A Handsome Virgin, Lacking Experience



There is a lot of chatter about the Virgin America beta site, lauding its delightfulness, simplicity, and ease of use. It is an immediate marketing success. People are excited and tweeting about it.

It has an up-to-date look that’s responsive (a first for airline booking) and designed from the ground up to play well with mobile. Its playful, simplified visual design makes it appear fun and easy to use. Virgin touts the speed of booking flights because you make one decision at a time.

And yet…

The process is very linear, designed to lead you through each step in a strict sequence. If you stick to the script and proceed along (the designers’) optimal path, then it is easy and straightforward to book a flight. But, if you stray from that path — because you want to change your return date, for example – usability quickly diminishes. Whenever I change an earlier selection, I have to repeat all of the steps from that point on – work that I’ve already done once. And it’s not especially clear where I am or what I can do – feedback fades off the screen too quickly; the lengthy scroll, back arrow, and occasional ‘X’ control seem at odds with each other.
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Jumbo Jumble

giant remote

I spotted this remote at a senior home. Presumably, the design goal was to make the buttons easier to read and target for elderly people with poor vision. However, this ginormous remote leaves the user awash in a sea of buttons. It has a less optimal layout than any remote I currently own.

While the seniors might be able to read the buttons and accurately tap them, can they figure out which ones to use to watch their favorite show? It looks orderly, but does this arrangement communicate useful relationships between buttons? Does it emphasize the most important functions, making them easy to find?

Communicating how to use this remote should be just as important as making the buttons easily seen.

Many people fail to realize that UX / UI encompasses so much more than the surface-level visual design. It’s also about crafting how the user moves from function to function to accomplish a desired outcome. While the way a product behaves is not something customers notice at a glance, when poorly designed, it is something they become painfully aware of during actual use.

With respect to the remote-for-the-elderly problem: here’s a creative approach to delivering the most important functionality: humanfactorsblog.org/2013/11/19/age-related-design-of-a-tv-remote/


The Hole in Some of the Parts

Today I completed my first online purchase / in-store return at Saks. I was excited to try out their omni-channel experience. And the website made it sound easy: present the merchandise to an associate at any Saks Fifth Avenue.

I kind of overshopped, and my return was spread across three unwieldy boxes which I maneuvered through the store’s front door. I was hoping (as is the case at Nordstrom) that I could go directly to a customer service desk and unload them.
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Planned Design, Not “PLAM” Design



I drive by this place every week when I take my son to his drum lesson. We both always look to see if the neon sign is still there. How did this business decide it was OK to hang that neon sign? Why don’t they fix it?

I recently started thinking about how it’s analogous to interface design problems Swim encounters.

Did the proprietor truly not notice the mistake? Or more likely, did she think everyone would know what she meant, and that the investment required to correct the sign was just not worth it?
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Subscribing to a Better UI?

An image from the Slate+ marketing page.
An image from the Slate+ marketing page.

We here at Swim are fans of Slate content, both the web-based magazine and podcasts (although we are less enamored with last year’s site redesign).

Recently, Slate rolled out Slate+, a subscription-based enhancement to the standard Slate experience. It promises bonus content, discounts on Slate merchandise and events, early access to big stories – all pretty standard fare for “premium” subscription features.

Here’s what’s interesting though –  they are also promoting specific UI behaviors as premium subscription features (see image above and the marketing web page slate.me/1j0w1xL).
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And Now for Something Completely Different…

Well, actually, not that different – but an outward facing version of things we talk about at Swim. Today we launch our blog, swim lessons. In it you’ll find us kvetching about real world interactions that should have been better, raving about experiences that delighted us, and laughing at wacky signage.

Bon appetit!

UX strategies & observations