Tue, 11 February 2014
Human Factors PhD student Melissa Smith joins Tim for an experiment in bringing human factors-related research to you in three short summaries. Melissa is at George Mason University and donated her time to discuss recent human factors research with Tim.
Learn more about Melissa on her website at
The articles Melissa discusses are:
--Beller, J., Heesen, M., & Vollrath, M. (2013). Improving the Driver–Automation Interaction An Approach Using Automation Uncertainty. Human Factors: The Journal of the Human Factors and Ergonomics Society. doi: 10.1177/0018720813482327. [http://hfs.sagepub.com/content/55/6/1130.full]
-- Finomore, V. S., Shaw, T. H., Warm, J. S., Matthews, G., & Boles, D. B. (2013). Viewing the Workload of Vigilance Through the Lenses of the NASA-TLX and the MRQ. Human Factors: The Journal of the Human Factors and Ergonomics Society. doi: 10.1177/0018720813484498. [http://hfs.sagepub.com/content/55/6/1044.full]
--Goldsmith, K., & Dhar, R. (2013). Negativity bias and task motivation: Testing the effectiveness of positively versus negatively framed incentives. Journal of experimental psychology: applied, 19(4), 358. doi: 10.1037/a0034415. [http://psycnet.apa.org/journals/xap/19/4/358/]
Direct download: DesignCritique104_HF_Research_News_01.mp3
-- posted at: 1:44 AM
Fri, 29 November 2013
Dr. Robert Youmans from George Mason University joins Tim Keirnan for a wordcast episode on verbal protocols. Why and how do we ask usability research participants to think aloud about their task performance, and what does using this method do to our data? Dr. Youmans covers four different methods of thinking aloud:
1. Concurrent Verbal Protocol
2. Retrospective Verbal Protocol
3. Interruptive Verbal Protocol
4. Prospective Verbal Protocol
The remainder of the episode covers research on how using concurrent verbal protocol can affect your data. People do not normally think aloud while doing tasks with products, and having them vocalize during user research can change their behavior, but the degree of change may not be a problem for the goals of our studies. Sometimes thinking aloud can improve their performance--which also affects your data. The result is not obvious and the literature is conflicted.
Direct download: DesignCritique103_VerbalProtocols.mp3
-- posted at: 1:36 AM
Wed, 30 October 2013
Mike Velasco joins Tim Keirnan for an episode to discuss the customer experience of two Android smart phones: the LG Motion and the Google Nexus 4 (also manufactured by LG). These two very different Android phones each have their own advantages, as do the carriers Tim used them on (MetroPCS and Solavei, respectively).
* Small size easy to hold and put in pocket
* Fast data speeds
* Replaceable battery
* Custom Android user interface by LG that isn't bad
* Outright purchase from MetroPCS on a monthly, non-contract plan
* Large screen easy to read for older eyes and for gamers
* Pentaband GSM radio frequencies ensures it works anywhere in the world
* Pure Android operating system with the UX that Google intended, gets updates instantly from Google as they appear
* Outright purchase from Google at very fair price, can be used on any GSM carrier including monthly, non-contract plans
Listen to the episode for other facets of the customer experience of owning these phones.
Sun, 1 September 2013
Dave Mitropoulos-Rundus returns for a wordcast episode on the user experience profession that probes the origins of our field. Where did it come from, and how did we come to have jobs in it? And is "customer experience" a better phrase for what we do?
For us, UX is about managing risk on projects by doing our trio of research, design, and testing to ensure products and services will meet business goals. And it's about taking pride in one's craft.
Learn more about a foundational book on our user experience research/design/testing careers, Set Phasers on Stun, at
You can learn about ISO standards for usabilty at the wonderful Usability.Net:
Direct download: DesignCritique101_User_Experience_101.mp3
-- posted at: 12:29 PM
Sun, 30 June 2013
On the 8th anniversary and 100th episode of Design Critique, Timothy Keirnan is joined by a celebratory guest who is no stranger to long-time listeners of the show. Our topic is the design of an everyday object that helps everyone reach a little higher in life: the step stool. We like how such a simple object has so many facets, features, and personas for design consideration.
We'd like to thank everyone for listening the past eight years and helping us reach the milestone of episode 100. If you appreciate Design Critique, please write a review of the show on the iTunes music store. We need more reviews and it only takes a couple minutes.
The first step stool we discuss is designed towards children and a product description is at
The second step stool we discuss is suitable for adults who need one that folds up when not in use and can be seen at
This episode closes with some old outtakes from the early recordings we did at Country Squire Studio 1 from 2005-6. Ahh, memories. Thanks for listening!
Direct download: DesignCritique100_StepStoolReviews.mp3
-- posted at: 12:00 AM
Sun, 12 May 2013
In an audio editorial, Tim asks if the supposed death of bricks 'n mortar stores at the hands of online sales is greatly exaggerated. What do you think?
The article mentioned in this episode can be read in full at
Design Critique does not accept advertising, but the following merchants deserve honorable mention due to their bricks and mortar customer service:
Averill Racing Stuff, Inc. (customer education & advice)
Best Buy (in-store warranty service on Logitech & Phillips products)
Staples (website easily & accurately displays product stock at particular locations)
Direct download: DesignCritique99_RetailingExperience.mp3
-- posted at: 6:54 PM
Sun, 31 March 2013
Brad Jensen and Tim Keirnan present a longitudinal review of the Garmin Nuvi 50 portable GPS. What does it do well, and how could its interaction design and interface design be improved?
An earlier episode of Design Critique reviewed a TomTom portable GPS and you might want to go back and hear that along with this episode.
Both TomTom and Garmin solve the navigation problem for their customers in ways that are both familiar and different. Neither unit provides a perfect solution, but it's fun to talk about.
Direct download: DesignCritique98_GarminNuvi50.mp3
-- posted at: 12:30 AM
Sun, 24 February 2013
The first in a series of Bad Button Labels We Have Known. Brad Jensen joins Tim Keirnan to discuss the Chaos button on his father's new microwave oven. Why do companies allow such dreadful UI labels? Mr. Jensen's microwave is the first of many terrible examples we plan to cover on occasion in future episodes.
Desiree Scales has a website called Online Website Degree where students, teachers, and potential returning students can learn about the interrelated fields of web design. Lots of free information here:
Plus email from Ben in an episode that had to be trimmed because there was just too much good stuff going on.
Direct download: DesignCritique97_ChaosButtonLabel.mp3
-- posted at: 6:27 PM
Sun, 27 January 2013
Caitlin Potts discusses using using site maps as website design tools. You can have her Omnigraffle template for free at the following link:
Note: Caitlin based this episode off a presentation she gave the Michigan chapter of ACM-SIGCHI in December 2012, called "Helping Site Maps Get Their Groove Back". Thanks to MichiCHI for a great holiday event and speaker. You can find Michigan Chi at www.michichi.org.
Caitlin Potts is a User Experience Practitioner (Designer + Researcher) at Covenant Eyes, Inc. in Owosso, MI. Working as part of an Agile team, she spends her time collaborating with the Developers to design web, mobile, and client application interfaces. She is also leading the development of a brand standards guide for Covenant Eyes.
Direct download: DesignCritique96_SiteMaps.mp3
-- posted at: 4:58 PM
Fri, 21 December 2012
A heartwarming holiday tale of good customer service after the sale. Nokia politely and efficiently repaired Tim's Lumia 710 Windows Phone, using a combination of good website design, excellent customer service desk people, and a "do it right the first time" service department.
Companies that care about their customers will save the brand's relationship with the customer when something goes awry. In particular, Nokia did three things to keep Tim's loyalty to the brand when disaster struck:
1. Effective and consistent communication, both on their website and in person via telephone.
2. Action that matches words with deeds. No hypocrisy or lies.
3. High speed of resolving the problem--efficient solutions done right the first time.
Thanks to their professional handling of the problem, Nokia has not lost a customer. Obviously this is something that T-Mobile doesn't care about, as evidenced by our previous episode, but to Nokia's credit they "get it".
Direct download: DesignCritique95_NokiaService.mp3
-- posted at: 8:14 PM
Wed, 21 November 2012
Even when the initial user experience of a product is good, the total customer experience suffers when a company ignores service after the sale. We at Design Critique argue that service after the sale IS AN INTEGRAL PART OF A PRODUCT'S DESIGN because it directly affects the customer experience. Only bad companies isolate product design from customer service design. In Tim's case, T-Mobile destroyed a loyal, 8-year customer relationship for its monthly prepaid service by
* Refusing to help replace a smart phone under warranty when it broke, in any kind of realistic time frame,
* Refusing to unlock the phone after selling it on the condition it would be unlocked after 90 days, and
* Implying its monthly prepaid customers are not worth helping because only long term contract customers deserve good customer service.
It's a comedy of errors unless you're the one who wasted hundreds of dollars and hours of time dealing with T-Mobile's agressively anti-customer practices. What lessons can we draw from T-Mobile's mistakes?
One anecdote does not make a statistically significant trend, but anecdotes provide useful insights into the how and why of customer service failures.
Direct download: DesignCritique94_TmobileService.mp3
-- posted at: 3:56 AM
Mon, 5 November 2012
Tobby Smith returns to help Tim provide a longitudinal review of Nokia's Lumia 710 Windows phone. After over eight months of use, the Lumia 710 proved itself a terrific value in smart phone quality, including
* Convenient, portable size with grippy back cover that can be switched with other colors to personalize the phone
* Hardware buttons for the three standard Windows Phone buttons, instead of the soft buttons so often found on other models. We find dedicated hardware buttons much more usable.
* Clear and bright screen with high contrast.
* Good video recording.
* Superior applications specific to Nokia phones, such as Nokia Drive.
* Tim's phone broke after only five months without any abuse or dropping.
* Still camera images are average at best.
* Volume of speaker is not loud enough to hear nav instructions above road noise or stereo playing.
Despite the dislikes, the Lumia 710 is a great value-priced smart phone. As Windows 8 phones roll out, it may become even cheaper to buy and thus an even better value for customers who don't need the advanced functionality of Windows Phone 8.
See Nokia's profile of the Lumia 710 at
Photos of the 710 from Nokia.com are used entirely without permission.
Direct download: DesignCritique93_Lumia710.mp3
-- posted at: 3:19 PM
Sun, 21 October 2012
Listener Costan Boiangiu rejoins the show for a wordcast on haptic feedback in product design. What is it, how is it used currently in product designs, and how could it be used? We discuss designs that have haptic feedback innately as well as designs where the haptics have been added. Thanks for Tim's coworker, Gary, for suggesting this topic for the show.
Check out Costan's automotive design blog at
And remember to visit Haptics-e: The Electronic Journal of Haptics Research
for the latest in scholarly research at
Direct download: DesignCritique92_Wordcast_on_haptics.mp3
-- posted at: 7:07 PM
Thu, 13 September 2012
"From Information Architecture to Ambient Findability to Intertwingularity: An Inspiring Conversation with Peter Morville
Recorded June 18th, 2012 at IUE2012.
Peter Morville (above, left), best known as a founding father of information architecture, co-authored the profession's best-selling book, Information Architecture for the World Wide Web.
That was 1998. Since then, Peter continues to be a prolific author, practitioner, and thought leader for our industry and profession amidst this ever-expanding and reinventive internet landscape that continues to provide communications, information, and commerce to the world.
To most effectively tap into Peter's current and historical thinking, he was interviewed live and interactively with the audience by Design Critique's Timothy Keirnan.
Visit Peter's blog and more at http://semanticstudios.com/
Direct download: DesignCritique91_MorvilleIUE2012.mp3
-- posted at: 1:24 AM
Sat, 1 September 2012
Tobby Smith joins Tim Keirnan for a longitudinal review of the Windows Phone 7.5 mobile operating system. Both guys have been using it on Nokia Lumia 710 handsets since last winter and are ready to explain why they enjoy the Windows Phone customer experience, as well as complain about the negative points which they hope Microsoft will fix in the upcoming Windows Phone 8.
Tobby is a long-time veteran of smart phone use, while Tim is new to smart phones, so both ends of the user continuum are included.
To see the user interface of Windows Phone, head over to a cell phone store in your area and try it for yourself OR point your browser to
The episode of Design Critique with Matt Hard that covered the Zune HD, the predecessor to Windows Phone, can be heard at
Direct download: DesignCritique90_WinPhone7-5.mp3
-- posted at: 3:30 AM
Thu, 12 July 2012
A very special mailbag episode in which
* Internet User Experience 2012 is promoted. Check it out at
* Costan refers us to a terrific article on Airbus airliner cockpit interface design. Read it at
* An anonymous listener complains about Tim's articulation. When is enunciating for intelligibility a problem, if ever? Do listeners speaking English as a second language appreciate clear articulation, or is it not needed?
* Jason thanks us for the MINI Cooper critique episode.
* Eric responds to the listener feedback episode with Lynn on lack of contrast in modern UI designs.
Direct download: DesignCritique89_MailbagShow3.mp3
-- posted at: 12:21 AM
Tue, 29 May 2012
Listener Lynn Leitte joins Tim for a discussion on how a fad of low-contrast visual design is hurting readability of text and usability of interface elements. What say you?
Episode was recorded in late April but for a plethora of reasons is only available now.
Tue, 3 April 2012
Dana Chisnell from Usability Works discusses her latest project, Field Guides for Ensuring Voter Intent. This Kickstarter crowd-source funded project will design, write, publish, and distribute concise design guidelines for usable ballot design to public servants around the United States. And, eventually, beyond.
Learn and contribute (up until April 14th) to the project at
Read Dana's thoughts on civic design at
Direct download: DesignCritique88_EnsureVoterIntent.mp3
-- posted at: 3:15 AM
Sat, 31 March 2012
The GoldStar MA6511W microwave oven is a triumph of kitchen appliance interaction design. Featuring only two mechanical controls that are all too rare in an age of overly-complex digital designs, the MA6511W deserves as much praise as can be put into this 16 minute episode. The adjective "intuitive" is often over-used, but it applies to this small microwave oven.
Microwaves are functionally simple devices often made difficult to use by manufacturers who put frivolous features and buttons on something that doesn't need to be complex. A mad dash for "features" at the expense of audience needs and usability is common in microwave oven design, but GoldStar's design team tightly focused this oven for a particular audience (re-heating in space-cramped kitchens) and did NOT try to please everyone. The result is a wonderful appliance that has also proven very durable--7 years of trouble-free service at the time of this episode's publishing.
The How Stuff Works website referred to in the episode has some podcasts you might be interested in:
Direct download: DesignCritique87_MicrowaveOvens.mp3
-- posted at: 12:30 AM
Fri, 24 February 2012
Listener Costan Boiangiu joins the show with comments on episode DC84, The State of the Internet User Experience 2011 panel session from Internet User Experience 2011.
Costan shares his ideas on
* The lack of usable bookmark titles on etail product pages
* Some websites' frustrating lack of consistent overall navigation
* Some websites' not revealing their national identity up front, especially if it's an etail site
You can find Costan at his photography site here:
and his work website here:
Tue, 31 January 2012
"Attack of the Pointless Modal Confirmations"
Tim critiques almost two years of experience with the TomTomXL335TM portable GPS in a longitudinal review plagued by a ragged voice from a nasty January filled with mishaps, and a mental wooziness that we hope isn't too obvious. But food poisonings, auto wrecks, and seasonal colds cannot prevent the fact that the XL335 is a GPS that has terrific voices which sound wonderful, but unreliable software and horrid modal confirmation abuses throughout.
Just reflect on this one example of interaction design gone wrong; sadly, it is typical of the TomTom Way:
It takes eleven, that's 11, taps to change voices on the XL335TM. I am not making this up.
And here are TomTom's excellent marketing of its Star Wars celebrity voices:
Darth Vader in the recording studio: http://youtu.be/2ljFfL-mL70
Yoda in the recording studio: http://youtu.be/FdcJVuylmsM
Two feedback emails round out this 46-minute episode.
Direct download: DesignCritique86_TomTomXL335TM_GPS.mp3
-- posted at: 2:54 AM
Wed, 14 December 2011
A new Design Critique episode type is born. When someone sends feedback on an episode, they may be asked to come on the show and discuss what they had to say. That's how Eric Gauvin from the USA got roped into doing an episode with Tim regarding Eric's email comments on episode DC84, The State of the Internet User Experience 2011 panel.
Thanks to Eric for making time to talk with me.
And season's greetings, everyone!
Thu, 24 November 2011
In which Tim Keirnan and Mike Beasley discuss vintage shaving tool designs, featuring the safety razor and straight razor. Shaving with these old methods has many advantages, including:
* Closer shaves that last longer before the dreaded 5 o'clock shadow appears
* Improved skin condition due to premium creams and soaps used
* Lower cost of ownership (unless you start collecting gear as a hobby)
* Sustainable technology compared with disposable plastic-dominated, modern, overpriced crap
* Better user experience due to mindful nature of single-blade shaving that many find relaxing and even fun, due to the "gourmet" shave creams and soaps, brushes, and blades used. As Mike says, it's more classy.
Two forums in particular helped us convert from multi-bladed cartridge monstrosities with industrial "goop in a can" to vintage shaving:
Mike frequents this forum and likes it a lot.
Tim favors this one for forum owner Bruce's blog and the very international nature forum that is small enough to feel neighborly and doesn't overwhelm you with millions of posts per day.
Legendary Zack's article on boar bristle shave brushes, and some other blogs:
YouTube channels that helped us greatly include:
Legendary Mantic59's Shave Tutor channel. Excellent how to videos.
Geo does a lot of terrific reviews of razors old and new, shaving with them while doing his reviews.
And Michael Ham's reference how-to book on safety razor shaves:
Mon, 31 October 2011
Recorded live at Internet User Experience 2011 on October 11th, it's the panel session "The State of the Internet User Experience" starring
and Tim Keirnan as the moderator.
Learn more about the panelists at
Thanks to all four panelists for allowing Design Critique to distribute this recording.
Direct download: DesignCritique84_IUE2011panel.mp3
-- posted at: 3:19 AM
Sun, 23 October 2011
In this followup to episode DC82a, Tim describes the conclusion of his interaction with Logitech Customer Support. Unlike the MINI/BMW car maker attitude towards service after a sale, Logitech proves itself exceptionally good at listening to a complaint about a defective product and fixing it quickly without hassle.
If only more companies took their customer experience after the sale as seriously as Logitech does! Service after the sale is as important as the product design itself. Indeed, it IS part of the product design. Only arrogant, "take the money and run" companies, such as MINI, fail to understand this. Long-term brand loyalty is usually increased by responsive customer support.
Tue, 13 September 2011
The longitudinal review of Tim's 2009 MINI Cooper is here! A car so unreliable that he had to get rid of it after only 2.5 years. Automotive human factors engineer Ken Mayer (cohost from our earlier Saturn SC2 car critique) returns to help Tim on this very detailed critique of the second generation MINI Cooper, a stunning mix of greatness and disaster (the car, we mean, not this critique). If you love cars, you'll love this episode. We put the long in longitudinal product reviews!
Basically, the second generation (post-2006) MINI Cooper is a frustrating mix of unreliable components assembled unreliably. MINI refused for over a month to send Tim's dealer a new piston and rod when those went bad at only 31K miles. The flaky electronics are infested with more gremlins than, uh...that movie named "Gremlins". An addictively fun car such as the MINI almost makes you forgive its shoddy quality...almost but not quite. Tim broke his addiction and is now in MINI detox. Please pray for his recovery.
But there's still a lot to praise about the things MINI got right in this car. Buckle up for a rollicking, passionate, detailed review that covers everything you want to know about a car that inspires passion, both positive and negative, in an era of unloveable, boring "familymobiles".
Then join TrueDelta to tell the world about your car's reliability. Write your own reviews for your car(s) to tell the world what you've enjoyed and disliked. Check it out right now at
Direct download: DesignCritique83_2009MINICooper.mp3
-- posted at: 1:38 AM