Author Archives: Louis Rosenfeld

The latest from Rosenfeld Media

The latest from Rosenfeld Media

  • New book: Donna Lichaw’s The User’s Journey

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    thumbnail of The User's Journey coverIt’s book launch day here at Rosenfeld Media HQ! And somehow, we’ve reached the quarter-century mark: The User’s Journey: Storymapping Products That People Love is our 25th title.

    Other fields, like filmmaking, have long understood the importance of narrative structure. In The User’s Journey, Donna Lichaw brings that same line of thinking to UX, and demonstrates how storymapping really can help us design and test just about anything—from landing pages to product strategies.

    This last point is no exaggeration. For example, we were carefully following Donna’s advice when we developed last year’s Enterprise UX conference program. Thinking about story arc helped us make sure attendees had energy left over for the conference’s reception after an intense day of presentations.

    So, while I’m biased, I really do think you’ll benefit from reading The User’s Journey, regardless of what you’re designing. And, at 160 pages, the book is short and sweet.


    Just in case you were wondering

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    …the answer is: no. We haven’t gone into the dietary supplements business.

    A handful of you have reported receiving “Lean Fatburner” pills instead of Tomer Sharon’s new book, Validating Product Ideas Through Lean User Research. 

    Although both products include the word lean in their names, they indeed are not the same product. We’ve explained this to our distribution company, and they appear to understand the difference now. If you do ever receive the wrong product from us, please let us know and we’ll slim the problem down.

    This is ultmately something of a shaggy metadata story. I wrote a little more about it here.

    We’ve signed two new books

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    It’s been a busy week. On top of launching Tomer Sharon’s new book Validating Product Ideas Through Lean User Research and reaching the verge of selling out our Product Management + User Experience Conference, we managed to sign two new books that should come out in early 2017.

    Brett Harned, who helps organize the Digital PM Summit, is one of a new breed of project managers that focuses on the human element of getting projects done. In Project Management for Humans, he’ll explains why everyone should have at least some command of project management skills—and how the work itself is as much about understanding and working with people as it’s about managing schedules and scope creep.

    Our other new signing—About (Design) Leadership—teams veteran UX managers Russ Unger, author of many popular UX books and now at 18F, and Chris Avore, who runs product design at Nasdaq. They’re chock full of practical advice (just check out the table of contents!) for UX people who are moving into management and leadership roles.

    Looking forward to launching these two—and many more great new books—over the coming year.

    New book: Tomer Sharon’s Validating Product Ideas

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    One thing that you’ll immediately notice about our newest book—Tomer Sharon’s Validating Product Ideas Through Lean User Research—is that it’s so danged practical. To create the book, Tomer used a radically simple (and practical) recipe:

    1. Interview hundreds of startup founders and project managers about the questions that keep them up at night
    2. Group them into nine critical questions (e.g., “Do people want the product?” and “Which design generates better results?”)
    3. Guide readers through a few quick and inexpensive user research methods that actually answer each of those critical questions

    The results are fantastically useful for anyone who is struggling to reduce risk and increase product success.Validating Product Ideas Through Lean User Research cover thumbnail

    In other words, lean user research meets product management.


    In some respects, this book—our 24th!—is a return to our practical, “here’s how you do it” roots. In another sense, it wasn’t written for UX people at all. Tomer, like so many of us, wants to democratize what many UX people already know. So if you’re a product manager or developer, this book is most definitely for you. But if you’re steeped in user research methods, you’ll still appreciate Tomer’s help in doing what you’ve already been doing: sharing the UX good news with the people you work with.

    Like every Rosenfeld Media book, Validating Product Ideas comes in four-color paperback and four DRM-free ebook formats (ePUB, MOBI, PDF, and DAISY). Enjoy!

    User Research for Developing a Conference Program

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    We’re working hard to prove that even tiny companies—like Rosenfeld Media—have no excuses when it comes to doing user research (we wrote about it here). We’re at it here, doing the research to develop the program for our next virtual conference. Laura Klein, author of UX for Lean Startups and the forthcoming Build Better Products, helped us with the research and analysis (she’ll be speaking at the event too). Here’s her description of what we did and what we learned.

    Product managers and UX designers understand the need for user research when building a product. Good product managers and UX designers actually DO user research when building a product.

    Rosenfeld Media cares deeply about good product management and UX design, so when they started talking about doing an online conference on February 3, 2016—about the intersection of product management and UX design—they decided to reach out to potential attendees first in order to understand what people want to know. They also recruited some top people working in product management and UX as speakers: Christina Wodtke, Jeff Gothelf, Jeff Patton, Marty Cagan, and Tomer Sharon (and me too!). We all worked together to gain insights into questions people have about product management, UX, and how we can all work better together.

    We all worked together to gain insights into questions people have about product management, UX, and how we can all work better together. (Tweet this)

    Let’s take a look at what we did and what we learned.

    The Qualitative

    First, we had to understand who the users (conference attendees) were hopefully going to be. Too many conferences choose “anybody who will buy a ticket” as their target customers, but frankly that’s what leads to unfocused, boring conferences where very few people learn anything of actual value to them.

    If you try to build a product that works for everybody from students to CEOs, you’ll likely end up not providing much value to at least some of your users, and the same thing is true for conferences. That wasn’t something we were cool with.  We knew we wanted to create a conference that was useful and actionable for people who are currently building things or managing people who build things—working product managers, UX designers, researchers, and their bosses.  

    Armed with a couple of quick, provisional personas, we set out to get some qualitative feedback. A few of us spent some time talking to PMs and UXers we knew who fit the personas, and then we started analyzing the most common questions and problems they had about working together and building products.

    The Quantitative

    Patterns started to emerge pretty quickly; we used them to put together a short survey with questions that were representative of what we’d been hearing. We wanted to know whether the respondents spent more time doing UX design, product management, or something else. We wanted to know their job titles. And we wanted to know which questions or topics they found most interesting.

    We asked them to choose from a set of questions that ranged from “How should Product Managers and UX Designers coordinate and manage discovery work?” to “What does a great Product Manager do?” to “How should UX Designers work with engineering?”

    We heard from over 150 of you. Most were UX designers, but we also got a good collection of product managers and a few people who listed themselves as “other.” Somebody listed himself as a “troublemaker.” We know who you are, Steve, and we’re watching you.

    The Results

    About two thirds of the respondents said that their jobs mostly involved UX, but job titles included everything from user researcher to product designer to innovation catalyst to CEO. We’re taking that as a good sign that people from all parts of organizations are starting to care about user experience design!

    PM/UX/Other breakdown pie chart

    The top three questions people had, by quite a large margin, were:

    • How should product managers and UX designers coordinate and manage discovery work? Over 77% of respondents were interested in that one.
    • How should product managers and UX designers split up the work of product development? That was 65%.
    • How to balance discovery work on new ideas with the demands of supporting teams doing delivery work? 60% of people wanted to know the answer to that.

    But it got interesting when we looked at some of the differences between UX designers and product managers. Over 70% of people who identified with UX were interested in knowing how to split up work, while only 50% of PMs and 41% of “others” cared. Maybe the UX designers are feeling like they’re doing too much of the heavy lifting?

    Over 70% of people who identified with UX were interested in knowing how to split up work, while only 50% of PMs and 41% of “others” cared. (Tweet this)

    Only about 35% of product managers and UX designers are interested in learning how to work better together and only about 12% of people wanted to know how to work better with engineering, so maybe that means everybody’s getting along just fine. Although, 20% of the UX designers wanted to know how they can move into product management, so we’ll see how long everybody likes each other when the designers try to steal the all the product jobs.

    Of course, one thing that always happens when you run a survey is that you realize you left out the most important question. My two favorite write-ins were, “What’s so hard about a UX designer’s work?” and “Why do we need Product Managers?” I think we’d all like to know those answers.

    Favorite (and snarky) write-in questions: “What’s so hard about a UX designer’s work?” and “Why do we need Product Managers?” (Tweet this)

    Some of the other great questions we got asked were around getting both UX and Product to work better with research, including one asking for a session called, “User Research—Why it’s not scary.” I would totally watch that session.

    The submitted questions that didn’t address research often focused on coordination, communication, and collaboration, including a lot of great questions about decision making and setting priorities. Oh, and, somebody just asked for “as much Marty as we can get”, which is perfectly understandable, because we’re pretty excited that Marty Cagan will be speaking too.

    The Conference

    We’re now hard at work preparing talks and discussions that focus on the things you care about. Creating great product development organizations takes a tremendous amount of work and coordination, and we’re excited about helping you do it.

    So that we can reach as many people as possible, we’re running the conference online. That means that you can watch all six talks from the comfort of your own desk, and I can give my talk while wearing bunny slippers.

    Laura Klein's bunny slippers
    What Laura will be wearing during her Big Presentation on February 3.

    We’ll be sharing the titles and descriptions of the talks as they’re finished, but you might not want to wait, since the early bird prices end on December 18. We hope you’ll join us for the Product Management + User Experience Conference on February 3.


    Laura Klein is a Lean UX and Research expert in Silicon Valley, where she teaches companies how to get to know their users and build products people will love. She’s a Rosenfeld Media expert and author. Her newest book, Build Better Products, is set for release later in 2016. She’s also the author of UX for Lean Startups (O’Reilly) and blogs about UX at Users Know. Follow her on Twitter.

    Join us at The Advance Retreat

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    How can we foster an effective, open, enduring culture of design in our organizations?

    One of the coolest things about my job is that I get to engage in constant conversations with design people about what’s interesting and important. Whether it’s books, events, or consulting services, people love to tell us what topics they want us to cover.

    From those many conversations, I’ve concluded that one of the things UX people need most is… well, more conversations. Acquiring and refining nuts-and-bolts skills are important too, but how-to information is increasingly easy to come by. Productive conversation with peers isn’t.

    So we’re trying something new: we’re launching the very first Advance Retreat. It’ll focus on answering a single question—one that more and more design leaders are struggling with: How can we foster an effective, open, enduring culture of design in our organizations?

    That conversation oughta fill two days easy.

    We’re producing the Advance Retreat with Marc Rettig and Hannah du Plessis of Fit Associates; they’re hugely experienced with this particular challenge. AND they are really, really good at facilitating conversations that lead to co-learning and co-creation. In other words, real outcomes. (I speak from experience; Fit’s help has moved Rosenfeld Media forward.)

    The Advance Retreat is limited to 50 mid-late career design leaders, and you can apply to participate here. The Retreat may not be for you, but if your organization is larger than a startup, I’ll bet dollars to donuts that someone you work with could benefit greatly from participating. (Feel free to forward this PDF brochure their way.)

    We’ll be meeting February 11-12 in Palm Springs. The very cool Ace Hotel is the ideal setting—both inside and out—for the kind of conversations we all need.

    Questions or comments? Post them below. Or just go ahead and apply to be part of the conversation in the desert this February.

    Explore the intersection of Product Management and UX

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    Product Management and User Experience are practices that—more and more—involve and depend upon each other. But it’s not always clear how they should intersect. Who should be responsible for what? How might Product Managers and UX practitioners best support each other?

    To explore the UX/PM intersection, we’re trying an experiment. Rosenfeld Media is organizing a one-day virtual conference—creatively titled Product Management + User Experience—that takes place February 3. We’ve lined up an absolutely fantastic speaker line-up that balances both UX and PM perspectives: Marty Cagan, Jeff Gothelf, Laura Klein, Jeff Patton, Tomer Sharon, and Christina Wodtke.

    If you look at the event site, you’ll see that there are no sessions listed. That’s by design: we’re asking you to weigh in on what PM/UX questions are most important to you. Just let us know. The results will help the speakers understand what to cover in their talks (and we’ll let you knothumbnail of Validating Product Ideas book coverw when their sessions are announced).

    If you do this by EOD Wednesday, December 2, we’ll enter you in a drawing to win one of ten advance copies of our next book, Tomer Sharon’s Validating Product Ideas Through Lean User Research. (Tomer is one of our speakers.)

    You can also just go ahead and register now (early bird rate ends December 18). Either way, please weigh in: what would you like to learn about the intersection of Product Management + User Experience?

    Our new editorial advisory board

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    Sometimes I feel that my one and only superpower is convincing smart but busy people to take on yet more responsibilities.

    Well, I’ve struck again!

    I’ve pulled together a new crew of advisors to help develop the editorial agenda for our UX books—and to review our proposals: Abby Covert, Andy Polaine, Boon Sheridan, Dave Malouf, Sara Wachter-Boettcher, Steve Krug, and Whitney Quesenbery. You can read their bios here.

    This rag-tag bunch is a mix of past RM authors with people who’ve written for other publishers and—gasp!—have self-published. (Another gasp: some aren’t authors at all.) They work solo, at agencies, and at large organizations. They represent many, if not most, facets of UX. All, at some point in their careers, have been crack UX practitioners. And, dammit, they’re smart and helpful and nice.

    Over the coming years, we’ll continue to publish UX books that will help you do better work and, by extension, impact the experiences of millions of people; thanks in advance to our new advisors for helping us help you. And endless gratitude to our emeritus editorial advisors, whose thoughtful and generous assistance continues to benefit us all: Andrew Dillon, Dan Szuc, Dave Gray, Dirk Knemeyer, Ginny Redish, Harry Max, Irene Au, Jared Spool, Josh Clark, Kim Goodwin, Kristian Simsarian, Marc Rettig, Mike Kuniavsky, Nathan Shedroff, Peter Bogaards, Peter Morville, and Tony Byrne.

    Radical Books from Prodigal Authors

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    Happy news: we’ve recently signed authors to write these three exciting new books, all likely to be published in 2016:

    1. Epic Fail: Design Research War Stories by Steve Portigal
    2. The Dawn of Agentive Technology: From Good Tools to Good Rules by Chris Noessel
    3. Blindspot: Illuminating the Hidden Value of Business by Steven Diller, Nathan Shedroff, and Sean Sauber

    Steve has been compiling war stories—some written by you—for years. In Epic Fail, he’ll knit them together in ways that lead to new conclusions, lessons, and maybe even something grander. A design research framework for the next century, perhaps? We’ll see.

    Chris’s book will be a wild ride; not surprising, given the scope of Make It Sohis last book. Technologies like AI typically outpace our abilities to humanize them; I’m hopeful that Chris’s book helps designers to dramatically narrow that gap.

    And a book on the hidden value of business from Rosenfeld Media? Well, there’s some incredibly exciting stuff happening at the intersection of business and design, and we’ll have some interesting news on this to report on later this fall. Please stay tuned.

    In honor of these new books, here’s a discount code that will get you 25% off any Rosenfeld Media book until Saturday, 9/26: PRODIGAL.

    More happy news: this is Steve’s second book with Rosenfeld Media. Chris’s too. And Nathan’s third. Indi Young and Whitney Quesenbery have also worked with us on more than one book. That means we’re doing something right. Normally I’d give credit to taking a UX-infused approach to how we do business. But when it comes to writing books, I can’t overemphasize the very old school approach of providing authors with great support from a human editor. As one of our authors put it just yesterday:

    Kevin Hoffman's tweet

    I’m not sure why so many other publishers are axing their developmental editors; I don’t see any other way to ensure an experience that’s good for an author and, ultimately, readers. So a huge tip of the hat to Marta Justak, who has edited most of our books.

    The People Project

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    I’ve always been impressed by people and organizations that value transparency. And I’ve tried to make it a cornerstone of how Rosenfeld Media does business.

    As a brand attribute, transparency sounds great. But as a way for a company to behave, it’s much more complicated, and even a little painful. It means publicly admitting when stuff goes wrong, and occasionally acknowledging your own ignorance or impotence.

    Allow me to be painfully transparent: given the field we’re in, you’d expect Rosenfeld Media to be a completely user research-driven company.

    And you’d be wrong.

    Like many small companies — and even some large ones — we’ve made the same excuses that we begrudge our consulting clients: not enough time, staff, or budget.

    Well, it’s time to call bullshit. No more excuses.

    So we’re starting a new thing called The People Project. It’s a lean user research program that makes sense for a tiny company like ours. And we’ll report on it— transparently—right here on our site. That way you’ll see — and hopefully learn from — what we’re discovering.

    We’re centering our research on the actionable questions — some big, some small — that directly address what people need and want most from us. We’re leaning on our roster of Rosenfeld Media UX experts to guide us when we get stumped answering these questions along the way.

    And we’re emphasizing practical tools and iterative approaches over grand methods. After all, we’re in the business of UX expertise, not medical devices or Martian rovers.

    I’m so excited that Rosenfeld Media is finally becoming truly user research-driven—and a little relieved. It’ll be hard, but the hardest part is, as they say, recognizing that you have a problem. Nice to check that off the list. Of course, we’re certainly not the first organization to share our user research. In fact, our biggest inspiration is the amazing UX team at MailChimp; you should really subscribe to their newsletter to see what they’re learning.

    I’m especially proud of Elaine Matthias and Stephanie Zhong for pushing this forward; you’ll be hearing directly from them along the way.

    Speaking of which, we’ll be posting what we learn right here. We’ll also tweet about what we’ve learned via @rosenfeldmedia.

    If you’re finding this interesting or even inspiring, let us know by commenting below. In fact, if your small organization is doing something similar, would you mind sharing a bit about what you’ve learned?