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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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Critique: Logitech mm50 iPod Speaker System

Photos of mm50 user interface

While taking a short break from our UI12 conference interview series, Alan Sygrove joins Timothy Keirnan for a longitudinal review of Logitech’s mm50 iPod portable speaker system. As well as making incisive comments about the mm50, Alan compares Design Critique to My Dinner With Andre.

We also have some terrific feedback email from Eric, Brian, and Jesse. Season’s greetings to all you Design Critique listeners out there! If you want to get us a present here at Design Critique, we could use some more reviews about the show, either at the iTunes Music Store or anyplace else. Tell why you listen and what you want more of.

Here are some links to some other (older) reviews of the mm50 with more pictures (Logitech doesn’t have a page for it on their site anymore since the Pure Fi Anywhere succeeded the mm50):

And here’s Logitech’s page for the mm50’s successor, the Pure Fi Anywhere:

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Interview: Gerry McGovern at User Interface 12

Cover of Gerry's new book

Timothy Keirnan interviews Gerry McGovern at User Interface 12 on November 5th, 2007, immediately after Gerry’s all-day seminar called How To Design A Task-Based Information Architecture: Essential Tips For Creating Customer-Centric Websites.

Points discussed include:

* “Words drive behavior.” Getting the right words is crucial to developing good Web content.

* Task-centric is customer-centric. Correct wording is essential to being customer-centric.

* The opposite of customer-centric is organization-centric. Organization-centric websites are not very helpful to customers.

* People often come to the Web to learn or to do something. So, design for impatience. Are your customers able to quickly and simply complete their tasks?

* Advertising often treats customers like Pavlov’s dogs. Many Web users see through manipulative ads and instead want useful knowledge that conveys something authentic about the good or service they’re after. Most ads are not perceived as authentically representing a good or service.

NOTE: When Tim says “marketing” in this interview, he should have said “advertising”. It was a terrific but long day 🙂

You can find Gerry’s website at

Gerry’s most recent book is Killer Web Content at

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

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WUD2007, UI12, and More Packaging Design

World Usability Day logo for 2007

Tim interviews Mike Beasley, President of the Usability Professionals Association Michigan chapter, about the upcoming World Usability Day 2007. Also, UIE’s User Interface 12 conference is rapidly approaching and Tim will be there. Finally, the MSU School of Packaging answers listener Tom’s question about episode 35.

World Usability Day’s URL is

UIE’s User Interface 12 Conference URL is

House Band Peter Grey sings Nothing. (Which is exactly what we have left as far as songs from Peter for future episodes.)

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Interview: ProfCast and Software Design at Humble Daisy, Inc.

ProfCast logo

Tim interviews David Chmura, Chief Instigator of Humble Daisy, Inc., about the design of both Humble Daisy (the company) and ProfCast (the application). This episode has three parts:
1. HumbleDaisy’s vision, structure, and culture as a truly user-centered company.
2. ProfCast, the presentation recording application.
3. The design process Humble Daisy used to create ProfCast.

See ProfCast at
See HumbleDaisy at

The book Getting Real that Tim refers to is at

Listener Rachel mentioned Beau Brummel in her email to the show.

We close with a brief discussion of the band XTC, source of both Humble Daisy’s name and a lot of good music. Tim’s favorite XTC songs are Knuckle Down and Snowman, both from English Settlement. Dave loves the band too much to have a favorite song, but prefers their Skylarking album above most of the others. What is your favorite XTC song? Email the show from the home page and tell us. See XTC’s website at

Peter Grey, where are you? Our house band seems to have disappeared.

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