Recent Posts

Critique: Shaving Razors

Photo of many shaving razors.Attention all shavers everywhere: it’s a shaving razor user experience extravaganza! Tim Keirnan is joined by four count ’em FOUR co-hosts in this special extended edition of Design Critique. Mike Beasley, Dave Mitropoulos-Rundus, John Rivard, and Rodney Hampton donate their time, their insights, their humor, and their razors to a freewheeling discussion of razor design.

What makes for a good shaving razor design? What defines a good shaving experience? What is it about Mike’s t-shirt that makes passersby ask him “What is usability?” as he saunters down the street? Why did Rodney switch to a straight razor, and how difficult is it to use? How to be green and save money on your shaving tools…You’ll hear all this and more. Ladies, we don’t mean to exclude you and some of the content may apply to your world, too.

Here are Rodney’s suggested shaving links:

Tim offers the following links:

As per Rodney, look on YouTube for some intriguing videos of single blade and straight razor shaving. There are alternative to the current multi-bladed cartridge razors.

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Interview: Designing the UX of Conferences with Jared Spool

Jared Spool of User Interface Engineering joins Timothy Keirnan to talk about designing the user experience of a conference. Jared has attended many conferences, presented at many conferences, and hosted many conferences. Themes discussed include:
* Designing the user experience for the attendees
* Designing the user experience for the presenters
* What Jared looks for in a conference facility
* The importance of food at a conference
* The importance of audiovisual resources
* Presenters’ own obligation to ensure a good user experience for their session attendees

User Interface Engineering will host User Interface 13 this October in Cambridge, MA. See details at

If you are hosting a conference related to user experience research and design, tell us about it by clicking the Send Email To The Show link at the top left of the blog page.

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3rd Anniversary Episode: Human Factors Wordcast with Paul Green

Blackboard with Human Factors written in white chalk.On the 3rd anniversary of Design Critique, Dr. Paul Green joins Timothy Keirnan for a wordcast episode on Human Factors Engineering. What is it, how does it contribute to user experience research and design, and how do people get trained in it?
Dr. Green is incoming president of the Human Factors & Ergonomics Society. You can find them at

At the University of Michigan Transportation Research Institute (UMTRI), Dr. Green is a research professor in UMTRI’s Human Factors Division. You can find UMTRI at

The websites for ACM SIGCHI and UPA are at and

The Bad Designs On Campus awards can be found at

The 50th Anniversary issue of the Human Factors Journal is at

The Human Factors Short Course is at

Finally, two books we mentioned were
Introduction to Human Factors Engineering (2nd Edition) by Wickens, Lee, Liu, and Gordon-Becker
Set Phases On Stun: And Other True Tales of Design, Technology, and Human Error by Casey

Check out my interview with Paul Green on usability in driving.

Thanks to all listeners for a great third year and for telling others about Design Critique. I hope I can make the fourth year as varied and interesting.

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Interview: Dana Chisnell, Coauthor of Handbook of Usability Testing 2nd Ed

Cover photo of the Handbook of Usability Testing 2nd EditionDana Chisnell joins Tim Keirnan to discuss the 2nd edition of the classic Handbook of Usability Testing, which she coauthored with Jeff Rubin.

Join us for the launch party at UPA this year.
Cinghiale Restaurant
822 Lancaster Street,
Baltimore, MD 21202

June 18, 5:30-7:30

The new Dumas and Loring book that Dana referred to is titled Moderating Usability Tests. The other book Dana mentioned was The Practical Guide To Usability Testing by Dumas and Redish.

Here’s the link to Dana’s book on publisher Wiley’s website:

Here’s the supplemental files link Dana mentioned in the interview:

You can learn more about Dana at

Finally, we have feedback from listeners Geoff and Brian. Don’t forget the UPA conference if you can possibly join us.

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Critique: 1996 Saturn SC2

Photo of instrument panel and steering wheel of the 1996 SC2Talk about a longitudinal review: 12 years and over 273K miles! Tim Keirnan offers a single-point perspective on owning his Saturn SC2 coupe, which Saturn iterated to a point of near-perfection for Tim’s car needs back in 1996. Saturn “refreshed” the model from 1997 onwards and it was never the same. Mechanic Jake Huey and automotive human factors engineer Ken Mayer join Tim inside and outside the car for a thorough discussion of Saturn’s innovative designs for the 1996 SC2.

* Lost Foam Casting of the engine for smaller size and more accurate tolerances

* Polymer plastic body panels for dent resistance, rust prevention, easy maintenance, and end-of-life recycling

* Superlative UI design on the dashboard gauges, heating and cooling system, radio, and even the engine compartment (so owners and mechanics can reach the most frequently-serviced parts quickly)

* “No haggle pricing” and no-pressure dealership experience

* Terrific fuel economy (40 mpg at 55 mph, 36 mpg at 70 mph) (manual transmission)

The customizations Tim and Jake did to the car used parts from the following sources that can help anyone’s car perform better as stock parts wear out:

* Eibach springs at

* KYB struts at

* K&N intake filter at

* Centerforce clutch at

The larger-diameter cat-back exhaust system for the SC2 is no longer made, but anyone can commission a good (mandrel-bending) local muffler shop to fabricate something suitable.

We will have an automotive user experience panel discussion later on to continue our look at car customer experiences.

Finally, the international Usability Professionals Association conference is coming up! See

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Interview: Andy Budd of Clearleft

The Clear Left logo.Timothy Keirnan interviews Andy Budd, author of CSS Mastery: Advanced Web Standards Solutions and creative director of Clearleft, a user experience design consultancy in Brighton, England.
Andy and Tim discuss the following items:

* Giving site builders wireframes and prototypes instead of text-intensive design specifications.
* How guerilla usability testing fits into the user experience design process and how it may offer more value than big-budget summative testing.
* Where Andy will be speaking across England, New Zealand, and Australia over the next several weeks.
* The value of attending small or large professional conferences and how Clearleft designs its annual d.Construct conference.

You can see Andy at the following conferences over the next few weeks:

One of Tim’s favorite professional books is the oldie-but-goodie Interface Design: The Art of Developing Easy-to-Use Software by Peter Bickford. You can find used copies of this out-of-print gem easily enough online.

Clearleft is at

Andy mentioned Silverback and you can learn about it at

Andy mentioned “bar camps”:

And finally, you can learn more about the annual D.Construct conference at

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WordCast: Card Sort (Part 2 of 2)

Chalkboard image with "Card Sort" written in white chalkThey’re back! In part 2 of our wordcast episode on card sorts, recorded mid-December of 2007, Tim Keirnan, Larry Rusinsky, and Chris Farnum discuss conducting the sort, what we might do with the data afterwards, and what the end result of the card sort can be. We also mention the following applications that can help you do card sorts:

Optimal Sort (
Card Zort (
Web Sort (

Here’s another one:
uzCardSort (

The websites Tim and Chris mention during one of the occasional side discussions are:

Note how the Mini Cooper website for the United States differs from the Canadian one. Interesting how a company assigns different content and structure to one audience versus another.

Don’t forget Internet User Experience 2008 to be held next week:

Email from listener Dan completes the episode.

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Wordcast: Card Sort (Part 1 of 2)

Chalkboard image with "Card Sort" written in white chalkReturn of the wordcast! Timothy Keirnan was joined by Chris Farnum and Larry Rusinsky back in December 2007 for a discussion about card sorts. What are they, why do user experience professionals use them, and how are they sometimes done?

Mixed in with some theory is a lot of practitioner anecdotes–so much so that we divided this wordcast into two parts. Without getting into more exotic card sort methods, there was plenty of discussion to go around.

In part two, the cohosts will discuss tools for doing card sorts online, analyzing the data from card sorts, plus even more anecdotes.

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Interview: Dave MR of Internet User Experience 2008

Logo for conference appears here.Dave Mitropoulos-Rundus joins Timothy Keirnan for a discussion on the value of attending professional conferences, using the upcoming Internet User Experience 2008 conference as an example. Dave began IUE as a modest two-day combination of presentations and tutorials, but careful listening to customers has led to a much larger and diverse conference over the years. Tim and Dave discuss definitions and purposes of:

* Presentations

* Panels

* Tutorials

* Workshops

The website for Internet User Experience 2008 is Tim closes with advice for students: attend conferences while they are cheap for you due to student discounts. Learn, network, and have fun while you still have that student ID.

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Interview: Kim Goodwin at User Interface 12

Logo for Cooper company

At User Interface 12, Timothy Keirnan interviews Kim Goodwin, Vice President and General Manager of Cooper, on November 7th, 2007. Kim’s presentations at User Interface 12 were “Integrating Design In Your Organization” and “Essentials Of Interaction Design”.

Points discussed include:

* Gardening as a metaphor for introducing improved design processes into an organization

* How the folks at Cooper define “design”

* Kim’s advice to isolated practitioners who are attempting to improve the design processes at their workplace, and how to maintain focus when your efforts start succeeding!

* Abundance thinking versus scarcity thinking, and the need for taking risks when trying to innovate

The books written by Alan Cooper are About Face and The Inmates Are Running The Asylum.

You can find Cooper’s website at

After the 15 minute interview, Tim concludes the episode with some feedback received from listeners.

Special thanks to User Interface Engineering ( for making this episode possible by sponsoring Design Critique at UI12.

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