiercely independent group of analysts that has taken a very no-bullshit approach to the enterprise software space—an area that’s typically marked by marketing hype and vendor/analyst conflicts of interest. Real Story Group’s analysts really are focused on understanding digital reality, and they take the same jargon-free, plain language-approach to their craft that we’ve used in Rosenfeld Media’s UX books.
Bottom line: a new line of books for for digital professionals that get at the real story of enterprise software tools. Digital and Marketing Asset Management today, and more to come. And even if it’s not up your alley at the moment, I’m pretty sure someone you work with will benefit from reading it. Please let them know about it.
PS We’re going to launch another new book series in the coming weeks called Two Waves Books. I’ll tell you more about that very soon…
The most interesting places happen at the in-between places.
Val Head’s new book, Designing Interface Animation: Meaningful Motion for User Experience, sits smack dab in between two sub-genres: books that provide broad overviews of animation, and books that show you how to implement animation for interactive products.
Designing Interface Animation is the book you should use to make sense of animation so that you can create a plan for using it in your site. It won’t explain animation’s history, and it won’t show you how to code interactive animation. It provides the missing link—to help you develop a pragmatic, practical plan for where and when to use animation in your products and apps.
Timing couldn’t be better, as it’s getting so much cheaper and easier to take advantage of animation. That’s all the more reason to think it through—before taking a blind and potentially disastrous leap into coding.
Designing Interface Animation is now available for purchase in paperback and four DRM-free ebook formats. You can also pick up a copy from Amazon. If you want a taste, head over to the book site, where there’s an excerpt as well as an FAQ, lots of nice testimonials, and a really swell foreword from Ethan Marcotte.
Val Head is a web & UI animation pro specializing in motion style guides and web animation training. Her newest book, Designing Interface Animation, is available for purchase. Follow her on Twitter or subscribe to her UI Animation newsletter and Motion and Meaning podcast.
I had a bit of a crisis last fall. My pal Andrew Mayfield asked me to keynote UX New Zealand. Of course I was dying to go to New Zealand. But they wanted me to give a new talk, and the very thought makes me sweat. What new things might I have to say about UX? Do I even do UX anymore?
After all, these days I spend my time putting out books and putting on conferences. Web sites and apps? Not so much. I’m not even sure I know the difference between a breakpoint and a touchpoint. So who am I to talk to UX practitioners about UX? 25+ years in the field, yet here I was, suffering from an acute case of imposter syndrome.
Many false starts, meltdowns, and 4am Keynote sessions later, I finally had a breakthrough. It’s not that I don’t do UX anymore. It’s that UX applies to way more than apps and web sites. In fact, I’ve spent the better part of the last decade doing extensive UX work on traditional products, like books, and physical experiences, like conferences. So that’s exactly what I covered in my UXNZ keynote. Books and conferences are experiential, so yep: the work still counts as UX.
D’uh. I guess it’s one of those oh-so-obvious observations that aren’t so obvious when they pertain to you.
But it is a liberating feeling. And it’s renewed my excitement about UX, because:where doesn’t UX apply?
Conferences offer almost unlimited opportunities to UX the hell out of stuff. With our last virtual conference—Product Management + User Experience—we found that basing our program on user research was immensely valuable, helping us select both speakers and topics. And many of you agreed; there was a strong correlation between your participation in program planning and your desire to actually attend the event.
So we’re doing it again with our next virtual conference—Design Research for Everyone, which is slated for some time this fall. Here’s our question: What do people who aren’t UX practitioners need to learn about design research?
Please help us do our user research by letting us know who should speak and on which topics—and sharing this with others who might be interested.
What odd contexts are you finding ripe for UX? Please comment below; I’d love to hear your stories of UX in non-traditional places.
- Chapter 1: The Best Laid Plans